Letter written to a student at Sydney Bible Baaptist College, August 14, 1988
It is a joy to have you as a student. We thank God for you and for your desire to serve the Lord. I will make a few comments about your survey concerning the call to the ministry.
Shortly after conversion I began to have thoughts about fulltime ministry. There was no human reason that would have led me into the ministry. It had never been within my range of desires, ambitions nor dreams. I would have felt terribly inadequate for it as well. But the thoughts were increasing and the burden was forming, all beyond my personal control. I shared this with my father who advised me to make doubly sure before making any decision, and then, if a decision were made to enter the ministry, to never turn back. It was good advice. There have been many difficulties and discouragements along the way. But the inner persuasion that God had placed me into the ministry carried me along over the many traumatic bumps.
The essential elements of a “call”:
1. A complete surrender of our lives and abilities to the Lord to lead and do with us as He wills. This is simply stated in Romans 6:13 and 12:1-2
2. An ongoing life of fellowship with the Lord. “I being in the way, the Lord led me.”
3. A discerning heart in tune with the Lord can piece together the different things the Lord uses to lead us into His will for our life-instruction of His Word, the inner witness of the Holy Spirit, and the providential control over every circumstance. We see these elements harmoniously at work in the Lord’s leadership of Paul into Europe in Acts 15:36 – 16:10.
Fulltime ministry is not something to be entered into just because someone has a “hankering” or “curious desire” or whatever. Our “desire” should be to please Him. In order to please Him, we must know what He would have us do. The principle of John 7:17 is no less true for the believer: if we will to do His will, we shall be taught by Him. And when He teaches us, He will give us wisdom to understand the will of God (Ephesians 5:17). And we will have a strong desire to do His bidding. Entering the ministry because of a little tickling desire of curiosity is like leaving the ministry because of a “desire” to get out of the ministry. Desire may be a fruit of obedience but it is never the sole basis.
In summary, to ask if God calls is like asking if God has a will for our lives. If He has a plan for our lives, it means several things. Firstly, it means that everyone’s call will not be the same. I Corinthians 12, Romans 12, and I Peter 4 make that plain. Secondly, if God has a will and plan for our lives, will He not endeavour to communicate that plan to us? The Old and New Testaments are filled with instances of that communication, and especially to those in leadership roles. Admittedly, Paul’s call was a bit more dramatic than mine, but so was his conversion. Paul had no doubt about God’s call upon His life. Note I Timothy 1:12 and II Corinthians 4:1. Why cannot we have an assurance of His call to us so that we can go in confidence “assuredly gathering that the Lord has called us…”?
The Lord has told us that the “steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord” in Psalms 37:23. The Psalmist prays in Psalms 27:11, “Teach me thy way, O Lord, and lead me in a plain path…” It is an excellent prayer for us as well.