Hey guys. Welcome back to this series on “How to Fulfill Your Calling “.
We’re now in episode six and I think this is the episode that many of you have been waiting for because I’m going to be talking about ‘knowing your personal calling’. And in my experience this is not a case of God just revealing everything to you on one particular day. Sometimes he gives us a glimpse of the future and it’s been really helpful for me, at different times I’ve received a little bit more information – maybe it’s a picture or a vision, or a dream or a word that is spoken, or a scripture that I just know is for me and God’s call on my life. And I hope you’ve experienced that, and if not, I believe that you will. But I believe that finding your personal calling and walking in your personal calling is much more about learning how to recognize God’s voice, how to determine His will and to be obedient to it, one decision at a time. Because if you’re going to get to where God wants you to be and you’re going to do the things that God wants you to do, there’s going to be many decisions that you have to make. And you want to know that you’re making the decisions that are leading you into your calling and not something else. So, in the old testament, this practice was called “inquiring of the Lord” – basically asking God questions. And this is how King David made some of his big decisions. In 2 Samuel 5:19 it says, “so David inquired of the Lord, ‘Shall I go and attack the Philistines? Will you deliver them into my hands?'” The Lord answered him, ‘Go, for I will surely deliver the Philistines into your hands.'” So if you want to know what pleases God, the first thing we know that pleases God, it’s in Hebrews 11 verse 6, is faith. It says “Without faith it is impossible to please God”. And we know that David had faith, but what else was it about David that pleased god? In acts 13:22 it says, “After removing Saul (that was the previous king), he made David their king. God testified concerning him: ‘I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do'”. So God said, “David is a man after my own heart” – he’s a man who, when he’s got a decision to make, he inquires of the Lord. So what does a man after God’s own heart do? Well, first of all he inquires of the Lord before making decisions and secondly it said, “he will do everything I want him to do”, so secondly the person who is after God’s own heart does the things that God shows them to do. And you see, David wanted to be obedient to God because David knew that it would be the best thing for him. And David also knew that if he didn’t inquire of the Lord, he wouldn’t know what God wanted him to do. So what do we call this in the new testament? Well in the new testament we call it being “led by the Spirit”. Romans 8:14 says, “for those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God”, and Jesus first demonstrated this for us. And I think that we need to remember at this point that Jesus was the one who said in John 10:10, “I have come that they might have life and have it to the full”. You see, many people on planet earth will tell you that they are looking for life in all its fullness and Jesus, 2000 years ago said, “I have come to give you life in all its fullness.” And Jesus’ life was never boring, and if we follow him our lives will never be boring either. But we need to learn how he lived and how he wants us to live. And there were loads of things that Jesus did during his life but he made one thing very clear: in john 5:19 it says, “Jesus gave them this answer: ‘Very truly I tell you, the son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does'”. So the thing that determined everything that Jesus did was whether or not the Father was telling him to do it. And I want to challenge you at this stage in episode six of this series: I want to say to you, when you look at your diary for the next six months, can you say that the things that are in your diary are what God has told you to do – nothing more and nothing less? Are you being led by the Spirit of God, or are you the one who is making the decisions in your life? I believe that we will fulfill our calling before God when we learn to be led by the Spirit one decision at a time. So, how does God lead us in our decisions? I’m going to share with you the framework that I use when I have big decisions to make, and there are kind of five parts to this. I want to talk about how God leads us when we have decisions to make. The first way is through His Word, and Psalm 119:105 says, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet (that means it shows you where you really are now), and a light unto my path (it shows you where you need to go, it shows you the path that God has set out for you).” And God often speaks through the Bible. You see, the Bible is not just a dead book with words on a page. The scripture says that the Word of God is living and active – it’s sharper than than a double-edged sword. So what happens is sometimes you’re reading your Bible and a verse will just jump out at you and you will know that God is using that verse to speak into your situation. And very often we can receive direction in that way – we know God is speaking to us. And there are some things that we don’t even need to ask God about, because He’s already made it clear in his in his Word. I remember a pastor telling me that somebody had come up to him once and said, “I really want to ask for your counsel. Could you pray for me because I feel like God is telling me to leave my wife and go and marry this other woman in the church”, and the pastor looked at him and he said to him, “I don’t need to pray for you because I already know that God is NOT calling you to leave your wife and go and marry that other woman”. Why? because it’s so clear in his Word! And I want to say one of the best ways to discern God’s will for your life is to get to know the Word of God, the Bible that He has written, really really well. And we need to be regularly and carefully reading through the Bible and searching out the things that are in there so we can fill ourselves with it. When we know God’s word really well, we start to get to know God really well and we get to know the kind of things that He would say and the kind of things that He wouldn’t say. And sometimes it helps if you’ve got a decision to make, to ask somebody who knows the Bible really well and just ask them, “What do you think about this? What does the Bible say about this?”