3 Ways to Fearlessly Do What God is Calling You to Do
- John D. Barry CEO and Founder of Jesus’ Economy
- 2015 28 Jan
What I had to say next could end our friendship, but I knew God wanted me to say it, so I did: “I don’t want to have another one of these conversations. If our next conversation is about this, let’s not bother.” I had watched my friend struggle for years with his calling. He knew what he had to do, yet he couldn’t bring himself to commit. God had called him to something great; it was his job to act on it.
After that conversation, it dawned on me that he was afraid. I understood because we’re all afraid—on some level—of committing to an idea. Change feels unnatural. Scientific research has even shown that physiologically speaking, it’s against our instincts; our minds immediately disagree with change because of fear that it could be painful. Yet that’s precisely why change is good and goal setting may even be a holy pursuit.
Perhaps you are like my friend: You want to set goals—sometimes you even do—but you’re not sure if your goals are the right ones and thus you never hit them. You’re secretly afraid and just don’t know it yet.
I’ve found three things to be true of people who overcome their fears and go on to accomplish God’s calling on their life.
1. People who often accomplish goals are like actors.
High school drama—one of my few A grades freshmen year—taught me that actors commit to scenes. They decide to be what they want to be, what they must be, and forget everything else.
Commitment is what goals are really about. It’s easy to fool yourself into believing that goal setting is only for type-A personalities, something crazy bosses force on you, or for those that know what they want out of life. But it’s for everyone. If you want to achieve—meaning if you want to look back upon your life and feel confident about what you did with the time you were given—then you need goals.
The scary part: you’re likely choosing to be indecisive about goals, or swaying in your commitment to them, because you’re afraid of what will happen if you’re successful. (Seth Godin and Steven Pressfield taught me that.) If you achieve, you will have to commit to more achievement—they (the world) will demand it of you. If you achieve your goals, you will become what you committed to being. You will be forced to be that occupation—your trajectory in life will be set. Or so your subconscious tells you.
In reality, only God defines success—and where you go next should be completely up to him. And that’s why goal setting must always be accompanied by prayer and should never happen without it. Likewise, just because you start out going one direction doesn’t mean God won’t have something else for you—so there is no need to worry about being “locked in.” (In this regard, Godin and Pressfield have some great things to say, but I filter it all through prayer, the Bible, and Christian community.)
2. Decisive people think like CFOs.
Every strong CFO I’ve met is calculated, but certain that nothing is certain. My time as treasurer on a board has taught me that this is reality, as has my time leading a non-profit. What you think will succeed may not and what is successful is usually surprising. So calculate, but don’t make that the “be all, end all”—again, make God the center of all of it.
The truth: nothing in life is certain. And you can always change the path you’re on. It is never too late to choose another. I had a career as a piping and vessel inspection drafter, and then one as a transcriber of biblical manuscripts, and then I ran a magazine full-time, and now I’m a publisher who leads a non-profit as a volunteer—things can change. Things can change when you want them to, or when God calls you to change them. (Decisions in life should be based on both: we should make the changes we want to see happen based on God’s direction.)
3. The successful stories are like our stories with a twist.
Whenever I read a great leader’s autobiography, I’m amazed that they’re totally normal with a major difference—they committed to what they felt called to do. And more often than not, greatness emerges from an unexpected place. There are many modern examples of this—see the stories of most of the people featured in the History Channel’s The Men Who Built America. But even more astonishing are the biblical examples. The biblical leaders, although flawed, were about something more. Unlike the great industrial or technological leaders, the biblical leaders were about God’s business. And we should be, too.
Peter was a poor fisherman who went on to lead the most successful faith movement of all time. Moses was a murderer, who likely had a speech impediment, who God used to lead an entire people group out of slavery. Mary was a poor woman who became the mother of the Son of God and a leader of the Holy Spirit’s movement—via Christ’s work and actions—on earth.
To add my story to the mix, I had a speech impediment so terrible that few could understand me—and was declared by doctors to be a child who would never speak correctly and likely would never read well—yet now I edit for a living and regularly speak publicly. God can do all things—praise be to Him alone! Like people of the past, I committed to the idea of living for God. I committed to what God called me to; He gave me the strength and abilities to get where he planned for me to go, and he continues to do so. I am nothing without him—absolutely nothing.
I serve a God who is a miracle worker and a friend of sinners like me. I serve a God who can take a voiceless person and give him a voice. And that’s why I believe fear has no place in our lives. I also believe that Christ can overcome any fear we have.
As for my friend, God did the same for him—he overcame. We stayed friends, and it turns out that conversation was monumental in his life. He is successful at what God called him to do.
So, why are you not committing? What are you really afraid of? Why are you really indecisive? Be honest with yourself. Confront what it is holding you back. The Almighty God wants what is good for you. And the most beautiful thing: God will do good for others in the process of leading you to do what is good for you.
Make a commitment. Be patient upon God, but don’t use it as an excuse.
John D. Barry is the CEO and Founder of Jesus’ Economy, dedicated to creating jobs and churches in the developing world. Because of John’s belief that business can transform lives, Jesus’ Economy also provides an online fair trade shop. He is currently leading Jesus’ Economy efforts to Renew Bihar, India—one of the most impoverished places in the world where few have heard the name of Jesus. Learn more at JesusEconomy.org.
Note: An older version of this article appeared in Relevant magazine.