“She’s so lucky. I wish I could do that.”
“It must be so exciting to minister like him for a living.”
It’s not uncommon to hear sentiments like these, especially nowadays when so many Christians are ministering publicly. To be candid, I’ve expressed similar ideas on occasion. Technology has exposed us to so many people who are serving the Lord in so many roles, which translates easily into “calling jealousy”. You know, envy of the sphere of influence God has given another person.
This past weekend I was in Houston listening to Beth Moore speak, and I caught myself thinking about the specific area of ministry to which God called her – spending her life pointing women to Jesus through the study of His Word. My initial thought – how neat – was followed by another thought. I wish I could do that for a living. I had a bout of calling jealousy.
Beth Moore’s ministry isn’t the only one I’ve coveted. I’ve daydreamed about writing like so-and-so, fantasized about teaching like someone else, considered working in another’s location, and wished I had others’ artistic and musical gifts.
I know I’m not the only one. I’ve heard friends comment on how God is using someone else, and, like me, their admiration of what He’s doing gets eclipsed by a fixation on who He’s using.
It really is understandable since our culture applauds big followings, big budgets, and big platforms. Still, this mentality can prevent us from embracing what God has called us to do. Worse, it can cause us to forget the One who called us in the first place.
For me, everything shifted when the Lord reminded me of what Beth Moore can’t do. I don’t know whose ministry has elicited an I wish I could do that response in you, but the following premise is the same.
He or she can’t be married to your spouse or raise your kids or maintain your friendships. In the unique ways you can, he or she can’t serve in your church or engage your community or labor alongside your coworkers or reach out to your neighbors or pray for your enemies or steward your time or invest your resources or exercise your gifts.
To be clear, I’m not diminishing the calling of those who minister from more visible platforms; I’m pointing out the value and privilege of serving the Lord right where we are. To adapt a common phrase, God graciously allows us to bloom where He, in His sovereignty, planted us.
Consider what it would’ve been like to serve alongside the apostle Paul. I wonder if Paul’s beloved protégé Timothy realized the uniqueness of his mentor’s ministry. Paul penned a significant portion of the New Testament and played a major role in taking the gospel to the Gentiles, yet he was aware of Timothy’s gifting and exhorted him to embrace it. “Do not neglect the gift you have” (1 Timothy 4:14). He later added a reminder to “fan into flame the gift of God” (2 Timothy 1:6).
I fear many of us – myself included – are in danger of neglecting gifts and overlooking ministry opportunities because we’re preoccupied with how God is using someone else. We aren’t “all in” right here because we’re distracted by what someone else is doing over there.
Can you even begin to imagine all that God might want to do in and through you right where He’s placed you? The way you’re wired, the place you live, the work you do, the relationships you enjoy, the causes you support – they’re all part of the unique combination of attributes, gifts, and passions that make you who you are. And the one-of-a-kind you is exactly who God has called to be where you are, when you are.
So lay aside the calling jealousy and ask the Lord to open your eyes to the gifts or spheres of influence you’ve neglected. Who can you serve more effectively? Where can you invest more strategically? And beg Him to ignite within you a passion for your own calling – an enthusiasm to be who you are and use what you have right where you are. Because no one else – no matter how public or prominent – can take your place in doing the good works God prepared for you (Ephesians 2:10).