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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...

Discovering the Call of God

By Curt Harlow
Dec. 27, 2009

“Are you responding to His call, or are you asking God to bless your own plans?” 

With no real direction in life, I pondered this question from my campus pastor, Ron Eerkus. He offered this thought in the hope that it would help me find God’s calling — and boy did I need help. I wanted to know His calling, but the only thing I felt was confusion. 

When you are living off ramen noodles, afraid of being perpetually single and standing at the precipice of the “real world,” it is almost impossible to think straight, let alone discover God’s calling on your life. 

Undaunted by my bewilderment, Ron carefully talked me through a few key biblical principles. So powerful are these truths, they transformed my confusion into a deeper understanding of God’s will. Here’s what I learned.


“Here I am, Lord”

One of the most profound and ancient prayers of Scripture is simply the sentence, “Here I am, Lord.” Abraham, Jacob, Moses and Samuel all found that some form of this short prayer was pivotal to their journey with God. In it, these men confess more than just attentiveness to the Lord — they proclaim a total willingness to be used for God’s purpose no matter what.

Jesus’ exhortation to “seek first the kingdom of God” echoes this attitude, calling us to live for His cause over and above all other considerations. When decisions are seen through this missional mind-set, knowing the details of God’s plan becomes less important than knowing the submission level of our own hearts.

Once we have surrendered our will completely, it is amazing how much clearer His path becomes. If we can sincerely pray, “Here I am, Lord,” we are already well on our way to hearing His call. 


In the Shadow of Goodness

I’ve discovered that I was not the only confused student. Many young adults (and a few not-so-young adults) encounter decision paralysis. During chaotic seasons of life, grades plummet, bills go unpaid, and we even start to isolate ourselves from others. Being bombarded with dozens of choices, each with multiple variables, leaves us frozen in place. We anxiously ask ourselves, What if, in all of this mess, I miss God’s will by accident? 

Our real problem is not so much discerning God’s direction but discovering God’s nature. When confronted with a mountain of decisions, it is often more fruitful to spend time recalling God’s character than it is rehashing our choices. 

Once we understand that no external problem can triumph over His love (Romans 8:35) and that He intends only good for us (Matthew 7:11) we can almost see the safety net of His grace undergirding our steps. 

Discovering God’s calling can include something as simple as asking ourselves what we are personally wired to enjoy. Because God is good, the godly passions He has already given us are strong clues to His will for us. As we trust the gifts and grace God has made available, we become free to find our calling even in the most chaotic seasons of life.


Rules or Relationship?

The customary Christian advice for finding God’s calling goes something like this: (1) Pray. (2) Ask your pastor for advice. (3) If that doesn’t work, fast like crazy. 

Peter apparently didn’t know about these rules. When Jesus called him to leave his whole life behind, he didn’t ask the Lord for time to intercede or to get the counsel of his rabbi or even to fast a barley loaf or two before deciding. Peter simply followed. 

While no one would say that prayer, counsel and fasting are bad, even these spiritual activities can become smoke screens used to avoid the will of God. The problem is that we like these little rules more than we like obedience. Rules are clear and predictable. Even the best rules, however, can be manipulated to serve our agenda. 

Relationships, on the other hand, are messy and even perilous. God requires one individual to fast for a season, while demanding that another rise to follow Him immediately. For both, He refuses to settle for simple adherence to abstract rules, but demands personal obedience freely given. So deep is His motivation to be in relationship with us, that He actually became one of us and personally paid for our sin (Romans 5:8).

Once we can honestly ask ourselves, “Which direction will help me get closer to Jesus?” we often find the faith and courage we need to both see and accept His calling.

When we cultivate a missional mind-set, meditate on God’s good nature, and seek relationship with Him above all else, we realize that finding His will is not as confusing as we first thought. It is not about our own planning or our sticking to a set of prudent rules. In the end, it is about responding to Christ’s death by dying to ourselves — and, in doing so, finding the life He has graciously prepared for us. 

CURT HARLOW is the director of West Coast Chi Alpha.

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