I know many who struggle to find their life’s calling. I have found the following seven questions helpful when it comes to discerning the calling of God:
- Am I living out my primary calling to God himself?
Calling can be a very mysterious concept for some. In a general way, the Bible describes the life purpose of every Christian. We need to start with the great commandment in Matthew 22 (to love God first). This is a commandment for every Christian—everyone is called to love God.
- Do I see the bigger picture of what God is doing?
We also need to look at another Scripture that is meant for every Christian, the great commission given in Matthew 28—to make disciples of all nations. Throughout Scripture, we see God’s desire to bless all nations. Every disciple in every age lives under the command to make more disciples, no matter that disciple’s vocation.
- Am I seeking the guidance of the Holy Spirit?
The Holy Spirit comes alongside the disciple as a “helper/counselor” (John 14:16), giving guidance. Jesus assured his disciples that the Spirit would teach them (John 14:26), calling the Spirit the “Spirit of truth” who will “guide you into all truth” (John 16:13).
- Have I received confirmation from others?
God can even use people whom we don’t know to confirm his call in our life. Think of how God used Ananias to explain and confirm God’s call for the Apostle Paul. Of course, God can also use individuals with whom we already have a relationship, such as Paul for Timothy, to confirm our direction.
- Have I looked within myself for clues to my calling?
By God’s design, we are individuals, each of us having unique life experiences, personal abilities, and spiritual gifts. We should be encouraged to realize that God can use even our bad life experiences for his glory. Paul told the Corinthian church that the reason why we are comforted by God in all our troubles is so that we can comfort others (2 Cor 1:3–5). Which of your life experiences might be preparing you for ministry?
- Do I know an “open door” when I see one?
We cannot put limitations on God’s way of calling people, but we can discern certain themes from Scripture. Often the need is part of the call. Many Christians pray for God to “open doors” for them to proclaim the gospel, meaning “make it easy for me to proclaim the gospel” or “take away all the obstacles standing in the way of my proclaiming the gospel.” But Paul writes about open doors in the context of opposition. In 1 Corinthians 16:8–9, he says, “But I will stay on at Ephesus until Pentecost, because a great door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many who oppose me.” In Colossians 4:3, Paul says, “Pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains.” Professor Chris DeWelt provides insight into these passages, saying, “The open door Paul is talking about is probably an open door for them, not for us!” Don’t equate God’s missionary calling with a lack of obstacles.
- Am I being honest with myself?
We need to become honest about our motives, fears, and excuses when it comes to discerning our calling. Are we motivated by a desire for adventure, driven by guilt, or eager to see God worshiped among the nations? Author Thomas Hale lists six motivations that often constitute false calls: (1) the desire to meet other people’s expectations, (2) the desire to prove your worth, (3) the desire for a change of scene, (4) the desire to earn favor with God, (5) a feeling of guilt, and (6) aroused emotions alone.
If we develop an intimate relationship with God, the issue of “calling” will probably take care of itself! Jesus never promised to show us the next five years of our lives, or to give us a map to follow. He simply said I am the way—follow me.
REFLECTIONS: What makes you feel most alive? When do you feel God’s pleasure most?Which of the seven questions about calling is the most difficult for you to answer in the affirmative? How about the easiest? Does God want to use a painful experience from your life as a doorway to ministry?
The sheep follow him for they know his voice