“What do you want to be when you grow up?”

It’s a question all of us heard growing up. The Daily Mail did a survey with 1,000 children and found that the top three career choices of these kids were doctor, footballer, and teacher. All of these are fine and respectable careers. However, none of these are the best career, right? No! The best possible choice is being a pastor.

At least that’s what I thought for 21 years of my life.

I grew up in a great Christian home. Church was never optional for us. Even though it may sound cliche, we were there every time the doors were opened. The pastor was the most respected person in our household. Although it was never stated, in my young eyes, my pastor seemed like a perfect person. That belief, coupled with sermons from various youth conferences and camps pushing for teens to commit themselves to the ministry, made me decide that not only would being a pastor be the best career, but the only career for me.

As a 10 year old in a Christian camp, I decided I was “called to preach.”

I went to a Christian college, of course. This college was only there to teach ministry workers. If you wanted a degree in business or engineering, you were in the wrong place. Because of this ministry-only mentality, whenever someone would leave school to pursue a secular career, they were really looked down upon. They might as well have turned their backs on God and the church. I unfortunately appropriated that same bad attitude and looked at anyone working a secular job as sub-par.

I personally thought that I would have my coveted ministry career within months of leaving college. But it never panned out. I kept losing jobs because I treated them as less-than-serious. I felt like utter garbage. Here I was, working at poor secular jobs, unable to serve God. I honestly felt like God wouldn’t fully love me or bless me until I was “working for Him.”

Finally, about a year after college, I caught a break.

I was offered a full time position at a church in New Mexico. Now, I wasn’t going to get paid much at all. In fact, I would really have to “live by faith” since I probably wouldn’t be able to afford groceries. And although I was supposed to work about 50 hours a week at the church, I was expected to go get a second job to provide for my family. Looking back, I realize how incredibly ridiculous that offer was, but at the time, I saw it as my golden opportunity. I could finally serve God and earn His love and blessings. However, two weeks before my wife and I moved there, the pastor called and canceled because they couldn’t afford to pay my tiny salary. The crazy part it, I still considered going.

So here I was, my dream within my grasp and suddenly it was completely taken away. My world shattered. When I found out I just sat and cried for a long time. I had hit the lowest point in my life. I was working a terrible job, I saw no hope for a ministry position in the future, and I felt like I would never be able to earn God’s love or blessing.

That night, I don’t think I hardly slept. I stayed up and talked, prayed, and studied the Bible with my wife that night. For the first time in years, it was like the clouds rolled away and a huge weight was lifted off my back. I finally came to the realization that I didn’t have to get paid by a church for God to love me. In fact, I could do any job I wanted and God would love me. No matter what job I worked, or career I pursued, I would still have the capacity (if not a greater capacity) to serve God.

Though I believed my salvation was by faith, I thought that God’s continual love was by my works. And that was so wrong. God doesn’t love or bless me because of anything I can do. Isaiah 64:6 says all my good works are like filthy rags. Romans 4 and Ephesians 2 both talk about how works – trying to earn God’s love or forgiveness – do nothing but make me prideful. I finally learned that my salvation, my Christian walk, and my standing before God has absolutely nothing to do with me, But everything to do with God.

It was almost as if I had gotten saved again! All these chains of bondage that I had put myself into were gone. I was finally free to serve God, not out of obligation, but love!

That’s my personal story. But I’ve heard many similar stories from friends who were in the same boat as me and they’ve said my testimony encouraged them. If you feel like you have to earn God’s love or blessing, remember that, just like your salvation, it’s all of God. Nothing you can do will ever earn God’s love. He loved in spite of yourself.

Ephesians 4:11 does show that God does call some people to work in the ministry. I, however, in this point in my life am not called to preach. I am, however, called to be a part of the Body of Christ and to go make disciples. I don’t have to get a paycheck from a church to do any of these things. In fact, for myself, I am better equipped to do these things in my current position as a salesman.

Working in a secular career has opened the door for me to be able to give financially to those that are called into full-time ministry. When Eric announced he was going into ministry full-time my wife and were excited to be a part of it by supporting him monthly.

Not being “in ministry” doesn’t mean you can’t minister. You have an incredible liberty to serve God in whatever vocation or situation you may find yourself in. Don’t allow lies of unworthiness and self-depreciation creep into your Christian walk.

Author Image DaleDale is a blogger, salesman, and avid gamer. He currently lives in Fresno, CA with his wife, Kristen. He has written several articles for the blog, Assorted Bag of Candy, and has just recently launched his own personal blog this July.