Waiting on God’s calling and fulfilment of our life purpose
Most of us have asked, “What is my ultimate purpose in life?” God has given each one of us an instinctive awareness that there must be specific good works that we were created for. We all yearn for deeper meaning and significance in life. How do we recognise our higher purpose and God’s calling on our lives?
(See Chinese versions: 简体中文 > 等候神的呼召和实现人生目的 | 繁體中文 > 等候神的呼召和實現人生目的)
Ephesians 2:10 ESV For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
When we examine the Bible, we notice a few examples where God personally called a few people into the destiny He had planned for them or gave them a specific task to fulfill.
Called into their destiny
- God instructed Abraham to leave his home and start a great nation in another land | Genesis 12:1-3 ESV Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
- God told Jeremiah that He appointed him to be a prophet | Jeremiah 1:4-5 ESV Now the word of the LORD came to me, saying, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”
- God personally called twelve men to be His apostles | Mark 3:13-15 ESV And he went up on the mountain and called to him those whom he desired, and they came to him. And he appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach and have authority to cast out demons.
Called for specific assignments and tasks
- God sent Moses to bring the Israelite slaves out of Egypt | Exodus 3:4,10 ESV When the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.”
- God sent Jonah to tell the people of Nineveh of His upcoming judgment | Jonah 1:2 The LORD gave this message to Jonah son of Amittai: “Get up and go to the great city of Nineveh. Announce my judgment against it because I have seen how wicked its people are.”
- God sent Noah to build a large vessel, called an ark, to escape the Great Flood | Genesis 6:12-14 ESV And God saw the earth, and behold, it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth. And God said to Noah, “I have determined to make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence through them. Behold, I will destroy them with the earth. Make yourself an ark of gopher wood. Make rooms in the ark, and cover it inside and out with pitch.
- God sent the prophet Samuel to anoint Saul as the first king of Israel | 1 Samuel 10:1 ESV Then Samuel took a flask of oil and poured it on his head and kissed him and said, “Has not the Lord anointed you to be prince over his people Israel? And you shall reign over the people of the Lord and you will save them from the hand of their surrounding enemies. And this shall be the sign to you that the Lord has anointed you to be prince over his heritage.
- God sent the prophet Samuel to anoint David as the next king of Israel | 1 Samuel 16:11-13 ESV Then Samuel said to Jesse, “Are all your sons here?” And he said, “There remains yet the youngest, but behold, he is keeping the sheep.” And Samuel said to Jesse, “Send and get him, for we will not sit down till he comes here.” And he sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy and had beautiful eyes and was handsome. And the Lord said, “Arise, anoint him, for this is he.” Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers. And the Spirit of the Lord rushed upon David from that day forward. And Samuel rose up and went to Ramah.
- God sent Ananias to inform Paul that he would be God’s witness to the Gentiles | Acts 9:15-16 ESV But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.”
- God sent Paul to Macedonia to be a witness for Christ there | Acts 16:9-10 ESV And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing there, urging him and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” And when Paul had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go on into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.
- God sent Philip to witness to the eunuch treasurer of Ethiopia | Acts 8:26-27,29 NLT As for Philip, an angel of the Lord said to him, “Go south down the desert road that runs from Jerusalem to Gaza.” So he started out, and he met the treasurer of Ethiopia, a eunuch of great authority under the Kandake, the queen of Ethiopia… The Holy Spirit said to Philip, “Go over and walk along beside the carriage.”
Having read about these examples, we too may desire such certainty of our purpose and perhaps even such dramatic experiences.
We all have the same calling
The Bible already makes it very clear what our calling is. It is the same for everyone who calls Jesus their personal Lord and Saviour, and that is to:
- Live a holy life | 2 Timothy 1:8-9 ESV Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, who saved us and called us to a holy calling…
- Fellowship with Jesus Christ; to share in His knowledge, suffering, and triumphs in this life | 1 Corinthians 1:9 ESV God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
- Bear good fruit | John 15:16 ESV You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.
- Live a life worthy of our calling; staying humble, gentle, patient, bearing with others’ faults, and united in the Spirit | Ephesians 4:1-4 NLT Therefore I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God. Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace. For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future.
- Live free from sin and to love others as ourselves | Galatians 5:13-14 ESV For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
- Hold on tightly to eternal life and not stray away | 1 Timothy 6:12 NLT Fight the good fight for the true faith. Hold tightly to the eternal life to which God has called you, which you have declared so well before many witnesses.
