The Preacher and His CallingJuly 6, 2013
For the man of God, the calling of God is essential to the service of God. Scripture describes our calling as high, heavenly, and holy; and for good reason: it is from the Lord, it is of the Lord, and it is in the Lord. Without it, it is impossible not only to preach, but to endure the ongoing constraints and nuances of ministry.
Who would willingly place themselves under scrutiny and criticism? Who wants to schedule their lives by the calendars of other people? Who wants phone calls in the middle of the night? Who wants to miss vacation days? Who wants to bear the burdens of the belittled, the battled, and the bewailed? Who would eagerly offer words to dying men week after week, while realizing those very words are measured and weighed by the God of Glory? Who wants to stand at the Judgment Seat of Christ and be held accountable for the most glorious message ever given? I’ll tell you who- those of us who are called.
Your call is the starting point, the spring board of ministry. Without it, your efforts will be miserable, hard-pressed, and painfully discomfited; with it, your efforts may still be those things, but the peace and assurance of God will enable you to press on with a confidence that you are making a difference in the world.
So the question becomes: how do you know you are called?
This is a question I hear all the time from young men. It is also a question, in 1996, that I began asking myself and others. After graduating from high school I entered college to study accounting. My dreams, goals, and plans were set in place. I wanted to finish my degree, intern at a local firm, and within a few years of graduation start my own accounting business. But those plans were met with a gaping hole of discontent.
I understood my plans, but my purpose was being called into question. Purpose…that one word haunted me for nearly twenty-four months as I struggled with the call of God. Although it is difficult to articulate, the only way I could embrace my purpose was in light of God’s presence. I sensed a drawing toward God, an uneasy drawing, a life-changing drawing, a self-denial drawing. Those things I longed for, those things I desperately wanted (college, goals, career) were actually used as a means to reveal my emptiness.
My surrender to the call came after almost two years of denial, frustration, and disobedience. It came after reading Jeremiah 1:5, “Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.” It was that verse that illuminated my call like never before. Jeremiah was created and formed to be a prophet to the nations. Had he not surrendered to that call, he would miss out on God’s divine purpose for his life. Through that verse I realized something: if I failed to surrender to the call of God, I would live my life contrary to the purpose of my birth. It hit me…I was created for this.
God calls people in various ways; but there are some basic tenets of His calling among all of our experiences.
- A keen awareness of emptiness
- A desire to please and obey the Lord at any cost.
- An increased interest in spiritual things
- A drawing, a pulling towards God
- A brokenness to the lost condition of humanity
- A longing to glorify God
- A need to embrace your ultimate purpose
The call of God is indeed a weighty matter, which is why most men in the ministry initially struggle with it. I personally believe such a struggle is a good thing. It’s a good thing because it should not be embraced lightly or with little thought. The calling of God is a gut-wrenching blow to the reality of your own dreams and plans. It strips you of personal ambition and hands you a cross. It requires sacrifice, surrender, and submission. Yet ironically, it is the very thing that grants you life and liberty.