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Roles, Part II

January 28, 2009

C.J. Mahaney oversees Sovereign Grace Ministries. He also serves on the Board of Directors of The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. In this post he explores the biblical concept of fulfilling one's God-designed role in life. It first appeared at the Sovereign Grace Blog on December 18, 2008.

Not long ago I was awake in the middle of the night, reading, and enjoying the silence. 

Except I kept hearing a sound.


It sounded like dripping water. But from where?

A short search led me to our main-level bathroom, where the dripping noise was the loudest. Crouching down, I opened the cabinet doors under the sink and discovered a little puddle of water in the cabinet.

The problem was easy to see: The drip was coming from the shut-off valve connecting the main water pipe to the faucet pipe.

A small drip.

A small puddle.

A small problem.

I had two choices: seek help from someone who understands plumbing, or take matters into my own hands and fix the drip myself.

I chose the less wise option.

Equipped with no plumbing knowledge whatsoever, I assumed that turning the shut-off valve would tighten the connection and stop the leak. But as I tried to tighten the valve, it came loose. Powered by the water pressure behind it, the valve was fired past me like a bullet.

Immediately an unstoppable spray drenched my clothes, sprayed through the make-shift stopper of my hand that was clenching the pipe, soaked the bathroom floor, and began to flood the hallway.

The dark, quiet, sleepy household was filled with the loud shouts of a helpless, water-logged man.

With some help we shut off the water pressure, cleaned up the mess, laughed a lot, and went back to bed. Someone with actual plumbing expertise fixed the problem the next day.

My point is obvious: I am not a plumber. And although sometimes I think I can excel beyond my limited gifting, I cannot. Now that the bathroom has been restored to proper working order, I find great liberation in yet another reminder that I am not called to do everything.

Gene Veith writes, “In our earthly lives, we do not have to do everything. Earthly life—and this is operative with non-believers no less than believers—consists of giving and receiving, serving and being served, in a network of economic and social and personal interdependence” (The Spirituality of the Cross, p. 76).

Which is to say that God calls us to fulfill specific roles.

What Are My Roles?

It is liberating to know that God has called me to fulfill specific roles. And knowing this can protect me from doing stupid things. But how do I know what God has called me to do?

In the last post we talked about two very helpful questions: Where has God placed me? Where am I positioned to serve others? If this all seems illusive to you, it may help to see a list of roles (or vocations). This is hardly a comprehensive list, but in this list perhaps you will better identify specific roles where God has placed you.


Single man

Single woman








Church member


Ministry leader

Church planter


Business owner




24-hour emergency plumber

Wonderfully, none of these roles falls outside the scope of God’s calling. By his sovereign grace, he has placed each of us where we presently are. And once we identify these God-given roles, we can begin to think about creating specific goals.

And I think it’s important to note that our specific roles will change over time, so we need to revisit the list (maybe even annually).

My Roles

So here is where my planning for a particular week begins, not with the schedule, but with considering my God-given roles. If I’m not fulfilling my roles, my goals will be misdirected, and I will be vulnerable to all manner of requests and fail to devote myself to what is most important.

These are the roles assigned to me by the grace of God. I am a…





Ministry leader

So how has God called you? Take a moment to list God’s callings on your life. Create your own personal list of roles. Writing this list out will increase your awareness of your God-given roles, which will help you prioritize and plan.

As I hope you will discover for yourself in this series, our biblical productivity depends upon a schedule, which depends upon clear goals, which depends upon clearly defined roles. Working toward clarity on understanding my present roles is my first (and most important) step in developing biblical productivity.

Defining our roles helps to ensure that we are doing stuff that matters each day, knowing we have in some small way advanced the gospel and served others.

It is sweet falling asleep knowing we have redeemed the time.

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