Ten years ago today, our son Daryl came to live in our home and in our hearts. He was seven months old at the time—and heading into the foster system. I tell some of his story HERE.
What is most relevant for this post is the fact that April 2009 was one of those times when I sensed God’s unmistakable call on my life—to be Daryl’s mom—for however long, and whatever that meant. The moment I “knew,” I had collapsed into a chair in the office of a dear colleague and friend.
“What should we do?” I sighed, after I recounted Daryl’s situation as best we understood it at the time.
“Kelli, do what you won’t regret,” she simply said. And it was as if God Himself spoke those words straight to my soul.
Certainly, in the days leading up to that providential conversation, Peter and I had been doing our part to navigate the decision with wisdom and courage and grace. We had prayed unceasingly. We had talked to several wise people. Admittedly, I had also spent sleepless night, thinking it all through.
Certainly, God had also been doing His part to guide our steps—through His Word, His Spirit’s promptings, uncanny circumstances, and remarkable moves.
But then, in that moment—in that office, God chose to break through my lingering fear with clarity and peace.
Sometimes He does that.
Sometimes He makes His calling unmistakably clear.
Sometimes he shines a light from the sky or ignites a bush on our behalf.
Sometimes He reveals His will for our lives in shocking and searing ways.
Those are the callings we long for, aren’t they? And those are the ones we see throughout the pages of His Word.
Scripture is full of stories of when God calls particular people to particular tasks at a particular time. Some authors call this the SPECIAL, SPECIFIC, OR SECONDARY CALL OF GOD. Os Guinness describes it this way: “A special calling refers to those tasks and missions laid on individuals through a direct, specific, supernatural communication from God.”
Today we’ll look at just a few and see what we can learn about this concept of “calling” from these accounts…
ABRAM. In Genesis 12, God says to Abram: “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and who ever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”
Abraham’s story stretches through several chapters. God asks him to do some very hard things—the most significant of which was to sacrifice his son. And we see Abraham obey. We also, though, see him act out of fear and attempt deception in the name of self-preservation.
But in spite of that, in Hebrews 11, both he and Sarah are commended for their faith:
What do we learn about the special, specific call of God from Abram’s life?
- Obedience to God’s call requires faith. It involves a stepping out without knowing the end result.
- We follow God’s call as sojourners, foreigners, and strangers in the land. This is not our home. Our eyes are on the eternal end.
MOSES. In Exodus 3 & 4, we find Moses, caring for his father-in-law’s flock, and he sees the burning bush that is not consumed. He wanders over to have a look, and the angel of the Lord speaks to him from a flame.
“Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” Then he said, “Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” And he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.
God tells Moses that He has heard the cry of His people, and He is sending Moses to Pharaoh to bring the people out of Egypt. Moses comes up with all sorts of excuses. But for every one of Moses’ concerns, God provides a promise. Back and forth the conversation goes, until Moses finally whines: “Please send someone else.” At which point, God actually gets a little angry. Understandably. And eventually Moses obeys.
What do we learn about the special, specific call of God from Moses’ life?
- God is able to get our attention. He is capable of communicating His will. And that conversation happens in a holy space.
- The call is both personal and corporate. God is calling Moses himself to a particular work, but it is for the benefit and love of His people.
- God will sometimes call us to tasks that seem outside of our comfort zone and even beyond our ability.
- Our response may be fear and feelings of inadequacy.
- But He promises His power and His presence will go with us.
Isaiah. In Isaiah chapter 6, we find Isaiah’s vision of the Lord, sitting on His throne—the hem of His robe filling the temple—and the angels covering their faces and their feet. They cry “holy, holy, holy.” And Isaiah cries, “Woe is me! I am unclean. I live among a people of unclean lips.” And the angel touches Isaiah’s mouth with a hot and cleansing coal.
Then the voice of the Lord says: “Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?”
And Isaiah responds: “Here I am! Send me.”
And God says, “Go.”
What do we learn about the special, specific call of God from Isaiah’s life?
