I can’t think of anything more misunderstood that this simple phrase, “the call of God.” It has been misunderstood as a mystical thing that is difficult to find, to hear, or to figure out.
God does call people. He always has and He always will. You would think with all the examples in the Bible and modern life this would be a simple matter and easily understood. Yet it is not!
Many a dumb, unwise act has been blamed on God, His voice and His “call.”
So lets sort through this and see what the Bible really teaches about this.
The word “call” from the New Testament simply means “an invitation”. It actually means just what it suggests: “You are invited”… to something or somewhere.
The first way this is used is an invitation to a destination. We are called to repentance. We are called to follow Jesus. We are called to live a certain life. Keep in mind the meaning of call- an invitation. You are invited to repent. You are invited to follow. You are invited to live a certain life. It does have something to do with you. It is not arbitrary and …it is not destiny! None of the benefits of the invitation are available without your responding to the invitation.
So THE CALL must be responded to.
A second way “call” is used is as an invitation to a vocation. As Paul said of himself, “Paul, called to be an apostle.” He was invited to accept the good and the bad of being an apostle. He joyfully embraced both to be an apostle.
God invites people to serve in different capacities. However, He may not thunder from heaven in a loud booming voice, or send lightning as he did with the apostle Paul. Sometimes God uses other people to invite you to a vocation. The voice of a man or a woman could very well be the voice of God.
Some calls we are told about in Scripture are very dramatic, such as Moses and Paul. Imagine a burning bush or a bright light from heaven. Nothing vague about these experiences!
Abraham’s call was rather dramatic as well. God told him, “Leave your county and I’ll make a great nation out of you.” Again, it was an invitation. Moses, Paul and Abraham had to make the choice to respond.
Sometimes a call to ministry or a definite vocation is vague and comes about by simple, obvious reasons. For the kingdom of God, getting things done is much more important than who does it and how it is done (meaning style not ethics).
You may have never thought about it much…but if you are bearing fruit in a certain area of Kingdom work, you need to consider that this may be God’s call on your life. Plain old common sense. Why does it have to be mystical?
Let’s say, for example, you were asked to work in Children’s Church. You’ve maybe never thought of yourself as a children’s worker but for some reason you are very good at it! The kids respond to you very well, you seem to be very fruitful, good things are happening as a result of your involvement. Could this then be God’s call? Possibly!
Not mystical enough for you? Not dramatic enough? “Well, “ you say, “No one prophesied over me to do this. I haven’t heard any voice from heaven.”
Oftentimes what misleads us is that we try to replicate the mechanics of someone else’s life. Just because you know someone who heard an audible voice from God calling him or her, does not mean you will or should.
Years ago my pastor and I were talking about spiritual gifts. We were discussing the list from 1 Corinthians 12. We concluded they were all supernatural. We also concluded that knowing which gift you are using is not as important as using the gift, or any gift, in an opportunity that God gives you right now.
Who cares what you call it as long as kingdom work is being done?
The measure of success in Kingdom work is not the position you are placed in, promotions received nor the recognition you receive. The measure of your success is the results you produce.
I humbly warn you, friends, be very careful not to get promoted out of the will and call of God. If you are the most fulfilled and happy opening doors at your church, if you live for the times you can simply open doors for the people of God, then do not quickly take a supposedly better, supposedly more important function. You may get “promoted” right out of the will of God.
Promotion is highly overrated! The only time you should want a promotion is when you know and your godly leaders confirm that this is from the Lord. Otherwise- stay where you are and produce kingdom fruit.
You will always be the happiest doing what you are truly called to do. You may do many different things, as I do, and all of it for the Lord. It may all be good! But there is no question that doing what you are called to do brings the greatest joy. This does not mean you should stop all the rest; but be aware of the fruitfulness potential of your life and focus as much as possible in that area of life.
To this day, I do things for Jesus that I do not believe I am necessarily “called” to do. But it is an area where I am needed right now, and it is for the Lord. So I will do it simply because it is my policy to do whatever I can for the Lord. I will be blessed and rewarded for every word spoken and every action taken that builds the Kingdom.
Do not be so foolish and super-spiritual as to turn down God-given opportunities by saying “I’m not called to do that.” If it needs to be done, and you can find a way do it, and there is nobody else who can do it, then do it!
The flip side of this (wisdom needed) is that you do not need to do everything you are asked to do all the time. That too is self -defeating. You should focus on your area of productivity…but always be willing. Sometimes that little action God has invited you to do is for a divine purpose and will bring special blessing to you.
There are times you may accept an invitation to do something in ministry or vocation either because you thought you heard God speak or because you obeyed a leader…and yet you found no fruit, no fulfillment, no celebration of your life in this place of service.
If this happens, it is time to re-evaluate. Do I need to adjust something in my life? Is my prayer life up to date? Have I mis-stepped somewhere? After some prayer I may need to give that thing up, shift to something else or get help to discover why I need to say yes to everything…
Remember that every call has both pros and cons. No call is all roses and no thorns. Embrace the thorns as well as the roses or you’ll soon be unhappy.
I’ve met several people over the years who were misled because of their great fruitfulness in ministry or vocation. They thought this meant they had to go full time as a pastor or church worker…and they truly bombed. That was not their call. In God’s kingdom, bigger is not always better. More is sometimes less.
I know I’ve left many questions unanswered… but I want to remind you to accept God’s invitations in your life, in whatever form they come. And joyfully do all you can to build His kingdom.
Send me a note if you have a question.