- Be united with other believers in one hope in “one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all” | Ephesians 4:4-6 ESV There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
Don’t neglect our true calling
Like Moses, Samuel, Paul, or Philip, there will be some people today whom God sends on specific assignments that become well known to many. In a world that tells us, “bigger and flashier is better,” we too may mistakenly think that we too need to be “sent” on some significant assignment.
But as we can see from the downfall of some world-famous Christian leaders, both recent and past, we can build up world-famous ministries that appeal to many but fail in our personal holiness – which is our true and primary calling. By doing so, they have rejected God Himself and grieved the Holy Spirit.
1 Thessalonians 4:7-8 NLT God has called us to live holy lives, not impure lives. Therefore, anyone who refuses to live by these rules is not disobeying human teaching but is rejecting God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.
One example from the Bible is Judas Iscariot, whom Jesus personally called to become an apostle. Judas did the same miracles as the rest of the apostles, he also healed the sick and cast out demons. But Judas allowed his sinful nature to prevail, failed to be holy, and betrayed his Saviour at the end.
1 Peter 1:14-16 NLT So you must live as God’s obedient children. Don’t slip back into your old ways of living to satisfy your own desires. You didn’t know any better then. But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy. For the Scriptures say, “You must be holy because I am holy.”
The Bible warns that many are called but few will be chosen. It is not the ones who fulfill God’s assignments that He chooses at the end, but the ones who live holy lives until the end of their lives who are. These are the ones who are “diligent in making their calling and election sure.” As such, they will be given “entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” as a result.
Matthew 22:14 ESV For many are called, but few are chosen.”
2 Peter 1:10-11 ESV Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
How do we make our calling and election sure? 2 Peter 1 provides some clues.
- By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. (verse 3)
- We are called to share God’s divine nature (through the Holy Spirit) and escape the world’s corruption caused by our human desires. (verse 4)
- Therefore, we need to make every effort to respond to God in every way, and seek to grow in moral excellence, knowledge of God, self-control, patient endurance, godliness, affection for others and love for everyone. (verses 5-7)
2 Peter 1:3-10 NLT By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence. And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires. In view of all this, make every effort to respond to God’s promises. Supplement your faith with a generous provision of moral excellence, and moral excellence with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with patient endurance, and patient endurance with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love for everyone. The more you grow like this, the more productive and useful you will be in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But those who fail to develop in this way are shortsighted or blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their old sins. So, dear brothers and sisters, work hard to prove that you really are among those God has called and chosen. Do these things, and you will never fall away.
Waiting to be sent on our assignments
For those of us who are waiting for God to open doors to the assignments we believe He has for us to do, here are a few things we ought to keep in mind.
1. Guard our calling diligently
There is always the danger that those who do God’s work become consumed by the work and forget God Himself. We spend less and less time worshipping Him and communing with Him.
Our hearts become harder and harder towards the Holy Spirit. Little by little, we let our personal standards of holiness slip and our sensitivity to the Holy Spirit is compromised. We are not easily convicted of our own unrighteousness nor do we quickly repent, because “our eyes no longer see, our ears no longer hear and our hearts no longer understand”. We lose sight of our primary calling to live holy lives.
Acts 3:19 NIV Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord,
Matthew 13:15 NLT For the hearts of these people are hardened, and their ears cannot hear, and they have closed their eyes— so their eyes cannot see, and their ears cannot hear, and their hearts cannot understand, and they cannot turn to me and let me heal them.’
We must guard our calling diligently. Jesus even gave us a stark warning of the consequences if we don’t. We can do “many mighty works in His name” and still be rejected by Him one day, because we lived in lawlessness.
Matthew 7 21-23 ESV “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’
2. Open our eyes to what is right before us
Our mission field often begins at home. When Jesus began His ministry, He began in His own neighbourhood with His own relatives. God will often test us and train us to be faithful with the ordinary day-to-day things of our lives, before He assigns us with greater responsibilities for His Kingdom. We should not despise our small and ordinary beginnings.
Matthew 25:23 ESV His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’
Zechariah 4:10 NLT Do not despise these small beginnings, for the LORD rejoices to see the work begin…
3. Practise loving one another
No believer should go into ministry work alone. Jesus always sent His disciples out two by two, at the minimum. We are not easily defeated when we stand together and are more likely to keep one another from sinning.
Mark 6:7 ESV And he called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits.
Ecclesiastes 4:12 NLT A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.
