“This was God’s will for my life.” A lot of us are on a frenzied search to discover God’s will before we stick out a toe, and we have a romanticized idea that if we’re walking with God in the right way, we will always know his calling ahead of time.
True, the promise all the way through Scripture is that God will lead his people, but the promise does not necessarily guarantee clarity, and there is an important but subtle distinction to be made between the two: the certainty that he will lead and the clarity of the leading.
First Corinthians 16: 5–7 gives us a key insight into this distinction as seen in Paul’s life:
After I go through Macedonia, I will come to you —for I will be going through Macedonia. Perhaps I will stay with you for a while, or even spend the winter, so that you can help me on my journey, wherever I go. For I do not want to see you now and make only a passing visit; I hope to spend some time with you, if the Lord permits.
Two key words are found in that passage: perhaps and if. Read it again.
Perhaps I will stay with you for a while …if the Lord permits.
Do you see the lack of clarity in Paul’s plans? These are not the writings of a man who’s been given a crystal clear blueprint for ministry ahead of time. The normative Christian experience, even when we’re in the center of God’s will, is that we seldom receive a clear view out the front windshield. Usually we see much more clearly out the rearview mirror.
Note one further complication to all of this. Even when your calling is secure, either ahead of you or behind you, you will still encounter difficulties. After you have journeyed through a time of sifting, you can look back and see difficulties as being part of God’s allowed plan.
In the next verses of that passage, 1 Corinthians 16: 8–9, Paul notes how a great door for effective work has opened for him in Ephesus, but he also notes that “there are many who oppose me.”
In other words, an open door does not necessarily mean smooth sailing. Knowing this fact about a calling —that difficulties should be expected —helps you stay the course. Having a sense that your calling is secure helps you endure.
While pursuing the vision God has given you, you are going to want to quit many times. But you need to constantly remind yourself of what God has called you to, so you won’t drift away. Again, this is part of the surrendering process at work —when we surrender to Christ and to the call he gives us, there may be other things we want to do, but our calling will continue to bring us back to the first work. Take some time right now to articulate your specific calling.
This month with Mentoring Leaders, we’re exploring the topic of change – personal, communal, continual. The above excerpt is from Pastor Wayne’s book, Sifted.
Tell us what you think!