What in-the-world are you doing?

Vocation

The term originated in Christian context.   The initial use described a consecrated life set a part for religious service such as a priest, nun, etc.  Vocation is an occupation to which a person is especially drawn or for which they are suited, trained, or qualified.  Frederick Buechner, theologian, has written that ‘vocation is where our greatest passion meets the world’s greatest need’.  The meaning has evolved with emphasis shifting to an individual’s development of talent and abilities in the choice and the enjoyment of career.  We have all but lost the sense of vocation.  We often find ourselves in unpleasant employment simply because we chose it in self-will at a time when it appeared compatible and we were persuaded that we would always find it so.  We remain in disagreeable employment into which we were thrust by circumstances, not because these circumstances continue to be overwhelming, but because a change would mean financial loss and sheer hard toil for years to come.  The Timothy Group's desire is to teach young men to find joy in doing the will of God.

The answer to finding God’s will for our lives is to practice the presence of God.  We must spend time with our creator in order to know how and why He built us.  The whole question of vocation is answered while engaging intimately in prayer.  Self-will and self-chosen careers are the reasons people live their lives counter to God’s will. 

The first step in choosing your vocation is prayer.  God does have a plan for your life.  Discernment will help to separate God ideas from good ideas.  It is important not to be persuaded by cultural pressures and self-centered desires.  Your decisions become discernment when you place them in the context of prayer.  Develop practices that teach our mind, will and emotions to be more attentive to God’s desires.  This will place the values of faith in the decision making process.  Allow these standards to inform and direct your life choices.  These principles will help with everyday decisions as well as our major life decisions. 

Before we go on, you need to be aware of some terms, some philosophy, and some truth about your soul.  You me and the entire human race, we all are spirit beings.  We have a soul and we live in a body.  Our soul consists of our mind, will, and emotions.  These are all God given and we possess them for unique reasons.  We also need to be mindful that we have complete control over them.  Do not allow your emotions to rule the decision making process.  In fact Ephesians 6:14 warns us to check our emotions with truth.  As you continue with this lesson in discerning God’s will know your will is the unction, the knowing, the inkling, suspicion, or hunch that something is right or wrong.  Pay close attention to this.  We'll discuss using your "will" later in the teaching.

In your prayer life, be very aware that you must have the mindset of self-surrender.  Hedonism or Self-love is contrary to communion with God.  The icon of your spiritual life should be the open heart not the open hand.  Your offering to God needs to be made with an honest, generous spirit, unconditionally, and without reservation.  Be aware the result of your time spent with God is glorifying to Him not a means of self-realization.

Here are some ideas that will help you become a more discerning person. 

+ Know yourself.  Get to know yourself at a deeper level by asking God to reveal to you your strengths and weaknesses.  Reflect on your strengths and limitations; your values and goals, what is important to you, your deepest desires and dreams for your future.  

Take a look at the following phrases and complete those that speak to you.  Record your thoughts in your journal.  Share your reflections with a spiritual director, mentor or trusted friend.  Use a journal to record your reflections.

  • My greatest strengths are...
  • My limitations are…
  • I am not interested in...
  • The world needs more of...
  • The world needs less of...
  • I have always wanted to try...
  • You would never catch me...
  • My hero/heroine is…
  • Movies, songs, books, art, experiences that have touched me the most are…
  • If I have only one year to live, I would…

The Timothy Group wants you to discover God’s will for your life.  Later we will share some insight on Spiritual Gifts.  This teaching may affirm your answers above. 

+ Deepen your relationship with God.  Find a spiritual mentor, somebody who can help you to grow in intimacy with this God and to know yourself better.  A spiritual mentor is an excellent companion on your discernment journey.  Pray for wisdom from God.  He promises to give it liberally.

Reflect on these questions and record your thoughts in your journal.  Share your reflections with a spiritual director, mentor or trusted friend.

