One of the most common questions I get from young people is this:
“Is God calling me into missions?”
This is a great question for anyone to ask themselves and especially for a young man or woman to ask. Your understanding of this question and your answer to this question can dramatically affect the direction of your life.
Recently I spoke at a missions conference in Kremenchug on this topic and I shared with them the story of how God called me into missions. We also looked at the prophet Isaiah and how in Isaiah 6 God called him into missions. From Isaiah’s unique calling I shared 10 questions that you can ask yourself in order to help determine God’s calling in your life.
You can watch my talk below in Russian, sorry no subtitles yet.
Importance of calling
Before I share with you the 10 questions I believe it’s helpful to think a little about Isaiah’s missionary service. There are many missionaries in the world today but few who have ever been so faithful in such difficult circumstances like Isaiah.
The faithful testimony of Isaiah’s life is one of the greatest arguments for why it is vital for all missionaries to understand God’s calling! You see not many of us will be called to big “successful” ministries as man sees it. If we preach the gospel faithfully and accurately not many of us will see thousands or hundreds coming to Christ, not many of us will hear positive words of encouragement from the world around us.
Most of us will face great cause for discouragement, we will hear the disgust and anger of many, they will ask us to stop preaching, they will tell us our message is insignificant, untrue, and lacks power. This is the reality of preaching the Gospel to a dying world.
Isaiah faced this reality head on and remained faithful, he preached for 50-60 years with little success as man would define it! And yet, he continued to preach because he was confident in his God and secure in his calling!
When we remember the God who called us and the calling he gave us, it changes everything, it gives us strength, endurance, and produces faithful missionaries in the face of adversity!
Let’s now look at the extraordinary calling which led Isaiah to such a long, difficult, but successful ministry in the eyes of God. As we look we will ask ourselves questions that will help us determine if, like Isaiah, God is calling us into missions.
1. Are you in the right place?
God often calls into missions those who have placed themselves in the middle of God’s will and who are passionately pursuing God’s presence. Look at where we find Isaiah when God called him.
In the year that King Uzziah died I then saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and His train filled the temple.
Isaiah was in the temple. This is appropriate because the temple was the center for worship, it was also the place where God showed his mercy to man, and it was a reminder of God’s saving power.
What we find is that Isaiah put himself into a good position for God to call him. He put himself in place where God’s presence uniquely dwelled, a place where worship, sacrifice, and prayer took place. He pursued God actively even when it wasn’t popular in Judah.
What would that look like today? I think if Isaiah lived today he would have been active in the Church, a present member, who participated in ministry and regularly participated in the fellowship.
Sometimes I meet a young man or woman who tells me, “I want to serve the Lord in missions.” So I ask them, “How are your serving now? What kind of involvement do you have in your current church?”
Sadly the answer is often underwhelming.
- “My church is small, there are no opportunities for ministry.”
- “I’m not a member of the church where I go yet.”
- “I would but I’m just very busy with other things.”
- “Our church doesn’t really do missions, so there’s nothing for me to do.”
- “They asked me to be involved in ________ but that’s no my gift.”
If you want to serve bad enough you will find a place to serve in your church. If you believe God has called you to missions you must start by serving right here and right now! You need to stop waiting for that one big opportunity.
Friends let me ask you, are you in the right place? Have you found a place a ministry where you are now? Are you in a place where there is worship, are you in a place where you can sacrifice, a place where there is God’s unique presence?
2. Do you understand the holiness of God?
Maybe this seems like a strange question, you might be thinking, “of course I understand God’s holiness.” or “how does God’s holiness relate to God’s calling as a missionary?”
God’s holiness was important to Isaiah’s calling and it’s important to yours also.
2 Above it stood the seraphs. Each one had six wings; with two he covered his face; and with two he covered his feet; and with two he flew.
3 And one cried to the other and said, Holy, holy, holy is Jehovah of Hosts; all the earth is full of His glory!
4 And the doorposts shook from the voice of the one who cried; and the house was filled with smoke.
Starting from verse 1 Isaiah gives us a vivid description of God sitting on his throne in the temple. This entire scene is meant to showcase God’s holiness.
These seraphim could have focused Isaiah’s attention on any number of aspects of God’s nature. They could have said, “Love, love, love” or “Grace, grace, grace” or “Justice, justice, justice” but they didn’t.
The holiness of God has 3 main aspects.
1. It speaks of “otherness” God is other, he is not like us, he is not like any animal or any other created thing.
2. It speaks of moral purity.
3. Finally holiness speaks of something honored or set apart for special purposes.
Our problem with holiness is that we often see it as a stringent list of rules, a stuffy, tight collar, joyless type of living. Our problem with how we view holiness is that we look for it in the lives of people instead of in God’s character.
