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by John Ward
I have had the great blessing of serving people through the ministry of mobilization at Encompass since 2007. One of the best things about my work with people is leading them through what we call the discernment journey.
In those relationships, I get to hear people’s stories, learn about their passions, and discover how God has gifted them for ministry. At Encompass we’re committed to investing in you personally and professionally so you’re prepared for a fruitful, growing ministry. That investment starts through a relationship with a mobilizer in which we commit to helping you discern your God-given calling and the right fit in ministry.
The questions we most frequently hear are “How can I know God’s will for my life?” or “How can I discover what God is calling me to do?” Yes, there are some fundamental answers to those questions like God’s will for your life is to pursue a growing intimate relationship with him. Or, in the case of the question about God’s calling for missions, the answer is always “Yes!” for he’s calling all of his followers to make disciples of all nations. The deeper questions most seek are related to what role God has for them in his mission. For shock value, sometimes I respond by saying give me 5 to 10 years, and I think we’ll have some clues.
This thing of calling really is a mystery, but with God’s help it’s a mystery he intends to solve. Consider how God called people in the Bible, not everyone had the burning bush experience like Moses. Isaiah volunteered himself in worship as a response to seeing God in his holiness, Amos was already into his career of shepherding, Samuel was called when he was a boy, and Paul was called while in the act of persecuting Christians. God doesn’t seem to have an observable pattern as we look at the characters he called in the Bible, and while we live in a different age the spectrum of experience seems to have just as much variety.
Sure, God could write it in the sky for you tomorrow, but that hasn’t been the experience of anyone I know, and there are no 12 step programs or proven formulas that get results in just 2 weeks. Sadly, I’ve seen more people seek the instant answers they are accustomed to finding through a Google search when asking these bigger questions in life.
The truth is God has an amazing, fantastic, wonderful plan for your life and he is faithful to his promises. God’s call is an inner conviction given by and through the Holy Spirit and confirmed by the Word of God, the body of Christ, and the character of the called. Instead of dwelling on the lack of a burning bush in your life why not think about what God has given you. He’s given you the Holy Spirit as a guide, his Word as light for your path, and the body of Christ so you don’t have to go alone. If you live out these beliefs I’m convinced that the faithful pursuit of God through the ups and downs of life will lead to a greater confidence in your calling.
Most of the people I encounter are at the beginning of their journey to discern God’s call for missions, and they live with the fear that they are going to get it wrong. On a closer look, most of these people are suffering from analysis paralysis, option fatigue, or some combination of both. If that’s you, let me remind you! God has not given us a spirit of fear, but rather he’s given us a spirit of freedom in his Son. Ask God to grow your faith in him and what he has already promised. Do not remain in a place of fear that you’re going to miss God’s will; pursue him.
The reality is if we’re putting our trust in God and obediently following him, it’s impossible to get it wrong. That’s hard to do and the world’s answers come creeping in when we take our eyes off Jesus. However, if we are seeking God and we have a growing understanding of how he has uniquely gifted us, we can’t be far from the answers we are longing for in the question of calling. That’s why I love Psalm 37:4 where David says, “Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”
When I think of people I know who I’d say, “Wow! They are truly called by God to do xyz.” My sense is that they are in what most of us would call the “sweet spot”. This made me wonder, “What are the combination of things we could dig into in our effort to discover if a certain ministry is the right fit or the ‘sweet spot’?” I like to diagram it this way which makes for a simple napkin illustration.
Here are some questions to consider as you look at the diagram.
As we trust God to guide us on this journey, if we are honest with ourselves and if others we know and trust affirm our discoveries along the way, I think we can more confidently step into our “sweet spot”. It is quite possible that the things we learn as we seek answers to these questions are the clues we were looking for to solve the mystery behind the question of calling.
John Ward is the Director of Mobilization at Encompass World Partners and leads a team that seeks to mobilize and equip people and churches that are following Jesus into the missional work he’s doing to make disciples of all nations. You can contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Encompass World Partners can be a helpful guide in the discernment journey. Check out these additional resources: