“The gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable” (Romans 11:29).
That is one of my favorite verses of scripture. It speaks to the unending grace of God. It means that even when I make mistakes, God doesn’t throw me away. The psalmist states this another way. He says, “His anger is but for a moment, His favor is for life,” (Psalm 30:5a). Once God places His seal of favor on our lives, He never takes it back. His gifts and His calling are irrevocable!
While I have always been attracted to the fact that God’s gifts and calling come with a lifetime guarantee, until recently, I had never stopped to consider what differentiates the two. Since I, ostensibly, will spend the rest of my life with gifts and with calling, it makes sense to get to know them a little better.
I was led to this conversation with Mr. Gifts and Mrs. Calling while reading Jon Acuff’s book Start. In one chapter he talks about the difference between diamonds and rocks in our lives and how we assign value to the different areas of our life. This is particularly important when identifying our passions. This becomes problematic when you are a person of multiple passions. What do you do when you are passionate about many things? For most of us – nothing.
We treat our passions like they are children who both want ice cream, but because we only have money for one cone, our solution is to not get ice cream for either of them. That’s why so many of us can be gifted in many areas, but successful in none. It’s the age-old adage: “Jack of all trades, master of none”. As someone who has suffered from “passion paralysitis” (yeah, I just made that up), I was intrigued by a question that was posed to Acuff by a friend: “Do you want to be a writer who speaks or a speaker who writes?”
In essence this question asks, “What is your dominant passion?” or “What is your ultimate purpose?” This question took me back to Romans 11:29 – gifts vs. calling. They are related and often overlap, but there is a difference. You can be a gifted writer but called to be a speaker. It reminds me of a statement I often hear repeated by my friend and Grammy award-winning gospel artist, Marvin Sapp.
Marvin has sold millions of albums, sung on every major stage around the world. He was a member of the iconic, ground-breaking gospel group, “Commissioned”, and he has received countless awards for his singing. Despite all of those accolades, Marvin is quick to say, “I’m not a singer who happens to preach. I’m a preacher who happens to sing.”
In effect, Marvin is saying, “My GIFT is to sing, but my CALLING is to preach.” I’m sure it would be much easier to simply focus on his gift since that is what brings him the most notoriety and acclaim, yet, he continues to focus on his call. The Greek word for gifts is “charisma”. Our charisma draws people to us. It’s the thing that is attractive to others, but the calling is what we have been born to do.
There is often tension between the charisma and the call. This tension is evident when there is some correlation between the two such as writing and speaking or singing and preaching, but it is magnified when they seem to be polar opposites. What do you do when your gift (charisma) is dentistry, but your calling is ministry? A friend of mine had this same dilemma. He was headed to a life of looking into other people’s mouths, but he couldn’t shake the fact that God had put a word in his. Ultimately, he chose his calling over his charisma, left dental school and went to seminary. He is now pastoring a successful church and has never looked back.
For some of us, choosing between charisma and calling may not be easy (actually, it never is). And, the reality is, that you may never have to choose between the two because they are so closely aligned, but if your charisma and your calling ever conflict, you would be wise to choose your calling. Gifts and calling are both irrevocable, but only your calling is irreplaceable. Your gift is what you LOVE to do. Your calling is what you LIVE to do.
The Bible does not say, “make your GIFT and election sure”, but it does say, “make your CALLING and election sure” (II Peter 1:10). Your gift will open doors for you (Proverbs 18:16), but your calling will help you open doors for others. Gifts are about passion. Calling is about purpose. It’s time to start living on purpose!