How Do I Know God’s Call for My Life?

There seems to be a wide misconception surrounding “God’s will for my life,” or “God’s calling for my life”. Unfortunately, a vague teaching of “God’s will” has lead to a vague understanding of God’s will for one’s life. I’ve had people say, “Wouldn’t it be nice if every morning you woke up there was a note on your nightstand from God telling you what to do.” My response is always, “Wouldn’t it be nice if He wrote an entire book?”

The question comes in many ways: How do I know if this is the person God has called me to marry? How do I know if this is the job God is calling me to? How do I know if this is the church God is calling me to serve? Really, this could go on ad infinitum. Essentially, we’re asking, “How do I know if this is the decision God wants me to make?”

Obvious Decisions

There are decisions in life in which the right choice is obvious. Should I murder the guy that cut me off at the intersection? No, “Thou shall not murder.” Should I cheat on my spouse? Under no circumstances. These are made easy by the straightforward commands of scripture and I would say, natural law. We all know right from wrong in such obvious circumstances. It’s the not so obvious circumstances that give us trouble. When there is no right (or wrong) answer.

Non-Obvious Decisions

Moral dilemmas are non-obvious decisions. When it seems there is no right answer, should we choose between the lesser of evils, or refrain from making a choice? But sometimes it seems as if there is no wrong answer, and this can be equally paralyzing. Should I go to this church or that church? Well, probably you could give good reasons for both. If both are faithful churches, how would I base my decision? Should I take job x, or job y? Neither require me to compromise my faith, so how do I base my decision?

Prudence vs Rules

Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.”                – Romans 12:2

As I mentioned, there are straightforward commands in Scripture to help guide us in our decision making. But what do I do when the Scripture isn’t straightforward about a particular decision I am faced with? For example, how do I choose a career? There is no rule to turn to that will say, “Haden I want you to be ___________.” It’s exactly that, blank. So who fills it? I say, we do with prudence. Prudence is the cardinal virtue of practical wisdom which applies general principles to particular situations. If this is correct, then this is exactly what we need in order to discern the types of decisions we have been talking about.

Prudence says that we should start with what we know and work toward what we don’t. As we study God’s word (a.k.a. renew our minds), we become familiar with God’s general plan for creation and also His character. God wants to redeem humanity from its fallen state. He has achieved salvation for all by sending His only Son to pay the price for the sins of humanity. God has commanded that those who are saved go out and make disciples of all nations. This is a very general, over-simplification of God’s will for everyone.

The question is, how does God’s general will apply to my particular circumstances? Let’s use choosing a career as an example. What job does God want me to have? Do I need to be a full-time missionary to be obedient to God in my vocation?

When choosing a vocation, I tell people they should ask a few questions:

  1. What am I passionate about?
  2. How does my passion align with the needs of the world?
  3. How can I use this passion to glorify God by making disciples?

This may still sound more general and less particular, but it narrows things down where they need to be. Get it out of your head that you’re going to be able to make this decision without actually making a decision. The choice is yours and I see no reason why this would be “unfaithful”. God has given you specific desires and gifts, how can you use them to meet the needs of the world? How can you glorify God with them? You’re only limited by your own imagination.

I’m passionate about writing and teaching. I don’t know that I’m particularly gifted at either, but the passion is there. So, what do I do? I write things like this blog, I’m working on some book ideas, I’m planning some video material. I work at a church teaching kids about Jesus. I’m passionate about all of those things, there seems to be a need for them in the world, and I’m trying to glorify God through them. Finding the things in my life that answer those three questions means that I wake up excited for the day ahead. I’m not saying I don’t need my morning coffee like everyone else, or that some days are better than others; but I look forward to my “work”. When you do what you love, is it really work?

Those three questions can be tweaked to apply to just about any question that requires prudence. How do you choose a spouse?

  1. Do you desire them?
  2. Do they desire you?
  3. Is the relationship focused on glorifying God?/Are they committed to approaching marriage as a covenant with each other and God?

Okay, so, maybe I’m not the dating guru, but do you see how prudence applies to that decision also? What general principles does God’s word reveal about marriage? Take those general principles and use what you know about God’s word and His character and use wisdom to apply it to your particular situation.

Don’t sit around waiting for a tingling sensation to run down the back of your neck to say, “This is what God wants from me!” Don’t flip your Bible open randomly and take some verse out of context to apply to your situation. Use the general principles your renewed mind has learned from God’s word and use your God-given prudence to discern the right choice. God does not have both hands behind his back asking you to guess which one has the blessing in it. He is a good Father. Walk in His will, seek to glorify Him, and He will bless you.

33 Replies to “How Do I Know God’s Call for My Life?”

  1. ““Wouldn’t it be nice if He wrote an entire book?”

    Well the Muslims believe that he did, through his prophet. And I think I am right in saying there are many fundamentalist who believe that the old and new testaments are the very word of god.

    I find the bible a delight, particularly early English versions. I find there is much to both like and dislike.

    I was sitting in evensong at Canterbury Cathedral following the choir and noticed a verse had been omitted. The verse so omitted suggested taking the children of the Midianites and smashing their heads against the rocks.

    In my view one should take what appears as wisdom in such books and discard what does not.

  2. Thank you for writing this. Although my religious background is different, I do experience this gap about some certain details such as what career path shall I go with or so. I believe god has written an entire book already, and mainly we read the holy books, and pray to seek for his guidance. Connecting your heart to god is the key to receive the guidance. Then you see the world differently by following the sings that tells you every single detail that you need. So what I found in regards to this is that this guidance can only be achieved by purity.

  3. Your comments are similar to those in John MacArthur’s book, “Found: God’s Will,” which I have recommended to several people struggling with these questions. Thanks for the reinforcement.

