Archive for the ‘Vocation’ Category
The Lord enjoins every one of us, in all the actions of life, to have respect to our own calling. He knows the boiling restlessness of the human mind, the fickleness with which it is borne hither and thither, its eagerness to hold opposites at one time in its grasp, its ambition. Therefore, lest all things should be thrown into confusion by our folly and rashness, he has assigned distinct duties to each in the different modes of life. And that no one may presume to overstep his proper limits, he has distinguished the different modes of life by the name of callings. Every man’s mode of life, therefore, is a kind of station assigned him by the Lord, that he may not be always driven about at random. So necessary is this distinction, that all our actions are thereby estimated in his sight, and often in a very different way from that in which human reason or philosophy would estimate them. There is no more illustrious deed even among philosophers than to free one’s country from tyranny, and yet the private individual who stabs the tyrant is openly condemned by the voice of the heavenly Judge. But I am unwilling to dwell on particular examples; it is enough to know that in every thing the call of the Lord is the foundation and beginning of right action. He who does not act with reference to it will never, in the discharge of duty, keep the right path. He will sometimes be able, perhaps, to give the semblance of something laudable, but whatever it may be in the sight of man, it will be rejected before the throne of God; and besides, there will be no harmony in the different parts of his life. Hence, he only who directs his life to this end will have it properly framed; because free from the impulse of rashness, he will not attempt more than his calling justifies, knowing that it is unlawful to overleap the prescribed bounds. He who is obscure will not decline to cultivate a private life, that he may not desert the post at which God has placed him. Again, in all our cares, toils, annoyances, and other burdens, it will be no small alleviation to know that all these are under the superintendence of God. The magistrate will more willingly perform his office, and the father of a family confine himself to his proper sphere. Every one in his particular mode of life will, without repining, suffer its inconveniences, cares, uneasiness, and anxiety, persuaded that God has laid on the burden. This, too, will afford admirable consolation, that in following your proper calling, no work will be so mean and sordid as not to have a splendor and value in the eye of God. (Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, III.10.6)
HT: Rich Lusk
Jon Barlow writes:
History works because of the suckers. I am not ashamed to be counted among the suckers. If the sucker can rule his own heart, he is greater than he who can rule a city (Prov. 16:32). Tell me that the broken politics in America right now is not an externalized vision of your own heart and I’ll praise your self mastery. Otherwise, there is a city for you to rule right now. It requires no compromise. You are a little laboratory of the word and spirit and and you can try out any program of reform you like right now. You can experiment with incentives. You can legislate morality. You can implement austerity. You can give everything away. You can keep everything and use it for good. There will be a day when your little city stands before a much more exalted bar than a senate oversight committee meeting.
Jordan Ballor quotes Bavinck on a similar theme:
All good, enduring reformation begins with ourselves and takes its starting point in one’s own heart and life. If family life is indeed being threatened from all sides today, then there is nothing better for each person to be doing than immediately to begin reforming within one’s own circle and begin to rebuff with the facts themselves the sharp criticisms that are being registered nowadays against marriage and family. Such a reformation immediately has this in its favor, that it would lose no time and would not need to wait for anything. Anyone seeking deliverance from the state must travel the lengthy route of forming a political party, having meetings, referendums, parliamentary debates, and civil legislation, and it is still unknown whether with all that activity he will achieve any success. But reforming from within can be undertaken by each person at every moment, and be advanced without impediment.
Patience is a fruit of the Spirit:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, . . . — Gal. 5:22
Patience and faith and wisdom and maturity are all bound up together. Consider Abraham’s faith and patience:
By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God. — Heb. 11:8-10
From the time of God’s promise to Abraham, it was over four hundred years before his descendants were freed from Egyptian slavery. It was a thousand years before Solomon dedicated God’s palace in what was once Melchizedek’s Salem on Mount Moriah. It was another thousand years before Jesus the new Melchizedek inaugurated the New Jerusalem of his church.
Sometimes the patience that the Spirit wants to forge in us is a thousand-year patience.
What would it look like if we were to have a thousand-year patience in our dreams and visions for God’s church?
That is not to say that we should be complacent, or work with any less fervor. It is simply to recognize that God’s kingdom grows like yeast or like a tree. We see this in our own lives, too: while there are great seasons of spring-like growth, over the long haul maturation and glorification is largely a matter of plodding self-sacrificial faithfulness. While the kingdoms of men might rise and fall quickly by the compulsion and cowing of the sword, God’s kingdom flourishes by the nurture (Eph. 5:26) and cutting (Eph. 6:17) of the sword of the Spirit — the word of God.
But this also expands our horizons: what would it look like to dream thousand-year dreams and pray thousand-year prayers for God’s church? If God intends to bless his people to a thousand generations (Ps. 105:8), as his own personal name attests (Ex. 34:6-7), then things might only just be starting to warm up after another thousand years.
