“God didn’t just stumble across your life and decide to use you.”
This is a quote from my pastor’s sermon from this morning, as he talked about the calling that God has placed on all of our lives, and the fact that none of us has been forgotten when it comes to God unfolding His sovereign plan.
He talked about Jeremiah’s call into the ministry of being a prophet. God told Jeremiah that He had known him, sanctified him, and appointed him and that he would use him to fulfill a certain task – to go and preach a specific message to the people of Israel for a specific period of time.
Jeremiah didn’t FEEL called. He couldn’t see how he was in any way qualified for the task that God was laying before him. But the Lord made it clear that He had been preparing Jeremiah all along – from his lineage, to his birth, to his training as a young Hebrew child. All of these things had been ordained by God in order that He might one day use them to bring about His ultimate calling for Jeremiah.
The same was true for the apostle Paul. In Galatians 1:15 he describes God as being “he who had set me apart before I was born and who called me by his grace.” Paul understood that God had been preparing him and equipping him all throughout his lifetime, and that God had designated a specific time to reveal Himself to Paul and then to call him into the ministry. This calling and appointment was from God, not something that Paul had manufactured on his own.
With all of this in mind, here are some important truths that we need to understand about our God-given purpose and calling:
God has specially designed each of us for a purpose and a calling.
Those words that God spoke to the young prophet Jeremiah about being known and sanctified and appointed can just as easily be appointed to us. Our callings are different, but the New Testament is clear that all of us – if we are saved and a part of God’s family – have been given a ministry. Paul calls it a “ministry of reconciliation” in 2 Corinthians. In Ephesians he says that we have been given spiritual gifts so that we might use them for the work of the ministry. What all of this tells us is that every single believer is just as known, sanctified, and appointed today as Jeremiah was thousands of years ago. We all receive a calling from God – to be disciples and make disciples, to love others and point them towards Jesus, and to remain faithful followers all the days of our lives. There are other, more specific callings too. But God reveals those to us at different times and for different seasons.
Our lives, experiences and backgrounds are essential to our callings.
Throughout our lives He has been preparing and equipping us and getting us ready to carry out the tasks to which He has apppointed us. As my pastor said, God didn’t just stumble across our lives and decide He wanted to use us for something. He already knew, before we were born, what His plans were for us, what He wanted us to accomplish for Him, how He had designed us to serve Him. Another pastor once said that God has pre-designed each of us with certain spiritual gifts that He intended to use to bring about His glory in the reaching of the nations. The backgrounds, experiences, and prior training of our lives (even if we didn’t realize we were being trained) are all essential parts of the unfolding of our callings. Even right now, I have to believe that God is going to put me in a role one day that will make sense of my years spent as a high school Spanish teacher. This experience is somehow vital to my preparation. I need to walk by faith every time I carry out my work, knowing that it is a part of God’s bigger plan for me.
Our purposes are revealed in His timing, not ours.
Someone once told me that, when you stop trying to control things and just surrender it all to God, that’s when He begins to work. I think this principle should apply to our callings too. I can look back over my life and identify all the times when I tried to manipulate or force my calling or role, thinking that I could get God to let me do things my way and just bless all of my efforts and work. I spent years trying to force myself into full-time ministry and escape the “secular” world, only to realize that God had me in that world for a purpose and that it was actually my calling, the place where He wanted me to serve and bless and make a difference. I then took on a mininstry role that, after four years, I realized was not really what God had designed me for, which is why it felt like an utter failure and was so easy to step away from. When we let go of our need to control our destinies and our purposes in life, then we get to experience the work that only God can do. He WANTS to use us. He has created us and endowed us with certain gifts that He desires to use for His glory and for the sake of the gospel. We are all called to be ministers. He isn’t going to look at any of us and say, “I want to use everyone except you. You just sit there and be quiet.” So, if we believe that God wants us to serve Him and has a calling for us, we need to wait patiently for Him to open up the opportunity and point us in the right direction. And we also need to pay attention to how He might want to use us right where we are at the moment.
Discovering our purpose from God is not hard. God is a mystery, yes, but the call to follow Him isn’t supposed to be complicated. Remember, when Jesus found Peter and Andrew and invited them to become His disciples, He simply said, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” He didn’t tell them how. He didn’t tell them what eactly that meant. He didn’t give them any indication what their decision to follow Him would involve. He wanted faithful obedience. And, as it turned out, He wanted to use them for Kingdom work for which the Father had already been equipping them.
Let’s not miss out on the purpose and calling that Jesus has for us. Let’s just faithfully follow Him and walk in humble obedience. When we do this, we can experience an abundant assurance that God has designed us for the very things He has put in front of us. No more guessing or stressing or worrying that we missed something. Just obedience in every moment until God moves us into something different.