How Can I Know What Job God Has for Me to Do in This World?
This is an excellent question. To ask this question is already the most important step in determining what it is that God has in view for you. Instead of determining it yourself, or letting others determine it for you, you need to consider seriously what it is that God would have you do. First, it’s important to examine what the Bible means by work.
The Bible's View of Work
God has designed work, and God has designed us to work (Gen. 2:15). It is part of what it means to exercise dominion in the world that God made (see Gen. 1:26). That is why God made us and placed us in His creation. Even after the fall, though it is now under the curse, the institution of work is still an important part of our duty here in this world. There are indeed circumstances of disease and disability that prevent certain people from working, but even then and certainly as a rule, work is a very important part of life. The biblical concept of work includes more than just “paid” labor. Certainly, it’s more than simply manual work. It is every coordinated effort of human strength, skill, and ingenuity to some or other God-glorifying end. An unemployed or retired person can still work. A mother at home works. A student works in his studies. Children should early on learn to work. Ministers work. Jesus worked in various ways. Undoubtedly as a Child He worked in many ways. He also worked for Joseph, His mother’s husband.
He worked preaching and teaching, and so on. And because of these things, as well as His finished work on the cross, believers from out of Christ can now work in a way that pleases God. Their labor is not in vain in the Lord.
The highest calling for you is the calling God has for you. It’s not necessarily being a minister or missionary. The greatest work you can do is the work that He has for you to do. That’s something the Reformers and the Puritans were extremely strong on, because they were in a day when clericalism had elevated the priesthood. They were above everyone else. They were a kind of spiritual group, and everyone else was very secondary. Take, for instance, the Puritan William Perkins. He says: “The action of a shepherd in keeping sheep ... is as good a work before God as is the action of a judge giving a sentence or of a magistrate in ruling or a minister in preaching.”
John Calvin has said:
Each man has an assignment from God worthwhile in itself, however modest, because it is received from God, and it is to be lived for God. Even God has appointed to all their particular duties in different spheres of life, and has styled such spheres of life vocations or calling. Every individual's life therefore is, as it were, a post assigned him by the Lord, that he may not wander in uncertainty all his days.
Have you been called to be an engineer, farmer, mother, dentist, doctor, landscaper, teacher, fisherman, mechanic, business-owner, scientist, firefighter, accountant, computer technician, truck-driver? That’s the highest calling you could have. And you shouldn’t in any sense feel that it is a lesser calling than somebody else. It is the highest calling possible, because it is the calling God has given you.
That brings us back to the question: “What should I do?” Let’s consider the following principles:
The first is the Bible
This comes first, because, if the Bible commands or condemns something, no matter what anything else might suggest in your life, you should first of all obey God’s Word. This means, for example, that any work that would force you to break the Sabbath day, except for reasons of necessity or mercy, would be improper. It also means that if you can’t find a job in your line of work, rather than simply saying that it must mean that you shouldn’t work, you should remember that the Bible commands us to labor with our hands. Thirdly, if you are a mother, your line of work will normally be that with the children at home (Titus 2:5). The Bible also needs to be first, because it tells us how we should view our world and ourselves in it, and without it we will not make proper decisions in any area of life. For example, if God gives me a wife and a family, and if God gives me children, is this job going to really curtail my ability to be a father? How will this impact family life? Will I still be able to be as God requires me to be husband – father, etc.?
The second is Prayer
If God has a calling for us, we have to ask Him, ‘Lord, what would Thou have me to do?’ Not: What do I want? Not what others want me to do. But what does God want me to do? So our job searching should begin with our knees, ‘Lord, show me, lead me, teach me and nudge me different ways into the calling Thou hast styled and designed just for me.’
God has delivered unto us His goods, in the form of talents and skills and abilities that He has given us, namely physical, intellectual, and emotional talents. And really, the talents and skills and abilities He has given us are really some of the best ways we can find out what He wants us to do. He hasn’t asked you to do something that he has not equipped you for. Now it’s true, that talents need to be developed and honed and used. At first you may desire to do something, but you think you lack the talents for it. However, as you set yourself to it with earnestness and dedication, it will soon appear whether you do or not.
It shouldn’t be money, or power, or prestige. But really God would have us ask, ‘What would be most useful?’ Useful in the world? Yes. What does the world need today? What areas of the world especially need Christians? In what areas of the world can Christian influence be maximized and made useful? Is it in business? Is it in medicine? Is it in research? But not just: What would be useful in the world? We must also ask the question: What would be useful to the church? Sometimes if you are trying to decide between two lines of work, this question can be helpful to ask. What will be the more useful path?
It can be helpful for young people to confer with their parents or other people in authority, such as a teacher, or elder or pastor, as to what line of work to choose. Sometimes, parents or others in authority can read you and your abilities better than you can yourself. Often, they also know the world around you better and can help give you guidance.
Sometimes people have talents for something, but they can’t muster the desire for it, at least not long-term. If this is true for you, you should ask yourself whether your desires are proper or inordinate. It is possible that you are simply rebelling against God’s path, because you desire something the Lord does not wish for you to have. However, usually, God brings both talents and desire together, as well as our next point.
Sometimes people dream of some or other line of work, but they are disappointed. They never seem to get an opportunity to train, or if they have trained for it, to exercise this line of work. Though it is possible to make too much out of providence, especially isolated instances, if there is a pattern as you pursue a certain angle of work of closed doors, it may be that God is directing you in a different direction. Related to this, there is the increasing concern of debt. Is this calling going to involve me with an unbearable burden of debt? Am I going to take that into marriage with me? Will it force me, if I’m a woman, to work for years of my marriage before I’m “willing” to have children.
When God created the world, He took pleasure in the work that He made, and so too we may and should, with thankfulness to God, and in dependence on Him, take delight in what He has enabled us to do. Of course, we must always confess that we could have and should have done better. Yet, the farmer may take pleasure in the crops he has planted when they come up, just as a mother may rejoice when she looks back on the years she spent raising children, despite how the world tells her differently.
As I said at the beginning, the highest calling for you is what God has for you. I cannot determine that for you. However, allow me to give three more pointers. First of all, the world desperately needs faithful gospel ministers and missionaries, men called by God with a desire to see men converted, the church built up, and God’s glory expanded. It also needs Christian teachers, who sacrifice their time and energies to mould the rising generation for service of God in the world. Also, let no one deprecate the full-time work of a mother, as I have already said earlier. In a sense, mothers rule the world as, together with their husbands and under their authority, they raise their children in accordance with God’s Word. May God give our rising generation to view their callings in the light of the Scripture and labor thus to God’s glory.
Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways and be wise: Which having no guide, overseer, or ruler, Provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest.