Usually a person’s immediate response to God’s amazing gift of grace (unmerited favor) and mercy is to love Him and to want to serve Him. If you don’t want to serve Him, you should check your gratitude. Even if your life before Christ wasn’t so bad, He has saved you for Heaven, and for that reason if for no other, you should be grateful and want to serve God.
When I first got saved, at age twelve, I wanted to serve God. But my knowledge and experience were very limited. I had grown up in the Episcopal Church, and got saved because our priest told me that the Confirmation ceremony would mean nothing if I didn’t make a decision to follow Jesus. So I thought that the only way I could serve God was by becoming a nun (yes, the Episcopal Church also has nuns). But I wasn’t cut out to be a nun, and it was definitely not my calling. Then at age seventeen, when I got baptized in the Holy Spirit, I thought that I was being called as a missionary. Clearly, I had a clue about my calling. But my limited understanding of what a missionary is made me think that I had to go to some bug-and-snake-infested jungle in Africa. So like Jonah, I ran as hard as I could in the opposite direction, and got married.
Even having gone the wrong way, God brought me back to where I needed to be in order to serve Him. Just like Jonah. In Driven by Eternity, author John Bevere recommends three steps for discovering your ministry:
- Diligently seek God, Hebrews 11:6. In 1992, I did this right after re-dedicating my life to the Lord by taking Peter Wagner’s (author of Your Spiritual Gifts can help Your Church Grow) Spiritual Gifts Test. By Googling Spiritual Gifts Test, you can take a test to discover your spiritual gift or gifts. This will go a long way toward helping you to understand your calling.
At the same time, you should be reading the Bible. Fill your mind with God’s Word and spend time in His presence. Psalm 37:4 is the Bible verse that God used to move me into my mission field: “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” I had always read this verse the way most people understand it: that God will grant to you the things your heart desires. And it is true, in a sense, but in another sense it is even truer that God will plant the desires to do the things that He has designed you to do—and then grant you those desires. So if God was calling me to the jungle, He would have planted in my heart the desire to live in the jungle.
Discovering and following your calling will be the truest expression of “being yourself” that you could ever, ever do.
So I discovered that my spiritual gifts were (starting with the strongest): encouragements, teaching, and prophecy. I had no idea how to use the gift of encouragements without becoming some sort of crazed church cheerleader, so instead, I started serving the church by teaching Sunday school. I did okay as a Sunday school teacher, and it’s a valuable service to the church. So I was my son’s Sunday school teacher from age two.
- Plant yourself in a local body of believers, Psalm 92:13. John Bevere puts it this way: “You don’t have the right to pick where you go to church.” 1 Corinthians 12:18 says: “God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as He wanted them to be.” Let God tell you where to go to church, and stay there until He moves you somewhere else.
I remember when I was house-hunting during our move to Connecticut. God clearly told me that this little church in Madison was going to be my church. It was not the same denomination as the one He had me attending in North Carolina. In fact, it was a denomination I had never heard of before: Christian and Missionary Alliance. God’s not into denominations—that’s a divisive thing. At that time, I had no idea that we would be living in a house just four miles down the road from that church, but obviously God knew.
When I started going to that church, for the first two months, all I saw was God, all I heard was God. It was only later that I learned that they had just gone through a terrible and painful split. No wonder they had nothing—no Sunday school, no youth programs—absolutely nothing for the kids. They were just struggling to get back on their feet as a body of believers.
A few months later, one of the deaconesses of the church invited me to join an Experiencing God (by Henry Blackaby and Claude King) class that she was starting for the women of the church. The class asked two questions that changed my life: 1) What is God calling you to do right now? and 2) What is it going to cost your family? In response to those two questions, I went back to another mother in the church who had asked me to help her get a Children’s Church program started. I stopped using my family as an excuse and I partnered with her. Children’s Church (and the programs that grew out of Children’s Church) became one of the main things that God used to grow that church to double its original (before the split) size.
God also used that experience to grow my faith so that later when He called me to Italy, I would have faith strong enough to follow that call, even though it meant moving to Italy alone.
- Avoid entanglements, Luke 9:62. Entanglements can be anything that prevents you from stepping out into ministry. And this was precisely what had made me hesitate about starting the Children’s Church ministry. I knew that it was going to cost my family something. I was perfectly fine with paying a price, myself. But I didn’t want to ask my family to pay the price, too—especially since my husband had turned his back on God. How could I ask him to pay the price for ministry to a God he no longer believed in?
But turn that question around: how could I withhold anything, even my family, if the God I love is asking me to sacrifice them? What would Abraham do? I needed a major paradigm shift. Being a housewife and stay-at-home mom, I had become used to putting my family ahead of my own needs. But now, I had to put my God ahead of my family.
And I did. It wasn’t easy, but it was the right thing to do because everything I had, even my dear family, had come from Him. How could I refuse a God who had been so good to me?
I am not going to sugar-coat any of this. It was not easy. It cost me, and it cost my family. This is why many are called, but few are chosen. Few are chosen because they are simply not willing to pay the price, to make the sacrifice.
But God is worthy of every sacrifice. Those sacrifices that cost me the most are the most precious to Him. He makes it all up to me in the sweetest, most intimately personal ways. And I know that it has all gone into my Heavenly bank account to earn interest in eternity. How could I do any less for my God, who I love? God is good!