A Unique Call
I first started to think about God’s call when I was in my first year of university. After an extended spiritual and intellectual struggle, I gave my life to Jesus in October. I wouldn’t have used this language, but clearly God was calling me to Himself. But soon after that salvation event, I became uneasy about my career direction. I was on track to become a lawyer and my influential grandfather had a pathway lined up for me into one of the top legal firms in Sydney. This would have opened up a very well-rewarded career with an office in one of Sydney’s sky-scrapers, a view of the harbour, connections to many influential people, potentially living in the eastern suburbs of Sydney, going to all the desirable functions, membership of exclusive clubs and so on. But thankfully my father had already given me wise advice and instead of studying a pure Law degree, I was doing Arts-Law, to “keep my options open.” After receiving Christ, I no longer wanted to be a lawyer. But what was Jesus calling me to?
I had wondered about ministry but wasn’t sure about that. I was very interested in investing my life in the “third world.” I had even dabbled in politics. The one career I didn’t want was school teaching, and yet surprisingly, that was the direction I ended up going in, responding to an advertisement for scholarships to teach in Papua New Guinea. I had five challenging, adventurous years there and later got very involved with Christian schools in Australia. But meanwhile there was a developing desire to do Christian ministry that wouldn’t go away. I clearly had a teaching gift and some pastoral capacity. After sensing a “wait” from God for several years, I now sensed an “open door” to go to Bible College for a short-term live-in training program. Years later, I felt the Spirit calling me, together with my wife to plant a church south of Newcastle and then I was urged by a senior leader to do further training. Doing a theological degree by distance, followed by a masters at a college in Melbourne and then a PhD, was a delight: I had found my niche. However, the previous years in Papua New Guinea, in schools and church planting were a vital part of God’s program to equip and prepare me to teach Bible and theology and to pastor churches.My journey demonstrates that finding and following God’s call on your life is sometimes an unfolding journey, not a “one off” crisis as you might think from some Bible characters’ lives. In fact, even Paul, who had that famous “road to Damascus” encounter, didn’t get “launched” into the main call on his life until he’d spent some years in Arabia thinking through the implications of the revelation of Jesus, then more time “back home” in Tarsus and finally a kind of ministry apprenticeship with Barnabas in Antioch (Acts 9:1-30; 11:25-30; 13:1-3; Gal.1:11-24). God uses the desires of our hearts, circumstances, wise advice from others and suitable formal training to make His will plain and release us to follow it. Occasionally He intervenes more directly and I have had some very strong experiences of God challenging me to embrace an aspect of His will for me (involvement in starting a Christian university, studying the Book of Revelation, etc). Some of the directions I took seemed like wandering off the path but turned out to be part of the plan. I never expected to be where I am now but it was more of an extreme development of the capacities and desires God gave me than a revolutionary change.
Every person is unique. Don’t try to copy someone else’s journey; find and follow God’s call for you as it develops over time.