A few months ago, I stumbled upon a fascinating concept from a Christian life coach, Tony Stoltzfus. He introduced the idea of the Christian calling journey—a journey that he believed typically comprises four Mountaintops and three Valleys. Each season shapes us for what comes next in God’s divine plan. Inspired by this framework, I couldn’t help but wonder: How does my own life align with this concept? How have the various chapters of my life contributed to the grand timeline of my calling journey?
In this post, I embark on a journey of introspection, delving into the key moments that have defined my path and discerning how God’s hand has guided me all along. As I explore each season, let’s start by examining Season 1—what Tony Stoltzfus calls the “Mountaintop of Natural Promotion.”
What Season 1 is about, again?
Tony Stoltzfus named the first season of our journey the “Mountaintop of Natural Promotion”. This is where we experience the beautiful intersection of our God-given talents and His divine grace. It provides us with a glimpse of what our calling might be. He calls it “natural promotion”, because here’s where God actively engages in our journey, refining our skills and gifting us with diverse experiences. He blesses our endeavors, amplifying our success by harnessing the natural talents and gifts He has bestowed upon us.
According to Tony Stoltzfus, here are some characteristics of the Natural Promotion stage:
- Begins immediately after Lordship Decision
- Confirmation of Call or calling events
- Rapid promotion based on natural ability
- Faith Adventures
- Being wild and radical for God
- A sense that God can do anything
- God gives a taste of functioning in your call
- Self-sufficiency, pride, or ignoring counsel may lead you into the Valley of Dependence.
Season 1: My Mountaintop of Natural Promotion
The Divine Spark: My Lordship Commitment
For me, Season 1 commenced with a pivotal moment—an act of surrender and trust in Jesus Christ as my Savior. Tony Stoltzfus calls this, “the Lordship Commitment”. Although I had grown up hearing about the gospel and the love of Christ within the nurturing embrace of my Christian family, it wasn’t until I attended a gospel event at the age of 10 that I experienced a profound transformation. It was here that I was truly moved by the depth of Christ’s love for me, realizing that He loved me enough to lay down His life. This pivotal moment marked my formal acceptance of Christ as my Savior. It was a decision that set the foundation for my spiritual journey.
Baptism at the age of 12, a relatively young age for a Baptist congregation practicing adult baptism, marked another milestone. These early steps propelled me into the vibrant world of the Youth Fellowship at our church, where the seeds of my calling were sown.
Discovering Youth Ministry: Singapore Youth For Christ (SYFC)
It was during my teenage years, around the age of 14, that I was introduced to Singapore Youth For Christ (SYFC). Their unwavering commitment to sharing the gospel with young people left an indelible mark on me. Inspired by their joy and dedication, I eagerly joined them as a volunteer. It was here that I began to learn how to connect with my peers and cultivate the art of reaching out to young souls. This experience would later prove to be formative in shaping my calling.
As my faith continued to deepen, I found myself taking on leadership roles within the Youth Fellowship at my church. These responsibilities included organizing events, leading discussions, and helping to guide the spiritual growth of my peers. This was my first taste of leadership within the church. It kindled a desire within me to serve God more intentionally.
Thus, from my teens well into my late 20s, I found myself immersed in a multitude of Christian pursuits. From organizing youth events and camps, to engaging in street evangelism and devouring Christian literature, it seemed that I was on the fast track to a life of full-time Christian ministry.
Blessings Abound: Academic and Professional Success
Incredibly, this season of natural promotion was not limited to ministry alone. Simultaneously, God was showering His blessings upon my academic and professional life. I was honored to receive the MOE Teaching Award, a provision that not only eased my parents’ financial burdens but also ignited my passion for education. My journey culminated with a Bachelor of Arts First Class Honours degree in Chinese Studies. Teaching Chinese language and later Project Work in English became my forte, eventually leading to a leadership role as the Subject Head.
You can read about my decision to enter teaching here.
Love and Its Lessons
In the intricate tapestry of my calling journey, the theme of love played a significant part. Prior to meeting my now-wife, my life was a series of unreciprocated crushes and a relentless quest for acceptance. These heartbreaks, though painful, served as a profound teaching from God. He showed me that His love alone is sufficient, and I needed to rely on His love before I could truly love another.
It was during my young adulthood, amidst the pursuit of my calling, that I crossed paths with the person who would become the love of my life. She was not only kindhearted but also passionately dedicated to sharing the gospel. This was a trait that resonated deeply with my own calling. Our shared desire to serve God and spread His word provided a strong foundation for our relationship. It was as if God had orchestrated our meeting, bringing together two souls with a common purpose. In her, I found not just a life partner but also a kindred spirit who shared in the joys and challenges of my calling journey. Together, we would navigate the twists and turns that lay ahead, as our love story became an integral part of my calling journey narrative.
Meeting My Mentor
In 2001, a significant turning point occurred as my church welcomed a new Senior Pastor. Recognizing the potential within me, he took me under his wing and started mentoring me for full-time ministry. I was frequently appointed to be his English interpreter during church services and events. This role not only allowed me to serve as a bridge for our congregation but also provided me with invaluable opportunities to hone my speaking skills on the pulpit. It was during this time that I truly began to grasp the weight of my calling and the responsibility it entailed.
The Passion of Youth
If there’s one phrase to sum up this season of my life, it’s ‘the passion of youth’. My peers and mentors observed that I possessed this highly intense emotional energy that drives what I do. Sometimes I got carried away, when I’m arguing for the faith or debating an intellectual question. A friend even remarked that I’m like an emotional roller coaster!
This was something I secretly felt proud of. I believed everything in life must be pursued with passion. Otherwise, it is not worth doing. This belief served me well for some time, but I would taste it’s bitter fruit in my adult years.
However, Cracks Begin to Show
Although life seemed to be going smoothly at that time, I couldn’t help but notice that cracks were beginning to show up.
One of the cracks that began to appear was the creeping presence of spiritual pride. I was harbouring a sense of superiority to other peers who may not be as ‘zealous’ as me. Come to think of it, I must have come across as a Christian snob to many of my friends and fellow Christians. But I was blind to this at that time.
At the same time, a gnawing sense of insecurity took root within me. Despite the outward appearance of success, I carried a deep-seated sense of inadequacy. I kept feeling that I fell short of the expectations—both God’s and my own. It was a tumor of doubt that, with each passing day, seemed to fester and grow.
In the midst of these cracks, I failed to fully grasp the depths of God’s grace. This inability to fully embrace His grace left me vulnerable to the whispers of doubt and pride. These destructive forces began to infiltrate my heart, setting me up for a fall.
Some Closing Thoughts
This season of natural promotion, as I reflect upon it, was more than just a series of experiences. It was a divine orchestration by God to prepare me for my calling. Each moment, from my formal acceptance of Christ to my leadership roles within the church and SYFC, was a stepping stone in my calling journey. As I continue to unravel the layers of my journey, I see how God’s grace has been guiding my steps all along. He was molding me into the vessel He intended me to be.
In the next season of my journey, I would descend into what is called the “Valley of Dependence.” The valley is where these cracks would be exposed and healed. There, God will teach me invaluable lessons about the profound nature of His grace and my utter reliance on Him.
Stay tuned as we venture into Season 2!
If you feel inspired to chart your own calling journey, do check out Tony Stoltzfus’ website, The Calling Journey. You can start by building your own timeline and marking out the major events in your life.
I also recommend his book if you wish to find out more about the Christian calling journey.