Was there a parting of the skies? Goosebumps when they prayed? A booming voice from heaven?
How are some Christians so confident in knowing God’s will for their lives?
I’m the first to admit in my early years as a Christian (2011-2014) I was hyper-spiritual about “callings.” Every other week I’d share God was “calling me” to do something. “I feel like God is calling me to go to Chicago this summer!” or, “I feel called to start a new job next year!” No one ever questioned how I knew. They just supported me if what I “felt called to” had spiritual reasoning. I had no idea how to listen to God as I was basically biblically illiterate. I observed other people’s faith I admired and noticed their confidence in God’s will for them. I wondered how they became so sure.
Even in my young adult life post-college, I’ve found myself wrestling again with God’s “call.” I thought it was something I initiated by asking God for it. I thought God would tell me something to do for Him. I’ve come to realize my “calling” is much less about a complicated process, specific feeling, or an intensely mysterious experience leading me to do something for God. God’s call is more much about simply being with God in Christ in all things.
After his extensive survey of the word in the New Testament, Michael Bennett says a “call” basically boils down to two things:
- We are called to be Christians: God calls us to be genuine disciples of Christ our Lord.
- We are called to be holy and to grow in Christ-likeness: to be maturing disciples of Christ our Lord. (Bennett, 2012)
In Acts 2:21, Peter says, “Everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” This is 1 of 39 uses of the word calling for salvation found in the New Testament. Not only salvation, but the ongoing transformation in our lives is often described from God’s viewpoint as a calling. There are 20 times in the New Testament where God calls us to live for Him in a genuine way, with a changed heart (Bennett, 2012).
The direction of God’s call in our lives becomes crystal clear: toward Jesus, always. Any “specific” call on top of that is only secondary.
Why do we get so wrapped up in the specific personal call for our lives and not the clear general call for every believer? Is it because we are looking for our identity in what we do? Is it because we want to impress people around us?
I’m not suggesting figuring out God’s specific call for our lives on top of God’s clear general call is sinful or wrong (although, like anything, we can make it can be). Our specific “vocational callings” are just not the main thing we see emphasized in Scripture. However, once we have kept the main thing, the main thing and we seek to discern God’s specific call for our lives, it’s not an either-or matter. It’s not either a nudge from the Holy Spirit or His word. It’s both-and. It’s not either confirmation from trusted community or a logical next step. It’s both-and. It’s not hearing God’s voice or our circumstances. It’s both-and. I’m simply saying we need a better balance and clearer focus on the main thing.
I am more confident than ever that being called in Christ is enough. A “specific personal calling” for the next season of my life will not make it or break it. It’s not any more spiritual than the next person. It does not make what’s around the bend more purposeful or wise. It comforts me to know that no matter what God’s specific personal calling for me next may be, I know because of His extravagant grace, I’m within His clear general call as His Beloved. With all God’s people, I am and will be with Christ forevermore. And really, what calling could be better? It seems to me God’s general will for us in Scripture is one so utterly simple – not unlike the gospel – that our flesh & the enemy cause us to stumble over the obvious message: be an ever-growing disciple of Jesus. When you think of following God’s will for your life is your first thought? Or, have you been caught up, like I’ve been, in the secondary specifics?