What’s more, God’s Word repeatedly commands us to love and spur one another towards lives of holiness. Love is best practised in community, not alone. Therefore, let us ensure we remain in community and have someone keep us accountable to live holy lives.
Love one another
- Love one another | John 13:34, John 15:12, John 15:17, Romans 13:8, Romans 12:10, 1 Thessalonians 3:12, 1 Thessalonians 4:9, 1 Peter 3:8, 1 Peter 4:8, 1 John 3:11, 1 John 3:23, 1 John 4:7, 1 John 4:11, 1 John 4:12, 2 John 5
- Honor one another above yourselves | Romans 12:10 ESV
- Accept one another | Romans 15:7 NIV
- Be kind and compassionate to one another | Ephesians 4:32
- Be patient with one another | Ephesians 4:2
- Forgive one another | Ephesians 4:32, Colossians 3:13
Build one another up, do not tear down
- Have equal concern for one another | 1 Corinthians 12:25
- Be humble toward one another | Philippians 2:3, 1 Peter 5:5
- Encourage one another | 1 Thessalonians 4:18, 1 Thessalonians 5:11, Hebrews 3:13, Hebrews 10:25
- Spur one another on toward love and good deeds | Hebrews 10:24
- Build one another up | 1 Thessalonians 5:11
- Submit to one another | Ephesians 5:21
- Confess your sins to one another | James 5:16
- Carry one another’s burdens | Galatians 6:2
- Serve one another in love | Galatians 5:13, 1 Peter 4:10
- Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling | 1 Peter 4:9
- Pray for one another | James 5:16
- Teach one another | Colossians 3:16
- Instruct one another | Romans 15:14
- Admonish one another | Colossians 3:16
- Do not lie to one another | Colossians 3:9
- Bear with one another | Colossians 3:13
- Be at peace with one another | Mark 9:50
- Live in harmony with one another | Romans 12:16, 1 Peter 3:8
- Stop passing judgment on one another | Romans 14:13
- Do not slander one another | James 4:11
- Don’t grumble against one another | James 5:9
4. Don’t be tempted to quantify success
Some of us may hope for or imagine a grand vision for our lives.
Often, this is influenced by the world, which teaches us to “reach for the stars,” “seize the day,” and “be the best version of yourself.” We believe that the sign of a successful assignment is the number of people we reach. The bigger, the better. There are man-made measurements and metrics for everything. This is a mistake many well-meaning Christians groups can end up making. Sadly, such thinking is influenced by the behavior and customs of this world.
Romans 12:2 ESV Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.
Jesus attracted many, many followers, but He chose to focus on discipling 12 men and spent the majority of His time with people He knew, rather than on a bigger stage. Jesus didn’t focus on the numbers or the masses.
John 17:6 NLT “I have revealed you to the ones you gave me from this world. They were always yours. You gave them to me, and they have kept your word.
In fact, God’s Word points out that “the gate that leads to eternal life is narrow and the way there is hard. Those who find it are few.” Similarly, we too should focus on those whom God has given us to reach, even if this ends up being fewer than we would have liked.
Matthew 7:13-14 ESV “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.
5. Be prepared for contempt
Anyone who seeks to follow God will be ridiculed and scorned but this is not a bad thing in God’s eyes. Even Jesus was mocked and persecuted. God will use those who are considered foolish, weak, and despised in this world so that His glory may shine through us.
1 Corinthians 1:26-31 ESV For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”
Therefore, let us remember the words in 1 Peter 2, which says, “Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.” Like Jesus, we should not revile or threaten others back. Rather, we can entrust ourselves to God who will judge everyone on Judgment Day, including ourselves. May our lives bring Him glory.
1 Peter 2:20-23 ESV For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.
6. Be patient
Sometimes, we may need to wait many years before we get to fulfill God’s assignment for us.
Abraham, for example, didn’t fulfill his destiny to become the father of many nations until some 25 years after God called him. His son, Isaac, was finally born when Abraham was 100 years old. Noah took between 50 to 70 years to build the ark. King David did not start ruling Israel until some 15 to 20 years after the prophet Samuel anointed him as the future king. The apostle Paul didn’t go on his first mission trip to the Gentiles until some 10 years or more after Ananias prayed for him.
In the meantime, all these people went about their lives, content in whatever circumstance God had placed them in, and hopeful for the promised assignment to come. We too can learn to practice such patience and endurance.
1 Corinthians 7:17 ESV Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him. This is my rule in all the churches.
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