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Description: Our vocation is to bring order to God's world and transmit love and peace of Jesus to colleagues and people we meet each day.
Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill
Turn to Romans 9:12 You’ll see the words that God inspired. “… she was told, ‘The elder will serve
the younger.’” So, what are YOU going to be when you grow up? I don’t know about the girls here but
I know we guys used to say we were going to be engine drivers, train drivers or we’re going to drive
fire engines. Probably now we’d say at seven or eight years of age, we wanted to be astronauts or
the R2D2 robot in “Star Wars” — something like that. The question was fun then. When we were
seven or eight all the future seemed limitless. It was fun when somebody asked you, “What are you
going to be when you grow up?” You shared all your dreams.
Then you remember coming up to the SAT and the ACT tests. The old question began to assume a more
irksome form because people began to say not, “What are you going to be when you grow up?” –- but,
“What are you going to major in?” You thrashed around wildly for some idea of what to major in. You
picked out a number from a hat. You felt, “Well, I’ve settled that for four years.” Then you got
lost in school and college and courses. The questions came up again but you dealt with it in a more
sophisticated way this time. You calmly decided which graduate school you were going to attend. You
decided where you were going to get your master’s degree or your doctorate. So you put off the
question for a little while longer.
By that time you had found two good rationalizations to explain why you were in the job you were in.
One, it was good experience. Now the thought occurred to you year by year, “When is this great life
going to begin for which I’m getting all this experience?” Still, it put people off when they
asked, “What are you going to be?” You’d say, “Well, this job has given me good experience.” The
second rationalization you used was, “Well, that’s not important. It’s not important what I do with
my eight-hour day. What’s really important in life is family, friends, leisure time and activities.”
As the years passed, we became more and more concerned about the whole question.
There are many of us here that don’t fit into that pattern — but great numbers of us probably fit
into that pattern to some degree. The real difficulty is that vocation is a problem to us. It’s a
problem that we often would prefer not to talk about. We just don’t quite know what to do with our
lives. We keep on keeping on, hoping that something sometime will turn up. We don’t know how to
decide what to do with our lives. We don’t know how to find what our vocation is. The answer to it
is in this verse: “The elder will serve the younger” (Romans 9:12). The first truth that all of us
need to see here is that God is showing us that your vocation is not your choice. It’s not your
choice. It’s not a matter of you making an arbitrary decision sometime in your life as to what job
you’re going to do. That’s not the way your vocation is settled. It’s good to hold on to that.
You know the experience I had — and presumably you have had it – it seems nice to look at a list of
job opportunities at school or to look at the want-ad column in the newspaper and think, “Oh, I can
choose any job here and make an application.” In a way, that sounds exciting. Wouldn’t you agree
that often there is a kind of emptiness and bewilderment about it? You kind of think, “Here I am
looking at these jobs and there are hundreds and thousands of people looking at this same list of
jobs. Any of them could do the jobs just as well as I could. I’m going to spend 40 hours of my week
doing some job that everybody else is just as fitted for as I am.” We get the feeling that we’re
just one of thousands of interchangeable spare parts that lie around the country. Anybody else could
do what we’re going to do. This verse says, “No — that’s a lie. Your vocation is not a matter of an
arbitrary decision by you. Your vocation is something that is more definite than that.”
You remember, Jacob and Esau were two brothers. They were twins. Esau was older than Jacob. He made
it from his mother’s womb just a moment ahead of Jacob. So strictly speaking, he was the older
brother. He was the one who should have led Israel, the nation God chose from whom his unique Son,
Jesus, should have been born. It should have been Esau. But this verse says, “The older, Esau, will
serve the younger.” In other words, God said, “Jacob is going to be the third patriarch after
Abraham and Isaac and will lead the nation of Israel.” God said that before Jacob was even born.
Some weeks ago we said that what God was concerned with here was not
picking one for salvation and one for damnation. This choice had nothing to do with salvation. This
was concerned with vocation — with what these men would do throughout their lifetime on earth.
That’s proved in the wording in Romans 9:12. “The elder will serve the younger.” God was choosing
Jacob for service. He wasn’t choosing Jacob to go to heaven and Esau to hell. He was choosing Jacob
to be the leader of the Israelite nation. It was for service.
