This is one of those endless questions with endless responses and endless debates on what it means to be called. I want to share a personal story and a recent understanding about this topic to hopefully help future potentials in recognizing, understanding and acting upon their calling.
But – what is a Calling? In the realm of Christian faith, we believe God calls us to certain services, (not incomes, prestige, fame, or fortune) mostly including some form of ministry. Men and women feel called to preach, some called to missionary service, some to evangelism – but these are all the same – they are Service to other people! Yet, it can be so much more!
I’ve been in the business of ‘sales’ my entire adult career. I’m 41 (closet to 42 than 41 now..) and started my career at the age of 22. In all that time I’ve attended countless seminars, read endless books, blogs, and teachings on success. In most cases, you’ll hear some universal concepts, such as;
- When it’s right, you’ll know it!
- Luck comes to the prepared.
- Finding your passion means you’ve found your success
I’ve learned from great names in the business – Jim Rohn, Tony Robbins, Brian Tracy, Joe Pici, the list is endless. And one thing is true in the world of sales – Your Destiny is YOUR Choice! The term ‘Self-Made Millionaire’ is the achievement we all seek after. We picked ourselves up from our bootstraps (physically impossible BTW…) and made something of ourselves!
And…if I had time to recount my life from earliest memory (4 years old) to today, you may believe those ideas too. I do. I came from nothing, was supposed to amount to nothing, never finished school, dropped out of college – but if you look at my W-2’s, I’ve found some (secular) success. I did this by desire – a desire not to repeat my predecessors, to excel beyond what I was, to do what wasn’t done before me. I had a great desire to become more than I was supposed to be – and I did it!
But when it comes to the Spiritual realm of following Jesus Christ, your destiny may just be His Choice. Yet – the way in which you find His Choice might be masked in the same strategy you’ll find in secular success studies. Intrigued?
I remember it like it was yesterday. I lived in a nice house on Rollins Ave. with my wife, my son and first daughter Chloe. My most recent daughter Aria hadn’t been born yet. We lived a normal life. Went to church, and worked, loved, and fought. I was regularly hosting Youth Bible Studies in my home, and the stereotypical Christian life was being played out in slow-mo.
I can’t say what time of day it started, but I became extremely anxious, desirous. I started to have day-dreams of sitting in a small village on dirt floors talking to people about the love of Jesus. That night as I went to bed, I was restless. Eyes closed I was just dreaming, thinking, playing out scenarios in my head. What would happen if… How I could I support this desire if…Honestly, I’m not qualified. Who am I to think of my self this way?
But I saw healings, smiles, faith, hope, love, charity – laid out before me like a buffet fit for a king…
No sleep the night before. I tried to work but honestly, I was distracted the entire day and robbing my employer of my wages. I sat thinking about this feeling – could it actually be God? But what about my past? I had a son out of wedlock at 16 years old. Sure, I was in church, doing my best to be a Christian but I was far from good, clean, holy, perfect. Surely, it was me just fantasizing.
But what if it was real? Jonah rejected his calling and look what that got him – trouble until he finally accepted it. But yea- I was reading into some pizza dreams and gassiness. And then I was again in Brazil this time, sitting before the beautiful people of that village, with little children running about, mothers and fathers eager to hear.
Really, there was no more sleep than the day before and now I’m wearing down. God, is this real? Is this really you? I want this so bad in my heart and soul – if I could trade my W2’s for this, I would literally do it. What will my wife think? She knows me. She knows my past. My struggles. She knows I’ve not done right all the time. She knows I’ve been weak. Will she just laugh at me?
Imagine – use, out serving these people, in love, helping them get food, water, shelter, medicine, love, learning how to parent children, learning to set them up for success, sheltering them, honoring them, going hungry with them..getting sick with them. I want this Lord, is this you? How could I do this?
This night, I sat in the back of my home outside with my wife, trying to figure out how to say it! The problem? We viewed men with a ‘calling’ as GIANTS – men above reproach, perfect, rich, they had a calling. How could I even dare to say I wanted to be among them? That’s like a young kid in the broncs saying he wanted to be Lebron James. Pssht. Yea. Right man. Keep dreaming.
