At the conclusion of each lesson on the website I invite readers to submit suggestions for future lessons. The first suggestion I
received was for a lesson on how to recognize when God is calling you to a particular endeavor. Admittedly, it has taken some time for
me to deal with this topic. Although I vividly recall the events surrounding my call to serve as a deaconess and later to lead the ministry,
the call to pursue a doctoral degree that integrated biblical studies, and the call to start Pearl of Wisdom ministry, I was not quite sure
how to approach a study on the topic. I decided that first we need to understand what it means to be called. Although Christians often
reserve the terms “call,” “called,” and “calling” for those who are called to preach, this limitation does not align with definitions found in
the Bible or the dictionary.
Merriam-Webster defines a call as, “a divine vocation or strong inner prompting to a particular course of action.” Three Greek
variations of the word called are in the Bible. Kaleo is a verb that means to invite. Peter used this term in his epistles in relation to the
believers’ invitation to salvation. Klesis, a verb with the same meaning, was used by both Paul and the author of Hebrews. Kletos is an
adjective which means (1) one invited to obtain salvation or (2) called to the discharge of some office; divine selection or appointment.
Both Paul and Jude used it to describe believers.
Another word used in the Bible when God called someone to action is “appointed.” Three Greek variations of this word are used.
Poievw means to make one do something. The writer of Hebrews used this word in his account of God telling Moses to lead the
Israelites out of Egypt. Anadeiknumii means to proclaim any one as elected to office. Luke used it when he described Jesus’
appointment of the “70 others.” Finally, tithemi means to set forth, establish or ordain. Paul used the term when describing his personal
appointment as an apostle.
The Bible indicates that all believers experience a three-fold calling. First is the call to salvation (1 Peter 2:9, 3:9, 5:10; 2 Peter 1:3;
Romans 8:29-30; Jude 1:1). Second, we are called to be holy (1 Thes. 4:7; 1 Peter 1:15). Finally, all believers are called to ministry
(Matthew 28:19; 1 Cor. 12:7-11, 1 Peter 4:10; 2 Tim. 1:9).
Given the above, it is clear that we become saved by accepting God’s call to salvation, an invitation that is extended to everyone. Then
believers must exercise His call to perform “good works” (Eph. 2:10) and “good deeds” (Titus 2:14) that embody His holiness. Finally
we must heed His call to engage in works that lead others to Christ as well as serve their needs. The call to evangelize and to use one’s
spiritual gifts is not limited to preachers or evangelists. The great commission was given to all disciples, not just the apostles and Peter
implores, “As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. (1
Peter 4:10). The Greek word used for employ is diakoneo, which translated means to minister.
However, many believers experience an exceptional call that is so profound that it is distinguishable from the universal call to salvation,
holiness and ministry. It is extraordinary in both its specificity and its intensity. It is a call of God to a specific endeavor that can be full-
time or part-time, long-term or short-term, Christian or secular. For example, God could call someone to assume a leadership position
within his or her church, workplace or community; to pursue a specific secular profession, such as educator or doctor; to go on a
short-term missionary trip; to raise foster children; to feed the homeless once a week; to serve as a mentor at the local boys or girls
club, and the list goes on and on.
How does one identify an exceptional call? I do not want this lesson to be perceived as “7 easy steps to know you’re being called” or
“you know you’ve been called when…” However, looking in the Bible at the manner in which God called some into action, at least five
distinguishing characteristics are seen.
God commanded attention through extraordinary means. God’s approach when calling Paul to be an apostle, Moses to lead the
Israelites out of Egypt, Ezekiel to prophesy to Israel, and Mary to be the mother of Jesus was far from subtle. He appeared as a fiery
image to Moses (Exo. 3:2) and Ezekiel (Eze. 1:26-28). He struck Paul blind (Acts 9:8). He sent an angel to inform Mary of her call
(Luke 1:26-38). Similarly, God ignited a passion in Nehemiah for the survivors of captivity that propelled him to lead the rebuilding of
the Jerusalem wall (Nehemiah 1 & 2). He gave the Shunammite woman keen perception to recognize that Elisha was a man of God and
to minister to his needs by providing him lodging during his visits to Shunem (II Kings 4:8-10). And God confirmed his call to
Jeremiah with visions of an almond tree and a boiling pot (Jer. 1:11-13).
God often called the seemingly unqualified. Mary questioned her call since she was a virgin (Luke 1:34). Moses felt he lacked the
credibility and speaking ability to lead (Ex. 3:11 – 4:10). David (1 Sam. 16:1-13) and Jeremiah (Jer. 1:6-7) were called when they were
considered young for their assignment. God called Paul while he was actively persecuting Christians! (Acts 9:1-15). God used an
adulteress to evangelize men in Samaria (John 4:7-30), old, widowed Anna as a prophetess (Luke 2:35-38), and a harlot to assist Joshua’
s spies (Joshua 2).
God did not take no for an answer. Although Moses offered God many excuses for not heeding His call, God refused to relieve him of
the assignment. God appointed a great fish to swallow Jonah when he attempted to flee His presence by going to Tarshish instead of
preaching to Nineveh as He had directed (Jonah 1:17).
God gave explicit instructions. Moses was called to lead the children of Israel out of Egypt. Joshua and Jeremiah were given a specific
word of prophecy to convey to a specific people. Mary was called to give birth to Jesus. When Jesus sent out the apostles he told them
what areas to avoid (Matthew 10:5). He sent out the “70 others” with instructions regarding where to go, what to take, where to stay,
and what to do (Luke 10:4-10). God set apart the Levites to perform a specific job for a limited duration (Numbers 8:24-26).
God provided the necessary power, protection and provision. Jesus gave the apostles power and authority over all demons and to cure
diseases (Mat. 10:1; Luke 9:1). God repeatedly ensured Moses that He would provide everything he needed to effectively lead (Numbers
3 & 4). He sent an angel to explain Mary’s pregnancy to Joseph (Matt. 1:20-24). Nehemiah acknowledged God’s hand in his receiving
the King’s permission and letters to go to Jerusalem and rebuild the wall (Neh. 2:8). God put His word in Jeremiah’s mouth (Jer. 1:9)
and promised to deliver him (1: 8, 19).
These few examples suggest that God uses many ways to call believers to a particular endeavor. Perhaps you have had one or more of
the above experiences, or something similar. The key to determining whether or not a call is of God is to maintain such a close
relationship with Him that you can discern His voice. He said, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (John
10:27). Then you must be open to being used by Him, realizing that God calls us based on His plans, not ours. Remember, “A man’s
heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps” (Proverbs 16:9).
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I would love to hear from you about this lesson. Please feel free to send me your comments, questions, or suggestion
for a future lesson.