In other words, God uniquely qualified Jacob to do a certain job that only he could do. He chose him
for it before he was born. It’s the same with you and me. You and I have a tendency to say, “No,
it’s not the same for me. I mean, this man Jacob was very important to God. He was to head up the
Israelites. That’s a special task. Obviously, our Creator would take great care to ensure that the
right man was in that position. But me? What does he care about me, whether I’m a secretary or a
Look at Job 31:15, “Did not he [God] who made me in the womb make him? And did not one fashion us in
the womb?” This applies to you. The same God who made Jacob made you. Your Creator made you to do a
specific job here on earth. Our Creator knows when a sparrow falls to the ground. Our Creator has
counted the hairs on your head. He knows every detail of your personality. He has planned every
detail of the universe. He knows where every proton and every neutron is and where every planet is.
He knows where every plant grows.
Now, do you think that he would send all four billion of us into the world and say, “Okay, sort it
out yourselves!” Obviously, no! Obviously, he knows exactly what job each of us is to do and he’s
fitted us uniquely for it. You know you can’t contradict me on this. There is no one like you in the
whole world. Even those of us here who are identical twins, we know that our mom knows the
difference. There is a vast difference – there is a unique combination of qualities and attributes
that only we possess. There’s nobody like you in the world.
God has sent you into this world to do a unique job that he has planned for you. It’s not just a
matter of looking down the “Opportunities Vacant” column with a pin, closing your eyes and spotting
one. Your Creator has planned you with great care. He knew you before your mom knew you. He knew you
intimately before your dad ever saw you. He has perfectly molded you to do a job in his world that
only you can do. Loved ones, I have to stress that to you. I know where you are all coming from in
this massive society. We’re all fighting like mad the feeling that we’re just ciphers. Loved ones,
you’re not a cipher! You’re unique! There’s nobody like you in the world. If you fail, the Father
has a failure in his universe. No, there’s not somebody else who can substitute for you. There’s
not somebody else who can slot in your position. No, that position will never be filled in the way
God meant it to be. There is a job that God has designated you for and he will be faithful. As he
has fitted you for it, he will be faithful in leading you to it.
That’s the attitude you need to have — not thrashing around fretfully and anxiously to find out
what your vocation should be, but relaxed back. Relaxed back in faith that your Father made you to
do a job that only you can do. He is going to lead you to it as you continue to do what comes
naturally — what you are led to by your own particular abilities, or what you’re led to by your own
particular interests. God is going to be leading you into the position that he has reserved for you.
He wants you to relax back.
You’re never going to get anywhere if you’re going to get fretful and anxious about it: “What am I
going to do with my life?” No, it’s not what you’re going to do with your life. It’s a matter of
letting God lead you into what he has planned to do with your life – not listening to all kinds of
opinions from people but just simply relaxing in faith that your God made you carefully the way you
are, uniquely different from every other person of the four billion of us in the world because he
has made a spot that only you can fill.
Now some of you may say, “Well, what if I’m in a job now that I DID get by my own fretful, anxious
ways?” You’re in the same situation that Jacob was in. He was in a human situation that could not
result in him leading the Israelite nation. He was the younger of the twins. He was in a situation
that was humanly impossible. It was impossible from a human point of view for him to become the
elder son that would lead the Israelite nation. Yet you saw that God did it. So God will do it with
you. God will take you in the situation that you are in and will lead you into the position that he
has planned. And honestly, if you’re the same as me — after college or during college — you know
the hours we lie awake or the hours we spend thinking and planning our future: “What am I going to
do with my life?” It’s so much lost time. That isn’t the way to find out the position that God has
What is the way? The key is plain and it’s in Ecclesiastes 9:10: “Whatever your hand finds to do, do
it with your might.” That’s the key. Don’t get back into the old study and say, “Ah. I’m going to
discover my whole life: from 20 to 25 I’ll do this, from 25 to 30 I’ll do that. What will I do from
30 to 35? I’ll get married!” It’s dumb! And there are so many of us here who have tried it and will
tell you that it’s not the way you arrive at God’s will for your life. The way you arrive at his
will for your life is that you do what you’re doing with all your heart. Whatever you are doing
this moment, you do it with all your heart. You don’t spend the time brooding that you should be
working. You work with all your heart. You do it with all your ability. You don’t think, “Is this
worthy of my life?” You do it with all your heart, trusting all the time that your Creator knows
where you are to be; that he will as surely get you to that spot as he got Jacob to the right
Many of us here have had all kinds of dreams. That’s what we do — we have dreams, “I’m going to be
a doctor. I’m going to be a lawyer.” I was going to be a professor of the Old Testament and spend
all of my time with old manuscripts at Oxford University. All of us have had mad dreams that we had
in our minds and loved ones, we’d have been miserable if we’d ever realized them. God saved us from
those dreams by getting us pre-occupied with things that he gave us to do.
Don’t spend time looking away from the obvious fact that whatever you’re doing at the moment is what
God has permitted you to do . The issue is not whether it’s his ideal will for you or not. He’s
permitted you to do it at this time, so he wants you to rest in that, to do it with all your heart
in complete faith and trust that he is going to lead you to the place that he has reserved for you.
So that’s what God wants us to see. Our vocation is not a matter of our choosing. Our vocation is
God’s choice. We can afford to rest back and enjoy doing what we’re doing at this moment knowing
that he will lead us into his plan for us.
There is something else that we get from this verse that is important: your job is not man-service.
You may be in a position like Esau where it says he will serve his brother Jacob. You may be a
waitress or a waiter in a restaurant and you may actually serve people, but the truth is that your
job is not the service of people. Your job is God-service. You’re in the position that you’re in at
the moment because God wanted you there, and you’re responsible to the one who has fitted you for
it. Incidentally, you may end up serving people as well, but you’re primarily serving God.
A lot of us get into all kinds of bondage because we don’t see this. The boss becomes bigger and
bigger in our minds. It’s not the boss we serve. Look at Romans 1:9, “For God is my witness, whom I
serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son.” Paul says people who are children of God do not
serve people. They serve God. Your job, whatever it is at the moment, is serving God. You may
incidentally be responsible to other people, but your primary responsibility is God. You are in
that position for two reasons. It’s the same two reasons that I am in this position.
There are two great commissions that God gave to us men and women. One is in Genesis 1:28. It’s that
great commission that is mentioned soon after the record of the creation. “And God blessed them and
God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over
the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the
earth.’” So first of all, you’re in the job you’re in to bring a little piece more of God’s world
into the order of his will and his peace. That’s the first purpose of your job.
The boss may think that your job is to keep his papers in order. The manager may think your job is
to keep track of the inventory. With somebody else, the principal of the school may think that your
job is to keep the school and the children under discipline. That’s not it. The purpose of your job
is to bring some more of this dear old world into order under God’s will. You’re directly
responsible to your Creator for that. It isn’t a matter of keeping the papers in order. The papers
could be burned up in a matter of weeks. The whole office will be demolished in a matter of 10 or 20
years. It isn’t worth concentrating on that. God wants you to bring order into his world. That’s why
you keep the papers in order, that’s why you keep the children in order, that’s why you keep track
of the inventory. It is to bring a piece more of God’s world into the order of his will. You are
missing the point of your job if you don’t see that. You are missing completely why God has you in
that position if you don’t see that it’s fulfilling that great first commission that we were given
by God – to bring his world into order under his will.
The second is the commission that all of us normally think of when we mention the word commission –
it’s Mark 16:15, “And Jesus said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole
creation.'” That’s the second purpose of your job — to transmit the love and peace of Jesus to
your colleagues and to other people that you meet. It’s in that order — because unless you’re
bringing the job and the responsibilities of it under God’s will, no one will be able to sense any
of the life of Jesus. That’s what is so false in a Christian who prays at his desk all day as the
papers amass in front of him. Nobody can see the order and the beauty of Jesus’ life within him
because they see the chaos of the external world around him. You’re in that job to transmit the love
and peace of Jesus to your boss and to your colleagues and to those who work under you.
Some of you may say, “That’s a good theory but I know who fires me and I know who hires me. I know
that I am responsible to them.” There is a great verse in the Bible that settles that. It’s also in
a statement that Jesus made when Pilate said to him, “Do you not know that I have power to release
you and power to execute you?” and Jesus said, “You have no power unless it was given to you from
above.” Proverbs 21:1 makes that same statement, “The king’s heart is a stream of water in the
hands of the Lord, he turns it wherever he will.” So the heart of the king is in the hand of the
It’s like a stream that God can turn either way. Your boss is in the hand of the Lord. He cannot do
anything to you that the Father does not know that he can fit into his pattern for your life. Never
fret at night and be anxious about what he will do to you because it’s not reality. He has no power
except that which is given him by God. Your boss can only do to you what the Father can work into
his plan for your life. Never lose sleep at night wondering, “What does my boss think – or what
will he do to me?” You are in the employ of God your Creator. It is him that made you for this
position. It is important to see that it is God-service and not man-service.
The last thing is, and it’s pretty plain from the verse, your status depends on whether you’re
fulfilling God’s will for your life. It doesn’t depend on whether society thinks your job is a good
job — or worthy of your abilities –- or your birth; or whether it’s an appropriate job. Your status
depends on whether your job is fulfilling the purpose for which God made you. For instance, it was
obviously inappropriate that Jacob should become the elder son and should have the leadership of the
Israelite nation. That was inappropriate, but God regarded them both equally and set them both a
status that was worthy of respect, simply because they were fulfilling the purpose God had for their
And it’s the same for you. Forget about the business of whether your parents think that your job is
a great job or that your peers think that your job is a great job. Loved ones, you are not valuable
just because of the job you do. You are valuable because you’re God’s child and you’re doing what
he has given you to do. So, if you’re cleaning restrooms for him that is glorious and, in his eyes,
has the greatest status that you could have. Whatever you’re doing, if it’s in the Father’s will for
your life, then that’s all the status you ever need. God’s ideas of status have always differed from
us men and women. He’s always said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” And we’ve said, “Blessed are
the haughty and the proud and the driving.” He said, “Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit
the earth.” We say, “Blessed are those who are domineering and who are victorious — they will
inherit the earth.”
In Luke 22:24, “A dispute also arose among them, which of them was to be regarded as the greatest.
And he [Jesus] said to them, ‘The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and those in
authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you; rather let the greatest among you
become as the youngest, and the leader is one who serves. For which is the greater, one who sits at
table, or one who serves? Is it not the one who sits at table? But I am among you as one who
serves’”. Your status of your job is dependent only on the fact that it is fulfilling the purpose
that God gave you to fulfil.
You know that this status thing has wrought havoc into the vocational
world -– economically and in corporations. It’s brought about Parkinson’s Law: that everybody is
promoted to his own level of inability or inefficiency. And that’s what has happened. You have a
cartoonist who is really good at animation. He is so good that the bosses decide that he ought to
direct all the other artists in the studio. So, they make him the administrator. And the poor
fellow, even though he was taken out of the thing God had given him a gift for, he began to learn
how to administer and became quite a good administrator. Then, because he is such a good
administrator, they promote him again because obviously, anybody who is doing a job well wants to go
higher and higher. That’s what status and job competency is about. So, they took him and made him
the salesman for the company. He was a hopeless salesman. They left him there because he did it in
such a wonderful mediocrity that they couldn’t find an excuse for promoting him further. That’s
Parkinson’s Law and it governs most of the corporations of the world.
The whole business of tying status to job success has wrought havoc in our corporations and
socially. It’s wrought havoc personally. How many mathematicians have gone into medicine because
there is more status there, or there is more money, or there is more respect from our fellows? How
many nurses have gone into business for the same reasons? There are many of us whom God made to be
carpenters, plumbers, painters, teachers, and lawyers — but because of status, because of what our
parents think we should be in and what our peers think we should be in, or what society looks up to,
we have gone into all kinds of other jobs. We have perverted, misused and abused and left unused the
gifts that God gave us to share with his world.
Loved ones, do you see that vocation is not your choice? It is God’s choice. It is not man-service
— it is God-service. It is not society’s idea of status. It is God’s idea of status. If you would
once grasp that and begin to operate on that level, you would begin to come into freedom and liberty
in regard to your future. There are all kinds of you dear brothers and sisters who have special
gifts that God has given you and a special combination of qualities that only you have. He knows
where he wants them and he will bring you there if you will relax back, stop being fretful, stop
being concerned about whether you are pleasing men or not, stop being concerned whether this is a
status position or not, and instead do what comes naturally to you. Do it with all your heart.
Questions from the congregation:
Question #1: “What kind of feeling do you think an unemployed person is having to what you are
Regardless of the poor economic situation, the Father can guide you to do something – even if you go
out and sell Fuller brushes – there is somewhere that you can begin and do something you CAN do. If
a person could get nothing that was paying at all, then obviously, they do have to take unemployment
benefits, but then it’s important for them to give themselves fully to doing things for neighbors or
doing things for friends, or being occupied. I think the worst thing is for them to sit and brood
and think that, “This is unfair and doesn’t apply to me.” I sympathise and I’m with you, but I do
think that many of us who are unemployed are still caught in the dilemma that there is some job that
we could do if we would be willing just to change our idea of status. I think a lot of us carry our
degrees and our qualifications on our back instead of it being something that lifts us – and we
refuse to do whatever in any situation.
Question #2: “In connection to doing what you are doing with all your heart, is there any place for
looking ahead and having a vision of what God would eventually want you to do?”
I think so. I think many of us have had the experience that we preferred to dream and to imagine
the vision, than to do the job now that we have now with all our hearts. That’s the weakness.
