Years ago my husband had a friend who was contemplating starting his own non-profit (oh. And he had a family with six kids. So there was that.)
Our friend decided to take forty days to fast and pray, in search of what he should do.
At the end of all this fasting and praying, my husband wanted to know: Did God show you what to do?
Our friend had an interesting answer. He hadn’t received a clear directive: Do this. But at the same time, he’d grown closer to God. And in that more intimate knowledge of God’s heart, it became clear what path he should take.
Trying to figure out God’s will can feel like a Christian version of reading the tea leaves. We’re sussing out signs…and maybe even making signs where there aren’t any. (I won a French lesson! I think he wants me in a francophone country!)
But that can get…dangerous. Translating your interpretation of “signs” into “God said” is pretty dicey theology. (See more thoughts on wise practices in discerning God’s will in the previous post on this topic.)
Today we’re listening in on thoughts from other global workers about how to figure out if God wants you in global work.
Different Strokes, Different Folks
Unfortunately, there’s a lot of confusing and sometimes contradictory talk going out about the “missionary call.” Beware of the extremes! Some require you to have had your own mystical “call” or voice from God. I don’t deny this happens, but don’t let others over-spiritualize the process and force it on you as normative. Other Christians approach it from an overly rational, dry, mathematical model that gathers the facts, prays, and then makes a logical decision. What are some of the ways that God leads people into missions?
A few people really will have some kind of personalized call, vision, powerful encounter, or voice from the Lord.
Other friends tell me theirs is not a matter of a “personalized call” to missions. It’s more a matter of obedience to God. In some cases the wife saw that her primary call of God was to marry this man, knowing that he was (and therefore, they were) going into missions.
Still others find that they end up in missions after a serious evaluation of prime factors: deep commitment and obedience to Christ, plus a personal assessment of interests, gifts, experience, and dreams, combined with a heart of compassion for the lost and the poor, and an opportunity to serve and to make a difference in the world. These all converge to form a path into missions.
Some report that the prime factors leading them into missions were rather simple: a radical obedience to Christ that meant a willingness to do anything, go anywhere, pay any price, plus an identification of their gifts and others’ needs.
–Bill Taylor, veteran missionary from Central America who also grew up on the mission field, and co-author of Send Me! Your Journey to the Nations. These are excerpts from that book.
Don’t wait for the writing on the wall.
I thought that God would just let us know what to do, so I did not do anything about it for several months. I wondered, “What if I make the wrong choices?” Or “Is it just our own idea to go into missions? Maybe it was not God who asked us to go.” All kinds of doubts discouraged us almost daily. Both of us had a strong desire to go, but we did not share this with other believers for a long time. I had a narrow view of missions and the way God directs his people. I was waiting for some clear signs, like Gideon with his fleece.
I took action and phoned a few mission organizations. Some of our contacts were very discouraging. They only asked about our occupations and nothing about our faith or gifts. We were dismayed and astonished that the mission agencies were more interested in our occupations than our spiritual life. But one particular organization seemed more encouraging. Eventually, we got the green light to go. We were so excited about how God confirmed his calling, and we were finally ready to start!
We are thankful to God that we stepped out in faith and went, even though we did not know all the details. I think that I was almost like a puppet, just waiting for God to make me move and do everything for me. I learned that I had to take steps of faith and do my part. It is like driving a car: it can only be steered while it’s moving. It required obedience and an act of my will, sometimes overruling my feelings and emotions. The confirmation and guidance came only after I started to do my part with faith and God would do his!
–Juhani and his wife Sari, from Finland. Excerpted from the book Scaling the Wall: Overcoming Obstacles to Missions Involvement, by Kathy Hicks.
Recognize the need–and the fact that you’re equipped.
I think some make too much out of the concept of special direction to be a missionary.
Guidance is seeing a need and realizing that God has especially equipped you to meet that need. You discover a growing desire in your heart. And as you pursue that desire, you find a peace that surpasses understanding. His direction is confirmed as he opens the door and you walk through it.
When you follow God unreservedly, you give up control. Whatever it costs, boldly do whatever God wants you to do. The bottom line is not where you’ll serve but if you’ll go when he directs. God doesn’t interview applicants for the position of missionary, he drafts them.
–David, who served eleven years at Tenwek Hospital in Kenya with World Medical Mission. David serves as CEO of the Christian Medical and Dental Associations.
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