Few spiritual concepts have fascinated and confused people more than understanding God’s calling for their lives. Is it primarily about a job or a role? Is it precise or general? Is a calling only reserved for those who work in professional ministry? These are the questions Gary Barkalow sets out to answer in his latest book, It’s Your Call: What Are You Doing Here?
An interview with Gary Barkalow:
What is “calling” and does everyone have a calling?
I believe that people have been created to have a certain effect in the world.
We often think of a person’s calling in terms of a type of job, position, place, skill or talent. We sometimes hear people talk about being called to the field of law or medicine, or to the pastorate, or the mission field. While this description conveys the weightiness of these endeavors, it also mistakenly suggests that a calling is a job or location. If this was true, then our ability to walk in our calling would be tied to our circumstances: the economy, our education, our freedom, our physical condition, our wealth and the conclusion of decision-makers. Our calling is not dependent on circumstances or others.
So, what is our calling? Our calling is to let our world experience the effect of our life that God has created us to have. Isaiah 61 says that we are to become a “display of God’s splendor” as a result of the healing and freeing work of Jesus. There is a particular weightiness, splendor, brilliance, strength, beauty that each person possesses, that we are to offer others.
If we have been given a calling for our life and it’s who we are, then why is it so hard to see? After all, we have an abundance of materials, tests and indicators available to us, but most people would say they still don’t know what their calling is.
It is difficult for everyone to fully and clearly understand his or her calling for several reasons. First, there is element of mystery that we all live in. There is the mystery of God: Rom. 11:33-34 “Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!” And there is the mystery of this story that we have been brought into as well as the mystery of our own heart: I Cor. 13:9 “All that I know now is partial and incomplete.” Personality tests and spiritual gift indicators cannot reach into the depths of our heart.
Secondly, it’s difficult when we are distant or disconnected from our heart. Ground Zero in the assault against our calling is our heart, because the heart is where God has written the secrete of our life: Prov. 4:23 “Above all else, guard your heart for it is the wellspring of life.”
Thirdly, in this world we live behind enemy lines where our life and calling is opposed. Our life and effect (our calling) that Christ came to restore and release is hard-won: Phil. 3:12 “I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.”
How do we discover our calling? What do you look at and how do you read or interpret it?
Our calling is to let our world experience the effect of our life – our glory. Each one of us possess an aspect of the glory of God which we are to offer to the world: 2 Cor. 3:18 “We, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” The word glory means weightiness, splendor, abundance, strength, beauty.
In order to discover the particular glory or effect we have been given (our calling), we must go to our desires. The secret to our life and calling is written on our heart in the form of our desire: Phil. 2:13 “It is God who is producing in you both the desire and the ability to do what pleases him.”
This is why Paul could write, 2 Thess. 1:11 “We pray for you always, that our God will count you worthy of your calling, and fulfill every desire for goodness and the work of faith with power.”
In order to correctly interpret our desires, we must do three things: listen to our heart, listen to others and listen to God.
Are all desires good?
The good news is that what we are supposed to do is what we most want to do. The hard news is that the field of desire is a minefield that must be journeyed into if we are to discover and walk out our calling. Paul said in I Thess. 5:21 “Examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good.”
There are the desire of the redeemed heart: Luke 6:44-45 “The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart.” And there are the desires of the flesh which are supposed to be evident to us (Gal. 5:19).
Is walking in our calling only a matter of fulfilling our desire?
In order to carry and offer well the weightiness, splendor, brilliance, beauty, strength (glory) of our life, God must train us. He must develop our strength of heart so that we can live out the desires of our heart.
God’s purpose is to bring us to the point, through the development of our character, where He can empower us to do what we want to do.
Paul says there is a way to live, a disposition of heart, that can handle our glory: Eph. 4:1,2 “I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” These are the characteristics of a trained heart.
Tell us about what you are doing now in the fulfillment of your calling. Was the idea for this ministry born out of the book or visa versa?
Life is a journey of discovery, development and alignment. As God shows us more about our effect, our glory, our calling and as he strengthens and trains our heart, He brings us to points of realignment. Leaving what I was doing and starting The Noble Heart was a realignment of my life to who I am, what I’m compelled to do, what powerfully works in me: Col. 1:29 “To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me”
Though the book came out this year, I have been studying, interacting, speaking and writing on calling for 25 years. It is one of the deepest and most consistent curiosities of my heart, which is an indicator of our truest desire.
It’s Your Call: What Are You Doing Here? by Gary Barkalow
David C Cook/October 1, 2010/ISBN: 978-1-4347-6439-3/220 pages/trade paperback/$14.99