Whether you’re in your 20s wondering about the world’s purpose, or your 40s experiencing a full-blown midlife crisis, it’s a universal desire to know God’s calling and specific purpose for our lives.
Today’s blog article is authored by Ryan Ingram, lead pastor of Awakening Church in San Jose, CA.
As you take three specific steps of obedience in your faith journey, answers are revealed. Together, let’s explore those fruitful stages of growth and direction. If you prefer to jump ahead, use the links below to guide you.
Curiosity about our calling and purpose begins to nudge at us from a very young age and, if we’re honest, often linger for many years after.
Is this really what I was made to do?
Should I have chosen a different job/spouse/house/life?
Am I wasting my time as I wait for God to show me what’s next?
Why do so many of us continue to question God’s calling on our lives? Why do we feel increasingly uncertain about the calling we’ve chosen, or choices we’ve made?
In my years of ministry, I’ve discovered that we hyper-focus on trying to hear God’s “specific calling” that is unique to us, like choosing an occupation, partner, where to live, etc.
But it’s only about 10% of the issue of calling! Did you know the other 90% of our calling is revealed to us in the Scriptures? We don’t even have to wonder — it’s clearly laid out for us. God has given us some specific steps to follow, and it’s up to us to obey these directives long before we start asking for answers about our specific calling.
Because once you’ve navigated the 90%, God’s calling and purpose on your unique life will come into focus. Let’s explore the steps that will enrich your life, deepen your faith, and bring you clarity.
3 Steps To Confidently Discern God’s Calling On Your Life
1. Come to Jesus
Your first calling is to Jesus.
You are called to a person first, not a task. You are invited into a relationship, not a list of rules.
Your highest purpose and calling have nothing to do with your job or education or marital status. Your highest calling is simply Jesus. He calls us to Himself.Your highest purpose and calling have nothing to do with your job or education or marital status. Your highest calling is simply Jesus. Click To Tweet
This invitation is spoken beautifully:
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. —Matthew 11:28-30
He invites us into a relationship with Himself, and His only request is that we hand Him our burdens and take on His “way,” which is easy and light. Not a bad deal!
Rick Warren says it well:
“The first purpose of your life or calling is to let God love you.”
Do you know how to let God love you? Do what Jesus asked: come to Him.
Stop putting up walls and ignoring that invitation. I hate that you’ve been hurt and you have deep wounds and heavy baggage. God says to come to him with all of it, and He’ll meet you there.
The first step to confidently discern God’s calling on our life is to come to Jesus.
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2. Be faithful.
The second step in our journey to discover God’s calling and purpose is that we are called to faithfulness.
Paul’s life demonstrates this step perfectly.
Even after Paul meets Jesus on the road to Damascus and begins preaching the Gospel, people are still suspicious of him. More than that, they’re afraid of him and some even want to kill him. After this happened in a couple of locations, Paul and his team were unsure how to proceed. They decided it was best to send him off to his hometown of Tarsus.
Did you realize he spent ten years in his hometown, waiting for God to reveal the next steps for his life?
This Jew, whom God miraculously appeared to and saved and who would eventually pen much of the New Testament, spent A DECADE waiting for God’s next steps.
What did he do during this time? Often referred to as the “Silent Years”, we aren’t entirely sure. We know he worked the family trade, and we can assume he continued sharing the Gospel with anyone who was in his vicinity. Other than that, we know only that he was faithful with what was in front of him for that decade.
He just woke up every morning and did the thing God had for him that day.
Are you faithful to the little things God has called you today? Or are you distracted by the 10% that seems more exciting and fulfilling?When it comes to discovering our calling, we tend to focus on the 10% that's unique to each of us. But 90% of our calling is clear in the Scriptures and applies to everyone: Come to Jesus, live faithfully, and enjoy community. Click To Tweet
This is especially hard for us in the 21st century, and I believe there are two reasons why:
- We hate waiting. We want everything now. Whether it’s our delivery, our meal, or answers, we’ve become accustomed to getting answers as fast as Alexa can give them.
