Digest Three: Discerning the Heavenly Call

Digest Three: Discerning the Heavenly Call

By A. Daniel Barker Jr. / Dean

A question that I am asked by lay people frequently is: “How do I know I am called to ministry?” There are basically two kinds of calls. One is general and the other is specific to ministry. Generally speaking, all Christians are called to evangelize and make disciples. But specifically, a select few are called to certain types of ministries. Some are called to be pastors or teachers. Some are called to minister to the poor and take care of the oppressed.

How do we know whether we are called to ministry?

There are five guidelines in Exodus 3:1-12:

I. God calls His servants from ordinary life (v. 1)

Moses had grown up at an Egyptian palace. After he committed murder in Egypt, he fled from Pharaoh and went to Midian where he took care of the flock of Jethro, his father- in-law (Ex. 2:1-3:1). The language here suggests that shepherding had become Moses’ occupation. It was in Midian where he learned what it was like to be a shepherd. Later God would use this experience to tend His flock, Israel, and he would be used by God to shepherd His people in the wilderness. Our present jobs are not a waste because God may use our work experience in the future. He could be using your present job to prepare you for His kingdom mission. For example, Amos was a herdsman and God called him to prophesy to Israel (Amos 7:15). Some of the disciples were called by Jesus from their fishing profession and they were told to come and follow Him and He would make them fishers of men.

II. God’s call is unique and clear (v. 2-6)

God has called some people, but they discount it because it was not identical to someone else’s call. When I was reading Exodus 3 in my devotions, the question came to my mind “Am I really called to ministry?” I said to God, “I haven’t had a dramatic calling like Moses. I haven’t seen an angel of the Lord or a burning bush”. The Lord reassured me of my calling. He spoke to my heart, “I have called you to preach the Gospel to my people. I have sent you on a mission to proclaim My name among the Nations. I am with you”.

There are a variety of ways that God called His people to ministry in the counsel of Scripture. We should not be hindered because our call is not like Moses’ or Paul’s. Each calling from God is unique and clear.

What is a clear call from God?

  • God knows how to get our attention (Exod. 3:2).

    The purpose of the angel of the Lord’s appearance and the supernatural event of the burning bush was to get Moses’ attention.
  • God initiates the call (Exod. 3:4).

    In life, there are God-called ministers and there are self-called ministers. The self-called minister is one who decides on their own that they are going to be a minister.
  • The call is personal (Exod. 3:4).

    There was a voice manifested from the burning bush. Elohim called Moses by name. You may hear God speaking to your heart or speaking to you through Scriptures. The most important thing is has God called you personally. This is important because when the storms come, you can remember how the Lord has called you by name into His service and by His grace you will stand firm.
  • The call is Holy (Exod. 3:5).

    God gave Moses two commands.

    1. “Don’t come closer”
    2. “Take off your shoes”.

What was common ground had become holy because of God’s presence. This is the first time that the noun “holy” is used in the Bible, and it is one of the main themes in Exodus. Holiness is the one attribute that stands out in association with God’s manifested presence. God’s call is not casual. It is a holy experience. Why is this important? A person who has received a holy calling is one who ministers in the fear of the Lord. Once God had identified Himself to Moses there was reverence – Moses hid his face (v. 6).

III. God’s call has a mission (Exod. 3: 7-10)

There is always a task and a mission with a call. The ground of Moses’ call was the mission to “go to Pharaoh to bring the people of Israel out of bondage” (Exod. 3:10).

What was God’s plan? He was responding to what He saw and heard (Ex. 3:7-8).

  • Yahweh saw the afflictions of His people.
  • He heard their cry because of their task masters.
  • He was compassionately concerned about the sufferings of Israel.
  • In response, Yahweh came down to deliver His people out of the hands of Egypt and bring them to a good land.

    Notice the context in which the title Yahweh, the Great Deliverer, is used. It was time for God to judge the nation of Egypt and for the Israelites to come out of bondage. God’s ultimate purpose was to deliver His people so that they could worship Him (Exod. 7:16; 8:1, 20; 9:13; 10:3). This is what we need to keep in mind in ministry. God has a plan for ministers to call sinners to be free from bondage and sin, so that they can worship Him! We should minister to the oppressed, poor, needy, etc., but the primary goal of all ministries is to lead people to repent and worship the Great Liberator – God Himself.

    IV. God’s calling can be overwhelming (Exodus 3:11)

    Moses felt inadequate. He said, “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the sons of Israel out of Egypt” (3:11). Why was he reluctant?

  • It had something to do with authority because Moses mentioned Pharaoh – “who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh”.
  • It had something to do with his occupation of being a shepherd because Egyptians thought that Shepherds were unclean (cf. Gen 46:34).
  • His other inadequacies were:

  • He didn’t know God well (3:13).
  • He had a fear of failure – that people would not believe or listen to him (4:1).
  • He lacked the gifts of speech (4:10).
  • He felt powerless (4:13).
  • One thing that has held people back from accepting the call is a sense of inadequacy. But this was true for many through the Bible. For example: Gideon said, “Behold my family is the least in Manasseh, and I am the youngest in my father’s house” (Judg. 6:15). Jeremiah said, “I don’t know how to speak, because I am a youth” (Jer. 1:6). My reluctance was my inadequate vocabulary. I am not an exciting speaker. I am not a great exegete and Bible expositor. But the Lord said to me, “I am looking for willing and yielded vessels. I will show my power in people with weaknesses to proclaim My greatness. I will use humble and teachable servants who will only depend on Me. I equip whom I call”. God uses inadequate people. In their weaknesses they will depend on God, not themselves and declare His greatness only.

    V. God’s call should have a promise (Exodus 3:12)

    God gave Moses a promise and a future sign. What is the promise? “I will be with you”. You are not alone. “I, the I AM, the self-existent God, will be with you. I will be as I will be.” God promised that He would be Moses’ mouth and teach him (Exod. 4:15). In light of God’s name – “I Am”, God is pledging Himself. His name Yahweh not only means Deliverer (Exod. 3:8), it also means God “who will be there with us”. This is significant. God is the ultimate Deliverer of His people. Moses was God’s human agent in deliverance. Thus, when Moses went before Pharaoh, God was there with him.

    What is the future sign? God said to Moses, “Certainly I will be with you, and this shall be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall worship God at this mountain” (Exod. 3:12). The promise and the sign from God both are in the future tense and require faith. Even if God reassures us and gives us a sign we still need to exercise faith. We must believe after the experience of the call that God will be there as we minister. We must have faith that God has called us and will fulfill His promises.


    • Before going to ministry, make sure you are called. Ask yourself these questions:
      1. Is the calling clear from God?
      2. What is my task?
      3. How can God use my past training and my occupation?
      4. What concerns of inadequacies do I have? Bring them to the Lord.
      5. Do I have a promise from God?
    • If you are sure of the call, give yourselves wholly to the work of the Lord. Ask God for the blue print and co-workers for the ministry.
    • If you are not sure of your call, then wait on the Lord in prayer and continue to learn from Him. It is not a shame to wait. Waiting is not wasting. It is a time of preparation.
    • While you are waiting you can always do what we are all called to do – evangelism, discipleship, and caring for the needy.

    (This address was preached at Walls Memorial Church on May 4th 2002, at Chicago Bible Institute’s 1st Graduation Ceremony.)

    The Hardest Decision I Ever Made

    By M. Burns / Student

    My grandmother always tried to teach me right from wrong. She always told me that it was wrong to get an abortion because you cannot give a life and you should not take a life. If you disregard it, God will put you in the lake of fire (Rev. 20:13-15).

    One day I had to make a hard decision. It was the hardest decision I ever made. I was raped and afterwards I found out that I was pregnant. I lost my appetite. I went through states of anger, depression, sadness, anxiety and experienced lots of emotional trauma. The doctor recommended that I get an abortion, but it was against my belief. I knew it was wrong. I decided to keep my baby and carried her to full term.

    She was 9 pounds 11 ounces when she was born in 1988. She was a big bundle of joy. I couldn’t believe that she was the best thing that ever happened to me. I couldn’t imagine aborting her and not having her in my life. When I found out the abortion procedures, it makes me sick to my stomach. For me, no one has a right to abort any human life. Only God gives life and He should be the only One who can take life away. X

    (This article is an adaptation of a paper submitted by the student for Christian Ethic class.)

    I was Blind but Now I See

    By Glory Love Wilkes / Student

    Before I met Jesus, my life was broken in pieces.

    I was born blind at birth, but the Lord blessed the surgery I had and gave me my sight back. I was a smoker. At first a pack would last me a week, but the pack turned into a day. I dropped the cigarettes when my teeth started turning yellow. I was a gambler and loved to play the horses, though I didn’t fully understand them. I went to the race track one night, and I found out the races were fixed. I would play cards all weekend sitting around a card table losing. I would then try to win my money back, but I went further into debt.

    I tried to look for realness, truthfulness and faithfulness in this world, but out of all the broken relationships there was no realness, no truthfulness, and no faithfulness. No trust on either side. I would go out to party, and I loved to dance. Sometimes I would feel so alone. I would sit there wondering why my life was so miserable. Even the Soap Operas I loved to watch were all a fantasy. “All My Children” was my favorite, but when I found out a character died out of one series and became alive in Dark shadows I was finished with the Soap Operas. Wherever I searched I couldn’t find the missing link in my life.

    Whenever I had a problem I couldn’t handle, I would get the Bible and read Psalms. After I received the answer to my problem, I went back to my sinful way of living. I heard a preacher on the radio saying, “You better get your house in order because Jesus is coming.” I didn’t want Jesus to find any dirt in my house, so I was washing windows, cleaning all the cracks and crevices. I was so lost that I didn’t know that I was the house that needed cleaning.

    My nephew had a seizure in his sleep and died at the age of 15. We were very close. My niece who is my nephew’s oldest sister and I decided to share a house together in Maywood, IL. I moved in first and stayed there for two weeks alone. I didn’t move anything into the house and neither did my niece. Since there was no furniture or TV in the house I saw the Good News Bible lying on the shelf. I made a pallet on the floor with a small lamp sitting on the floor. I began to read the Good News Bible and as the days went by I became addicted to the Bible. Every chance I got I was in the Word. I couldn’t stop reading. I realized that I was a sinner. I honestly didn’t know I was sinning. I found out that this is what I’ve been looking for. I asked myself, “Why didn’t someone tell me about Jesus?” I would take the Bible to work and read it on my breaks, on my lunch, and every chance I got, I was in the Word.

    After those two weeks I was a new creature in Jesus Christ. I found the missing link in my life and joy flooded my soul. The realness, the truthfulness, and the faithfulness were all in Jesus. As a song says, “There is none like You. No one else can touch my heart like You do. I can search throughout eternity long and find there is none like Jesus.”

    I was blind, but now I see. I was lost, but now I’m found. “Blessed the Lord, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless His holy name… and forget none of His benefits” (Psalm 103: 1-2). X

    (This article is an adaptation of a paper submitted by the student for Evangelism class.)

    God Works Wonders

    By Jerome Ward / Student

    Man was made by God in His own image and likeness, to be fruitful, to multiply and to subdue the earth.

    In my life, I have struggled with decisions. The angel on my shoulder telling me to do right. On the other hand, I want to do what seemed or felt right. I could never be sure if I was making the right decision or doing what seemed right.

    I was thinking to kill somebody because of something unjust I heard. As I was sitting in the car with three others, I wondered whether it was the right decision. I said to God, “If You don’t want me to do this, please don’t let me make it to the south side of Chicago.” What happened next was the car wouldn’t start. I was amazed, terrified and grateful. Amazed because I always felt I was kicking against the brick (in some sort) for people say God doesn’t hear a sinner’s prayer. Terrified as I thought how I worded my request I could have been in an accident or something to keep me from reaching the south side. I am grateful that God didn’t let me carry out my original decision, which only seemed right in my own eyes.

    Blessed be the Lord who alone works wonders and may the whole earth fear His Holy Name. Amen. X

    (This article is an adaptation of a paper submitted by the student for Writing Workshop class.)