The clarion call of God rings out loudly and clearly to all who have ears to hear. As Christians, we are called to a life of holiness, service and sacrifice. Though the world clamors for our attention with promises of comfort, wealth and fame, we must tune our ears to the gentle whisper of the Holy Spirit.
- God calls each of us to fulfill a special purpose and mission. We must discover our unique calling.
- Answering the call requires denying ourselves, taking up our cross and following Jesus.
- We must cultivate a life of prayer to hear God’s voice clearly.
- Obedience to God’s call leads to blessing and fruitfulness. Disobedience leads to spiritual drought.
- God equips those He calls. We must rely on His empowerment.
- Fulfilling our calling requires total surrender to God’s will.
- God’s call involves embracing suffering and sacrifice for His Kingdom.
- Answering the call leads to deep joy and satisfaction in Christ.
The word of God is filled with examples of those who answered the clarion call of God upon their lives. In Genesis 12, Abram heeded God’s call to leave his homeland and sojourn to a new land. Moses responded to the call of the burning bush and led the Israelites out of captivity in Egypt, as described in Exodus 3. The Old Testament prophets, such as Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel, answered the summons to speak forth God’s word, often at great personal cost.
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In the New Testament, the fishermen dropped their nets and followed Jesus when He called them in Matthew 4:18-22. After his dramatic conversion in Acts 9, Paul immediately began fulfilling his calling as an apostle to the Gentiles. Jesus said in John 10:27, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.” As His sheep, we are called to follow the Shepherd, listening carefully to His voice and walking in the paths He has prepared for us.
Discovering Your Calling
God has called every Christian to a unique purpose and mission in building His kingdom. Discovering that high calling is one of the most exciting and fulfilling quests of the Christian life. How can we tune our ears to hear and discern God’s clarion call? Here are some suggestions:
Cultivate a life of prayer. Spending regular, unhurried time in God’s presence allows us to quiet our hearts, silence the competing voices and listen for His still, small voice. As we meditate on scripture, pour out our hearts in worship and petition, we become attuned to the promptings of the Spirit.
Receive wise counsel. Mature believers who know us well can often detect God-given gifts and passions we may have overlooked. Their insights can confirm or clarify what we believe to be our calling.
Experiment and explore. Sometimes we discover our calling by stepping out, trying new ventures and exploring areas of interest. As we serve in different ministries, test our skills and abilities, we may find a role that seems custom-fitted.
Examine your desires. Our deepest yearnings often point to our purpose and calling. Pay attention to the dreams and interests that keep resurfacing, the work that energizes and fulfills you.
Consider your life experiences. The triumphs and trials God has brought you through are often preparation to equip you for what He has called you to do. Your wounds can become wells from which you water thirsty souls.
Match opportunities with gifts. When open doors align with your God-given talents and gifts, it is often a sign of divine confirmation. Walk through new opportunities with eagerness.
Listen for affirmation from others. Words of encouragement from spiritually mature Christians can help confirm a calling to particular work or ministry. Their exhortation bolsters our confidence.
As we seek the Lord in these ways, He will ignite within us a passion for the ministry He has prepared. When that fire is kindled, we must respond promptly to the call of God.
Obeying the Call
Hearing God’s clarion call is just the beginning. We must follow through with obedience, denying self and pursuing His purpose wholeheartedly. Jesus made the cost of discipleship plain:
“If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.” (Luke 9:23)
Answering the call is a daily commitment to die to self and live fully for Christ. It requires saying “no” to the path of comfort and security, and “yes” to the often difficult road of ministry. Here are some hallmarks of responding rightly to God’s call:
Decisive action. When called by Christ in Matthew 4, Peter and Andrew “…immediately left their nets and followed Him.” We must respond promptly when God calls, leaving behind lesser pursuits.
Perseverance. Remember Paul’s charge to Timothy: “Do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord…” but join with me “in sharing with me in the sufferings for the gospel” (2 Timothy 1:8). Answering the call requires endurance and courage in the face of affliction.
Sacrifice. Jim Elliot, martyred missionary to the Auca Indians, wrote in his journal, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” Answering the call often exacts great personal cost, but the reward far outweighs any price.
Service. Mary understood her calling was that of a servant. She told the angel Gabriel, “I am the Lord’s servant….May your word to me be fulfilled” (Luke 1:38). Our mission is to serve the purposes of God, not the other way around.
Devotion. The apostle Paul described his consuming passion to fulfill his calling: “This one thing I do…” He allowed no distraction to deter him from preaching the gospel (1 Corinthians 9:26). We must maintain undivided loyalty, not “entangled in civilian pursuits” (2 Timothy 2:4).
To summarize, answering the call requires decisive, sacrificial action, perseverance through hardship, and unswerving devotion to God’s purposes. The life of Hudson Taylor, missionary to China, exemplified this level of surrendered obedience. Let us strive to respond as swiftly and completely when we hear the clarion call of God.
Cultivating a Life of Prayer
If we desire to catch the sound of God’s call, we must develop lives steeped in prayer. Consider the prayer example of David Brainerd, the famous 18th century missionary to Native Americans. Despite great hardship, loneliness and suffering from tuberculosis, Brainerd was known to spend whole days in the wilderness praying, fasting and seeking God. He wrote,
“I love to be alone in my cottage, where I can spend much time in prayer…Here I can pour out my soul with freedom…and frequently converse as if face to face with God.”
Brainerd’s fervent prayer life enabled him to hear and obey God’s call throughout his brief but fruitful ministry. What can we learn from Brainerd and other great men and women of prayer about cultivating our own prayer lives? How can a dynamic life of prayer attune our ears to God’s call? Consider the following suggestions:
Set aside extended times for prayer. We must devote lengthy, unhurried periods to seek God’s face. Early mornings, evenings, or full days of prayer and solitude like Brainerd allow deep connection with God.
Pray specifically for God’s direction and will. Ask God to clearly show you His calling and purpose for your life. Surrender your own agenda, humbly seeking only His will.
Fast and pray. Fasting teaches discipline, fortifies our spirit, and helps focus our prayers. Extended times of prayer and fasting intensify our spiritual clarity.
Read scripture prayerfully. Meditating on the word and allowing it to soak into our inner person makes us receptive to God’s voice. The Psalmist prayed, “Open my eyes that I may see wondrous things from Your law” (Psalm 119:18).
Cultivate childlike dependence. Come to the Father as a little child, trusting fully in Him. Allow your weakness and neediness to create utter reliance on Him. Wait patiently for His answer.
Press through spiritual dryness. Prayer is sacrifice. During seasons of spiritual drought, persevere in prayer. God will honor your persistence and faithfulness.
Pray in the Spirit. Praying in tongues engages our spirit in intercession beyond the limits of our understanding. This releases new spiritual empowerment and discernment.
A life of fervent prayer opens our ears to the glorious call of God. Like David Brainerd, may our lives be so saturated in prayer that we quickly recognize the voice of our Shepherd leading us into new pastures of service. Let us answer the clarion call!
Empowerment of the Spirit
Once God stamps His high calling upon our lives, He then equips us for the task through the empowering presence of the Holy Spirit. We cannot answer the call in our own strength. God told the prophet Zechariah, “Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit.’” (Zechariah 4:6). The same Spirit who called us then gifts and empowers us to fulfill the calling.
The book of Acts showcases followers of Christ moving in the power of the Spirit to further the Kingdom. After being filled with the Spirit in Acts 2, Peter preached boldly and 3,000 were saved. Stephen, described as “full of faith and the Holy Spirit” performed wonders and miracles (Acts 6:5). The Spirit empowered Paul’s preaching, enabling him to confound the Jews with proofs that Jesus is the Christ (Acts 9:22).
God calls the weak and makes them strong in Him. He takes the foolish things of the world to shame the wise. Our ability comes from the Spirit working through yielded vessels. Some ways we must rely on the Spirit’s power include:
Supernatural gifts. The Spirit equips us with spiritual gifts and manifestations suited for our assignment. You will receive giftings such as leadership, administration, prophecy, evangelism – whatever is needed to fulfill your call.
Divine connections. The Spirit strategically orchestrates divine appointments and open doors at just the right time. He assembles teams of co-laborers to accomplish His purposes. Say “yes” to the relationships He facilitates.
Spiritual authority. Jesus promised in Luke 10:19 “I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy.” The Spirit grants us powerful spiritual authority to defeat strongholds of darkness.
Strength in weakness. God told Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” When we rely wholly on the Spirit’s might, God’s strength shines brighter through our limitations.
Courage. Peter was empowered by the Spirit to boldly preach Christ and endure persecution and martyrdom (Acts 4). The Spirit inspires holy bravery in the midst of trial.
Remember, we are called to walk in the Spirit and live by His power working within us (Galatians 5:16, Romans 8:4). Depend fully on the Spirit to equip and strengthen you to answer the call of God.
Embracing Sacrifice and Suffering
One sobering yet exhilarating aspect of answering God’s call is that it inevitably involves suffering and sacrifice. Jesus made this truth plain: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23). We follow a suffering Savior who surrendered heaven’s riches to embrace earthly poverty and pain. As His disciples, we are not exempt from the path of tribulation.
God’s work is often advanced through hardship. The trials we face prepare us to comfort others. Consider apostle Paul’s extensive record of sufferings for the gospel:
“I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea” (2 Corinthians 11:23-25).
Yet Paul rejoiced in his sufferings, understanding, “…if we suffer, we shall also reign with him” (2 Timothy 2:12 KJV).
When we embrace the cross God calls us to carry, we can expect both persecution and purification. Here are some ways to prepare for the suffering ahead:
- Count the cost. Before embarking on God’s mission for your life, prayerfully consider what it may cost you. Count it all joy.
- Accept suffering as from God. Don’t be surprised by painful trials. Recognize hardship is appointed by God to shape you for greater service.
- Rejoice in participation with Christ. We share in a fraction of the sufferings of Christ. What an honor and privilege to walk as He did!
- Let suffering strengthen your faith. As gold is refined by fire, tribulations purge away impurities in our character and faith.
- Maintain eternal perspective. The suffering we endure on earth is brief and light compared to the eternal weight of glory ahead (2 Corinthians 4:17).
- Find comfort in God’s presence. The Lord draws nearest to the brokenhearted. His promised grace is sufficient for every season.
- Set your mind on heavenly rewards. Remember God sees your sacrifices. Your reward in heaven will far outweigh earthly affliction.
Take heart when faced with trial. God uses suffering to prepare us for greater ministry. Embrace the cross He appoints – it is a privilege and blessing!
Absolute Surrender and Obedience
Finally, answering the clarion call of God requires a life of total surrender and obedience to Christ. There must be no competing loyalties. In our self-directed culture, absolute submission to God’s will seems extreme. Our flesh recoils at the idea of placing our plans, dreams and possessions entirely at God’s feet. But consider the exhortation of Christ:
“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. What good is it for you to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit your very self?” (Luke 9:23-25)
Jim Elliot, who left comfort and ease to bring the gospel to remote Ecuadorian tribes, wrote this memorable statement in his journal:
“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”
Elliot surrendered his very life to fulfill God’s purposes. His example compels us to offer true obedience and abandonment to God’s will. Here are principles to guide our journey of surrender:
- Make Christ absolute ruler and master of your life. Give Him first place in every area.
- Offer everything to God: time, abilities, resources, relationships. Hold nothing back.
- Submit all your plans to Him. Align your aspirations with His purposes.
- Accept hardship, inconvenience and interruption as His will. Don’t fight against His ordained interruptions.
- Obey even when God’s directives don’t make sense. Walk by faith, not logic.
- Relinquish control. Let God take the steering wheel of your life.
- Wait patiently on God when His calling requires delay or preparation. Don’t run ahead of Him.
- Commit to complete, lifelong obedience to Christ, not just a short-term sacrifice.
The life of complete abandonment is difficult but deeply fulfilling. Hudson Taylor wrote, “It doesn’t matter how great the pressure is. What really matters is where the pressure lies – whether it comes between you and God, or whether it presses you nearer His heart.”
Press into the high calling God has for your life. Say “yes” to His clarion call through surrender and obedience. You will know unspeakable joy as you walk the path of His choosing. Let your life count for eternity!