This is part 1 of the Nehemiah Leadership study, available for download. I recommend reading Nehemiah 1:1-11 for context.
I meet a lot of young people who coast through life, waiting for some kind of burning bush moment where God tells them exactly what they’re supposed to do with life. Unfortunately, most of those people will be waiting for a long time.
The truth is, more often than not, God does not give us a loud, clear direction for life. Nehemiah is a great example. He was not awoken at night by a voice, he had no dreams, and witnessed no burning bushes.
Despite this, Nehemiah was still able to identify his calling, and you can too. Doing so can give your life a greater purpose and is important if you want to make a difference as a leader. Identifying your calling is an active effort.
To clarify, this doesn’t mean that we can identify our calling without listening to God. It is vital that we spend time listening and tuning our hearts to his voice through reading the Word. As you spend time with Him, asking yourself the following questions will help you identify your calling.
1) What breaks your heart?
Nehemiah recognized God’s calling when his heart broke. In Nehemiah 1:4, immediately after learning the wall of Jerusalem was broken down, he said “I sat down and wept and mourned for days, and I continued fasting and praying before the God of heaven.”
There are countless problems in the world. It can sometimes feel overwhelming, how can one person help a broken world when there are so many problems? Well, you can’t fix everything. But if you pick one thing and focus on it, then you can change the world for the better.
Nehemiah was so devastated by the news of the wall of Jerusalem that he wept for days. He couldn’t shake it. There was a problem and time wouldn’t erase it from his memory.
If your heart breaks at racism, perhaps God is calling you to fight for equal treatment and rights of others. If your heart breaks at sex trafficking, perhaps God is calling you to help free those in sexual slavery. If your heart breaks at poverty or hunger, perhaps God is calling you to feed the poor. If your heart breaks for the lack of integrity or leadership in the business world, perhaps God is calling you to teach and train leaders.
The list goes on and on, but ultimately, we must identify the one thing we can dedicate ourselves to solving. Too often, people distract themselves with entertainment or simply post to facebook about their frustration and anger at a problem and then move on. But, this rarely drives actual change. You must dedicate yourself to your mission, and this dedication can only come with focus.
2) What abilities do you have?
In order to identify your calling, you must also identify your gifts. For instance, have you ever watched the first few episodes of American Idol? They’re littered with people who “know” their life purpose is to sing. But then they open their mouth and everyone quickly realizes they’re terrible. You don’t want to be one of these people.
You need to be brutally honest with yourself, and seek counsel from others who will speak lovingly and encourage you towards your actual gifts. Like many American Idol contestants, I am a terrible singer. My mom is one of the most encouraging women I know, but even she admits I’m not musically gifted. I would live a frustrating life if I believed my calling was to change people through my singing.
Many think that if they want to change the world for the better, they should become Pastors. The reality, however, is that you may not be gifted to be a pastor whatsoever. Furthermore, God can and does use people who aren’t pastors in incredible ways. Nehemiah, for instance, was not a pastor or a priest. As verse 11 points out, he was the cupbearer to the King.
You don’t become cupbearer through luck, but through hard work, wisdom, and skill. Nehemiah knew his abilities, and he focussed on developing them. By doing so, he became one of the most influential people in the largest empire on the planet.
3) What resources do you have?
Nehemiah was the Cupbearer, which meant he had regular access to the King. As we’ll see in chapter 2, this provided him with valuable resources that would enable his mission to rebuild the walls in Jerusalem.
Some callings may require nothing more than your time, others could take millions of dollars in cash and resources. Once you have recognized the need in the world you want to fix, you must explore the resources you have access to.
Can you give your time towards a cause? If not, can you provide your finances to enable someone working towards your cause? Who do you know that would give you their time or their financial support? Is there a service you can provide? Do you have physical assets that would be useful towards achieving your goal? Do you have knowledge you can share with others to help them?
Resources can come in all shapes and sizes. Ultimately, however, they come from God. He is the Creator and Sustainer of all things. For this reason, it is important to remember that He and His Spirit are the greatest resource you have available. Seek Him out on a regular basis, and He will renew your strength and guide you as you live your calling.