From Conformity to Calling
“Linda, get a job!” Ouch! As our guest’s words penetrated my ears, I nearly dropped the coffee I was serving her. Our family member had stopped in for a brief visit in the midst of an unsettled season for our family. My husband was facing a career transition, and our guest’s words were simply an expression of her concern. But, my, how they hurt!
“Doesn’t she realize that I do work?” I pondered. Granted, my writing and communications work were all voluntary at this point, but my husband and I both agreed I was doing what I was meant to do—employing my abilities and my spiritual gifts to encourage others in their faith journeys. Still, her directive initiated a wrestling match within me between conformity and call.
The apostle Paul understands this battle well. Just before acknowledging that every believer is indeed gifted in unique ways to serve God, he writes, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2).
Paul goes on to explain that every Christ-follower is blessed with a spiritual gift, a special attribute designed by God to be used for God and the building of His Kingdom. But our humanness can complicate matters if we aren’t careful. Within the body of Christ, we run the risk of comparison, competition, and envy. And to the world, because these gifts are spiritual in nature, we might be misunderstood, frowned upon, or even outright persecuted. How are we to combat those temptations and frustrations?
Thankfully, Paul’s letter continues to equip us with the wisdom needed to employ our gifts with care.
- Love genuinely (verse 9). We are to love others like our own brothers, seeking to honor them at all times.
- Serve fervently (verse 11). We are always to remember Whom we are serving: the Creator of the universe! Therefore, we must fight off any laziness or discouragement and employ our gifts with fervency and zeal!
- Focus intently (verses 11-12). Author Lysa TerKeurst says, “We steer where we stare.” We need to focus our eyes not only on the work at hand, but also on the end goal—a life led by and lived for God. In Romans 12:8-9, Paul tells us how to maintain that focus: by rejoicing in hope, being steadfast in tribulation, being constant in prayer, and by purposefully showing hospitality.
- Bless liberally (verses 10 and 14). Paul knows we will face persecution and encounter enemies. The world would tell us to fight back in those moments. But God operates differently. His recommended warfare is to “bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them” (verse 14). Our actions are to be characterized by empathy, humility, and harmony (verses 15-17)
- Live peaceably (verse 18). “As far as it depends on you…” Paul makes it clear that we cannot control the actions or attitudes of others; but we certainly can control ours, especially with the added strength of our Helper, the Holy Spirit, who indwells the heart of every Christ follower.
And what does this approach produce? For the believer, we are not overcome; instead, we overcome evil with good (verse 21). And for the world that is still searching, our transformed behavior provides them a wake-up call. As Pastor Tim Armstrong said,
“We want to be a church where people see we care for them, we serve them, we use how God has gifted us so that we might glorify His Name... When we start doing that, people will depend less on a godless government, and they’ll start depending on the Church to find their place of joy and acceptance and healing and recovery.”
And isn’t that the goal? God is our All-in-All, our Everything. He is our true Guide, Shepherd, Provider, Creator, Designer, and Deliverer. Knowing Him is the greatest gift we will ever receive. How can we not share Him with others? Come get to know God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ! Then learn how He has uniquely formed you for the good of His Kingdom and set about fulfilling His call for you. Whether others understand it or not, your assignment is significant.