Monday, February 20, 2023

Introduction (Philemon)

It may seem strange that I would bother writing about Philemon, considering its brevity, as well as its apparent lack of meaning. I have read through Philemon many times, I have listened to great teachers explain its message, and I have been surprised at just how much people miss when they study through the book. When I mention the “apparent lack of meaning”, I am describing the way that people will so quickly dismiss this letter, and dismiss with it one of the greatest examples of how to conduct ourselves as Christians.

For several months, I was frustrated by Philemon. Why is this book even in the Bible? Nobody can tell me what it means, yet it is still in my New Testament! Surely, if Philemon has been included in the Bible, it must have some importance, right? After studying Philemon for several months, I have come to understand how it not only belongs in the Bible, it is incredibly important for us to understand as Christians. There are many different ideas about what Philemon means, but there are a few interpretations that I find to be more plausible than the others. Of the people to teach about Philemon, none can compare to the explanation of N.T. Wright. I have listened to one of his sermons about Philemon (several times, as it is a rather good sermon), and I have made his commentary of Colossians and Philemon one of the books that I go to whenever I have a question about Philemon. Just in case anybody is interested in the specific commentary that I used for a lot of this series, the commentary in question is part of the Tyndale New Testament Commentaries.

Let us begin our verse-by-verse study through the book of Philemon.

In order to truly understand what Paul meant in his letter to Philemon, we must understand the circumstances surrounding said letter. The letter was written by Paul, and, as far as I am aware, Paul’s authorship of this letter is virtually undisputed. I have made remarks about the way people will debate whether or not Daniel actually wrote the book of Daniel, whether Paul actually wrote Romans, and so on, but such a debate does not exist around the author of Philemon. As for why the vast majority of people agree that Paul wrote Philemon, the most compelling argument in favor of Paul being the author is the way in which the letter was written. Paul writes with the boldness that comes from the Holy Spirit, yet he does so in a way that is gracious, loving, and witty, while showing his full cognizance of the issues that he writes about in his letter. Paul appeals to Philemon, not as a teacher appeals to a student, or as a parent appeals to a child, but as a brother appeals to a brother. Paul is one of the many members of the Church, which is the same Church that both Philemon and Onesimus are a part of.

Despite the letter to Philemon being the shortest of Paul’s letters (at least, those that we have in our New Testament), it is interesting to note how this letter is longer than most secular letters of the time.

Now, to whom was the letter written? The letter begins with Paul identifying himself as the author, mentioning Timothy, and addressing the letter to “Philemon our beloved fellow worker and Apphia our sister and Archippus our fellow soldier, and the church in your house”. Timothy is mentioned as being with Paul, but it is worth noting that Paul never says that Timothy is a fellow prisoner. Timothy is referred to as “our brother”, as in a brother in Christ to Paul, Philemon, and the other members of the Church.

There are different theories regarding the addressee(s) of Philemon, but I firmly believe that Philemon is the person to whom this letter was addressed. I will explain more about my reasoning in the next essay. For the time being, let us agree that the letter of Philemon was written by Paul, to Philemon.

Who is this letter about? There are several additional names that Paul mentions in his letter to Philemon, but only three individuals are of enough importance to warrant discussing them for an extended amount of time. The first of these individuals is Paul, formerly known as Saul. This Paul is the same Paul who wrote the majority of the books that we have in our New Testament, and has done the Church a tremendous service in explaining the more complex portions of Christian theology. Paul presents logical arguments, deconstructs counterarguments, and does it all in love. Paul is the author of the letter to Philemon, and Paul’s writing shows us how it should look when a Christian speaks to another Christian. I love Paul, and the majority of the Scripture that the Holy Spirit has quickened to my heart was written by Paul, so I have a tremendous amount of admiration for the man. Paul is one of the most important figures in the history of the Church, and for good reason. This essay is about the context surrounding the letter to Philemon, not about the life of Paul, so I will move on to the next person we are going to be focusing on.

The second notable individual in this letter is a man named Philemon. As one might guess, Philemon was named after Philemon. Who is Philemon? Based on the text of the letter (which we will examine more closely later in this study), Philemon is a brother in Christ, he is a Christian in Colosse, and is likely somebody who converted to Christianity as a direct result of Paul’s ministry. The letter to Philemon is written in a way that suggests that Philemon knew Paul on a personal level, which makes the entire letter even more important than it would have been had Paul never known Philemon. This letter is not only about a delicate subject, it is a letter to a friend, about a friend, from a friend.

Finally, the third notable figure in the letter to Philemon is a man named Onesimus. Onesimus was not just a man that Philemon was acquainted with, Philemon was Onesimus’ owner. Onesimus was a slave, and he had been owned by the man to whom Paul addresses his letter. Why is Onesimus not with Philemon? What is the issue? Why does Paul have the opportunity to write to Philemon at all?

This brings us to the main point of the letter to Philemon: we must all unite around the Gospel. In order to fully understand the situation that Paul is writing about here, we must understand that slavery, while incredibly evil, was not the same then as it was in the United States. As an American, my initial response to the word “slavery” is to think of the slavery that took place in the early days of the United States. The slavery of Philemon’s time was evil, but it was far from the slavery that took place in America. As N.T. Wright explains, regarding Paul’s hesitancy to instruct Philemon to give up his slaves, such an instruction would be like telling people to give up their cars. We all know that burning fuel is not good for our environment, and we all know the danger that comes with being in a moving vehicle. Many people have discussed ways that humans can stop using cars, or switch to something safer and less harmful to the environment, but we all understand that to require everybody in the world to give up cars right now would be virtually impossible. Another example that Wright makes is that Paul protesting slavery would have been like a person today protesting the mortgage system. Slavery is evil, but it would have served no good for Paul to have addressed it in his letter to Philemon. In fact, if Paul had attacked slavery, he would have caused serious issues between the authorities and the Church. That being said, Paul is telling Philemon to release Onesimus, to forgive him, and to treat him as a brother in Christ. Nowhere in this letter, nor anywhere else in the Bible, is there any support for slavery.

How did Onesimus end up around Paul? Based on what Paul writes in his letter to Philemon, we know that Onesimus was a slave, and that he had run away from Philemon, who was Onesimus’ master. Paul, being Jewish, knew what the Bible says about treating runaway slaves:

“You shall not give up to his master a slave who has escaped from his master to you.” [Deuteronomy 23:15, ESV]

Paul could not send Onesimus back. Even if the Bible did not teach us that we are not to return a runaway slave to his or her master, Paul would not have wanted to send Onesimus back to Philemon, given how the punishment for a runaway slave was often death. Paul, being full of the Holy Spirit, recognized an opportunity to intervene in the relationship between Philemon and Onesimus. Paul is in prison, but even during his imprisonment, he preaches the Gospel, which led Onesimus to accept Christ as his Lord and Savior. Rather than Paul telling Philemon to forgive Onesimus and act as if nothing had ever happened, Paul tells Philemon to forgive Onesimus, and to treat Onesimus not as a slave, but as a brother in Christ. Such a request would have been crazy, had it not been motivated by the Holy Spirit. Verse 19 appears to confirm that Philemon was brought to Christ as a result of Paul’s ministry, so Paul had a much greater amount of power in what he wrote. Paul led both Onesimus and Philemon to Christ, and now he wants to have the two reconcile, unite in their shared love for Christ, and live according to the love that Christ showed each of us.

