The question is: do we truly value God as our reward or are we constantly searching for and enamored with lesser rewards?

Calling and Assignment

by Samuel Whitefield
4 months ago Artists and Authors

Excerpt adapted from Will You Choose the Wilderness? by Samuel Whitefield.

We have a lot of confusion in the area of calling versus assignment. We often use the word calling to refer to our ministry assignments or our vocation, but these are temporary tasks God has assigned to us. He cares about them and faithfulness in our assignments is important, but they are not our primary calling. Our calling is to become like Jesus and embrace our priestly identity. Our vocation or assignment may change, but our calling does not. The Lord may fulfill our ultimate calling while we engage in any number of vocations or assignments. 

This confusion can cause those in occupational ministry to find identity and purpose in what they do instead of who they are. It has also led many of those not in occupational ministry to feel their life is not as spiritual as a full-time minister, following in finding their identity in their occupation. 

Unlike John the Baptist, we tend to be more obsessed with our ministry assignments than we are with our priestly calling. We treat our assignments as our inheritance and reward but they are not. Our assignments are simply ways we express our love for God and partner with Him. When God appointed the Levitical priests He did not give them an inheritance or reward in the land. Nor did He make their unique ministry assignment in the tabernacle their reward. In fact, the priests were limited to only twenty years of ministry in the tabernacle. The priests had one reward—God Himself:

And the Lord said to Aaron, “You shall have no inheritance in their land, neither shall you have any portion among them. I am your portion and your inheritance among the people of Israel.” (Numbers 18:20 ESV) 

The priests were a reminder that God did not liberate Israel from Egypt primarily so Israel could escape oppression. He liberated Israel so Israel would be His treasured possession (Exodus 19:5Deuteronomy 4:207:6). The entire nation was called to be a priestly people whose inheritance was found in God Himself (Exodus 19:6). Like the Levites, we are called to be priests and our reward is not found in our assignments or possessions in this age. God is our reward and the church is meant to be a people in the earth who live with God as their reward. 

The question is: do we truly value God as our reward or are we constantly searching for and enamored with lesser rewards?

When Israel disobeyed, God came to Moses and told him He would still give Israel the promised land, but His presence would not go with Moses and the people. Moses was given the fulfillment of the promise but without the presence of God. And Moses said no. Moses preferred living in the wilderness without the promise to receiving the inheritance but losing the presence of the Lord. We often pursue the pleasure of our own God-given promises, but Moses knew there is a much greater realm of pleasure: the knowledge of God. 

Moses left the comfort of the palace in Egypt and preferred the pleasure of knowing Jesus more than the pleasures of Egypt: 

By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward. (Hebrews 11:24–26 ESV)

Moses not only rejected the pleasures of Egypt; Moses also considered the riches of Jesus a greater treasure than his God-ordained inheritance in the promised land. When God sends a messenger like Moses, He sends them with a message: God is enough. He is a greater treasure than all other treasures. To carry that message with authority, it must be formed in the way we live. Moses was tested on this issue. John the Baptist was tested on this issue. And God is going to produce a mature Church who lives the same way. This is likely why the New Testament says much more about suffering than success in this age.

John was the most powerful preacher in his generation—and one of the most powerful messengers in history—and he lived his life in a small place. If you wanted to hear John, you had to go out to the wilderness to see him. John made it difficult for people to get to him because he had a priestly life in the wilderness he did not want to surrender. 

If God offered you an increase in access to His beauty through hiddenness or a public stage, which would you take? We all immediately say intimacy, but our actions seem to indicate otherwise. So we need to deeply ponder this question before the Lord. Are we more gripped by opportunities to become students of the beauty of God or opportunities for ministry? 

Paul was a brilliant man. His intellect was towering and he could have used it in any way he wanted. He could have left behind profound books of theology and philosophy instead of a few small letters. He could have become one of the leading thinkers of his day. Instead, he took the full force of his intellect and limited it to one captivating subject:

For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. (1 Corinthians 2:2 ESV) 

Paul did not focus the strength of his intellect on ambition, strategic thinking, or ministry objectives. Paul did all those things, but he focused on just one thing: Jesus and Him crucified. The beauty of God is fully revealed in the person of Jesus and uniquely revealed in the cross, so Paul was expressing a commitment to limit himself to the beauty of God. It must be said that the pursuit of the knowledge of Jesus includes more than study and meditation—it includes engaging in the biblical life of the church where we discover aspects of Jesus’ beauty among His people. 

A messenger who is fixated on their assignment limits their usefulness to God, and there are times God will even prevent a person’s success for their own good. A person who sets their mind and imagination on the pursuit of the beauty of God will be incredibly useful to God whether they are publicly known in this age or not. When we make assignments and success our destiny, we become vulnerable to idolatry and we begin to use other people and other things to obtain the success we want. Tragically, this is rampant in the church and it produces a very subtle form of idolatry that is similar to Israel’s idolatry in the wilderness.

Let’s set our hearts to seek communion and deep relationship with YHWH through His Spirit, instead of doing what is necessary to obtain some blessing and benefits and escape the judgment of hell. Let us desire God’s presence and long for His Word in our thoughts, imaginations, and emotions, not use God and His sanctuary periodically to secure the things we truly desire (and Christ ought to be our first desire!). If God gave a warning to the priesthood formed by the Mosaic covenant, what would He say to the priesthood formed by the gift of His own Spirit? Are we priests like John the Baptist? Let us follow in His (and Paul’s, and many others’) footsteps as we seek to honor our calling above our assignment.

How familiar are you with your calling before the Lord, and how can you grow in it?

For more on this topic, check out Will You Choose the Wilderness? by Samuel Whitefield. Most of us want to avoid the wilderness, but the man that Jesus considered the greatest—John the Baptist—embraced an entire life in the wilderness. Learn keys to setting your heart before God and living for an audience of one, especially when no one sees. Available from the Forerunner Bookstore >>

Samuel Whitefield


  • Faculty, IHOPU

Director of Israel Mandate Department

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