Barrett L. Gritters is pastor of the Protestant Reformed Church of Byron Center, Michigan.
To say that young people wring their hands over the question of what to do after high school is to say something to which every young person grimly nods. The rare bird that knows from the third grade on what he/she is going to do is enough to make the other 99.9% of the flock a bit jealous and perhaps all the more troubled besides. “Why don’t I know what I need to do for the rest of my life? Now that I’m 18 years old is there something wrong that I still don’t have the slightest idea what to do?” Or, “How in the world am I supposed to make a decision?” Or, “I think I know what I’d like to do, and I’m shooting for that; but why am I so uncertain about it all?”
We parents, teachers, pastors, and elders, need to be sympathetic to their lurking fear that indecision will cost them dearly.
Too few prayers are raised to our God asking guidance for the young people about their calling. If my own pastorate may be judged, too seldom are petitions in the congregational prayers raised for the Spirit’s guidance in the lives of the young people, particularly in connection with their life’s occupation. In how many of our homes do the fathers of young and older teens pray at the dinner table for the Spirit’s leading regarding work and school? (I emphasize at the dinner table because these prayers must be raised in the presence of the young people.) How many of you young people pray fervently for the wisdom to make a decision about occupation that will please God besides pleasing you? How many times have we young people asked our parents to pray for us in our decisions?
Young people ought not to worry whether they willever be able to make up their mind. The Lord will be with them. Their calling is to pray and work on it.
A life’s calling?
To help young people in their decisions, at least one thing must be made perfectly clear. The young people may not simply wander around, supposing that it really does not matter what they do, as long as they are not called to be a preacher or maybe a school teacher. Not infrequently does the young person abandon all prayers for the Spirit’s guidance after he has determined that he is not called to be a minister or school teacher. “Whheeew!!! Now I can make my own decision . . .” Underlying that bad thinking is the devil’s teaching that only preachers and maybe teachers have a calling from God to do what they are doing, and all others do not. Christian young people need to tie a millstone to that thinking and toss it overboard.
You have a calling of God to serve Him to the best of your ability in a particular place in life. Maybe your calling is to be a pastor. Perhaps you need to study to be a teacher. Maybe you are going to be a salesman, or a mother of one or five or ten children. But being a salesman or a mother is no less a calling of God for you than being a pastor or school teacher.
Proof? Plenty. First, think of it practically. Why would the Lord call a few of His children to a particular life’s work, but leave all the others hanging as though they are really not very important, and as though His plan does not include their life? Why would the Lord give to a few of His children the confidence that their life’s work is His special office for them, but all the rest—well, they can just float around as though it does not matter to them or God.
The Heidelberg Catechism has something important to say about this question. Explaining the fourth petition of the Lord’s Prayer, “thy will be done”, the catechism says that when we pray this, we mean to say, “grant that we and all men may . . . obey thy will . . . that so every one may attend to, and perform the duties of his station and calling . . .” Read that explanation again. It claims that every person has a “station and calling” in this life. The Reformed Church in the United States (German Reformed) translates this “office and calling.” That is, every child of God has an office and calling which has duties for their service of God.
One of the proof texts that the catechism uses to establish this striking teaching is I Corinthians 7:24. Here is the heart of our proof. In verse 17 Paul says, “But as God hath distributed to every man, as the Lord hath called every one, so let him walk.” Then in verse 20 he says, “Let every man abide in the same calling wherein he was called.” What does he mean here? First, he is saying that God has called each tosalvation through the gospel. That is the saving calling which is the same for every child of God. Each is called out of darkness into God’s marvelous light. We cannot dismiss that part of the calling. But second, in connection with that saving calling, God also calls each to the specific work and earthly position in life that He has ordained for him.
Is this the proper interpretation of this text? Consider the three examples that the apostle uses to illustrate his teaching. “Is any man called being circumcised? let him not become uncircumcised.” That is, did God call you as a Jew? Then you must consider that as a divine station and calling in which you are to serve God, Second, “Art thou called being a servant? care not for it: but if thou mayest be free, use it rather.” That is, has God called you to salvation who are also a slave? Then you must consider your present condition as a slave as a divine office and calling of God. You must not revolt and rebel, but serve God in that station. Paul qualifies that by teaching that if the slave can be made free (in a legitimate way) then he ought to use that freedom to serve God. But each is a divine office and station.
The third example is the one from the context of the whole chapter—marriage. It you are married, he says to Christians, the married state is the calling of God for you. If you are not married and cannot be, do not desire to be, or have no need for marriage, then remain unmarried. That is God’s divine office for you. “Brethren, let every man, wherein he is called, therein abide with God.”
Now, although the apostle talks about the place of life in which someone finds himself after he is converted, the same truth applies to our lives. Each place in which we find ourselves is an office and station ordained by God.
What a beautiful teaching! I do not have to wander! I do not have to think that it really doesn’t matter what I do! If I’m already in an occupation that serves my family and the church well, I don’t have to think anymore that my position in life is completely arbitrary. This is my office and calling from God! In this calling I must serve Him to the best of my ability.
This does not mean, though, (as some think) that once we are in a position we stay till we die—come what may. The apostle also addressed that question in connection with the slaves. If they legitimately could be freed from slavery, they should consider that freedom as God’s calling for them; and use it to serve God. That applies to us in our calling. If we find ourselves in a position that simply does not suit us, because it does not pay enough to support the family, is a job that is not compatible with the Reformed faith, or simply does not utilize our talents fully, we try to find something else. And that something else is the divine office for us.
The reason it is possible to change is that God has given us a divine calling that fits with all the other circumstances of our lives. Circumstances change. Calling changes.
How does this work out in our lives practically? How can I answer the question: what shall I do after high school? In contrast to the Corinthians, who found themselves already in a particular station of life when called to salvation, young people in the church today who have no pre-planned occupation have the hard job of trying to determine where God would have them go.
God leads us into a proper occupation through much prayer. I mentioned that already, and hope to again. But that needs to be stressed. Pray! Pray! And pray without ceasing for God’s will to be done in your life. But, as with obtaining daily bread, praying is not the end of the story. The story of our life is: Pray and Work.
What work must I do to determine my calling after high school? Promise me that you will pray about your life’s work. I promise that I will give more specifics next time, the Lord willing, on:
1. Determining our calling in connection with our abilities.
2. Determining our calling in connection with God’s commandments.
3. Determining our calling in connection with kingdom service.
4. What about college? Is it for everyone?
5. What about the difference between the young men and young women?
God grant grace to you in the strength of your youth!