In the recent weeks I’ve taken a large number of professional and personality assessments to help me hone in on what my greatest strengths and desires are so that I can know what kind of ministry assignments I should pursue. I want to know what I can do that fits me best. Perhaps you want the same thing?
During one assessment my coach explained to me, “Tom, you are all about belief. Everything you do you do because you believe in God’s will for your life and you pursue it. For you, nothing happens by chance.” When she spoke that to me I was in hearty agreement. But sitting in the back of my mind was another reality. What if I’m called to do something I don’t want to do? Would God do that? How would my nature of belief be affected? In fact, contrary to the popular notion that God doesn’t call us to do something we are not equipped for, I find in scripture that God often calls men and women to do things that, normally, they have no business doing. But God is God. He is sovereign. He can do that. So let me provide a few examples from my own study and show that when God calls us he often calls us to do things that hurt us, cause us anxiety, and perplex us. But he’s God. He can do that. And if we obey him we will be the better for it. Here’s goes.
Noah was called to prepare for the destruction of every living thing (Genesis 6:17). I bet that was outside his comfort zone.
Abraham was called to abandon everything he knew and everything that was familiar (Genesis 12:1). I bet he struggled with that.
Sarah was called to do the impossible; have a baby at 90-years of age (Genesis 18:10). I bet that hurt.
Abraham was called to send away his oldest son, Ishmael, into the desert with only a little food and water. He didn’t want to do it (Genesis 21:9-12). I bet he was an emotional wreck.
Jacob was called to return to the promised land, where he was sure he would encounter the brother who wanted to murder him (Genesis 31:3). He was scared to death and put his whole family and his servants in risk of their lives (Genesis 32:6-11). But he went anyway.
Moses was called to lead Israel out of slavery. He was afraid and asked the Lord to send someone else (Exodus 4:13). But he still had to go.
David was called to be a king (I Samuel 16:12-13). He didn’t know the first thing about being a king. But God trained him over time.
Solomon, upon taking the throne, asked God for wisdom because by his own admission, he had no idea what he was doing (I Kings 3:3-9).
Jeremiah was commanded to have no wife and no children, something he likely hoped for, maybe was even planning. But God took away his dream of having a family (Jeremiah 16:1-2). I bet that was the hardest thing he had to live with.
Esther was called to save her people by appearing before a king who might have her killed (Esther 4:11, 5:1-2). She went before him anyway.
Jonah was called to preach to Nineveh, a country and people group he despised and hated. He ran the other way, but God forced him to turn back (Jonah 1-4).
Jesus was called to the cross, but he asked his Father, “If there be any other way…” and was crucified anyway (Matthew 26:36-46).
What can we learn from these examples? Allow me to offer five points of application you are not going to like.
- With the exception of Jesus, none of these people hoped for or looked for the calling they received, but God called them anyway. When God calls you, you may not like it. But he’s God. He can do that.
- When God calls us he calls us outside our comfort zone, into that for which we are ill-prepared, untrained, and not ready. But he’s God. He can do that.
- God doesn’t call us to do something we want or to fulfill our dreams. He calls us to do what he wants and to fulfill his dreams. He’s God. He can do that.
- If you really want to hear from God and know his will for your life, if you truly want that more than anything, then God will speak. But be ready to sacrifice your dreams and everything that makes you feel comfortable. He may do that. He’s God. He can do that.
- You don’t dictate when God speaks. He may call you when you are young, like David (youth), or when you are old, like Moses (80). You can have periods of fasting and prayer, or “practicing the presence,” or diligently seeking God, but the reality is that if God is going to speak to you, he will speak when he’s good and ready and nothing you can do will make him call you any sooner than he intends. He’s God. He can do that.
What is God’s will for your life? Whatever it might be, be ready for God to call you to something outside your realm of experience and ability. In this way, God receives all of the glory. And it’s his glory that we should be pursuing in the first place.