In my last post I suggested that most conversations about Christian calling carry a nasty little assumption. When I hear people talk about calling, it often sounds like they are suggesting that God has one specific career that they are supposed to do, one person to marry, one college to attend, and so on. It sounds like the goal is to figure out God’s one specific thing for your life. Miss it and you might miss God’s best for you. I think this notion of God’s calling is wrong for most people.
I think that sometimes God has one specific calling for one specific person. We have a few of these narratives in Scripture. The prophet picks David above all his more qualified brothers. Moses sees a bush that burns but is not consumed and the bush tells him to free the people. Paul has a miraculous vision of a man from Macedonia, and that only after being knocked from his feet with blindness a bit earlier. In each of these cases, God gives a very specific task for someone.
We seem to want make these extraordinary stories the norm for Christian calling. But notice what happens in these stories. When God has something very specific for someone to do, He makes the Voice that comes to them so blatantly obvious that not following it is to be clearly disobedient. Burning bushes. Prophets. Miraculous visions. I think these stories are in the Bible for one very simple reason, the human authors that God used to write the Bible knew that these stories involved an unusual move of God.
But there is no place in Scripture (NOT ONE!) where we are told to seek out specific direction like this. (If you think you know of one then put something in the comments and I will give you my take. Jeremiah 42 is an interesting story on this point, but eventually God does give miraculous direction through the voice of the prophet. I’m sure that there are lots of similar stories.) We are told to do God’s will. But the assumption is always that doing God’s will is a matter of obedience, not a matter of discerning and calculating and hearing.
Romans 12 is great guidance for us. Paul tells us that if we will only live holy lives and allow God to transform our minds, then we can know God’s will for us. According to Paul, following God’s will is a moral matter. I normally don’t need a divine intervention to know what God is calling me to do. Do I speak grace to my friend that has experienced moral failure or do I “speak the truth in love?” Is there some combination of the two? In a situation like this, Paul says that if you allow God to renew your heart then you will know what is the truly righteous response.
Does that mean that God has no plan for my life? No. It does not mean that. God is sovereign. Sovereignty means that God is mysteriously working out His plan for us and all creation in ways that baffle our understanding. God has a plan for you. But it is not your job to figure out that plan and execute it yourself. God has your future in control without your assistance.
All this means that there is no secret plan that you have to figure out. So how is a person to make these decisions then? I still believe very adamantly that God can and does speak directly to people today to tell them what to do. So I think the first thing to do is to offer a prayer to God and asked for that kind of specific direction. Maybe you will have a dream or meet a talking donkey. But if that kind of clear Word of God does not come to you, then you have to begin a discernment process. The first question in that process must always be about what is most in line with a Christian morality. According to God’s Word, what is the moral thing to do?
When we have exhausted the moral questions without a conclusion, these are normally matters of freedom. Sometimes we have several options before us. Those that are trying to pursue God’s will are rarely considering between one blatantly sinful option and one good option. If you are making that kind of choice then God’s call is obvious. As I said in my last post, God calls you first to a life of faithful discipleship.
But most of the time we are making decisions between multiple good choices. In those cases, decide what is best and act. That doesn’t mean that God doesn’t care what you decide, it means that God is more concerned with how you make the choice than the choice that you make. I could say a lot about how this affects calling in the little everyday decisions like how I will respond to an argument with a friend or whether I will buy a new car and what kind. I will stick to the main point.
In the following posts I will discuss all of the elements that we should consider as we respond to God’s call to worship and mission. There are lots of elements that we need to take seriously. The heart of the matter is this: pray and ask God’s direction and wait for a “burning bush” moment. If all the bushes remain silent, then you have the freedom to make the decision that you think will bring the most glory to God.
Take some time to read some of the miraculous call stories in Scripture. Read a few. How many people do you know that have experienced stories like these? If most people do not experience such miraculous stories, then maybe God’s calling on most people’s lives is not so limited either.
• God Calls Abraham (Genesis 12:1-5)
• God Calls Moses (Exodus 3:1-12)
• God Calls Ruth (Ruth 1:15-18)
• God Calls Samuel (I Samuel 3:1-10)
• God Calls David (I Samuel 16:6-13)
• God Calls Esther (Esther 4:9-17)
• God Calls Jeremiah (Jeremiah 1:4-19)
• The Baptism, Temptation and Beginning of Jesus’ Ministry (Matthew 3:13–4:25)
• Jesus’ Resurrection – Mary Magdalene and the Other Mary (Matthew 28:1-10)
• God Calls Mary (Luke 1:26-38)
• Jesus and the Samaritan Woman (John 4:1-30)
• Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch (Acts 8:26-40)
• God Calls Lydia (Acts 16:11-15)
• God Calls Timothy (I Timothy 4:6-16)
This post is part of a 14 part series to help persons discern God’s call on their lives.
To see all the posts in the “What Am I Called to Do?” series
Previous Post: What Am I Called to Do? (Part 1): Understanding Christian Calling
Next Post: What Am I Called to Do? (Part 3): Discovering What You Were Made To Do
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I’m needing this. Thank you. I’ve been wrestling with if I’ve made a wrong turn in my calling for some time.
Dan Gangler says
I don’t believe God calls us to one specific ministry but moves with us as we discover and rediscovery multiple ministries throughout life. I believe that God will allow us to both succeed and fail, but will always open new opportunities to us as we live out our callings. For example, Paul felt called to take the Gospel to Asian (Middle Eastern) gentiles, but God called him to go to European gentiles, too.