Discerning the Call of God – Rev. David Hanshumaker, Online Contributor
I believe each of us who are committed to serving God have those moments when we try to discern the will of God for our lives. This journey often begins with a question or a series of questions similar to the following: “How can I discover the will of God for my life?”, “Lord, what do you want me to do with my life?”, “How do I know if I am called to ministry?”, “How do I hear your call?” All of these questions are valid and you can be assured the answers are in the Bible. One of the most prominent stories of an individual trying to discern the call of God can be found in 1 Samuel 3:2-10. In this passage, Samuel is serving in the temple under the priest Eli. One night Samuel hears his name being called and he responds by rising out of bed and reporting to Eli. However, Eli tells Samuel that he did not call Samuel and sends him back to bed. This happens two more times, and then in verse 9 Eli realized the Lord was calling Samuel. Eli tells Samuel if he hears the voice again to respond by saying “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening” (NIV). It is important to notice in this passage that, under the guidance of Eli, Samuel was learning how to serve, worship, and hear the voice of God.
As we develop our relationship with God by praying, reading the Word, and just spending time in His presence we will increase our sensitivity to His Spirit making it easier to hear His voice and discern His calling. The primary way God speaks to us today is through His written Word and as we read it we learn more about who God is and His will for our lives. We are transformed into His likeness, and His desires become our desires. As I grew in my relationship with Christ I not only learned more about the heart of God, but I also became more aware of the enemy and his plan to try and bring confusion, deception, fear, worry, and other distractions to complicate the plan of God for my life. But as you faithfully study the truth of God’s Word, the easier it is to discern the lie of the enemy.
As believers, reading the Bible is essential not only to knowing the will of God but also to doing the will of God. John 14:21 says “Those who accept My commandments and obey them are the ones who love me. And because they love me, my Father will love them. And I will love them and reveal myself to each of them” (NLT). Discerning the direction God wants for your life depends upon submitting to His teachings and commands in the Bible. Reading the Bible is the best way to position yourself and train your ear to hear the voice of God and discern His direction for your life. It is our responsibility to position ourselves in a place where we can hear, listen and obey the Lord. This entails the following:
- Find a place devoid of distractions – turn your phone off!! It’s ok, you’ll live.
- Pray daily
- Meditate on the Bible
- Develop a lifestyle of fasting
- Be pure before God; remove sin from your life – repent! Guard your walk with God.
Early on in my salvation I went and spoke to my pastor about my desire to discern the voice of God and he said to me, “This takes patience and obedience. Apply the word of God to your life and allow God to change you into His likeness.” He then quoted Romans 12:1-2 which states, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – His good, pleasing and perfect will.”
I took my Pastor’s advice and over time I grew spiritually and became more sensitive to the Lord’s leading. In time, discerning God’s direction became direct and unmistakable. As I lived my life honoring God, not perfectly I might add, God communicated to me in various ways:
- Primarily through reading the Bible.
- Listening to the preaching of God’s word at my church.
- God speaking personally to me.
- Sensing a heightened awareness of the Holy Spirit and Him bringing confirmation to what I have been praying about.
- God using someone to speak into my life who has no knowledge of my situation or what I have been praying or desiring.
There have been few occasions where I wasn’t sure of what I was supposed to do, so by faith I stepped out, and through that act of faith God directed my steps. The Holy Spirit will guide you into all truth (John 16:13). Sometimes God will part the Red Sea before you take a step and other times you must take that step and then it parts (Joshua 3:13). It is God’s desire to have open lines of communication with His children. He wants us to know His will even more than we want to know His will. He will not leave us confused or stressed. The Word says “If we seek Him, we will find Him when we seek Him with all our hearts” (Jeremiah 29:13). So, how do you discern what God is speaking? By having a lifestyle marked with prayer, reading the Word, fasting, purity, and then taking a step of faith towards what you believe God is speaking.