By Gary G. Hoag, Ph.D., Generosity Monk; Member of the Kairos Project Teaching Team
Pursue your Passion, not a Position!
Nearly eight years ago I left the perceived comfort and security of a high-paying position to pursue a passion that I believe God put within me. This article chronicles five lessons I’ve learned on the journey.
In the middle of 2008, after nearly two decades of rallying God’s people to participate in God’s work, I felt like God was leading me to go from serving one ministry to serving many. I was not, however, at all sure what that would look like. I prayed daily and, for the most part, heard nothing.
If there’s a first lesson, it’s this: Pray and wait patiently on the Lord.
One morning, after five months waiting, I felt like God said, “Gary, you are done here.” I did not hear an audible voice, but the message came through loud and clear. My response was thoroughly immature. It’s humbling to admit. “What do you mean I am done here, Lord? Am I not doing a good job?” In silence, I realized I had done what God wanted me to do. He had other plans. For another four months, I prayed. “When Lord? When I am done?” Then one morning it became clear that I should step down from my role at the end of the fiscal year.
Here’s the second lesson: Don’t expect God to make the path an easy one.
I announced my resignation. People wanted to know what I was going to do next. Beyond completing my Ph.D., I had no answer. Most wanted to hear me say that I had left my current position for a better one. When people learned that I had no job lined up, they thought I was crazy. Relatives, even close friends questioned my decision.
I stumbled into the third lesson: Regularly take quiet days to hear from God.
A week before leaving my job, I blocked a day for solitude. It was unforgettable. For hours I prayed, “What do you want me to do, Lord?” I read my Bible, journaled, and then unexpectedly and profoundly I felt God make something clear to me. He did not need me to do anything. He had the whole universe sorted!
I changed my question. I said, “Right! What do you want me to be?” Just like Sarah laughed when God said, “I want you to be a mother.” I laughed when I felt like God quickly replied, “I want you to be the Generosity Monk. I want you to dedicate your life to encouraging Christian generosity.”
While monks over the centuries have made various commitments, on 26 June 2009 I dedicated my life to encouraging Christian generosity. For my daily office, I felt lead to spend time with God in silence, in reading his word, and in exploring what other saints through the centuries said about generosity. I would then post a thought as a “daily meditation” on a website. The discipline has transformed and continues to transform me. After nearly eight years of doing it daily, I can’t imagine not doing it. I never dreamed people would subscribe to it either.
That’s when I learned the fourth lesson: Be what you believe God made you to be and trust God to provide.
How would my family survive? Over my entire career, I had been paid money by an employer to encourage people to give generously. That salary was comfortable. It made us feel secure. Now I felt God wanted me to encourage Christian generosity and to trust him to provide. At first this was scary. It still is at times, but thankfully, faith is like a muscle: the more you exercise it, the stronger it gets.
The Lord’s Prayer has become precious to me and my family. We have learned together that God invites us to assume a posture of dependence and trust in his provision, while faithfully using the gifts and goods he’s entrusted to us. Sometimes God provides through our work, and other times he provides miraculously.
That leads to the last lesson: Make yourself nothing.
The pathway for following your passion, that is, playing the part in the body of Christ that God wired you to play, is to make yourself nothing. Jesus told the disciples that greatness in the kingdom was about humbly learning to serve everyone. Then he modeled the way by making himself nothing, emptying himself, and giving his life for us.
By urging you to make yourself nothing, I’m calling you to follow your passion in a manner that does not focus on being the greatest but focuses on being faithful. Do that and God will put you right where he wants you. You don’t need a specific position to make a difference. Often you can have broader impact by not focusing on a getting a job that pays a certain amount of money, but by focusing on becoming what God wants you to become and by making yourself available for his service.
Gary G. Hoag, Ph.D. (New Testament, Trinity College, Bristol, UK) serves as an author, speaker, consultant, and visiting professor at Sioux Falls Seminary. He’s authored numerous articles and books including his most recent scholar work, Wealth in Ancient Ephesus and the First Letter to Timothy. Hoag has dedicated his life (as “the Generosity Monk”) to encouraging Christian generosity. To freely subscribe to his “Daily Meditations” visit: www.generositymonk.com.