- We are not worthy. We ought not become proud or self-reliant about our call. None of us is deserving.
- Confession and cleansing will likely accompany our call.
- And willing obedience is the desired response.
JEREMIAH. In Jeremiah 1, we find Jeremiah’s call to be a prophet. “The word of the Lord came to me saying, ‘Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you, and before you were born, I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”
What do we learn about the special, specific call of God from Jeremiah’s life?
- God knows our calling before we are even born. It is ordained by Him before our existence.
- Later in the book of Jeremiah, we also find out just how difficult the calling can be.
Jeremiah 20:7 says, “O Lord, you have enticed me, and I was enticed; you have overpowered me, and you have prevailed. I have become a laughingstock all day long; everyone mocks me. For whenever I speak, I must cry out, I must shout, ‘Violence and destruction!” For the word of the Lord has become for me a reproach and derision all day long. If I say, ‘I will not mention him or speak anymore in his name,’ then within me there is something like a burning fire shut up in my bones; I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot.’”
- The calling of God can be painful, difficult, and unpopular.
- But it burns within His people.
JONAH. The entire book of JONAH is a story of one man’s wrestling with the call of God on his life. The call comes in verse 1 of the prophet’s story. “Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, ‘Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it for their evil has come up before me.’”
This is another difficult call. A dangerous call. Jonah’s very life would be on the line. But it is an extraordinary call to communicate God’s grace.
What do we learn about the special, specific call of God from Jonah’s life?
- God allows us to disobey. It is possible to try to escape.
- But He is also able to put us back on course in extraordinary ways if that accomplishes His purposes.
In the NEW TESTAMENT we also find the account of several callings. Perhaps my favorite is the calling of a young girl to carry the Christ.
MARY. In Luke chapter 1, Mary is apparently alone when the angel Gabriel—sent by God—appears before her and gives her the great news—“The Lord is with you. You have found favor with God. You will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High…He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
When Mary has some questions, the angel makes a promise in return, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.”
What do we learn about the special, specific call of God from Mary’s life?
- Again, we see God’s promise to provide His power and His Spirit for the work He calls His people to do. “Nothing,” the angel tells her, “nothing is impossible with God.”
- And yet again we see a beautiful response of complete and immediate obedience. “Here am I, the servant of the Lord, let it be with me according to your word.”
DISCIPLES. When Jesus is grown and begins His earthly ministry, He calls several people to a life of discipleship with a very simple sentence: “Follow me.” Like Mary, their response is immediate and complete. They leave their nets and follow Him.
What do we learn about the special, specific call of God from the disciples’ lives?
- Following Jesus is a complete transformation of focus and life.
- Discipleship changes everything.
SAUL. The final call we will consider is Saul in Acts chapter 9. Saul is still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, when he is traveling on the road to Damascus and he is quite literally blinded by a light from heaven. He knows immediately that it is the Lord.
The call comes in two stages. First, he is told by the Lord Himself, “Get up and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.”
Then, for three days, he waits—blind—for more instructions. Finally, Ananias—reluctant messenger of the Lord—arrives. He lays hands on Saul and says, “‘Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on your way here, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.’ And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and his sight was restored. Then he got up and was baptized and after taking some food, he regained his strength. For several days he was with the disciples in Damascus, and immediately he began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying, ‘He is the Son of God.’”
What do we learn about the special, specific call of God from Saul’s life?
- This call of God is effectual and transformational. I can hardly imagine a more dramatic change.
NO ONE CALL is meant as a specific template. God’s special call will not always look any particular way. The great diversity in these calls shows us this. However, by considering these specific accounts, we can learn several truths about the nature of our God and the way that He works in the lives of His people to bring about His calling on their lives.
Which of these truths most resonates with you?
This is the seventh post in a series on how to clarify our CALLING. Read the introductory post here. And stay tuned for more posts in the weeks to come.
As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts, questions, and stories on the subject!
I invite you to email me, comment here, or find me on Facebook.