There’s a lot of discussion—and confusion—among Christians about the idea of “calling.” We tend to use this language to refer to God appointing people to particular occupations, especially vocational ministry. I’ve heard it used among writers as well.
I don’t intend to delve into all the complexities here. Others have done that far better than I could. But I do want to consider the matter of priorities. Let’s look briefly at our more fundamental calling which supersedes all others: faith in and obedience to Jesus Christ. How does it intersect with our calling as writers?
The Bible often uses the language of calling to describe our salvation and sanctification. For instance:
“And Jesus answered them, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.’” (Luke 5:31–32)
“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” (1 Peter 2:9)
When I think about my calling in life, it’s not primarily to write—it’s to love and honour God in every part of my life, which I may do in part through writing. This should change how I write in a few ways.
God comes first
Knowing and loving Jesus must be my highest priority. So this means that the most important thing I can do today is spend time with God in Bible reading and prayer, not prepare my blog post for next week.
In the productivity sphere, it’s often recommended that to make the best progress on your work you should do it first thing in the morning. By setting aside uninterrupted writing time before the cares of the day press in, you can reach your goals faster.
This isn’t bad advice, and I don’t want to be legalistic about how you spend your time, but I’ve intentionally chosen to focus on something different. Rather than spending it producing words, that very first hour of the day is set aside for soaking in God’s Word.
I do try to get a short writing session in each morning before getting distracted by social media and email, but I know I need to hear from God before anything else. Having this routine in place is a way I’ve found it helpful to remind myself of what’s most important.
Even while I’m reading the Bible I need to guard against the persistent temptation to let my writing brain take over. Since many of my blog posts spring from what God has been teaching me, I can find myself mentally composing an article based on the passage in front of me instead of focusing on the Word and letting God change my heart. If I prioritise my callings rightly, my time engaging with God has to be more than hunting for fuel for blog posts.
Church comes first
One of the great blessings of my writing ministry is that I feel more connected to the global church. I’m honoured to have been able to encourage Christians from Australia to Nigeria to India. I look forward to heaven, where I will get to meet these friends and worship God together for eternity.
At the same time, God has put me in a particular, family, suburb, and church. I must not neglect the flesh-and-blood people whom I live alongside.
God has given instructions to the church on how we ought to treat one another, such as:
“And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.” (1 Thessalonians 5:14)
“…with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love…” (Ephesians 4:2)
“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:24–25)
We can only really do these things to the full extent and impact when we meet with a local body who we know deeply, and who know us. They deserve the better part of my time, energy, and care that I might be otherwise tempted to pour into writing. Even if sitting alone and typing out words can seem so much easier sometimes.
This is especially important to remember for those like myself who are in vocational ministry. We dishonour God and the people he has given us to serve if they only get our meagre leftovers.
Obedience comes first
It’s easy to hide behind the relatively safe space of the screen. Of course we can conceal our sin from the people around us too, but the mask is easier to maintain through carefully crafted words. Writers, let’s resolve to aim for something better than merely appearing holy to our readers.
After all, we’re not fooling the God who sees and knows every thought of our hearts. If you’re growing lax in pursuing holiness, take some time to read through Psalm 139 and be reminded: “Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether” (v. 4).
One example of prioritising obedience is that there is no room for pride in our hearts. I may think that my gifts and successes—and the fact that God has “called” me to a particular position—justifies a little boasting. But I’m fooling myself. No calling from God negates his demand for holiness. Indeed, God has called us to holiness:
“…who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began…” (2 Timothy 1:9)
Another aspect of obedience is being careful not to neglect the responsibilities God has placed in front of you. I’ve already talked about this in regards to church, but it also applies to your work, family, and other relationships.
At the moment God has kindly given me the time to be able to pour into writing. That might not always be the case. There may come a day where my other responsibilities mean that I need to set aside writing for a while in order to be faithful. I must be willing to do that, no matter how much I might feel called to writing.
All this to say, I don’t know for sure whether God wants me to keep pursuing writing as a major part of my life forever. I trust that he will make that clearer to me over time through the opportunities he gives or withholds, and through his generous wisdom. But that little word “writer” in my Twitter bio must never become more precious to me than the identity I’ve been called to as a holy, beloved child of God.
Thanks to my friend Katherine Forster for helping me think through some of these issues.