Remember now thy creator in the days of thy youth.
Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter:
Fear God, and keep his commandments:
for this is the whole duty of man.
(Ecclesiastes 12:1, 13)
As you near the end of high-school or embark on college, you are probably asking yourself, “What do I do now?” How you answer that question in your youth usually has a lifelong impact.
In this article I’d like to give some pointers or guiding principles for you to keep in mind as you make education and career decisions.
Remember God. Ecclesiastes 12:1 says, “Remember now thy creator in the days of thy youth.” The primary purpose of your existence and your life is God and his glory and every decision you make should be one in which you seek, above all, to honor and glorify him. A career choice is not first about you, what you want to be or what you desire to attain or achieve. Be spiritual-minded remembering that “I am not my own but belong to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ.” Remember the church by pursuing a career that will not take you away from the church and which will enables you to support the causes of Christ. Think of your future role as a husband and father or wife and mother (a career can enhance or detract from these). Consider a career of lifetime service to others—is there a need for teachers, nurses, pastors, etc.?. Whatever your career choice, live in it as called by God to serve him in that vocation.
Be a godly Christian. When it comes to God’s will for us, the future is unknown, but his will for us in the present is always clear. Godliness and obedience in the present are far more important than making the “right” choice for a future career. As we walk in daily obedience, God will unfold the path of our life for us. Consider Abraham, who went out in obedience not knowing where he was going. Or think of Joseph, who knew already in his youth—from a God-sent dream—that he would rule over his brothers, but could never have imagined the way that God would bring this about. Solomon’s conclusion regarding the purpose of life is this, “Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.” There’s the most important thing; day by day, to fear God and keep his commandments.
Search the Scriptures. The Christian’s decisions, character and life must all be shaped by the Word of God. As we regularly read and study the Bible, it will confront and challenge our motives, our selfishness, our goals and our work ethic. For example, the Scriptures are very clear that we should not pursue a particular career path because we want to become wealthy (see Prov. 23:4-5; 30:8-9; 1 Tim. 6:9-11). The Word of God sets before us clear biblical principles for stewardship, for work, for finances, for generosity and so much more. Search these out and let your decisions be guided by these biblical principles.
Know yourself and your uniqueness. God has made each one of us with unique gifts and interests and with a particular personality and capacity. It can be good to stretch ourselves and to explore new areas of work and study, but at the same time it is good for you to know your unique interests and capacity. Often times, especially with all the opportunities that you have available, your interests and gifts will help you to determine a suitable career path. So, pursue those interests. At the same time, avoid being pressured by others into a certain career path and remember that, even if you pursue something that interests you, there is no such thing as a “dream-job.”
Seek counsel of others. Difficult decisions are best made with the input of others, especially of those who have been where you are. The best advice and input for young people doesn’t usually come from peers (think of Rehoboam and the foolish advice he received from his young peers). Seek Christian counsel from your parents, your pastor, or someone in education or the field of employment that interests you. Most older members of the church would love to guide you in pursuing a career path. College counselors can also be very helpful in choosing a path of study and a career that matches your interests and academic strengths. They will point you to programs that had never even crossed your mind. Set down the pros and cons of the paths before you, talk about these with advisors, and evaluate your goals spiritually and prayerfully.
Avoid overthinking it. As stressful as it might be to make a decision on what to do beyond high-school, don’t turn this into the biggest decision of your life. Unless you choose to do something immoral, the decision usually isn’t a wrong one. You mustn’t get the idea that there is only one possible career path for you to follow, and that if you do anything else you will be walking outside of the will of God. If it were that important, then God would speak directly from heaven to tell you what to pursue, but he doesn’t. Remember, also, that the Christian is not defined by his/her career or achievements, but by who we are in Jesus Christ. Here, our thinking is antithetical to what our culture tells us.
Just do something. Don’t allow indecision to become an excuse for laziness. As young people in the 21st century, you have more opportunities than any generation that has preceded you and maybe that’s what makes a career decision so difficult. Rather than sitting around and waiting for an answer to this big question, do something! Get a full-time job, even if it’s in an area that you don’t see as long term. Alternatively, go to college, pick a major, and pursue it to its completion. Stewardship requires that we use time, talents, resources and opportunities in a productive way that glorifies God. As you do this, be open to change. As a young lady, graduating from high-school, you may want more than anything else to marry and become a mother—a healthy and biblical desire—but meanwhile, do something. In his time, and by his providence, God will show you his will in this regard, and he can bring these changes into your life quite suddenly. Meanwhile, be content, thankful and diligent in daily living.
Be patient and prayerful. Prayer and patience go together. James says that if we lack wisdom, we should ask for it from God (James 1:5). Be prayerful as you go forward, asking especially that God will give you wisdom, that is, the ability to use the gifts and opportunities he gives you in a way that best serves his glory. God will not usually answer your prayers with a clear mandate as regards a career, but he will graciously guide you by his Word to make decisions motivated by a love for him and a desire for his glory. And be patient. A most important verse for me, in my youth, was Psalm 27:14: “Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD.”