  4. ” taking the children of the Midianites and smashing their heads against the rocks.”
    Irritatingly I can not find this reference in the Psalms. Was it a figment of my imagination?

    1. No its in there. I was just reading an article about it the other day. The context is God saying that the Babylonians will have done to them (by the Persians) what they did to the Israelites. God doesn’t take delight in people killing children, it was a sentence of judgment on Babylon from what I can tell.

  5. Perhaps it was Psalm 137:
    “8 O daughter of Babylon, doomed to destruction,
    happy the one who repays you
    for all you have done to us;

    9 Who takes your little ones,
    and dashes them against the rock.

    1. He is definitely talking about the Babylonians here. Since they went against Israel God is saying they are doomed to destruction. And in verse 9 He is talking about the Babylonians religion. They would sacrifice their children to their false gods, and God was angry with them. Hope this helps.

  6. This is great! I had this discussion at Bible study last week. Everyone has one purpose; reconciliation! That we be reconciled with God through Christ by faith and we spread the Gospel, that everyone comes to believe in Jesus Christ and the power of His resurrection and declare Him as our Lord and Saviour!! Whoop!!!
    Every other thing we do on Earth are barely assignments for preaching this Gospel. I pray everyone comes to realise this, there’s no greater joy!

  7. This article begs a couple questions: Does God still speak to us today? Does the Holy Spirit speak to me for my situation? I believe that the answer is yes, the Holy Spirit speaks today, never contradicting the written Word, but guiding me specifically.

  8. Another excellent blog post, Haden! Also quite timely. Would you please clarify “passion” more? In what other ways could you restate the first question, “What am I passionate about?” I think that sometimes we get a brain fog when we hear words like “passionate”; it’s like we forget the meaning, especially in questions like this. So, I would love to know how you would rephrase the question, particularly in terms that a man can relate to. Thanks in advance!

    1. With respect to choosing a career I would restate the passion question as “What do I like to do?” Or “What do I enjoy doing?”

      1. Hmm. I think the man I’m thinking of would need more than that. I’ve always re-worded that question with something like “what topic or activity gets your motor going?” Or “what do you wish you could do all day?” “What gets you fired up/energized?” would be another one. Of course, those questions don’t move the process forward too well with a Phlegmatic personality, which doesn’t seem to ever be passionate about much of anything (especially that could become a career). Ah, the quest continues.

  9. Haden, I really enjoyed this blog for you spoke to an age-old questions that people ask in their teens, their youth, young adult, middle age, aged, and senior years!! Or … maybe that was just me … LOL. Anyway, about 11 years ago I figured out that the talent(s) I have been gifted with go hand-in-hand with the service gifts in the church and in ministering to others which is … guess? Writing! Glad you hear you are working on a couple of books, too!! Your article was a most welcomed reinforcement & encouragement for me! So, Thank You, and Can’t Wait to Read Your Book(s)!

  10. Seems fairly simple to me….according to the Scriptures.

    1. Every Christian is called to a ministry via the New Covenant Commission.

    Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.

    2. Any job will do, if work as unto the Lord. (Pastor, Scientist, Doctor, Gas Station Attendant, Collector of Recyclable Materials, Janitor, Waiter, Cook, etc.)

    And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; 

  11. Great post. I have been guilty of saying a short prayer and opening my Bible to whatever page assuming that was God speaking to me. Sometimes, I do think God grasciously speaks to us in our ignorance anyways. However, there are much easier ways to know if something is God’s will-as you mentioned. God’s word will never contradict itself. Therefore, we can rest assured that God’s will for our lives is going to have to align with scripture. If we are well versed in the Bible then it should be fairly easy to distinguish God’s will. If we are not, there is also an easy solution: dig into God’s word so we become more versed in it. Thanks for a very needed reminder!

    1. The devotional method of Biblical study, which I think you are referring to, seems to be the most popular method (a.k.a. Look up a verse and apply to your situation or use it as a single lesson).

      Have you tried finding similar messages or stories from other gospels in a comparative analysis? What does Matthew say compared to Paul for example (they cover some overlapping material).

      1. Yeah. I like to check cross references to see a wider array of what the Bible says on a subject that way im not misunderstanding a single scripture.

  12. Enlightenment…It seems your conclusions came as a result of reason and logic. None of your solutions seem to need the Bible at all…in fact, the question of, “What does God want me to do?” is answered by putting the good away because of the lack of relatable material.

    On a different note, do you feel that you are loosing free will if you are just looking to do what God wants you to do? Technically you can choose to obey God or not in that matter as your exercise of free will, but as a good Christian there’s only one choice—God’s. (IMO)

  13. Love this! I agree, there are obvious Do’s and Don’ts and we all have a general calling on our lives to let God’s light shine through us. But unless God has specifically spoken to us and CHOSEN us for a specific work, we are at free will to choose any profession or way that we would like to let God’s light shine through us. And even when God chooses us for something specific, we still have a CHOICE as to what we will do. It’s all about our desires and paasions. Thats why it’s important to make sure our desires are righteous so that they will not lead us wrong or into sin!…Great post my friend!

  14. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, as I’ve had some big choices to make about my job and my calling.
    Your words helped me to see that the little things *are* important as long as they are done to glorify God. He can see the big picture when we can’t, and He knows that each step makes a difference. Blessings to you and your ministry, and thanks for following my blog. 🙂

  15. God bless you Haden. This brings a great enlightenment to a lot of Christians who are being troubled with diverse contradicting teachings on the Will of God.
    I believe these questions are the most important questions to ask in any position of decision-making. Thanks so much.

  16. Amen! Thank you for writing this. When you said, “Get it out of your head that you’re going to be able to make this decision without actually making a decision”, it struck a nerve in me. That is exactly what I have been doing. I am making my decision now. Thank you.

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