There is no harm in us having thoughts, “Yes, God would probably like me to be in this” – and even
entering into training for that position, as long as we will be utterly faithful and whole-hearted
in what he is giving us now. But, I’ve seen so many of us over the years half-hearted in the job
that we had, and therefore, putting ourselves into a position where God could not lead us on because
we were frankly, being disobedient in that job. We were not doing it with all of our hearts. We
were not being faithful to our employer or being faithful to our colleagues. We were being
disobedient to God in that situation. And yet, we were telling him, “Look, if you tell us what to
do next, we’ll obey you on that.” So, often the Father was faced with the situation, “Well, you are
not obeying me now, why should you obey me if I tell you what I eventually want to put you into?”
If follows the pattern that Jesus laid down, “If you are faithful in little things, I’ll make you
master of great things.” (Luke 19:17)
Question #3: “Are you saying, don’t try to change jobs?”
Loved ones, I would say that there is a great difference between reading the newspaper ads, looking
around, keeping your eyes open and yet doing your present job with all your heart enthusiastically
with absolute contentment that this is where God has you at this time — and what you say – not
seeking to change. There is every opportunity for us to keep our eyes open for other positions –
but what is bad, loved ones, is where you get yourself into this situation where you are living for
tomorrow. There are many of us that have passed through those years. We’ve thrown years away
because we have lived for tomorrow. We live for the beautiful job that will come around the corner.
And really, we’ve been preventing God from bringing it about because we haven’t been living in our
present situation with full faith and confidence. By all means, be open to changing our jobs, but
don’t let today drift away, day after day, trickle away and be wasted because you are always
dreaming of the future. C.S. Lewis said, “The problem with Christians is not that they are living
in the past. The problem with them is that too many of them are living in the future.” Today is
the day of salvation. This is the day you have. You can be sure of the day – tomorrow, who knows?
But TODAY you have. And you can live it with all your heart. As you do that, with all your heart,
God will open the way into the future.
Question #4: “What about those social professions where people get burnt out by their jobs and the
emotional expenditure of energy?”
I’d like to share that I, too, have come through that kind of experience. I know that you are
off-balance when your job is burning you out. The problem is not the job. The problem is your
attitude towards the job. You’re becoming too involved with the people that you are dealing with
and not sufficiently involved with Jesus who has continual peace and love – however many people he
is trying to help or empathise with. The problem when you are burnt out by your job is usually your
own lack of adjustment to God and the proper adjustment to people. Many of us have tried the old
game of withdrawing and trying to think though the thing. Where we end up is in an unreal
situation. It’s an unreal situation to be unoccupied. It’s artificial. You always find that you
have to eventually get back into the ordinary stream of life to begin to readjust. I’d say,
wouldn’t you rather stay in the position and seek God and seek the light of his Holy Spirit to show
you in what way you are becoming over-involved with people? That’s why I shared that your job is
God-service not people-service. Usually we get burnt out when we are pre-occupied with people.
Question #5: “Can you be moved from a job through failure or through frustration?”
Especially as many of you are college age and post college age, be very careful before you identify
failure with God’s guidance. Normally the Father wants you to come into victory in positions. On
occasion, we get into such a mess that eventually he almost has to just root us out of the job by
failure and frustration. That is the abnormal situation rather than the normal. The Father
normally wants us to use those jobs to sharpen our teeth on. He normally wants us to come into
victory in the position that we are in and then he can lead us into peace and another situation.
Question #6: “What about the slavish dedication to the corporations that some companies demand from
It’s important that we allow the Holy Spirit to maintain balance in us so that our job and our
company does not become our god. President Jimmy Carter said to his own staff when they first
began, the home would come before the job. Their relationships with their wives and their children
would come before their dedication to the company. There is where the world’s view and God’s view
would come into collision. We need to constantly allow the Holy Spirit to show us what is
I’ll try to talk a little more about vocation next Sunday.
Let us pray:
Dear Father, we thank you that you have given us guidance. We thank you that no man can fully make
that guidance clear – but YOU can. You alone know why you put us here on earth. But, you DO know
and we are confident, our Father, you will do with us what you did with Jacob. Whatever the human
difficulties, you will lead us into a place that you have reserved for us. We thank you, Lord, that
we are not just a cipher. We thank you that we are a special, unique person that is like nobody
else on earth and that can do a job that you have created us for. Lord, we thank you for that.
Thank you for your individual care for us. Thank you for loving us. Amen.