Part 5 of series: Ivy League Congress: Discerning God’s Call
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More Seeds for Discerning God’s Call to “Ministry”
In my last several posts I sowed the first eight of eleven “seeds” for discerning God’s call to ministry:
1. Laity: All Christians have a high calling as ministers of Christ.
2. Surprise: It’s likely that God will surprise you if you seek his will openly.
3. Sovereignty: If we want to discern God’s call upon our lives, we need to be committed to his sovereignty.
4. Stewardship: We should seek to use well the gifts, talents, and opportunities God has given to us.
5. Blessing: If we want to discern God’s call for our future, we should attend to how he is blessing our lives and ministries right now.
6. Community: We discern God’s call, not alone, but in community with other believers.
7. Fluidity: Fluidity within professional ministry positions means that we don’t have to figure out our entire career before stepping out in faith.
8. Family: A person who is married and/or has children must take seriously what is best for his or her family in discerning God’s call.
Today I’ll finish up with the last three seeds.
Simply put, if God is sovereign, then we ought to obey him. Specifically, this takes the form of obeying divine teaching in Scripture. For example, my professional journey from Irvine Presbyterian Church to Laity Lodge began with a passage of Scripture I was preaching on in February 2007:
“No one tears a piece from a new garment and sews it on an old garment; otherwise the new will be torn, and the piece from the new will not match the old. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the new wine will burst the skins and will be spilled, and the skins will be destroyed. But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins.” (Luke 5:34-38)
Right around the time I preached on this text, a representative of Laity Lodge asked about my openness to join their staff. I told him that I was not especially interested in changing job and moving my family, but that I believed I needed to be open to God’s new wineskins for my life. One thing led to another, and five months later I had decided to come to Laity Lodge. This process began with what felt like sheer obedience to God.
The Bible is filled with stories of redemption. Consider the case of Joseph, for example. Though he was sold into slavery by his brothers, and though he was falsely imprisoned in Egypt, God used these “misfortunes” to bring Joseph to a place of power and influence. (Photo: Donny Osmond as Joseph in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat)
The fact that God can redeem wrong actions, not to mention well-intended mistakes, should give us a sense of freedom when we’re seeking to discern God’s call to ministry. If we happen to “get it wrong,” God is not up in heaven worrying about what to do next. Rather, in his sovereignty, wisdom, and grace, God can work all things together for good (Rom 8:28). This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t work hard to discern God’s will. But it does mean that we can be set free from the fear of failure when discernment misses the mark.
Wholeheartedness can be a sign of God’s call to ministry. The heart, from biblical perspective, is not just the seat of emotion. Rather, it includes feeling, reason, and will. A wholehearted commitment to a particular ministry means I think it’s the right thing for me to do, and that I am choosing to do it in faithfulness to God, and that I’m excited about doing it.
Of course there will be times in our Christian service when we won’t feel very happy about what we’re doing. Exhaustion, discouragement, criticism, and boredom can surely lessen our enjoyment of ministry. But we can remain wholehearted in our commitment when it is based on more than emotion. If I believe God has called me to serve him in a particular ministry, then I’ll hang in there even when my emotions might lead me in other directions.
Nevertheless, it’s right for a person to ask: What moves my heart when it comes to the Lord’s work? What gets my pulse racing? What would I love to do for the Lord?
In scattering eleven “seeds” for discerning God’s call to ministry, I haven’t provided any foolproof formulas for discernment. As you might have guessed, I don’t believe such formulas exist. God works uniquely with each person. Some are called through a dramatic encounter with God, like St. Paul on the road to Damascus. Others discern God’s call only through a long process of waiting, thinking, and praying. But I believe that if we let the “seeds” of discernment take root, if we attend to them faithfully, God will indeed lead us in our quest to serve him with our lives.