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by Elyse Fitzpatrick
Heart Confirmation: Discerning God's Call
You can always count on ministry to do at least one thing: provoke radical insecurity. Nothing provokes insecurity like signing up to follow God's call and doing God's work. Can I really do this? Can God really use me? What if I fail? A man who is truly called may doubt and struggle with calling at times, but ultimately, he will not be able to walk away from it. His doubts may test his desire for ministry, but they will not destroy his desire to minister. It is important to recognize that doubts and feelings of insecurity are not signs that you haven't been called. People who are genuinely called often go through seasons of doubt and uncertainty. But over time, the sense of calling grows stronger, not weaker.
Ministry or Bust
1 Timothy 3:1 refers to those who "desire the office" of eldership. In fact, this desire could be considered the first qualification of an elder. The man who is truly called to ministry desires it—he does not enter the ministry grudgingly dragging his feet. He enters ministry because he wants to, and feels joy in pursuing his desire to minister. This doesn't mean there isn't appropriate caution because of the high calling of the office, but it means there is an excitement, a joy, and a sense of privilege to be able to serve God in this way. A true call often comes with an insatiable desire to serve God and his people at all cost. There is a strong sense in the heart that it is ministry or bust. In a heart call, there is a deep inclination in the soul that says, I must do this or I might die. The called man cannot imagine going into another vocation: he thinks about ministry, dreams about ministry, and cannot shut up about ministry. There is an abiding, relentless desire for the work of ministry that the called man cannot forsake, shake off, or ignore.
Fire in Your Bones
This heart confirmation goes beyond a mere passing whim or initial excitement at the prospect of going into ministry. It is what Spurgeon refers to as "an intense, all-absorbing desire for the work." It is what Newton calls "a warm and earnest desire to be employed in this service…he cannot give it up…the desire to preach is most fervent." Simply put, the man who is called to ministry desires to be in ministry so strongly that he cannot hold back: it is fire in his bones, like Jeremiah (Jer. 20:7). It is a deep desire to protect and provide for the people of God, like Nehemiah. This heart confirmation is an essential component of the call. However, it is not enough to indicate a genuine call to ministry. A man who is truly called by God also experiences a head confirmation, but more on that in the next post.
Questions to Ask Yourself
As you discern the heart confirmation of God's call in your life, consider the following questions:
- Is God's call in my life internally audible? Do I sense his voice bidding me to serve him vocationally?
- Do I strongly desire pastoral ministry? Is the thought of doing something else with my life unimaginable?
- Do I want to go into ministry in order to make a name for myself, to prove that I am somebody, or to atone for past failures? Am I testing my motives for ministry and asking God to refine my desires and thoughts?
- Do I love people? Do I want to help people? Is my desire to go into ministry mainly about me, or mainly about helping other people by pointing them towards Christ?
To be continued.