  • How do you pray?
  • What are things in your life that lead you to prayer?
  • Where in your life do you most experience God? (in your friends, your parents, in nature, music…)  
  • What is prayer for you?
  • Where do you experience silence in your life? Or, do you?
  • Reflect on how your idea or image of who God is has changed over the years:
    • when you was a child, God was…
    • as a teenager, you thought God was…
    • now you experience God as…
    • how has God’s intervention in your past made you who you are today?

+ Gather information and insight.  Pursue leads that come from this time of fellowship. Read up on people, communities, or other avenues of interest to you.  Write to the communities that interest you. Visit the ones you feel called to. Build a relationship with the one where you have a sense of ‘coming home’. Get involved in its summer or monthly programs.  Don’t just talk the talk, walk the walk with them as well.

+ Prayerfully weigh the evidence and attend to your will.   Look at the pros and cons of your options.  List all the advantages, the positive results and effects of each option.  What attracts you to each alternative?  List all the disadvantages, the negative results and effects of each option.  What does not attract you to each option?

Pay attention to the leadings from your will throughout the process.  Prayerfully ponder the lists seeking patterns of harmony or disharmony within your core.  It is not the length of the lists that is important but which reasons resonate with the deepest desires of the person you are.  Accept the pattern of harmony, if one emerges.  If there is no strong unction, then continue in prayer and come to a decision in faith, based on the reasons that carry the most weight with you.

Take a look at the following techniques that can help sort out your options.  Choose the technique/s that speak/s to you.  Record your thoughts in your journal.  Share your reflections with a spiritual director, mentor or trusted friend.

  • Through prayer, God has revealed my desire to do this because…

What are those things that are encouraging me to say “YES” to this decision RIGHT NOW? Use the technique called ‘stream of consciousness’ to answer this question.  Set a clock for 10 minutes and write without stopping all the reasons you can possibly think of that encourage you to say “YES” to this decision right now.  Don’t worry about spelling or if an idea feels silly.  The important thing in this exercise is to list all of the reasons to say “YES”.  Take note of the leadings of your will as you list your reasons.

  • Through prayer, God has revealed my desire to do this but...

What are those things that are keeping me from saying “YES” to this decision RIGHT NOW? Use the technique called ‘stream of consciousness’ to answer this question.  Set a clock for 10 minutes and write without stopping all the reasons you can possibly think of that keep you from saying “YES” to this decision right now.  Don’t worry about spelling or if an idea feels silly.  The important thing in this exercise is to list all of the resistances.  Take note of the inklings of your will as you list your resistances.

  • How will I know if this is the right decision?

            Spend time in quiet reflection before answering these questions.  Although they may seem to be the same question, there is a slight difference.  Be specific in describing behaviors when answering.  Using three or four specific ways, complete either one of these statements:

  • I’ll know this is the right decisions for me because…
  • I’ll know this is the right decision for me when…

+ Imagine Yourself in Each Choice.  Spend time imagining yourself in one of the two choices:  now …  5 years from now … 10 years from now.  Then repeat this and imagine yourself in the other choice.

+ Confirmation; experience peace with your decision.  Seek confirmation by offering the decision to God asking for peace and inner joy.  Look for confirmation from both external and internal sources.  External sources may include sensing affirmation from people; circumstances seem to be supportive, etc.  Internal confirmation usually includes a deep sense of peace; a real felt compatibility with the choice made, a sense of satisfaction, a time of tranquility sets in, etc.  Although there may be some negative responses these do not change your deep convictions about the decision.

“If you are what you are meant to be, you will set the whole world on fire.”
~St. Catherine of Siena (1347-1380)

“God created you just the way you are.  Your past is redeemed.  Your present is focused.  Your future is secure. Be obedient and you will bring God’s will to this earth.”
~Bruce Stansbury, Timothy Group President (2012)

 

Next topics coming up are: Dawn Drafting, Spiritual Gifts, Prayer Partners, Intercessory Prayer, Joy vs Happiness, Commit to God’s word.