Here’s a question that every Christian must answer: What is God’s calling on your life?
Some people answer that question with a statement about full-time ministry. Others refer to volunteer roles they play at church or work done on short term mission trips. Others answer that God has called them to a secular vocation.
Now let’s try a second question: What do you want to do with your life?
Hopefully we answer the second question with our answers to the first question.
What has God called you to? Do you do whatever you do because that is what interests you or because you have a deep sense of conviction about what you are to do with your life?
Before I became a missionary broadcaster I worked in radio in the US. Though I was on the air as a DJ I had a particular talent and love for commercial production—making radio commercials for clients. Becoming a missionary broadcaster never occurred to me. I was only interested in pursuing my profession in the US. In fact, in my early days I had a couple of networks that were interested in my work. I was looking forward to a long and profitable radio career. But that all changed one day when I sat down in church to listen to a guest speaker talk about what God was doing in Lebanon through Christian radio.
Before the service started I sat down and opened the church bulletin. When I saw the name of the guest speaker and what he did for a living I was immediately convicted. Church hadn’t even started yet! The more the speaker told us about what was happening in Lebanon the more convicted I became. I was to become a missionary broadcaster. God had spoken, and he was giving me a heart to listen.
Many Christians approach their calling in life according to the desires they have for vocation. They choose something that is of interest to them and then settle in, thinking that their desire is God’s call on their life. In many cases, this is correct. God often gives us a desire to perform a specific function then we pursue it. Does that means God has called? I think so. The scripture tells us that, “I delight to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart” (Psalm 40:8). If we are pursuing life with our utmost desire being to please, love, and serve the Lord, then I think we can see our godly desires as being from the Lord.
While the Lord may lead us to something through our desires, there is another way God leads—by speaking.
In my case, I was off doing my own thing. In one sense I was following my heart’s desire to be a radio DJ in Christian radio. That’s what I wanted to do. But that moment in church when God convicted me was something else. It was the beginning of a conversation with the Lord that continues to this day, 25 years later. My heart’s desire has changed from simply playing radio in the US to using my talents to bring others to Christ outside the US.
The way that God worked in my life is the same way he worked in Abraham, Moses, David, Jeremiah, Paul, and many others in scripture. Here’s the nutshell: God always starts the conversation.
It’s one thing to say that you want to serve the Lord and then come up with ideas about how to do that. But it’s another thing entirely when God begins the conversation. When God speaks, our lives change—even radically. Look at what happened to the biblical figures I already cited.
Abraham didn’t start the conversation. He didn’t figure out monotheism by himself and then desire to move somewhere where he could serve God. Rather, Abraham was doing his own thing then God revealed himself in these words, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you” (Genesis 12:1). Imagine that for a moment. The first words that God said to Abraham were, essentially, leave home. Have you ever heard someone say that they are willing to become a Christian but don’t want to go to Africa or some unfamiliar place? Sometimes we comfort a potential convert like that and tell them not to worry about it. “Don’t worry,” we say, “God won’t ask you to do something you’re not capable of.” The reality is that that is a lie. God calls us to do the very things that we are often not capable of. He is Lord. He owns us. The history of the Bible is the history of men and women being used by God to do things greater than themselves.
Moses was busy shepherding sheep when God told him to return to Egypt and deliver Israel from slavery. What could one man do against the power of the Pharaoh? Nothing, unless he was uniquely empowered by God—as Moses was. In Moses’ case God also started the conversation—not Moses (Exodus 3). Moses was a murder, yet God made him the deliverer of a nation.
David was also shepherding sheep when God started the conversation through the prophet Samuel (I Samuel 16). David wasn’t seeking a kingship, he didn’t even seek military service to serve God outside of his Psalm writing and shepherding. But from that point on David pursued God’s call on his life.
The Apostle Paul may be the best example of all. Paul desired to serve God as a Pharisee (Philippic 3:5). He went about, persecuting Christians seeking to imprison them and even oversaw the murder of Stephen (Acts 7:54-60). Yet, God called Paul into his service saying, “I will show him how much he must suffer for my name” (Acts 9:16). Paul did not want a life of suffering, but suffer he did (2 Corinthians 11:21-28).
In each of these cases, and many more, the person in question did not say to God how they wanted to serve him. Rather, God began the conversation calling each person to fulfill a role that God had designed for them to fulfill. It is no different today.
God has designed you to fulfill a role in life. He has gifted you with what you need to fulfill that role. Sometimes God calls us when we are at our weakest, or perhaps like me, you already had your life planned out until God spoke. Either way, when God calls he also empowers and trains.
Remember, when it comes to serving God with our lives, God always starts the conversation. If you feel no sense of calling, do not worry. Perhaps God hasn’t spoken yet. Nothing we can do will make God speak before he wants to. So be patient and continue on in the life that God has given you. But always be ready to hear God speak. If he calls you, he will start the conversation—not the other way around. And if he calls, he will equip.