Sunday, June 10, 2007

How to Choose Your Occupation

Charles Spurgeon offers timeless advice on faith, work and the choice of one's occupation. Whether you're a college student embarking on your career or a 45 year old executive in the midst of a midlife career change, these are truths worth remembering.

True faith in him who loved us, and gave himself for us, also seeks direction of the Lord as to the sphere of its action, and waits upon him to be guided by him in the choice of a calling. Some people are trying to do what they were never made for, ambitious beyond their line. This is a grievous evil. There should, therefore, be a seeking unto God for guidance and direction; and faith leads us to such seeking.

Spurgeon also speaks to the nature of the work suitable for a Christian.

In the choice of a calling faith helps a Christian to refuse that which is the most lucrative if it be attended with a questionable morality... Trades which are injurious to men's minds and hearts are not lawful callings before God. Dishonest gain is awful loss.

He warns not only of dishonest gain but also of the kind of motivation that places the pursuit of money as the primary aim of work and the center of one's ambition.

"Make money," said the worldling to his son; "make it honestly if you can, but, anyhow, make money." Faith abhors this precept of Mammon, and having God's providence for its inheritance, it scorns the devil's bribe.

Spurgeon's advice is practical in the sense that he understands that God creates each person with unique gifts and abilities. The discovery of one's call must take that into account.

Callings should be deliberately chosen with a view to our own suitableness for them. Faith watches the design of God, and desires to act according to his intent.

He advises that faith also takes into account the providence of God in placing us within the scope of a particular time, place and opportunity. The faith that seeks God for vocational guidance is markedly different from a purely analytical assessment of our circumstances. Instead, there is a leaning upon God as we assess our position in life; trusting in God's sovereign favor to lead us into what he intends for us.

We should also by faith desire such a calling as Providence evidently has arranged and intended for us. Some persons have never had a free choice of what vocation they would follow; for from their birth, position, surroundings, and connections they are set in a certain line of things, like carriages on the tram lines, and they must follow on the appointed track, or stand still. Faith expects to hear the voice behind it saying, "This is the way, walk ye in it." Trusting to our own judgment often means following our own whims; but faith seeks direction from infallible wisdom, and so it is loaf in a right way. God knows your capacity better than you do; entreat him to choose your inheritance for you.

If the flowers were to revolt against the gardener, and each one should select its own soil, most of them would pine and die through their unsuitable position; but he who has studied their nature knows that this dower needs shade and damp; and another needs sunlight and a light soil; and so he puts his plants where they are most likely to flourish. God doeth the same with us.

What I love about Spurgeon's perspective is that he never drifts far from the gospel. He reminds us that God may have either fortune or poverty for us but he remains faithful to work for our good and the praise of his own glory.

He hath made some to be kings, though few of those plants flourish much. He has made many to be poor, and the soil of poverty, though damp and cold, has produced many a glorious harvest for the great Reaper. The Lord has set some in places of peril, places from which they would gladly escape, but they are there preserved by his hand; he has planted many others in the quiet shade of obscurity, and they blossom to the praise of the great Husbandman.

These God centered perspectives from the 19th century may seem odd to us at times. Unfortunately, much of what passes as career advice today, even from Christians, will often emphasize the practical aspects of choosing a career but leave little room for the spiritual. It may espouse the view to "do what you love" but often without accounting for God's calling. It may assess career opportunities on the basis of pay or marketplace demand but not in terms of what brings honor to God or serves our neighbor.

Spurgeon exhorts us to think about our career choices rather differently.


For more advice from Spurgeon on integrating faith-work, read this post on Every Square Inch

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