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Purpose vs. Calling

What is the difference between purpose and calling?

We are products. God is our producer.

We were created for a purpose. To accomplish that purpose, God gives us a means. The purpose is to Glorify God and the means is our calling. Purpose is more important than calling but you cannot achieve your purpose without your calling.

Calling is the road you take to get to purpose. Purpose is the destination. In Christ, we all have the same destination but uniquely different roads to get to this destination.

One team, one owner, one coach, one goal. That goal is to win the game and make their coach and owner proud and bring them glory. But different players with different roles or callings on the field.

In soccer, one is a goalkeeper, others are defenders, some are midfielders, others are attackers, others are right and left wingers.

Purpose = to win and bring glory to the coach, owner, and the nation. But the roles are different.

We are all different pieces of a puzzle. We are shaped differently and fit in different places but we have the same purpose. When God puts us together and solves the puzzle, he is glorified.

Take, for example, the Honda Motor Company. It may make motorcycles, cars (many different models and categories), aircraft or other flying vehicles, all-terrain vehicles, etc. The products have the same purpose which is to provide easy,  affordable, and fun transportation. And, of course, to make a profit doing so. But they are designed to achieve this goal differently. That is, they have different callings.

Picture in your mind’s eye the following scenario with me. On judgment day, Mr. Honda, the creator of these products sits in judgment over them. First, he goes by category. He starts with the motorcycles. He designed different types of motorcycle models differently. He gave them different horse powers and capabilities. He asks each motorcycle, “Did you do your job as I designed you to do?” He doesn’t expect all motorcycle models to perform the same. Each one has unique features he included and so different performance expectations. A product is judged based on what it was designed to do. Each one comes with a product manual that details how it is supposed to function and what should be expected of it.

If a particular product is not doing its  job well, it is often discontinued and a new product is made.

There are different callings (roles), but the same purpose (reason for starting the company).

Purpose is general (everyone has the same purpose), calling is specific (everyone’s calling is unique).

A person’s  calling is as unique as their fingerprint. Each person is shaped or designed according to his or her calling. Reflecting on this amazing design that we each have, King David of Israel praised his God saying, “You created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

We each have unique gifts, passions, talents and abilities, personalities, and experiences that shape us and make us uniquely suited for our calling in life. Pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback church codified these gifts into a useful and memorable acrostic called SHAPE stands for Spiritual gifts, Heart (Passions), Abilities(talents), Personality, and Experiences.

A good sequence to view the events of the Bible are: Creation > Fall > Redemption > Restoration. The fall has marred the perfect expression of each person’s SHAPE. However, when we surrender our wills to God and die to our own selves, the work of redemption makes its impact in us and restoration happens.

When it comes to purpose and calling, remember this: We are “called according to His purpose“. “In him we were also chosen [or called], having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will” Eph. 1:11 NIV

The difference between purpose and calling – what the dictionaries say

Purpose

Dictionary definition
Merriam Webster’s Dictionary (m-w.com)
a : something set up as an object or end to be attained : intention
Dictionary.com

1. the reason for which something exists or is done, made, used, etc.
2. an intended or desired result; end; aim; goal.

Calling

Dictionary definition.

Merriam Webster’s dictionary (m-w.com)
1 : a strong inner impulse toward a particular course of action especially when accompanied by conviction of divine influence
: the vocation or profession in which one customarily engages
Dictionary.com
2.vocation, profession, or trade: What is your calling?
4.a strong impulse or inclination: She did it in response to an inner calling.

 

Every single one of us was created for one purpose and only one purpose.  We were created to glorify God.

How do you glorify God? By living out your purpose. Rick Warren breaks down this purpose into five areas: Worship, Fellowship, Discipleship, Ministry, and Mission. (Purpose Driven life pg. 58, day 7).  Other pastors like A.W. Tozer have presented the same message without breaking it into five key areas. However we slice this apple, the key is that God created us to glorify him.

“I brought glory to you here on earth by doing everything you told me to do” John 17:4 NLT.

Jesus glorified God by fulfilling his calling on earth. We also glorify God by doing what God created us to do. A product brings glory to the maker by performing as designed. A messenger brings glory to the sender by doing what he is told to do. All of creation brings glory to God when it functions as God designed it to function.

“The glory of God is a human being fully alive” St. Irenaeus.

“Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.” The Westminster Shorter Catechism

That’s the only reason we are here on earth.

We often confuse purpose with our calling.  Our CALLING is the things God gives us to do in life in order to carry out our PURPOSE.  God gives each and every one of us different callings. It includes our occupation or the work God calls us to do.  It includes our service and ministry in the local church.  It includes using our talents and abilities in whatever ways and wherever God chooses.  We are called to fulfill our purpose of glorifying God.

Our calling is the unique means that we individually fulfill the purpose for which God created us. Calling is not an end, it is a means to an end. That end is glorifying God which is our purpose.

We acknowledge God in all our ways when we seek to glorify him in everything we do.

 

Consequences of confusing purpose and calling

1. You can idolize your calling. Purpose is the end. Calling is only a means to the end. When we confuse the two, we can give priority to the means. Our ministry can easily become an idol and replace God because we are so preoccupied with the ministry succeeding that when God doesn’t answer our prayers to make it grow, we become angry with God.

When we are too BUSY with our work  to have relationship with God, we are idolizing the means. BUSY: Being under Satan’s yoke.

2. You fail to find your calling. Calling can get lost in purpose. If you confuse purpose with calling, then calling which is more specific will get lost in purpose which is more general. If you loose your calling, you can’t  fulfill your purpose. Calling is the road that takes you to the destination (purpose). If you lose the road in the large destination, then you will never get to your destination because you have no road. You’ve made the two one.

Satan’s biggest lie: Life is all about you. That’s what got Satan kicked out of heaven.

Exodus 20:3-6: You shall have no other gods before Me. “You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. “You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.

Deuteronomy 6:5 “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.”  

Idolatry is an extremely serious matter.

When we worship calling instead of God, we care more about the success of the ministry than about the people we are called to serve. We become slave drivers pushing those we lead toward visible success. We seize to seek God’s glory but seek the world’s glory.

When I worship my calling  I lose contentment in God alone.

 

Related: Calling vs. Vision: The difference between calling and vision.

 

Let me leave you with these words from the apostle Paul:

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.  Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen. Ephesians 3:14-21

 

Questions:
Before reading this article, what was your understanding of the difference between purpose and calling? Has that changed after reading this article? What other ideas do you have that you can share to add to the discussion on purpose and calling? Please answer in the comment section below. Feel free to comment on anything else that you desire.

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57 Comments

  1. I love this beautiful exposition. I am certain as well that my purpose is to Glorify God and love others in a way that would draw them nearer to the heeart of Christ.

  2. Thank you for sharing this article. I also went on to read the related articles. Very informing!

  3. Great read!!

  4. Great article thank you!

  5. Back before I studied at ABI, I thought purpose and calling were the same. Since reading this article for a previous class, I understand that we all have the same purpose, which is to glorify God and each have unique ways of glorifying Him through who He has made us to be.

  6. SYour article on the difference between PURPOSE AND CALLING was very useful
    Thank you very much.

    • Thanks Tonny! We’re glad to know it was helpful to you!