God’s holiness is beautifully frightening and completely unlike anything our eyes have ever seen before! Your understanding of God’s holiness is vital in missions. Without a deep and life changing view of God’s holiness missions because little more than a humanitarian relief project with no eternal results!
It is God’s holiness that tells us “go and tell, tell them of a holy God, who is ready to judge but able to save!”
3. Do you understand the wretched nature of sin?
Often a young man who has just found forgiveness in Jesus Christ is rightly overwhelmed by God’s grace and mercy to such an unworthy and despicable soul. Yet give him a dozen years of church going and moral reform and all too often you’ll find a somewhat older and more put together man who can’t really remember the last time he did something truly “sinful.” He’s comfortable with his religious traditions and lacks a significant desire for either greater holiness or further removal from sin’s temptations.
It’s possible that Isaiah was exactly this kind of man. He was a “good man” with respect to others, he visited the temple and did his sacrifices and prayed his prayers. Yet he failed to understand how truly horrific his own sin was in contrast to the absolute holiness of God!
Notice Isaiah’s reaction to God’s holiness:
Isa 6:5 Then I said, Woe is me! For I am undone; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, Jehovah of Hosts.
Not only did Isaiah see clearly the wretched nature of his own heart but the horrific problem of sin in the society where he lived. Until you understand the desperately wicked nature of your own heart and of the world you can neither hear nor understand the call to missions.
Unfortunately today too many people see missions as mainly about “fixing” things. People go on missions to build houses for the poor, to provide healthcare to the sick, or to dig wells for the thirsty. These are all good things, even great things, they are helpful, and they can certainly be part of what a missionary does but they are not the primary call or motivation for going.
We must be very careful to separate the call of missions from the humanitarian call to “fix” what is broken. The call to missions must primarily deal with an evil heart. The called missionary is one who first has come to terms with his evil heart. The heart doesn’t need a better house, warmer clothes, or cleaner water; it needs Jesus!
The called missionary sees the a need in the world around him that goes far deeper than financial poverty and far broader than physical diseases, he sees the depravity of the human heart in contrast to the holiness of the Almighty God.
4. Has God prepared you?
Thankfully God did not leave Isaiah to wallow in the soil of his own sin and he does not leave us either! In the next two verses we see how God prepared Isaiah for his missionary service.
6 Then one of the seraphs flew to me, having a live coal in his hand, snatched with tongs from the altar. 7 And he laid it on my mouth and said, Lo, this has touched your lips; and your iniquity is taken away, and your sin purged.
What happens in these two verses paints a vivid picture of God’s ability to remove our guilt. In line with Isaiah’s statement, “I’m a man of unclean lips” the Seraph touches a coal to the lips of Isaiah signifying God’s forgiveness and purification.
The call to missions comes only to those who have been properly prepared by God himself. After seeing God in all his holiness it was necessary to remind Isaiah that despite God’s holiness, he still offers forgiveness and salvation to those who humbly seek him and believe in him.
God calls no one to missions until he has prepared them. Maybe it goes without saying but this one is too important to simply assume. You must experience God’s forgiveness personally if you want God to send you to tell others about that forgiveness!
Has God prepared your heart? Have you come to God in humble repentance and genuine faith in Jesus Christ? The call to missions comes to those who have a prepared heart and it comes to those who learn to grow in their astonishment of the grace that has been given them.
5. Do you understand the nature of the call?
Often people ask, “God are you calling me to missions?” but maybe this isn’t exactly the right approach. What we find in Isaiah case is the opposite, here it’s not Isaiah asking the question but God!
Isa 6:8 And I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then I said, Here am I; send me!
First notice that the call to missions is from God. That fact alone should be enough to make us listen very closely! It is God doing the calling and he’s asking for volunteers who are prepared to go in the name of the King of Kings! If you’re ready then why wouldn’t you go?
Second, remember that to ignore the call is dangerous. Let’s not forget our friend Jonah who ignored God’s call and was suddenly swallowed by a fish! No matter how difficult the ministry it is always better to listen and go than to ignore God’s call.
Third, you should know that the call does not guarantee you “success.” I’m sure that nearly everyone who knew Isaiah would tell you that Isaiah was not a successful prophet. Year after year he preached and few listened and even fewer responded. Yet, no one can say that Isaiah wasn’t called by God. Isaiah received a clear personal call from God Himself. God may call you to a ministry like Isaiah’s where few listened, it may not be successful in the the eyes of the world around you, but as long as you are faithful like Isaiah, then it will be successful in God’s eyes!