. You can even ask Google! I sometimes just type into google, ‘scriptures on (the topic that I’m thinking about or have a decision to make about)’ and all the scriptures come up and I can read through scriptures on that particular topic and it can help you to make the decision – to make the right decision in that moment. So that’s the first thing – the Word of God. The second thing is the Holy Spirit. And Jesus said in John 10:27, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” So there’s this sense that if we are followers of Jesus, we will know his voice – we will recognize his voice. And you know, I remember when I went to a Christian conference and I heard a pastor speaking, and he was saying, you know, that “God told me this, and the Lord said this to me, and then God said this to me”, and I remember thinking to myself, ‘wow, God doesn’t speak to me like that!’ You know, I don’t remember hearing the voice of God like that! And I got home that night and I knelt on my bed, and for about two hours I cried out to God, “God, would you speak to me? God, would you speak to me?”… and I heard nothing! And I went to bed that night disappointed. Anyway, the next morning I woke up. My eyes were still closed but I could see two pictures. On one side was a picture of Jesus, broken and bleeding for my sin, and then on the other side was this picture of Jesus shining in glory, strong and powerful, and I knew in that moment, wow, God is speaking to me! And the scripture talks about Jesus as being the lion and the lamb, you know, the lion that’s victorious over sin and death but the lamb that hung on the cross and was the sacrifice that washed away our sin. And I knew God was showing me that Jesus is the lion and the lamb. And that the thing that struck me was that God had spoken to me, but it wasn’t in the way that I had expected! You see, I had expected to hear a voice: “Hello David, this is the voice of God and you will recognize this voice from now on”. But that’s not how it happened. You see, God is far more creative than that. He created everything! God wants to speak to you and He will do it in lots and lots of different ways. So when you’re walking around, when you’re praying, when you’re going about your daily life, remember: God might speak to you in dreams, he might speak to you in visions, he might speak to you through other people, but He will be speaking to you. Let me just say this: if you want to fulfill God’s call on your life, you must get to know the voice of the Holy Spirit. And you might be thinking, ‘but David, that sounds a bit weird, like I don’t want to become one of those Christians who thinks that God is speaking to them all the time’, you know we’ve all had some weird people in our churches, and, you know, I would say to you: I don’t want to become that weird person either! But if something is weird and it’s not biblical, I don’t want to have anything to do with it. But if something is weird and it’s totally biblical, I know that I will miss out if I don’t embrace it with all my heart and seek to live the way that is right according to the Bible. So let’s just look quickly at how the new testament believers were guided by the Holy Spirit, because we’ve looked at Jesus, now let’s look at those who followed Jesus. So, in Acts 11:11-12, this is Peter, it says, “Right then three men who had been sent to me from Caesarea stopped at the house where I was staying.” Verse 12, “The Spirit told me to have no hesitation about going with them.” So, the Holy Spirit, it doesn’t say “God told him”, it doesn’t say “Jesus told him”, it says “the Spirit told him”. The Spirit told Peter what to do and where to go! Acts 13:2-4: “While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.'” Again, the Spirit, the Holy Spirit spoke to the believers. Acts 16:6-8: “Paul and his companions traveled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia. When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to. So they passed by Mysia and went down to Troas.” Do you see that? The Holy Spirit kept them from going to certain places and would not allow them to go in particular places – he was guiding them very clearly. Acts 20 verse 23, this is Paul speaking, he says, “I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me.” I’ll just show you something amazing in Acts chapter 8. In verse 26 it says, “Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, ‘Go south to the road – the desert road – that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.'” So in this case it was an angel speaking to him, but three verses later it says “The Spirit told Philip, ‘go to that chariot and stay near it.'” So can you see here, they knew the voice of the Holy Spirit so well that they could distinguish the difference between an angel speaking and the Holy Spirit speaking! It was totally normal for the believers in the new testament to be led very directly and specifically by the Holy Spirit and we shouldn’t be surprised by any of this because in the old testament it said, in Isaiah 30:21, “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it'”. And what’s amazing is what it says in the next verse, it says, “then