If making meaning in our lives comes from having a sense of purpose and a task to complete, then we need to be able to figure out what that task and purpose is. In order to do that, we have to discern our calling. Discerning our calling is not an easy task. However, in looking through the “call stories” provided us in Scripture, a pattern seems to emerge. It goes like this:
1. God gets our attention—The Call
2. God has a specific request—The Task
3. We wrestle with the request—The Challenge
4. We respond to God—The Purpose
Over the next four posts, we’ll break down each of these steps in listening to God and living out His purpose for our lives. It begins with discerning our call…
One day, Moses was taking care of the sheep and goats of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian, and Moses decided to lead them across the desert to Sinai, the holy mountain. There an angel of the Lord appeared to him from a burning bush. Moses saw that the bush was on fire, but it was not burning up. “This is strange!” he said to himself. “I’ll go over and see why the bush isn’t burning up.”
I have often dreamed of walking outside and finding our front shrubbery on fire--partly because I don’t like shrubbery, and partly because I think it would be an announcement I couldn’t easily miss. If God sets fire to your hedge and then speaks to you from within it, you’re probably going to notice!!
I’m always struck by Moses’ response. Instead of, “Holy cow!! What IS that?! Hey guys! You gotta see this!!” He says, “Hmm…that’s weird. I think I’ll go check it out.”
Obviously, God knew He needed something BIG to get the attention of Moses!
Sometimes, it is the big things in life that make us sit up and take notice of God’s presence and working in our lives. A job loss, a personal loss, an illness, a broken relationship…
I do not believe that God intentionally brings these things into our lives in order to get our attention. That would be cruel. God is not cruel, nor does He desire us to suffer.
However, I do believe that those big, emotional, personal fires can be vehicles through which we hear and discern the voice of God. When we are at our most vulnerable, we are more willing to turn to God for help, perspective, and meaning.
Yet more often than not, God reveals Himself quietly, through the natural ebb and flow of our daily life. God speaks to us through His Word, while listening to praise songs, in a conversation with a friend, or the stirring of our heart through worship.
God speaks in the “still, small voice” Elijah hears in the cave after the fire, wind and earthquake have passed. (1 Kings 19:10-14). And it’s easy to miss.
…the Lord called out Samuel’s name.
“Here I am!” Samuel answered. Then he ran to Eli and said, “Here I am. What do you want?”
“I didn’t call you,” Eli answered. “Go back to bed.”
Samuel went back.
Again the Lord called out Samuel’s name. Samuel got up and went to Eli. “Here I am,” he said. “What do you want?”
Eli told him, “Son, I didn’t call you. Go back to sleep.”
The Lord had not spoken to Samuel before, and Samuel did not recognize the voice. 8 When the Lord called out his name for the third time, Samuel went to Eli again and said, “Here I am. What do you want?”
Eli finally realized that it was the Lord who was speaking to Samuel. So he said, “Go back and lie down! If someone speaks to you again, answer, ‘I’m listening, Lord. What do you want me to do?’”
1 Samuel 3:4-9
I love this story of Samuel’s calling. I think it speaks so much to the quiet and subtle ways in which God calls us and our ability (or inability) to discern His voice.
In this passage, Samuel is living in the house of the Lord. He is sleeping just feet from the altar. His life is dedicated to the Lord’s service. And he is absolutely ready to serve. He is so eager to prove himself that he runs to Eli in the middle of the night prepared for whatever task he believes Eli is calling him to perform.
Samuel eagerly wanted to serve. He lived in anticipation of purpose.
I’ve found that within most of dwells a deep desire to be of service. We want to help others. We want to fight for a noble cause. We are eager to have a purpose. But, like Samuel, we can get confused about who we are to serve.
We get caught up in the demands of our careers, our outside activities, our families, and our hobbies. We get so involved in being busy that we cannot identify the voice of the One calling to us. Instead of stopping and listening, really listening, we work harder, add on new projects, and exhaust ourselves trying to chase after something which has been standing before us the entire time.
God was right in front of Samuel, but Samuel couldn’t recognize Him. Samuel lived and worked in the House of the Lord, but he had no recognition of God’s voice. Samuel spent his childhood working for God, but he never took the time to know God. Thankfully, Samuel had a trusted spiritual advisor who could help him learn.
Thankfully for us, God sends those advisors our way, too. Sometimes our spouses, parents, siblings, friends, and co-workers can see God calling to us when we can’t. This is one of the reasons why it is so important to have strong, spiritually deep people in our lives. And, why it’s important to cultivate our own deep spiritual roots. Who knows but that you could be someone else’s Eli?
The key is we have to be willing to listen. And part of listening is knowing just exactly WHO we are listening to.
I can’t tell you if God is calling you to something or not. God speaks to each of us in His own way and in His own time.
I hear God speak to me as I read His Word. I hear Him as He places His thoughts in my mind during times of prayer.
Others hear Him speak through music and worship. Some hear Him speak through teachers, pastors and Spiritual leaders. For others, God comes with great and dramatic bush burning flare. There’s no rhyme, although there’s always a reason.
So listen for God as He seeks to speak with you today.
Be still and listen.
Blessings and Peace,