First, let's consider what God says about your career. Ecclesiastes 2:24 (New International Version unless otherwise noted) says, "A man can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in his work. This too, I see, is from the hand of God." Realizing that about one third of your adult life will be spent at work, God wants you to have a rewarding experience. To do that requires planning and self-assessment of your gifts, talents and strengths.
Proverbs 24:27 says, "Finish your outdoor work and get your fields ready; after that, build your house." First things, first! God wants you to prepare for your career and then build your family. The problems of getting those two backwards can create heavy burdens and complicate one's life. Here, God is saying, "Get established in your career and then consider starting your family." This will insure that you can provide for your family's needs, pay the bills and have a little left to do the things you enjoy.
In 1 Timothy 5:8 it says, "If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever." So, a big part of being a Christian is being able to take care of one's family. This shows that you are concerned about the needs of others, not just your own.
John 5:17 says, "My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working." Christ plainly states it is God's nature to work, to be productive. If we are like Him, we'll be working in a constructive and positive way as well. Now that we have established that God wants you to have a rewarding career, let's look at the next step in developing your career pathway.
What are your gifts, strengths and natural God-given talents? Some honestly don't feel they have any, and yet God says we all have gifts!
Romans 12:6 says, "Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them" (New King James Version). What follows is a listing of potential gifts or talents you may have. Read this series of verses in different translations to get a better idea of how they might apply to you. When we identify and then develop our natural talents, we can better honor God and help others. We are all created in God's image, and that means we have great potential.
I've heard it said that we have two lives: one that is given to us, and one that we make. In this situation, the one we make is our gift to our Maker.
In what ways are you gifted or talented? Let's take a moment to think about this in view of Romans 12 and see how these might apply to us today, not just in the spiritual realm, but in the career realm as well. After reading each one, ask yourself if you feel you have this gift. Ask your parents, family and friends if they think you do.
Romans 12:6 refers to "prophecy," meaning inspired speaking. Are you a good, effective speaker? Do you enjoy making public presentations, facilitating meetings or workshops? If so, think about how you might obtain further training in this area.
In verse 7 "ministry" simply means serving. Do you enjoy helping people--with their problems or needs? If so, you need to explore the helping professions or the growing field of customer/client services.
Also in verse 7, we find "teaching." How do you feel about instructing others? Do you have a gift of being able to clearly explain various subjects? Are you interested in making an impact in peoples' lives this way?
Verse 8 speaks of "exhortation." This is the gift of encouragement, the ability to lift spirits or motivate to action. Some people are naturals at this. They look you in the eye and have a big smile, a firm handshake and an unshakable optimism. Are you one of these types?
The same passage also refers to one who "gives." In a practical sense, some people have the unique ability to make money, and thereby have the opportunity to give more. This is a wonderful gift from God.
Another talent listed in this passage is "leadership." Are you a leader? Do you take the imitative to get things done, to take the first step when needed to solve a problem or meet a need? Are you decisive when the situation calls for it? Our world is crying out for the right kind of strong leadership.
Yet another talent in verse 8 is "mercy." This is the gift needed to truly help the needy, the sick and the discouraged. The ability to understand, be kind and supportive without being judgmental or self-righteous is still another gift or talent of some. All of these gifts, when developed and properly applied, are very valuable.
In 1 Corinthians 12 several other spiritual gifts are listed. Let's also take a look at those and consider their physical counterparts to see where you might fit. Again, evaluate yourself to see if you have any of these God-given gifts.
Verse 8 speaks of "wisdom"—the gift of not only knowing what's right, but also being able to apply it effectively in any given situation. This quality is essential in management and leadership roles.
In the same verse, there is "knowledge"—the talent of being able to learn and digest information. When you have the answer, you are a valuable part of a team. In this information age, this is a critical gift.
In verse 9, we read of "faith." People with this gift have strong convictions and beliefs that can guide them through life. Being around people like this strengthens our resolve and produces results.
In the same verse we then read of "healings." Healing means to be made whole. Its career counterpart could be the ability to reconcile relationships, resolve disputes or help an individual through a depressing time in life. Perhaps you are gifted in this area.
Verse 10 includes the term "miracles." As a spin-off of this from the career standpoint, anything that is creative or innovative represents a "miracle"—that is, an unseen, never done before happening. In considering how this gift applies today, you may be very innovative and inventive in your thinking; coming up with new and different ways of doing things, improving processes or creating new products. A recent example of this is something that seemed miraculous at first—the cell phone!
Verse 10 also speaks of "discernment." The ability to analyze, assess, break apart, dissect into great detail so as to come up with the right answer to a problem can be used in many applications requiring keen problem-solving abilities.
In verse 10, we also read of "tongues" or languages." In today's global economy, the talent to learn and speak different languages is in great demand. If you have the talent and interest, pursue this pathway to success.
God truly has endowed wonderful gifts to His creation and it is up to us to honor Him by developing our lives accordingly. This process will also maximize our productivity, self-esteem and joy in life.
It's very important to assess and evaluate your strengths because that is what you want to build your skills and career upon. Get some input and advice. It's the wise thing to do (Proverbs 24:6).
Ask your parents and relatives how they see your strengths. Friends can also be a source of input on how they see your talents. Teachers, advisors, counselors and ministers can be additional sources of objective information from which to begin building a career plan. Self-assessment should be ongoing throughout life to be effective. I hope you are encouraged to begin to see how many gifts you really have.
Next time, we'll discuss the basic types of jobs there are and see where you might fit best. In the meantime, check out these sites on the Web for further information and guidance: