God calls us each to be and to do specific things, and gives us each differing gifts, some `natural' (such as intelligence) and some `spiritual' (such as prophecy).
It is by faith that we are saved [Ephesians 2:8]... the primary thing that we are called to do is to believe, and belief is a state rather than an action.
In the title of this section, I refer to faith as being (as distinct from doing). Within Christianity, the idea of being rather than doing is sometimes seen as an import from Eastern religions, and yet I would put it forward as inherent and essential... perhaps not only to Christianity but also to anything that puts itself forward as a serious religion... for doing things in the absence of an underlying belief is, I would say, empty of any meaning.
Just as works without faith are of no redeeming value, faith without works is no faith [James 2:18]... if you truly believe something, it will show in your actions. It's easy to take passages such as Mark 11:24 as being prescriptive (that is, commands), but I'm inclined to see them as being descriptive... if you believe something, it will show in your actions... if it doesn't show, that's a sign that the belief is absent. By their fruits ye shall know them... [Matthew 7:15-27].
However, this is a simplistic view in that the active expression of a belief may not always make it through from our inner beliefs to our outer actions.. the good that I will, I do not... [Romans 7:15]
We are called to be formed into the fullness of the stature of Christ, and belief in this will naturally lead to our working on extending ourselves, not only so that what we are will reach further, but that we will reach beyond ourselves in love [RLT].
Religious belief is seen by some as being in contradiction to the solid thoughts of philosophy and of natural philosophy (which has in recent centuries been given a new name, ``science''). I see no conflict at all here; indeed, I think belief requires solid thought (parable of the man who did not count the cost before starting to build a tower [Luke 14:28-30]).
If you hold something that you consider to be a religious belief, but find it in tension with something that you believe as a reasoned intellectual opinion, at least one of three things is going to snap: the religious belief, the intellectual belief... or your integrity! If there is something you think you should believe, but you're struggling with it, I urge you to sort it out! Don't tell yourself that you believe something when the facts appear to be against it... at best you're fooling yourself (and maybe a few others who're fooling themselves likewise): if you claim to believe something, but the facts appear to be against it, you do not believe it! Often when such a conflict arises, it is simply because of a misunderstanding of the received item of belief, and more careful examination of the thing you think you ``should'' believe will show that in fact it is perfectly consistent with your observations -- without bending either the belief nor the observations.
But this brings up the idea, rightly horrifying to some, that there are things that you ``should'' believe... why should we believe particular things? Remember, I am speaking here in a specifically Christian context: when you have made a commitment to follow Christ, you have taken on a package that includes certain beliefs. I'm not saying that anyone else is under any obligation to believe the same things (although the more who come to follow Christ, the happier I'll be)... the obligation comes from having made the decision. Again, remember the man who did not count the cost [Luke 14:28-30]!
So, I consider that faith requires study, to some level appropriate to each individual (obviously, some individuals will be able to study more than others... Christianity is not a thing of the intellect, but for those have some amount of intellect, that amount must be included in their Christianity).
Such study can take many forms, including theological, scientific and philosophical research, and can draw on many resources, both internal and external. It may including reading; it may include reflection[?]; and it may include writing (for me this includes journalling, essays, and poems). It may include the learning of physical skills... from time to time, I have another go at juggling, for example (I still can't do that one, but by trying patiently I know I will learn more than how to juggle!).
It is important that study is not just the pursuit of the increase of knowledge... it is a means to grow, to change.
Something which is shied away from by some who are in other ways happy to follow Christ is anything which moves away from the material standards of comfort and status to which they have been brought up. And yet we are called to stop valuing the things of this world: for where your treasure is, there will your heart be [Luke 12:33-34]... it is easy for us to trust in plans and in hoarding things up for the future, but remember the man who built bigger barns [Luke 12:16-21]!
But isn't there some value in planning ahead? It's easy to say ``Yes, some planning is essential'' but the more radically converted the person, the more prepared they are to trust God alone for what will happen... see some of the stories of St. Francis for examples.
And yet there is more than this to ``less''... surrounded by things of immediate appeal, we hide ourselves from facing up to the truth. more about this
And what of the extreme forms of simplicity: the asceticism of monks, nuns and hermits? Is this madness, or one of the greatest treasures known to humanity? At times, asceticism has been driven by a belief in salvific suffering, but there is more to it than that: it includes self-control and must be based on a clear (and studied) understanding of what really matters (to you).
Someone well-known as for leading Christians forward in this area is St. Francis of Assisi.
Our vocation is not something we follow in our own strength alone -- God gives us strength and guidance. God tells us that his yoke is easy, but it doesn't always seem that way!
I find I have a good range of abilities, skills and perhaps even some talents... but am aware that none of these implies a calling; that I can do something particularly competently doesn't mean that it therefore must be what I should be doing --- only that it is something I could perhaps be doing -- and my vocation could be to be something that I'm very ordinary or even inept at (which may reduce pride or even burn it up -- which could be a bit of a short-cut!); and it could be that I'll be called to something for which I'll have to learn from scratch, of course. But it seems I may be being called to do computing work for the Church, and writing; I might be called to be single, or married; in community, or solitary... so many ways that I might go... or even nowhere, still being equally loved by God; and what I'd call nowhere might of course be somewhere, too!
Some time ago I realized that I must first respond to the calling to be me, and I think I am now some way onto that road; and that I must look at my vocation for where I am now, not just for what I could be doing in the future.
Someone commented to me a while ago that it is a pity people want to follow just what they think is their vocation -- they should be told by the Church. (more on this)