I sometimes wonder if the urgency to identify our life calling has been lost. Perhaps people assume this process of discovery is a one-time event. Or maybe our churches think it only applies to people who feel drawn to positions of vocational ministry.
A person’s call is simply a way of expressing their understanding of God’s game plan for their life. Without it, we can struggle to understand our purpose in life and our sense of direction. This can leave us feeling isolated, aimless, and distracted—no matter who we are or the situation we may find ourselves in. God has created and shaped us for a purpose. It’s part of His plan for our life and it’s also part His larger plan for the Church and the world.
I vividly remember a leadership retreat several years ago when a facilitator led our church staff through a personal refocusing process. It felt like the lights came on for me because I began to more fully understand God’s call on my life. That process of identifying my personal calling fanned into flame a strong sense of purpose that continues to guide me to this day.
Let’s consider some examples in the Bible of people who knew and acted on their God-given calling.
- Abraham made great sacrifices to move his family to the place of God’s choosing.
- Nehemiah obeyed God’s call to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, even though he risked his career in the royal courts and faced great opposition.
- Jonah (finally) realized that following God’s calling was better than going his own way (he needed to fail before he decided to obey, but God was merciful to him).
- Esther saved her people in response to God’s call (which was revealed to her through Mordecai).
- Paul had a strong calling to proclaim the gospel where people had not yet heard it. He lived out his calling and God used him to make disciples and plant churches all over the Mediterranean world.
Once we reach the point of understanding God’s calling, we must choose to rely on God’s strength to live it out. If you choose instead to build your plan on your own ambitions, your calling will morph into personal goals that will never achieve the outcomes God had in mind. Remember to revisit your sense of calling often and to pray for God’s renewal and inspiration.
As you sift through your calling, you’ll likely experience a sense of excitement and urgency. You’ll gain a strong sense of direction because you’ll know your game plan (or at least parts of it). Because your identified game plan is from our loving Lord, you will want to implement it with passion, courage, and determination. Prepare to engage in extraordinary efforts—and struggles—to realize God’s calling.
Of course, there are circumstances and forces that may distract you from this plan or diminish your passion to execute it. That is why it’s imperative to keep returning to the Lord for guidance and strength. You will need to review your plan often and prayerfully discern when God would have you adjust it. Having a strong network of prayer supporters and encouragers will also help you to stay the course.
It is not uncommon to feel discouraged when it doesn’t feel like much progress is being made to accomplish God’s calling. I am learning that living out God’s calling can often have many detours. But I’m also learning that even detours have a purpose in God’s economy. Our role is to do our best, in God’s strength, to struggle forward. Theodore Roosevelt once said,
“The credit belongs to the man [and woman I would add] who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotion, and spends himself in a worthy cause.”
There is no cause more worthy than living out God’s calling on our lives!__
[Randy Wollf is Associate Professor of Leadership Studies and Practical Theology and Director of the ACTS World Campus.