What Is the Call of God?
by Steve Diehl
…What does it look like? What are you called to? The Purpose Driven Life, by Rick Warren, has been used by God to awaken the joy of connecting our passions with God’s purpose. A genuine beauty comes through purposeful living. We are fulfilled when we live out God’s plan for us. He has a call for each of us.
4 Types of Call:
The Call to Salvation…
First and foremost a call to Jesus (Matt. 9:13, Mark 2:17, Luke 5:32, Acts 2:39, Romans 1:5–6, etc.).
The Call to Holiness…
Also about a call TO Jesus, being IN Christ (Romans 12, 8:28–30).
The Call to Full-Time Vocational Ministry…
Consider how these people were called:
- Moses called from a burning bush (Exodus 3)
- Joshua appointed by God (Joshua 1:1–9)
- Isaiah called in a vision (Isai 6)
- Nehemiah (chapter 1) called through distressing news
- Barnabas sent by Jerusalem church to Antioch (Acts 11:22)
- Jeremiah called from mother’s womb (Jeremiah 1:4–10)
- Apostles in Mathew 4:19; 9:9, Mark 1:17
- Paul called dramatically (Romans 1:1, 1:Corinthians 1:1, Galatians 1:15)
The Call to a Specific Task…
- Peter and John sent by Jerusalem church to investigate what was happening in Samaria under Philip’s ministry (Acts 8:14)
- Barnabas sent from Jerusalem to Antioch to follow up on the church that had been planted there (Acts 11:22)
What The Call is NOT:
- The call is not centered in a definite event.
- The call is not always like the Macedonian call of Paul in Acts 16:9–10.
- The call is not always through a mystical experience.
- It is not the guarantee of success or failure.
- It is not extended exclusively to uniquely gifted people.
- It is not something that happens only from God directly to people.
Consider some elements of God’s calling…
When I think of calling, the image of a telephone comes to mind. Were God to connect with me using a phone, I would want to hear His voice so clearly that I’m able to say, “Yes, Lord” with the assurance that I have heard His invitation. Not that God’s calling is in any way mechanical…don’t take the analogy too far. Nor should we expect to hear an audible voice so clear that the need for faith is minimized. That said, the illustration works.
Multiple components make it possible to receive a clear voice over a phone line. The cord itself is not a single wire but multiple strands. So it is with God’s call. Consider a few strands that might help in discerning the call of God for your life and ministry.
God’s calling is rooted in Scripture and prayer
God will not call us in a direction that contradicts His Word. In the context of Sabbath rest, Hebrews 4:12 reveals that God’s Word is living and active. There is a quiet confidence that develops in the devotional life, resting upon the power and promise of God’s voice in Scripture. God speaks as we listen with an open Bible.
- As you live out the spiritual disciplines and meditate on His Word, what is God saying?
- What passages of Scripture are speaking to the depths of your heart in these days of decision?
God’s calling is righteous
Romans 8:28–29 reveals a central purpose for each of us: to become more like Jesus. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled…and fulfilled.
- What decision will position you best to become more like Jesus?
- Do you sense confirmation during times of worship?
- Does this decision line up with God’s good purpose for you and others?
God’s calling is right
Reflection on Scripture (Psalm 139, Romans 8:28–30) builds assurance that God has wired each of us for a unique purpose. He makes no mistakes. It makes sense that He would call you to a place that is with the way He designed you. Some of His wiring might be weakness for HIS strength to be manifested, but His call will be the right fit. The following questions should clarify this component of His call:
- Do your natural, God-given abilities indicate a right fit?
- Has God given you a spiritual gift that suggests a right fit for a ministry decision?
- What training have you had, and do your learned skills point to a right fit?
- Have you taken assessments that bring confirmation of “rightness?”
- What decision will best line up with your passions, values, and vision?
- What are you doing in ministry right now? God’s calling is as much about the present as the future. Abundant life and ministry are for today, not just tomorrow.
God’s calling is rightly confirmed by others
This is a critical element. This means the church, which is the family environment for ministry equipping (Ephesians 4). This means leaders in your church, in the denomination, and friends in the kingdom. What are those who know you best, including family, speaking into your life? Calling comes in the context of relationship. Listen with a discerning ear to Godly counsel.
God’s calling is sometimes revealed and punctuated by providential circumstances
Although balance between the subjective and the objective is crucial, many testimonies are shared of God bringing forth pointed circumstances to identify His hand and His invitation toward a specific task or ministry.
- What circumstances might God be using to speak to you?
- What events might form a pattern of God’s leading?
- What issues are your friends and coworkers wrestling with?
Of all these components, the most important truth to remember is that we are called first and foremost to a person. Jesus said, “Come, follow me”(Matthew 4:19). We, the sheep of His pasture, can hear His voice (John 10).
Active listening in a relationship of active following affirms God’s calling. It’s His quiet voice in the solitude of reflection that guides us. When all the strands of God’s leading are wrapped together, there grows a deep inner conviction that God’s voice is speaking clearly. This develops into a necessary sustaining conviction for those entering vocational ministry and missions.
Is your heart phone ringing? Is God calling? Don’t wait for someone else to answer. Be available. Be involved today. You’ll be glad that you plugged in, completed the connection, and answered, “Here am I, Lord. Send me” (Isaiah 6:8).
Thoughts on the Missionary Call
“This distinction between God’s ‘general call’ and His ‘specific call’ is very similar to the distinction between God’s ‘general will’ as revealed in Scripture and his ‘specific will’ for the individual. God’s general will (call) is that I be a witness. His specific will (call) is that I be a witness in Nepal, or Chicago, or wherever” (Thomas Hale, 1995).
Calling in the General Sense
“If we have a choice and unless there are compelling reasons to the contrary, the Christian worker should choose the place of greatest need! Failure to give adequate consideration to this factor has caused the incredible inequity in the distribution of workers” (Gordon Olson, 1998).
“No one escapes the general call to mission. No one can say, ‘Witness is not for me.’ The critical question is not whether we’re called, for we are. The critical question is ‘Where am I called to?’ The answer may be to serve Jesus right where we are already, among those we live with and work beside. That is a wholly legitimate calling” (Alistair Brown, 1997).
Calling in the Specific Sense
“Being a missionary begins with being called. You don’t choose to be a missionary: you’re called to be one. The only choice is whether to obey” (Thomas Hale, 1995).