A Clear & Present Danger

Faith and “career-mapping”—strategically planning our way to “the top”—make uncomfortable bedfellows, in my mind. Everyone assumes that the best and the brightest individuals will develop a business plan for their lives; a pathway to success. Here are four reasons I resist it.

Corporate Ladder1.  Career-mapping seeks to take charge of the future.

But the future belongs to the Lord, not me. It is His, and His alone. Who is really in the driver’s seat, or should be? The assumption that I need a carefully-crafted plan is perhaps more presumptuous than we want to admit. James reminds us that even traveling between cities can only be done “if the Lord wills” (Js 4:15).

2.  Career-mapping degenerates into politics.

The people around me inevitably become means to my end. I evaluate their significance on the basis of their usefulness to me. I manage (or manipulate) relationships. I silently compete with colleagues or fellow-workers to reach my next stepping-stone. I’m always politicking—sometimes compromising. And my authenticity and transparency become the first casualties. Must.Not.Look.Weak.

3.  Career-mapping makes me inherently impatient and/or discontent.

If I fail my timetable or get diverted from my objectives, I grow steadily unsettled, unhappy, and insecure. I require recognition for my efforts—afraid that if I’m not noticed then I’ll be overlooked for promotion. In fact, the well-managed career-path often exacerbates our fears and makes us oblivious to the privilege of the present moment because we’re always looking into a future that never really arrives. It breeds frustration and discontent.

4.  Career-mapping drives me to walk more by sight than by faith.

God’s voice easily gets crowded out by my desires. And my plans can easily supplant His leading. Nuff said.

My comments are not anti-career, nor am I speaking against promotion or authority within a given field. Rather, I wonder if the driving ambition that we expect of our children—or practice ourselves—really serves any helpful purpose. Worse; it may harm us.

I teach at a Christian University. We equip men and women in many fields (business, education, psychology, ministry, the arts, biology, etc). But if we allow the theme of one’s “occupation” to supplant the priority of our “vocation”—God’s calling on our life to follow the leading of His Spirit with each step of life—perhaps we have dealt more in spiritual death than life. I’m not ready to be such an undertaker—either as a parent or as an educator.

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16 Responses to A Clear & Present Danger

  1. Phillip McKinley says:

    Thank goodness for Jesus’ career mapping.

  2. Robert Peterson says:

    Coincidence that you used a Tom Clancy title the day after his passing? Great thoughts and challenges. I see faith mapping as a way of finding what God has built you for and not necessarily career mapping. It is always challenging to “plan” and be concerned that you are consistent with God’s will. I believe that all Christ followers need to be challenged to see “make disciples” as their core calling and they must reconcile whatever pathway they have chosen with making disciples.

  3. Christine Bailey says:

    “I know the plans I have for you” says The Lord and that is the only plan I want. Got a significant trip coming up at the end of the month and So glad “his” planning has gone before me. Great work David. Keep pressing in and looking up. Blessings Chris

  4. Bill Conway says:

    Ouch! David, thank you. This is just what I needed to hear. I am struggling with a brother who is also my supervisor. I am also in my 50s, educated, and think I should be further down my ‘career path’ than I am. You bring a perspective that brings me back to basics. As Vivian Thomas shows in his book “Second Choice” – we don’t operate in our ‘ideal world,’ but where God wants us to. Daniel, Nehemiah, et al had to deal with their second-choice worlds, but were found faithful and led godly lives in their spheres of influence.
    God bless you and yours,
    Bill Conway

    • David Timms says:

      Bill, thanks for the reminder that our fantasies are never helpful. The “real world” is actually “God’s world” if we could but see it. Blessings, my friend.

  5. Tim Ross says:

    I have reaped amazing rewards from simply trusting God with my career. I literally do not map out my career, I don’t plot to become someone else’s friend because they are in a better position of power, and I don’t try to make myself look good to the boss so they will like me. I just do my job to the best that I can, I care for others, and I practice grace and truth. God has blessed my job with new appointments, new positions in extremely lean times, reconciled relationships, bosses who love me, and a preserved career during depressed financial times. Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding…

  6. Lyn Vinson says:

    Thank you….I am now retired and can testify that God’s plan was so much better that I could have “planned” myself!


  7. Debbie Heim says:

    My, oh my, David…you hit me where I needed it most! I got to thinking I could do it myself…I’m going to let go (again) and let God lead me. I’ll put in the work and He will get the results!! Thanks!

  8. erinambrose says:

    David~ Thank you for the great illustration. If my work is to point people to Jesus in all that I do, then a scriptural map is better suited than a career map. I’m honored to work along side you!

  9. David Timms says:

    Erin, being a colleague of yours is my privilege. Your own journey of faith and life inspires so many of us. I like your idea of a “scriptural map”! 🙂

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