See also the future of Jesus.
“God has better plans for you than an easy life and victories to follow victories.” — Daniel Baker
Gene Veith quotes Luther on the Christian’s view of parenting. Reproducing it in full, including Veith’s parenthetical remarks:
In working on an article about vocation, I was looking for the source of Luther’s famous saying about the holiness of changing diapers. I found his sermon “The Estate of Marriage” (1522) posted online here. A priceless excerpt:
Now observe that when that clever harlot, our natural reason (which the pagans followed in trying to be most clever), takes a look at married life, she turns up her nose and says, “Alas, must I rock the baby, wash its diapers, make its bed, smell its stench, stay up nights with it, take care of it when it cries, heal its rashes and sores, and on top of that care for my wife, provide for her, labour at my trade, take care of this and take care of that, do this and do that, endure this and endure that, and whatever else of bitterness and drudgery married life involves? What, should I make such a prisoner of myself? O you poor, wretched fellow, have you taken a wife? Fie, fie upon such wretchedness and bitterness! It is better to remain free and lead a peaceful. carefree life; I will become a priest or a nun and compel my children to do likewise.”
What then does Christian faith say to this? It opens its eyes, looks upon all these insignificant, distasteful, and despised duties in the Spirit, and is aware that they are all adorned with divine approval as with the costliest gold and jewels. It says, “O God, because I am certain that thou hast created me as a man and hast from my body begotten this child, I also know for a certainty that it meets with thy perfect pleasure. I confess to thee that I am not worthy to rock the little babe or wash its diapers. or to be entrusted with the care of the child and its mother. How is it that I, without any merit, have come to this distinction of being certain that I am serving thy creature and thy most precious will? O how gladly will I do so, though the duties should be even more insignificant and despised. Neither frost nor heat, neither drudgery nor labour, will distress or dissuade me, for I am certain that it is thus pleasing in thy sight.”
A wife too should regard her duties in the same light, as she suckles the child, rocks and bathes it, and cares for it in other ways; and as she busies herself with other duties and renders help and obedience to her husband. These are truly golden and noble works. . . .
Now you tell me, when a father goes ahead and washes diapers or performs some other mean task for his child, and someone ridicules him as an effeminate fool, though that father is acting in the spirit just described and in Christian faith, my dear fellow you tell me, which of the two is most keenly ridiculing the other? God, with all his angels and creatures, is smiling, not because that father is washing diapers, but because he is doing so in Christian faith. Those who sneer at him and see only the task but not the faith are ridiculing God with all his creatures, as the biggest fool on earth. Indeed, they are only ridiculing themselves; with all their cleverness they are nothing but devil’s fools.
Notice that in Luther, for all of the late medieval era, it is the FATHER who is dealing with the baby’s diaper.
Piper writes of ways to make much of Christ in our vocations:
- We can make much of God in our secular job through the fellowship that we enjoy with him throughout the day in all our work.
- We make much of Christ in our secular work by the joyful, trusting, God-exalting design of our creativity and industry.
- We make much of Christ in our secular work when it confirms and enhances the portrait of Christ’s glory that people hear in the spoken gospel.
- We make much of Christ in our secular work by earning enough money to keep us from depending on others, while focusing on the helpfulness of our work rather than financial rewards.
- We make much of Christ in our secular work by earning money with the desire to use our money to make others glad in God.
— John Piper, Don’t Waste Your Life
HT: Justin Taylor
We know how intriguing, even to godless men, is the scientific quest (and the artistic quest!), and how untiring are their labours to discover the secrets of what they call nature (and what they call art!). How incomparably more intriguing and defeatlessly rewarding would have been the quest of sinless man when, at every step of his path and in every detail of progressive understanding, the marvels of the Creator’s wisdom, power, goodness, righteousness, and lovingkindness would have broken in upon his heart and mind, and every new discovery, every additional conquest, would have given cause afresh for the adoration, ‘O Lord, how manifold are thy works! In wisdom hast thou made them all: the earth is full of thy riches’ (Psa 104:24). We get a glimpse of the stupendous undertaking and the unspeakable glory of it all. We begin, perhaps, to understand a little of what culture should be. This is the culture that would have engaged and inspired man if he had been confirmed in his integrity. It would have been culture untiringly inspired by the apprehension of the Creator’s glory and by the passion to apprehend and exalt that glory more. That our culture is so little inspired by that ideal is but proof that man has fallen. That any of this culture is found in the earth is proof of redemptive grace.
The earth is full of God’s riches, and one of the callings of the Christian — one of the ways we are to carry out our daily work — is to discover those riches and thereby magnify God.
HT: Daniel Baker