Fourth, do not forget that the call is spiritual. We are not called to build church buildings, hospitals, start new programs, or even to feed the poor. The call of the missionary is a spiritual call, we are called to preach the Gospel, we are called to turn men and women to Jesus, we are called to make clear the truth of salvation, we are called to exhort others to repent of their sins and believe in Christ. While we might use all the methods I mentioned, we must remember that we are not called to a method or specific ministry approach but rather to the simple and pure work of preaching the Gospel.
6. Do you have a desire to go?
Isaiah’s encounter with the live coal changed him. His first reaction to God’s holiness was negative, “I’m undone!” now when God asks for volunteers we see Isaiah jumping up and down like a school boy with his hand raised high in the air! “Pick me, pick me, pick me!”
Isa 6:8 … Then I said, Here am I; send me!
I’m convinced that righteous desires can only come from God. Satan isn’t in the business of tempting people to give their lives in missions. The desire for missions must be firmly connected with your understanding of God and the forgiveness he has given you through Jesus Christ. This should be the primary and ever-growing factor that pushes your hand into the air and says, “Pick me, pick me!”
A heart that is firmly fixed upon pleasing the one who saved him is a heart that will find deep desire, true joy, and great satisfaction in telling others about this most amazing and loving God! Our God is a Father who wants to give us righteous desires and then help us fulfill those desires for his glory!
Notice that Isaiah doesn’t have any criteria for serving God. He doesn’t say, “I’ll go if you can promise a decent salary, and a good retirement plan.” Isaiah’s desire to go and to serve his God is so powerful that he’s not afraid to answer the call before knowing all the details.
7. Do you understand the task before you?
Although Isaiah doesn’t demand details before committing to go, God does not leave him without instruction on his task.
Isa 6:9-10 And He said, Go, and tell this people, You hear indeed, but do not understand; and seeing you see, but do not know. 10 Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and turn back, and be healed.
Isaiah’s main task was to preach God’s Word to the people, to warn them of coming judgement and call them to repentance. For the New Testament believer the basic task is the same. We are called to warn people of God’s wrath against sin and exhort them to turn in repentance to Jesus Christ.
Our job is to preach faithfully and we should evaluate our ministries by faithfulness not by quantity of people who responded positively to us. Yes, we want to see many respond in faith and it is a great blessing from God when that happens, nevertheless our focus should be squarely on the task of clearly and faithfully communicating God’s truth to lost people.
8. Have you prayed about it?
Isaiah’s call was unique and it’s doubtful you will see a vision of God and hear his voice booming down from the throne asking for missionary volunteers, so these last 3 questions are derived from other key Scriptures.
The call to missions should be taken seriously that means you must commit to praying about it. Prayer has always played an integral role in God’s salvation plan. Isaiah wrote about the temple as a “house of prayer.” It was in that house of prayer that Isaiah received his call to missions.
How should you prayer about missions in your life? Here are a few suggestions:
- Pray that God will give you proper preparation.
- Pray that God will give you immediate opportunity to begin serving and sharing the gospel.
- Pray that God would give further clarity as to where he wants you to serve.
- Pray for other missionaries who are already serving.
- Pray that God would give you a growing passion for the Gospel and concern for the lost.
9. Have godly men and women confirmed it?
Isaiah didn’t really need the confirmation of others after he heard the voice of God. However, assuming you have not received direct revelation from God it is wise to seek the counsel of Godly men and women (Proverbs 15:22).
Make time to sit down with your pastor, with a parent, or with a respected older member of your church and share with them your ideas about missions. Then be quiet and let them speak, you might be surprised by what you hear.
10. Has God given you opportunity?
When God gives a divine desire you can be sure he will also provide a perfect opportunity to fulfill that desire. However, sometimes we get caught up looking for that one “big” opportunity and we fail to see the simple moments of opportunity that God sets before us. (1 Cor 16:9)
As a teenager God gave me the desire for missions. I thought he might send me to Africa or South America, but before me was the simple opportunity of Ukraine. Earlier I had never thought of Ukraine as a place I’d like to go, but there it was. God gave me opportunity that I never asked for. Thankfully, I took it and remained open to God’s will.
10 years later after multiple trips to Ukraine I and my wife both realized this was the direction God was leading us. A big part of our answer to God’s leading was seeing the opportunities he had already given us.
One more thing
If you answered “yes” to these questions then I would say there’s a very could possibility that God has called you to missions and it would be a sin for you to not do you best to try it out.