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I Surrender All: But What Does That Mean?

It’s Thanksgiving in Canada this weekend, and many of us are seeing family and catching up with people. Young adults (students and non-students alike) are filled with both elation and anxiety. We are excited for the apple cider, changing leaves, and laughter, but we are also constantly surrounded with loaded questions. “What are you doing these days?” implies an interest in our career and overall future “success” as an individual. As young adults, we’re surrounded by a plethora of life choices that we could make. We want success, but we also want Christ, and we equate surrender with sacrifice. I think, as most young adults are, we are conflicted, and we’re looking for signs.

We are told that we’re supposed to live our lives for Christ; be Christ-focused, our pastors say—as we should be. But how do we put this into practice when it comes to making our longterm career choices? How do we surrender ourselves in a world that says “me first”?

I’ll be candid—I think a lot of us interpret this wrongly. When we fall in love with Jesus, our whole worldview changes, and often Christians are tempted into thinking we need to go into ministry, specifically as pastors. This is true, we are certainly called to minister to others—to share the gospel, evangelize, and care for those around us. But it’s not true in that everyone needs to make it their primary income. In other words, we don’t all need to be pastors.

How could we? If we only had a world of pastors—with no teachers, electricians, engineers, no graphic designers—our world would be in a sorry state indeed. Say goodbye to our school system because there would be no point in secular education. Say goodbye technological advancement as we should be happy with what we already have. We need Christians now more than ever to continue integrating within society—not to be changed by society, but to change society. The point is to challenge cultural norms. We don’t need to stay within our familiar habitat of the church and other Christians, we need to spread the gospel. That means we need to be on the ground working alongside non-believers. And how better to do that than by pursuing careers outside of the church?

It’s absolutely amazing how many well-meaning Christians I’ve met who have told me to my face that they aren’t sure how to live their lives as a Christian and have a job outside of church ministry. Their hearts are in the right place. It’s absolutely wonderful if your daily job is related to pastoring or outreach mission, but that’s not the life of most Christians. I’d like to remind these people that your mission field can be your work environment, no matter the job. From construction to the medical field, from engineering to customer service—and even as a student—if you’re a Christian, your mission field is where you are at every moment.

I think that some of us get stuck though, because we’re told to not be selfish. Mark 8:34 says, “Then [Jesus] called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.'” Some of us have interpreted this to mean that “denying ourselves” means to deny our own interests that bring us enjoyment outside of Christ. I know more than a handful of people who have felt like they were called to be a pastor or do some sort of pastoral ministry, when really they were putting the pressure on themselves. And yet, that’s not what this is saying to do.

It’s not any more selfish to enjoy science, drama, art, writing, geography, or mathematics than it is to enjoy reading a theology book or sitting in God’s presence. You are allowed to enjoy both. What’s important is that your identity is not in your work; it’s in Christ. You can be a child of God and a doctor, a child of God and a train engineer, you can be a child of God and a fast-food employee, you can be a child of God and an electrician. God gave us ability and aptitude in certain fields for a reason: to reach people in those fields. To do our jobs well, and to have godly impact on those around us.

Will there be a change in perspective when you give your heart to Christ? Of course. Can this mean a career change? Of course. But, I think, if anything, our priorities will change. Why are you pursuing a particular career? What are your intentions with your income? How can you best be used as a vessel for Christ, given the strengths and talents that you have? That’s the surrender God is looking for. We surrender in that we want to show Christ more than we want to show ourselves.

I hope that helps someone.

Do you have a different perspective? I’d love to hear it. Feel free to leave a comment below. And don’t forget to eat a slice of pie for me.

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