Margin Monday – Calling and Discernment

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How can I retain Margin in my life on a daily basis?  Today we will examine the need to understand our “callings” from God by discerning His “voice” within our daily lives. Then we will discuss how God’s voice helps us create and maintain margin.

Martin Luther articulated the sense of our “holy calling” with precision and clarity. Luther spoke often of our “callings” in this world, which are part of the general law of Christ – to love God first, and also to love our neighbor as ourselves. This was reflected in last week’s Margin Monday.  We touched on a few passage from the Old and New Testaments and concluded that our primary “calling” is unto God and our secondary “callings” are rooted in our service toward others within this world.

Our secondary “callings”, Luther emphasized, are to be engaged through faith; that is, in light of our primary calling before God. These “callings” are discovered in 2 ways:

1) This first way is by identifying our personal design. In First Corinthians 12:4-6, Paul speaks of “gifts” (χαρισματων) and “workings” (ενεργηματων). These are, roughly speaking, spiritual abilities and natural abilities with which God has designed us for his service.  We discover these abilities through trial and error, noticing what we most enjoy doing, and through the mentoring of those who observe as we are serving others.

2) God’s “callings” are discovered, according to Luther, through our “stations in life” (i.e., our jobs, marriage, church, etc.). Here Luther is quite helpful. These stations reflect our “external callings” in this world that require us to specify and live Christ’s law as we serve others.

Lets look a bit further into this.  These “stations in life” are places for hearing God’s voice, and yet they are not the voice in themselves.  Rather, these stations are divinely-appointed avenues of service through which we “hear” God and the way He wishes to shape our environment, our culture, other people, and ourselves.  As we live our lives within each “station”, we can discover His “voice” as he is continually “calling” to us.  I say “continually” because we are constantly faced with challenging tasks associated with our stations in life.  We must walk in the Spirit and hear how the Spirit is directing us in each task we face.

What does this have to do with margin? God’s “voice” is the primary factor in establishing and retaining margin!  And, God’s voice is not difficult to discern if we think of it in terms of an active, personal “speaking” within each of our stations of life.  As we focus on the law of Christ, and learn how it applies within each station, we will begin to distinguish God’s voice from the other voices of our culture–voices of busyness, stress, fear, demand, pleasure-seeking, untruths, and self/ego that often tempt to drive us in ways that eat up our margin. We “hear” God calling us to live within His presence, and specifically to live according to our personal design within our own stations in life. In fact, God is calling us to act only in accordance with what is actually required of us within our “stations in life.” As Schuurman states: “In their callings Christians must discern what is good and what is evil, and promote what is good and resist what is evil(Vocation, 81). He adds, “In the original creation our task was merely to till and keep the garden. Our sin was and is exactly to try to make it more than that” (84).

Discernment of my calling, my motives, my gifts, etc., takes time.  If I am a Pastor or missionary I need time to discern the “voices” from our culture that are potentially being heard by those in my ministry — and by myself.  Though a day of Sabbath rest each week is critical, such discernment takes much more time than this if we hope to effectively engage and confront the culture with truth and grace.

If I am in a “secular” job, discernment can be even more challenging.  No matter my profession, Christ calls me to be a “secular priest” to those around me – mediating Christ’s attributes and grace in a way that is attractive and creative, yet uncompromising.  I will need to “hear” God’s voice within my unique station, bringing light into darkness.

My encouragement: begin to set aside some time each week, each month, and each year to discern and challenge the world’s voices, spoken within your “callings”, that attempt to deafen your ears to God’s “voice.”  Make this a priority.  Look for books that provide Christian wisdom for your “stations” in life. Pray, journal, and talk with others. The journey of discerning God’s voice takes total commitment, but the impact will be eternal, and will be potentially dramatic within the current world-stage as well.