What do I say? Hey babe… I’m called! Laugh. That will go over well. How about… “You know, I’ve been praying and…” No that’s stupid. “Hey Honey I’ve really felt led to do something more for God.” Oh, yea? Like what? she asked… “Oh just more….” I said ‘just more’ because I’m too embarrassed to say “Preach the gospel to the lost!”
Heck – I taught a 12-Step Faith-Based Drug and Alcohol program. I had weekly Youth Night Bible studies in my home. I was the ‘captain’ of a Bus Ministry program in our church. I taught in Sunday School and helped direct weekend Outreach programs. What ‘more’ could I be doing? … I felt led to be a preacher of the Gospel of grace and Love – but the problem was, I was not part of a church that believed in Grace and Love!
Why am I embarrassed? Honestly – scripture says that if you are desirous of that office, you desire a noble thing!
Understanding your Calling
The reality is, I feel like I had something of a 3-day supernatural event. But not everyone does. Recently I listened to a short Q&A with teacher John McArthur in which a man asked a question, “How do you know you are called and what advice would you give a young man who felt called?”
Funny enough, John started his answer with, “Well…I think I know the young man who feels called is…” [Queue audience laughing] John went on to say and explain that being Called of God isn’t necessarily some supernatural event – today there are no burning bushes. You don’t need dreams, and visions and other things to know your calling.
Scripture says all we need to know about this topic;
This is a faithful and trustworthy saying: if any man [eagerly] seeks [desires] the office of overseer (bishop, superintendent), he desires an excellent task. ~ 1 Timothy 3:1, AMP
John said during his calling, He wanted to be a preacher – he thought he would be a preacher, and eventually, he knew he would be a preacher. Your calling is found in your ‘desire’.
I’ve known people, with no religious connection at all, who said their ‘calling’ in life was to do X, or Y, or Z. Feeding the homeless? To be a counselor? To write? To be a lawyer? Your calling is YOUR desire. Your desire is what you were made to be!
One of my favorite secular success stories is found in Michael Dell – Dell Computers, the largest and never broken reigning champion in the sales of personal computers. In his auto-biography, he spoke about his time in college, forced upon him by culture, his parents and expectations. How that when he found his calling he temporarily left college to fulfill the passion of building and selling computers.
His temporary sabbatical turned into a life long calling and now, he teaches that college students should DROP OUT or prospective college students should cancel their plans until;
- Find your passion, and
- Determine if you are physically and mentally able to fulfill your passions, and
- People are willing to pay you for your passion!
In the lessons of Michael Dell – if you can do those three things – pursue your dreams! If the answer to those bullet points in college, go to college! If you don’t need college to do those things, don’t go to college!
This was a fun lesson for me to teach when I had a college intern in the classroom while I taught on Michael Dell…
The very end of all of this is just as has already been said – If you desire to work for God, to be a servant of the Gospel, and you believe that physically and mentally you are able to perform that service, and you accept the financial burden of service, then pursue your calling!
Wait, Brother Ralph, are you saying that being called of God is just…a personal feeling of wanting to preach?
Hey – what else would it be? Are you expecting some angel to come to visit you in your sleep-waking you up, giving you a new name, and a heavenly commandment? That was already done, my friend;
Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations [help the people to learn of Me, believe in Me, and obey My words], baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, ~ Matthew 28:19, AMP
We already have a Great Commission – what role you play in that commission is up to your personal desire! You could be the finacier…the cook, the preacher, the flight attendant, the security guard, the banker, the guitarist, the drummer or pianist – whatever your desire is, that you give yourself wholly to, if you do it for the Gospel’s sake – you do it to God, and it is YOUR calling!
for where your treasure is, there your heart [your wishes, your desires; that on which your life centers] will be also. ~ Matthew 6:21, AMP
The King will answer and say to them, ‘I assure you and most solemnly say to you, to the extent that you did it for one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it for Me.’ ~ Matthew 25:40, AMP