Finding and Keeping our Calling…
I had someone ask me the other day, “How am I supposed to know what God wants me to do when I have so many ideas in my head?” Wow, have I ever been there! I remember a number of times that I thought I heard the Lord speak to me directly and tell me a direction to go, a boy to date, or a career path to begin. Had it not been for the beginning wisdom of a dear professor that taught me how to discern the will of God, there is no telling where I would be today. But if you will allow me, today I am going to zoom in on one aspect that seems to particularly trip us up.
Martin Luther’s Reformation unchained the Word of God from the pulpit and reminded believers that they had a relationship with God personally. Although we Protestants (hopefully) still value confession, Luther showed us that we could go to the Father directly to confess and have conversation with Him. Hearing Him, however, has many believers jumping at the first “whisper” and leaving many confused when something doesn’t feel right, or go right. How are we to tell the difference between our own thoughts, the Holy Spirit, and the enemy?
Let’s start with this. Nothing that God says to us will ever go against scripture. Scripture is the living, breathing, Word of God that is alive- meaning that we are moved and changed by it daily and it’s words give us direction today even though it was written forever ago. Along with that, it is clear that God created a special need for community that we will never be able to escape.
We are flawed. Each one of us. Me, you, your parents, your children … and our spouse (just in case you were expecting them to be more than what you are capable of being). We were designed to be flawed- if we weren’t, we would be God- and there is only one God that can be all things, to all people, watching our beautiful planet at the same time as He is whispering your name. The sooner we understand this, the sooner we will learn to forgive those who accidentally (or purposefully) harm us and learn to accept the love that they try to give that may be different from ours. Being flawed means that we desperately need a God in our life that is trustworthy, there, perfect, all knowing, and peace-giving. And having God in our life keeps us humble by not carrying the burden of imperfection and brokenness and instead leaning on Him to sustain us to do what He gives us the desire to do. Yet He knew, that if we only heard it straight from scripture, or His Spirit in prayer, that we would close ourselves off and dangerously mix our flawed thinking with His truth- thus cults and cult leaders. Being flawed means that we can conjure up the wrong things, believe lies, and then think it’s God’s voice. So, he brilliantly designed the body of believers, the Church (not to be confused with the institution or building), to be an extension of Him. A bunch of other flawed individuals that are also trying to study and hear Him. These believers, those who have confessed and chosen to follow Him (including you), are called to prayer and service to each other. Why? Because we are a physical extension of this God that we cannot see with our eyes, but feel within our spirit.
“But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lack it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other.” 1 Corinthians 12:24-25
We desperately need each other. He created it that way. And so anything that we “hear” from Him, must be taken to the body- to at least one believer who is actively following Him (spouse, small group, accountability partner) for confirmation. It is when we receive confirmation from the body (within whom He is also actively involved and moving) that we move forward on that internal whisper. Brilliant, isn’t it? Thank God- for He is good. This is what keeps us from going “crazy”, and leading other people into “crazy”. This is why when I had a boyfriend that told me that we were hearing different things about God on what was clearly unhealthy behavior- that I knew something was wrong- especially when I had friends who loved me confirming it.
When we serve one another, we are “doing” for another what Jesus would still do today if he were physically still on Earth- how else are people today going to experience Him? When we say we are going to pray for someone, people are actually asking us to pray (not just think about) so that we may be the person from the body that gets clarification and confirmation for what they are struggling with. So, when you hear that whisper in your mind, it is not time to move- it is often time to dive into scripture, pray, and share it with someone you trust who is actively in scripture, and wait for God to confirm it within the body. This is also true vice versa- if someone in the body tells you a “word from the Lord”, align it with scripture, pray about it, and seek confirmation from someone else in the body. If you are married to a believer, this is most often your spouse, but for marriage decisions- someone who mentors you.
If all gifts are given to edify, or encourage, the body of believers- then all that we experience with God is ultimately, in a timely manner, meant to be shared and used to encourage each other- thus the power of testimony. We tend to find ourselves “in the weeds”, struggling over whether it is God’s will for us to take the tiniest step- and while God is present in the decision making of your tiniest step- He is simultaneously zoomed out to His timeline of eternity. God cares about that tiny step that is causing you stress. He may even choose to whisper truth and direction to you about whether or not you should take that tiny step- but make no mistake that He has authority over everything that happens in your life. Nothing passes by Him without Him answering on whether He will allow it to happen. No evil, suffering, or obstacle is a surprise to Him (read Job). And while we often confuse this with thinking He “inflicts us” with our circumstances, He knows that life and sin “happen” and are followed by consequences that will hopefully give us the opportunity to glorify Him. The ultimate purpose in everything He allows, is that we glorify Him- that we give credit to Him for the gifting, the blessing, the sustaining, the direction, the rescuing, or the comfort through the worst of it.
“teach me your way, O Lord, and I will walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. I will praise you, O Lord my God, with all my heart; I will glorify your name forever.” Psalm 86:11-13
Finally, the enemy is talented at knowing exactly what to whisper to you. Our childhood Sunday school classes taught us that he is evil, dark, and scary and while that is true- he is also deceptively attractive. That is what deception is, trickery at it’s best that lures someone away form the truth. Lures and baits only work if they mimic something true. And so the enemy often will whisper and tempt us with something that sounds like what God has called us to, but is only slightly off to a degree. If we follow that lie, it will send us in a direction that is completely off track from God’s desire for us. Yet, if we believe that all authority is given to God, and nothing slips by Him- then we must also believe that He allows this temptation to happen in the hopes that we will change course after searching the Word, prayer, and confirmation within the body. It is something to confess, as we chose something other than Him, but He allowed it so that we would be changed by it, remember it the next time that lure shows up and know how to respond. Then, we will sing His praises, glorify Him in His wisdom and grace in our life and testify it to all who have ears to hear.
So, “May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Romans 15:5-6