I have been doing research for a book that my friend Lance Ford and I are writing on transitioning existing congregations in a missional direction. One of the chapters that I am working on deals with the theology of place and the implications on where we live, work and play. I just finished reading an excellent book by Gene Edward Veith, Jr. titled "God At Work: Your Christian Vocation in All of Life." Veith writes on the doctrine of vocation (primarily from Martin Luther), emphasizing not what we should specifically do with our time or what careers we are called to, but what God does in and through our callings. There is much to like about this book, but here is just one excerpt that I found profitable:
Luther distinguishes between what he calls "the theology of glory" and "the theology of the cross." We naturally yearn for "glory," for success, victory, and living happily ever after. We thus prefer religions of glory, ones that promise us a successful life, that answer to our full rational satisfaction all of our questions, that grow and thrive, becoming ever more popular and powerful.
The problem is (to our human minds), God saved us by means of the Cross. The Christian life He gives us is the Way of the Cross. "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me" (Luke 9:23). This cannot refer just to another martyrdom, as experienced by many of His disciples; nor is it just some "thorn in the flesh" that Christians must put up with. It is something that must be borne "daily."
Whatever this entails—the pattern of repentance and forgiveness that makes up the texture of the Christian's life; the persecutions and rejections, bitter or mild, that a Christian will experience; the physical suffering and eventual death that no one can escape—it also relates, Luther thought, to vocation.
Though personal and unique for each person ("take up his cross"), the Way of the Cross means that our spiritual life does not consist solely of victories, miracles, and success stories. To be sure, God sometimes refreshes us with victories, and glories of every kind await us in the everlasting life that He has prepared for His people. Jesus died, but then He rose again and ascended into Heaven, and the next time He will come, as the creed says, "with glory." So there is glory in the Christian life, but in the meantime we must bear our crosses. And when we do, we find that we are driven to depend on Jesus more and more. Our prayers intensify, we cling to His Word, and our fiath grows deeper and deeper as we find that Jesus, who bore our sufferings as well as our sins, takes up our crosses into His cross.