Ask Father Paul
October 2, 2013
Answers to your questions about life, religion and the Bible
Has God ‘called’ you for a special job?
Dear Father Paul: I think God called me into the ministry years ago, but I was not ready and said “No.” How can I know for certain that I was indeed called, and if I was called back then, is his call still valid today, or is God done with me? — David.
Dear David: Don’t despair, there are lots of people just like you. I know because I was one of them. God placed a “call” upon me in the 1970s. I was young. Like you, I said, “Someday Lord, but not now. I’m not ready. You don’t understand Lord, I’ve got little kids and a big mortgage and car payments. I can’t just up and quit a really good job and become a pastor. How would we live?” For over 20 years I continued to say “No.” Sad isn’t it?
You ask, can one really know for certain that God is calling him/her? My answer is yes … absolutely.
First, if God has indeed called you, you will know for certain because God will speak to you so very strongly and clearly that there will simply be no doubt. After all, he’s God … making his wishes clear to us isn’t a problem for him. Also, if God has called you, he won’t leave you alone about his call. He doesn’t play fair. He’ll nag you … really, for years, if that’s what it takes. You will have no real peace in your spirit until you finally say, “Yes, Lord.”
Second, if you have been truly called by God, you’ll have a “burning in your insides” that simply won’t go away. If you don’t have that clearness and that burning, it probably means you have not been called … yet.
The Bible is filled with people who were called by God for a special assignment but said “No.” Jonah comes to mind. In the short book of Jonah in the Old Testament God called Jonah to go and do missionary work at a city of violent, godless people whom Jonah feared and hated. Instead of obeying God’s call, Jonah got on a ship and sailed off in the exact opposite direction. But God wouldn’t take no for an answer. The Bible says God caused a great storm at sea and the ship’s crew, learning that God was angry with Jonah for his disobedience, threw him overboard whereupon he was swallowed by a giant fish. Three days later, the fish vomited him out on a beach. Jonah decided that he was better off to obey God’s call. He finally said “Yes” and the whole city turned to God.
In the New Testament, we read the story in Mark 10 and also in Matthew 19 about a man who has come to be called, “the rich young ruler.” He comes to Jesus and asks, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus “calls him” to be one of his disciples then and there. My, what an honor. He tells the young man, “Sell all of your possessions and give all the money to the poor … then come and follow me.” But the young man refused the clear call of God. The Bible says, “He went away sad, because he was very rich.” His money was worth more to him than God, and he is never heard from again.
Note that a “calling” from God is not always to become a pastor or a missionary. Aren’t you glad? No, a calling can be as simple as being “called” to keep the nursery at church, pray every day for the pastor, or count the offering money, or teach a class, or be a Christian doctor, teacher or businesswoman. God can and does call us for hundreds of jobs that he has planned just for us in his Kingdom.
The key is this. What will I say if and when I am called? Basically, God only wants to hear us utter two simple words when he calls us — ”Yes, Lord.”
You also asked, ”Does God ever change his mind once he has issued a ‘call.?’” The Bible’s answer is … very rarely. Besides Jonah’s story, the Bible in Romans 11:29 tells us this (KJV) “For the gifts and callings of God are without repentance.” Some of the newer translations say, “… are irrevocable.” God rarely changes his mind about a call, but don’t wait until you are 90 to say yes.
My precious wife, Dr. Judy Massey, is a good example of this. Judy knew that she was “called” to the mission field as a young girl, but circumstances prevented her from following God’s call until she was in her 50s. She found out that God is indeed willing to wait if our heart’s desire is to serve him. In the past 20-some years she has personally led numerous mission groups to Kenya, Uganda and Mongolia to name just a few countries.
Email me your question at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will try to answer in the paper.
[Father Paul Massey is pastor emeritus of Church of the Holy Cross in Fayetteville, Georgia.]