Have you ever heard a missionary or pastor talk about their “calling” into to full time ministry? Typically, missionaries have their version of God’s “calling” to a place to serve as missionaries. I hope by reading this I may help those who are uncertain of how folks are called, or if God truly does call people into service.
First here is my brief story how I was ‘Called’. My calling began when I was 14, however I was born again at the age of 9, so by the time I responded to God’s calling at the age of 14, I was already saved, baptized, and faithful to my relationship with God. One week in the hills of southern Ohio listening to preaching from a man whom stuttered, I surrendered my life to God. This is where my calling began, it did not happen all at once, but God’s plan became more clear to me through a development of truths I needed to learn. Today I’m a missionary to China, however it would be somewhat misleading to tell you that I am called to China. The truth is when I surrendered at the age of 14, not only did I surrender to China, but I surrendered to Africa, Europe, the deepest parts of the Amazon, the south pole…. because surrender means just that, I surrendered to whatever and wherever the Lord saw fit to have me.
It isn’t surrender if we ask Jesus first to tell us what it is, then decide whether or not we’re going to do it. Surrender for me and other average people like me its a choice of faith, not knowing where or what occupation I was surrendering to. Howbeit it is not out of the range of God’s power to knock someone off their horse like He did with Paul the Apostle, or with Jonah the Missionary, I believe most of us when it comes to Gods calling in our lives will relate to men in the Bible more like Timothy and Titus, rather than the Apostles or Old Testament prophets. Why? Because most of us will not see visions, hear voices, walking with Jesus in the flesh, and see dreams. Neither did Timothy who was a Samaritan, or Titus who were just average men that became missionaries that God used mightily. I note here Timothy was a Samaritan because that makes him an outcast, a nobody, but its guys like these, the fishermen, the tax collectors and others despised by the world whom God delights in using to bring undisputed glory to His name.
I was just an average 14 year old kid with a desire to know what God wants me to do. I didn’t see fireworks at anytime, nor did I dream dreams that week, but during the simple preaching that week I realized there was a price to pay before one can know the will of God in their life. The price is that of surrender, and surrendering everyday thereafter. Because Timothy had a good report from other Christians in Acts 16, Paul invited Timothy join him in his missionary journeys. Timothy didn’t see fireworks, or see dreams, he simply had an opportunity, and an opportunity that came because of his established faithfulness to God. Paul didn’t ask the backslider to join him, he asked a faithful young man. Now I doubt Timothy was an excellent speaker, or could speak 5 different languages, or a blossoming musician, but he had faithfulness to his God. Whenever services where being held, Timothy was there. Whenever their local church gathered for a meal, for work, for preaching or any other activity Timothy was faithful to God. And because of his good report earned him an opportunity.
Now I assume that it was a desire in Timothy’s heart to go with Paul considering he accepted the invitation! It wasn’t forced upon him, or coerced. Paul did not tell him that he would suffer some horrible fate if he chose not to go like many religions coerce their people into service by such measures. On the contrary the desire was already in the heart of Timothy to go; he didn’t have to drag his feet to go, rather he went with a privileged sense of being chosen. He got to go!
Psalm 37:4 says, “Delight thyself also in Lord and He will give you the desires of thine heart.” Sometimes this verse is wildly interpreted for supporting the heresy of “prosperity gospel” . But in Timothy’s life it was a promise he received that day Paul invited him for service. It is impossible for one to delight himself in the Lord (faithfulness) and possess the wrong desires at the same time. A man delighting himself in the Lord will not receive the desire to gamble for a living, or make a career choice into drugs and alcohol, rather the man who delights himself in the Lord receives the desires from the Lord. Serving the Lord to him is not a have to matter but it is a get to matter.
Since this is an article and not a book, let me summarize part one of the missionary calling…
1. The calling of God is not often a singular event, but it does begin with surrender.
2. Surrender is to whatever, wherever, and however the Lord wants.
3. Surrender and faithfulness, rather than qualifications are required for God’s calling.
4. When true surrender is present, then there is joy in serving and not out of a ‘have-to’ spirit.