you will desecrate your idols overlaid with silver and your images covered with gold; you will throw them away like a menstrual cloth and say to them, ‘Away with you!'” There’s something about being led by God’s Spirit that causes you to want to get rid of everything that displeases Him from your life. You see, an idol is anything that you are holding in greater esteem and greater value than God, and it says you will say, “away with you” – you will get rid of those things. Why? Because you realize that walking closely with God is so much greater than anything else that this world has to offer, and all you want is to be closer to Him, and you want to give all of yourself to Him, and you want His will for your life. And I just want you to remember – God will speak with words, with visions, through dreams, through other people. Don’t limit the ways that God can speak to you. Now, of course we’re human and we can get this wrong – being led by the Spirit. We can get this wrong sometimes. So I just want you to remember three things about this. Firstly, this is why we have a framework. This is why I’m giving you five different ways that you can discern God’s will. And we want to be asking God to confirm when we feel He’s speaking something to us. We should be asking Him to confirm it in more than one of these ways, and especially if it’s a big decision. And the second thing I want to say is: He will never contradict the written Word of God. The Holy Spirit will never contradict the written Word of God. Why? Because He wrote it! And the third thing is: we need to be looking for the peace and the clarity that comes with the Holy Spirit. You see, usually when it comes to the things that the Spirit of God is leading us in, usually we will have a deep sense of peace and clarity in our holiest moments, you know, when we’re praying and we’re seeking God – we’ll sense peace and clarity about the decision He’s calling us to make. And sometimes we’re struggling, whether we’re struggling with fear or doubt, and in those moments we might experience confusion and anxiety about the things that we think God is telling us, but that can also be because the enemy, the father of lies, wants to try to stop us walking in obedience to God. Now, if you’re in prayer and you’re in those moments with God and you sense something is not right, you need to re-evaluate the situation because maybe God is not leading you in that direction. And I just want to say, don’t be in a rush. Never be in a rush. God is not in a rush. Proverbs 19:2 says, “Desire without knowledge is not good – how much more will hasty feet miss the way!” And often because we’re in a rush we forget to do the next thing. So the third way that God leads us in our decisions is through wise counsel. Proverbs 12:15 says, “The way of fools seems right to them, but the wise listen to advice.” And proverbs 15:22 says, “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisors they succeed.” So if you want your plans to succeed, get wise counsel, get advice. Ask people what they think – other christians, maybe your pastors, maybe your leaders, maybe your parents. But I just want to say: if you follow other people’s advice and those plans don’t succeed, you cannot blame those people for giving you the advice. You are responsible for the decisions that you make – it’s between you and God. It doesn’t say you have to do what the advisors tell you to do, it says that we should get advice. And we all have blind spots. And the reason we need to seek wise counsel is because, you know, we should know that seeing something from another perspective may help us to see it in a way that we can’t see it right now. And it’s also a sign of humility, it says, you know what, “I might not be the fount of all knowledge! Maybe it will be helpful to hear what some other people think.” Okay, the fourth part of this framework of how God guides us is, he often guides us through circumstances. Sometimes God opens doors and sometimes He closes them. And I just want to say: don’t be afraid to push them. And we can ask God to confirm things through circumstances. So, Isaiah 64 verse 4 says, “Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for him.” So sometimes we feel that God is leading us in a particular direction but actually we need to wait on Him – we need to wait on him sometimes to confirm it through the circumstances. And sometimes, if He doesn’t open the door that we believe He’s going to open, then that’s our answer – that wasn’t the door that He was leading us to walk through. Okay, so number five is common sense. And something that can be really helpful with this is to keep a journal, and what I mean by that is write down the things that you believe God has been saying to you so that when you’ve got a decision to make, you can look back and you can say, “does this decision fit in with the things that God’s been saying to me over the last days, weeks, months or years?” And I remember one of my leaders saying to me, “David, if the God of the universe is going to part the heavens and speak to me, it must be worth writing down!” And it can be really helpful to have that record of what God’s been saying to you. And of course, if it really is God speaking to you, all it will be is a confirmation of things that He’s already been saying to you. And be sensible – if He hasn’t clearly told you to leave your job or leave your church or move from one city or country to another, don’t! Just wait wait on Him to bring more confirmation in the different ways that I’ve been talking about. Now of course there is a point at which we realize that God really is telling us to make a decision that might seem very risky or very crazy, and sometimes I think about Peter stepping out of the boat to walk on the water towards Jesus, and at that moment he had to throw common sense out the window! Common sense was not going to help him at this moment. He knew what Jesus was saying to him and he needed to take a step forward in faith, and that’s the same for us many times. And you know, some of you might be watching this and thinking, ‘but David, God doesn’t speak to me in the way that you’ve been talking about. I just don’t hear God’s voice.’ And I want to say to you: that is a lie. That is not what the Word of God says, and you might need to start by actually saying sorry to God for believing that lie. And actually, I want to go a step further and say to you that actually that is arrogance, because if God says that He wants to speak to you and that you will know his voice and that you will not follow the voice of a stranger because you recognize his voice, and you say, ‘but God, I don’t hear your voice.’ Actually, what you’re saying is, you know better than God. And so we really need to humble ourselves and say, “God, if you say that you’re going to speak to me that you’re going to lead me, that I should be, as a child of God, led by your Spirit, then I believe that you will do that.” And sometimes it’s our unbelief that is blocking us from hearing the voice of God. So I really want to encourage you to do that. And another thing you might need to do is to forgive the people who have told you, and even taught you, that God doesn’t speak today or that God doesn’t lead people by his Spirit today. Or it might be people who’ve just said to you, “Oh, you think God speaks to you” How ridiculous! How stupid is that?” And you might need to forgive those people because those thoughts might be coming to you and bringing unbelief in those moments that you need to hear God’s voice, and you want to clear the way and say, “God I choose to forgive those people and I just want to say that is not true that you don’t speak today and I’m putting my faith in the truth that God, you will direct me, that you will speak to me, that I will recognize your voice and I won’t follow the voice of a stranger.” And in Psalm 25:14 it says this, “The Lord confides in those who fear him”. And this is not talking about being afraid of God, this is talking about the fear of the Lord. Now I don’t have a lot of time to go into this in this series, but the fear of the Lord means that you will obey him even if it doesn’t make sense to you, and the person who fears the Lord will consider that what God says is more important than what anybody else says or thinks, and actually is even higher than their own opinion. And so it could be that the reason God spoke so clearly to David and used David in such amazing ways, was because of what God himself said which is that “here is a man who will do everything I want him to do”. And so if you want to hear God’s voice and you want to be used in amazing ways, have the fear of the Lord in your heart. Be ready. You want God to know that if He’s going to speak to you, you’re going to do what He says, because those are the people that He wants to speak to. Now, did David make mistakes? Absolutely. Of course he did, and so will you, and so will I, but my feeling is if whenever we’ve got a decision to make, if we genuinely genuinely, with sincerity, do everything we can to be led by God’s Spirit and seek to follow His ways and take steps of obedience, I don’t think we’ll have to have any regrets in our lives whatsoever. We can’t do any more than that. Even if we don’t always get it right, and you know, sometimes we will feel like God is calling us to do something that’s so big and so challenging and so beyond us, that we won’t be able to handle it. And I remember being in one of those situations once and what God was telling me to do just seemed so risky, and I just couldn’t see how it was going to work out. And I remember crying out to the Lord and saying, “God, how is this going to work out?” And I felt that God spoke to me, and I felt He said to me this, “David, where the wind of the Holy Spirit takes you, the wind of the Holy Spirit will carry you.” And I remember such a peace just coming into my heart at that moment, and having this sense that He was going to carry me in His arms through all the challenges and all the difficulties that might be ahead because it was Him who was taking me in that direction. And of course the scripture says that as the wind blows, you don’t know where it comes from or where it is going; so is everybody who is led by the Spirit of God. And I want to pray for you before we get into episodes seven and eight, because we’re going to be talking about the gifts of the Spirit and I’m really excited about that, but if we don’t know how to follow God’s leading, we won’t find ourselves in the right place at the right time to use the gifts. So, Father we just want to ask you right now, would you show us what it is to be led by your Spirit. Thank you so much that you are so willing to speak to us, that you are so willing to lead us, and that you’ve said that we will recognize your voice and we won’t follow the voice of a stranger. Lord, would you give us the faith and the humility that we need, Lord, to let go of our own desires, to let go of our own plans and dreams and to say, “God, whatever you say, I’m going to do.” May we be people who are after your own heart who ask you questions and inquire of the Lord, and may we be a living example of what your Word says – that the the children of God are led by the Spirit of God. Lord, and as we learn that, would you lead every person, every person who’s watching this video right now, would you lead them step by step, decision by decision, into the fullness of your calling on their life, that they might bear abundant fruit for your kingdom and that they might experience life in all its fullness. In Jesus’ name, Amen. And I will see you in episode 7.