Purpose vs. Calling – How Do We Know the Difference?
“What is my true purpose?”
“What is God calling me to do with my life?”
“Why am I here and what am I supposed to be doing?”
“I want to do God’s will for my life but how?”
People often ask these questions during their lives. I know I have. And for many years I often confused the meaning of Purpose and Calling.
In his letter to the church in Rome, Paul writes that “we are all called” to God’s purpose (Romans 8:28 NIV). As he further comments in his letter to the Ephesians “Furthermore, because we are united with Christ, we have received an inheritance from God, for He chose us in advance, and He makes everything work out according to his plan.” (Ephesians 1:11 NLT).
If we’re chosen by God for a purpose, and He calls us to live out this purpose, how do we know the difference?
Dictionary.Com defines them this way:
a: something set up as an object or end to be attained: intention
1. the reason for which something exists or is done, made, used, etc.
2. an intended or desired result; end; aim; goal.
1: a strong inner impulse toward a particular course of action especially when accompanied by conviction of divine influence
2: the vocation or profession in which one customarily engages vocation, profession, or trade: What is your calling3.a strong impulse or inclination: She did it in response to an inner calling.
Everyone has a purpose
The Bible makes it abundantly clear that each of us has been created for one primary purpose: to glorify the sanctity of God (1 Corinthians 10:31). Of course, the harder question is “what does it look like to actually live a life that glorifies God?”
One way to glorify God is by simply acknowledging who He is, who we are in His plan, and worshipping Him. As David writes in Psalm 100: “Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.”
Another way to live out our purpose of glorifying God is to remain in relationship with Him and faithfully serve Him. When Samuel was confronted by the people of Israel to plea for God’s forgiveness, he told them: “Fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart. Look at what great things he has done for you!” (1 Samuel 12:24) Yet, even knowing our purpose is to glorify God, many of us still struggle with how we actually bring this to life. That’s where our calling comes in.
Our calling is how we fulfill our purpose
While our purpose is to glorify God, how we do it is our calling. Calling is actually the way to get to purpose. Our CALLING is made up of the things God calls us to do in life in order to carry out our PURPOSE.
In his bestselling book A Purpose Driven Life, Rick Warren breaks down how our purpose is made real through five different areas of calling: Worship, Fellowship, Discipleship, Ministry, and Mission. These aren’t just important inside the four walls of the church – they’re fundamental in how we live meaningful lives!
Everyone’s calling is different; it’s specific and unique to each person’s gifts, passions, abilities, and personalities. It can include your occupation, your service, your ministry. Or they can be a combination of all three! This was how I was moved to start All Things Faithful.
This week, we focus on several examples of how to identify your calling. From our very own #Faithbuilder Judy Knott’s passion for the homeless, to Erika Michelle’s thoughts on discovering our purpose and calling in Christ, to former ABC News anchor Paula Faris’ book on why she left two high-paying jobs to follow her true life calling, we hope this message speaks to you as much as it does to us!
Fulfilling our Purpose is life’s ultimate goal. However, it is important to remember we cannot achieve our purpose without following our calling.
It may not always be easy. Some people simply won’t understand you. Others may disapprove. You may not receive affirmation, celebration, support, or encouragement from those around you. Yet, even as the world may not reward you, God will. When we follow our calling with all our hearts, our inheritance is from the Lord Himself, because we serve Him, not the world.
If you aren’t clear about your calling, ask God to reveal it to you in your prayers, talk to a spiritual mentor, and trust that the doors will open wide to hear God’s will. Or read on to find additional suggestions!