- As we wait, the salt in the wound is our access to other people’s “callings.” We see, through the prevalent sharing on social media, the lifestyles and successes of the different people in our lives. We’ve even seen how their offspring have superseded our success!
Those ten years were not a waste for the apostle Paul, and they aren’t a waste for you. Can you look back on a time of waiting and acknowledge that God was forming you, using those years to refine and strengthen you?
Because no matter how small you think the work is during those years, it’s about being faithful to what’s in front of us because that’s what He’s called us to today.
FAITHFUL IN THE LITTLE THINGS
Not only are the waiting years times of growth and transformation, but they also give us the chance to be faithful in the little things.
Luke 16:10 begins with Jesus saying: “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much.”
What is the faithful little for your life that He has placed in front of you — the thing that’s making it easy to look into the future and say, “When I get there, then I’ll do this,” or “When this happens then I’ll…”
All the while, He’s telling you to be faithful in the little. Maybe it’s a job you don’t like or a marriage that’s struggling. Or maybe God’s asking you to be obedient and faithful in your singleness, your ministry, or your friendships.
Be faithful right here with what He has put in front of you. It is not a waste. It’s formation.
The decisions we make in the hidden places, those everyday “littles,” will shape our destiny. Day by day, the Father is using what’s in front of us to conform us more to the likeness of His Son.
That’s our second clear calling.Our calling is to be faithful in the little things. That means waking up every day and accomplishing what He's put in our path. Day by day, the Father is using the little things to conform us to the likeness of His Son. Click To Tweet
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3. Enjoy fellowship.
Like the followers in Acts 13, our specific calling will come out of engaging in fellowship with one another.
“While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.” —Acts 13:2-3
First, they were worshipping and fasting together. They were sharing lives and intimate, worshipful moments that were shaping and forming them.
Have you ever experienced this kind of fellowship? The kind where you walk away wanting to be more like Jesus?
The author of Hebrews knew the importance of fellowship:
And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. —Hebrews 10:24-25
THE MYSTERY OF FELLOWSHIP
Do you know what mysterious, miraculous thing happens when you’re in true fellowship with other believers? They become the sounding board and the temperature-takers for us. As we consider a specific decision or God’s calling, they’ll help us to discern.
Are you considering a life of ministry? Ask those with whom you’re in fellowship if they see that gifting in your life. Are you in a relationship and considering a long-term commitment? What do your brothers and sisters say about this partnership?
Since you’ve spent time together and they know your gifts and challenges and tendencies, they’ll speak the clearest as you navigate the next steps.
Have you been in community? Have you forsaken meeting together and living life alongside other believers?
This is the third step of obedience on the road to discerning God’s calling on your life.
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KNOWING GOD’S SPECIFIC CALLING
When your life is built upon these three steps of obedience, your specific calling will come into focus. Start by coming to Jesus, then being faithful in the little things while you wait for direction, and finally experiencing fellowship with brothers and sisters in Christ who will speak love and truth into your life.
The rich, transformative experience of navigating these 3 steps will prepare you for God’s calling and purpose for your unique walk on earth. Enjoy the process and the fruit that develops.
Learn more about uncovering God’s calling in your life and living with purpose when you watch our Daily Discipleship Course on YouTube entitled Purpose Full, featuring teachings from pastor Ryan Ingram.
Lead Pastor, Awakening Church
Ryan Ingram is currently serving as the lead pastor of Awakening Church in San Jose, California. He and his wife, Jenny, planted the church in 2012 with a passion to awaken this generation to new life in Jesus. Ryan leads his church community through teaching and strategic leadership. He graduated from Moody Bible Institute (in Chicago) and attended Moody Theological Seminary. He lives in San Jose with his wife and three children.More Articles by Ryan