Spiritual Formation

8 Keys to Determining God’s Call

So far in our series on CALLING, we’ve talked about God’s “General Call” on our lives—to salvation and discipleship and eternal life with Him.

We’ve also examined several “Specific Calls” God gave to His people throughout Scripture—to go into the land which God would reveal, to lead His people out of Egypt, to be a prophet to the nations—and we’ve looked at some of the lessons we can learn from these accounts.

Both sorts of calling are crucial.

But today I want to consider a third category of calling—the particular, daily living out of our devotion to Him. In his book Courage and Calling, Gordon T. Smith calls it the “Immediate Call” of God. And it’s this sort of calling that perhaps creates the most confusion…  

What if we are asked to lead the women’s ministry at our church, but we haven’t seen a burning bush? No angel has appeared to us. But we feel pressured to accept. We might wonder—is guilt the right motivation?

What if we feel a tug to write a book or lead a Bible study or start some other new endeavor, but we doubt our own ability. Are we actually qualified? Is this really the Spirit’s work in our life?

What if we want to get more education, but there are a few good options to choose from? If God doesn’t provide a lightning bolt from the sky, how do we know which program is right? Is this one or that one God’s will for our life? Does “calling” even apply here?

What if we feel stuck in a job where we aren’t reaching our potential, but nothing better is presenting itself? We might wonder: Did we miss our calling? Or is this actually it? Do we just stay put and soldier on? Or do we step out and take a risk?

What if we see needs around us that break our heart, but we
aren’t sure we have the resources—the time, the money, the energy, the strength—to meet them? How do we know if we should get involved?

What if we feel overwhelmed with too many spinning plates? How do we know which plates to let go of and which to keep on twirling?

How do we approach these daily decisions? Do we pray and wait for some sort of sign? Is a “feeling of peace” the best indicator of God’s will? Or do we just make a decision and hope for the best?

What follows are several Biblical principles that can guide our daily decision-making process and the pursuit of this immediate calling that God places on our lives. I pray that they help provide some clarity to your calling.

  1. Live in our General Call. We have to start there—by following Christ and pursuing holiness. If we aren’t doing that, it’s perhaps a moot point to inquire of God about another assignment.
    • Obey the greatest commandments (Mark 12:30 – 31). Love the Lord Your God with all of your heart, soul, mind, and strength. And love your neighbor as yourself. Whatever more specific call God has for us will undoubtedly involve this.
    • Similarly, follow the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19 – 20). Make disciples—starting right where we are, and moving out from there. God has placed particular people in each of our lives—people whom He intends for us to disciple. For some of us, this looks like mothering toddlers or teenagers. For some of us, this will mean going across the globe.
  2. Pray—without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Stay in two-way communication with the Caller, calling out to Him in worship, presenting your requests to Him (Philippians 4:6), and listening to the Spirit’s leading. Prayer is is also our means for addressing the anxiety that can come with these decisions. As we take those emotions to God and retrain our minds on Him, He can provide “the peace that surpasses all understanding, that will guards our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”
  3. Consider our gifting, but don’t limit ourselves. God has given each of us gifts (Romans 12:4 – 5), and He has given us work to do, using those gifts. They are for the primary purpose of building up the body of Christ (Ephesians 4:11). However, our “gifting”—or perceived lack thereof—should not become an excuse. Never spout out—“that’s not my gifting”—before checking with the Creator. Moses’ story is a primary example of how God can use us to do things beyond our natural ability. When we are weak, then He is strong.
  4. Steward our resources. A steward is “one who manages the possessions of others.” As C.S. Lewis wrote in Mere Christianity, “Every faculty you have, your power of thinking or of moving your limbs from moment to moment, is given you by God. If you devoted every moment of your whole life exclusively to His service, you could not give Him anything that was not in a sense His own already.” It is all His. We are merely stewarding our lives on His behalf, and that stewardship role comes with both responsibility and expectation (Matthew 25). Let us steward carefully our talents and our time. (I will dig into this point more next week.)
  5. Remember to rest. God created our bodies and our minds to require a time of rest each day and each week. There is an intended rhythm to our lives—by design. Evening and morning—the days go by (Gen. 1). Rest first, then work. And of course, the seventh day is set apart altogether. The completion of our calling should come from a place of rested-ness and re-focus.
  6. Check our motivation. We have all sorts of competing, self-focused motivations that we must continually ferret out. We pursue opportunities to prove ourselves. We strive to build our own reputations and receive praise. We say “yes” out of guilt or an inability to simply say “no.” We want to satisfy people. Or perhaps we seek adventure. Or we cling to comfort. Paul says that one motivation is true—“Do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).
  7. Make wise decisions. When He doesn’t provide an audible voice, God does provide His guidance in other ways. His Spirit moves. He opens and shuts doors. And when we lack wisdom, He tells us to ask. He gives generously (James 1:5). A couple of posts ago, I offered a 6-step process for wise decision-making—another tool that God is able to use.
  8. Walk in faith. Finally, just move. Faith is the walking out of our beliefs. As we saw in the story of Abraham and in the Hebrews 11 commendation of his life, he walked in faith. He obeyed God’s calling—not knowing exactly where God was taking him. But trusting His character and His ways.

I’d like to finish with this quote by John Walton from the NIV Application Commentary on Genesis. It’s found in his comments on Genesis 24. In this passage, Abraham has sent his chief servant to find a wife for his son Isaac. And the servant prays: “May it be that when I say to a girl, ‘Please let down your jar that I may have a drink,’ and she says, ‘Drink and I’ll water your camels too.’” The servant is giving God a test. He’s asking for a clear sign of God’s will and calling.

About this, Walton writes:

“In the process of discerning God’s will in our lives, there are aspects that are our responsibility and others that are God’s responsibility. It is our responsibility to be committed to doing his will. Our prayers should focus on ferreting out self-will and selfish motivations. Instead of asking for miraculous signs, we should ask God to help us to be motivated only by what pleases and honors him. We should ask him to help us think clearly about the decision and to direct our thinking. If we faithfully do our part, it is then his job to guide us to the right decision. He can do this through abnormal circumstances that carry his unmistakable mark, but more frequently he will do it through closed and open doors, through our own thinking process, and through his Spirit working within us. Asking for signs may indicate that we do not trust God enough to allow him to work in our minds and hearts to give us godly discernment.”


This is the eighth 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.

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