Many Christians desire greater clarity concerning how to live and lead like Christ. Pursuing these answers often leaves us wrestling with more in-depth questions, specifically surrounding our personal calling's nature and purpose. I will never forget desiring this answer in my own life.
Growing up in a preacher's home, I saw every facet of ministry imaginable. I saw the ruthless opinions of congregants and their monetary threats when things didn't go their way. I witnessed the selfless nights of service and the lapse of honor placed on their sacrifices. I saw families' joy as marriages were restored and heard the laughter around the table of fellowship within the community's holiness. These places put me on a teeter-totter of emotion and left me selfishly saying: "No! God, you can not call me into ministry." I ran for years from what I already knew was part of God's path for my life, relentlessly trying to convince the creator that there was another perfect plan. Ultimately, I found out that God has a sense of humor.
The further I ran, God began allowing all of my heart's desires to be answered. I found myself in unique places, growing musically and thinking it was my hard work gaining traction. He was opening doors and placing me strategically in a position of choice. The options were simple; his perfect will or His permissive will. God was giving me a taste of my heart's desire and ultimately proving that what I desired was his goodness. This goodness would sustain me in my moments of hardship while serving Him. It isn't talent but his equipping that draws people into seeing, hearing, and trusting God.
All of the runnings came to a head in the summer of 1998. Standing in the middle of a cornfield, I said: "God, if you want to call me into ministry, then show me your signs and wonders!" And did he ever. He revealed so much of his nature, love, and mercy that I reversed the prayer. I said I believe you — now stop showing me all facets of your kingdom and character. Throughout the following months, He affirmed, confirmed, taught, and led me to see that my calling had been a thread of influence and service throughout my life. I was made for my calling.
“God, if you want to call me into ministry, then show me your signs and wonders!”
You may be reading this and wondering. What are you talking about? What exactly is a personal/individual calling? A calling is simply a blessing from God to perform a specific work. Everyone is called, and we are assigned corporate and individual callings. Corporately, God calls the Church to salvation, surrender, fulfilling the redemptive work of Christ on the earth, and with even greater clarity, a life of holiness without blame. This means that when Christ forgives us and forgets our misgivings — we must also forgive ourselves and live a life aware of the redemptive power of Jesus Christ. We cannot live free if we put ourselves daily in chains. This universal call is a connection place where we become united with God in every aspect of life. His teaching becomes our roadmap, our north star. We become like Christ by living as he lived, leading us to one of our most significant goals; having the mind of Christ.
As we pursue and embrace the forgiveness and the realness of Christ in our lives, we can begin to explore our individual calling to particular work. Through prayer and reading the Bible, we discover that God does assign (call) some people to specific work and gives all people various kinds of guidance for their work. We also can note that God doesn't call everyone to the same things. All are called but not unified in the gifts given. Look at 1 Corinthians 12:1, 7, 10, 28, 31; this passage states that there are different gifts (skills, talents), but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of duties, but it is the same God at work in everyone. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. God has placed in the Church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, guiding, and different kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? So we can confidently say that "yes," God does assign people to particular places of service — and not everyone is assigned the same aspects.
Receiving a call into ministry can look many ways, but there are definite traits consistent through personal discovery into purpose. Those are a drawing and direction (a leading to); these aspects are typically described as pulling into this spiritual work. Another trait is an affirmation, which often is revealed through opportunities presenting themselves and being extended uniquely to you. Lastly, there is confirmation.
Two of the ways we discern these traits are through internal and external witnesses. An inner witness is often, as Martin Luther described, "God's voice heard by faith." An internal witness comes through a relationship with Christ and often is explained as the compulsion to commit to one thing alone. You would give your life for this specific ask of you. You are absorbed with the need to fulfill the work. An external witness to your calling is when others within the faith affirm the calling and gifts you possess. This affirmation ripens the personal fruit surrounding the area where you feel called to the ministry.
I know these elements personally and encourage you to be bold in asking God to clarify the work placed in your hands. When I finally surrendered to the call of ministry, the questions I asked of God led me into a place of peace and clarity.
The Bible shows us that people ask questions. For instance, Moses pursued answers (Exodus 4), and an everyday item he possessed became the same item used to deliver the people of God. Keep asking questions; they do not startle God. Keep seeking his paths because he is ready to walk this out with you. Keep being faithful in the places you stand, and I believe he will show you that what you have in your hand will part the waters you are commissioned to lead people through. Let us not get wrapped up in our human-made imagination of ministry. God is a personal God. He is so uniquely attached to us that we are readily equipped for the work assigned. There may be lessons yet to learn, and you may feel like they do not have what it takes. Rest in faith, knowing you are made for your assignment. Take your eyes off of your lack and place trust in the hands of God. He has a history of meeting people in their questions and bringing about the miraculous. By shifting our focus, we can trade frustration and receive a life filled with miracles and abundance; while walking in our perfected calling.