I would like to conclude this introduction by quoting a portion of N. T. Wright’s commentary, which does an excellent job of explaining why Philemon is such an important part of the Bible:

“The letter to Philemon appears to pose in a peculiarly acute form the problem of hermeneutics - of how we, today, can appropriate this part of Scripture for ourselves. This letter was written to a private individual in a unique situation in the life of his household. But no part of the New Testament more clearly demonstrates integrated Christian thinking and living. It offers a blend, utterly characteristic of Paul, of love, wisdom, humour, gentleness, tact and above all Christian and human maturity. The epistle’s chief value is not that it is a tract about slavery, for it is not that. It is a letter which, at one level ‘about’ koinȯnia, Christian fellowship and mutual participation, is at a far deeper level an outworking, in practice, of that principle. That which it expounds, it also exemplifies. It is a living fragment of the life of Christ, working itself out in the lives of human beings so different from  us and yet so similar. Perhaps the only hermeneutical principle we need here is the crisp command, issued in another context where custom and faith were in collision: go, and do thou likewise.”


Thursday, February 2, 2023

Discover Your Purpose


God made everything, and this is no secret. Everything God makes, He makes for a purpose. If it did not serve a purpose, God would not have created it. Therefore, if you were born, you were born with a purpose. It is not uncommon for us to hear that we have a purpose for existing, but rarely do we take the time to understand what that purpose actually is. I would encourage you to pause for a moment, close your eyes, and think about the fact that you are alive right now, that you breathe, you have thoughts, you have desires, you have emotions, and all those things are happening right now. You could have existed at any time, before or after today, yet you exist right here, right now. Think about that for a moment.

Each person is created, and with each life that God creates, He gives them a purpose. Perhaps you have felt as if God has something that He is trying to reveal to you. Perhaps He has already revealed something to you, but you are not sure if you are hearing from God. I was in a similar place at one point in my life, and for a while I struggled to understand what God wanted me to do, when I would be able to do it, or how I would be able to do what He called me to do. The biggest hurdle for me was that I never knew everything about what God was revealing to me. He would put a desire on my heart, but I would not know what to do with that desire, nor when (or if) that desire would be realized. Over time, I learned to be at peace with not knowing what God knows. Instead of asking questions, instead of speculating, I would respond to what I felt by going and asking God to give me clarity, wisdom, and to confirm that what I felt was from Him. I pray a lot, but one of the prayers that I remember vividly was when I was sitting in my car one evening, crying, asking God what I needed to do. I was beginning to feel God call me to ministry, but I had no idea what I needed to do in order to learn more, and I was not sure what to make of what I felt. What if I had been confused? What if I was just imagining things? My prayer concluded with me saying, “If this is not from You, I ask that You change my heart. But, if this is from You, Lord, don’t let my hope die.”

Day after day, I felt God speak to me about the things that He had revealed to me, and I felt God working in my heart more with each passing day. I suffered greatly as I waited for God to guide me further along in what He had prepared for me, but I believe that my suffering served a purpose. I learned that, in fact, all will be used by God for the good of those who love the Lord, and are called according to His purpose.

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. [Romans 8:28, ESV]

I was so confused, I felt like I was alone, I felt like my life would never reach the place that God had put on my heart, but I could never bring myself to quit. No matter what happened, how long it took, how hard things became, nothing killed that faith that the Lord had given to me. I am not writing these things in order to brag, nor do I think that my behavior was at all out of the ordinary for a Christian. Faith is powerful, and I have spent a lot of time studying about faith, writing about it, and praying for more of it.

Faith gives us the strength, but God gives us the direction. God knows everything, and He can do anything. I could spend my days trying to explain what God revealed to me, trying to find out how it could come to pass in my life, when things might happen, or what He is doing, but I know how miserable I become when I spend my time speculating about God’s ways. We only know what God reveals to us, whether He reveals something to us through the Bible, through others, through ourselves, or through something else. If God does not reveal something, we should not spend too much time trying to understand something that we cannot, and will not, understand.

When I applied my heart to know wisdom, and to see the business that is done on earth, how neither day nor night do one’s eyes see sleep, then I saw all the work of God, that man cannot find out the work that is done under the sun. However much man may toil in seeking, he will not find it out. Even though a wise man claims to know, he cannot find it out. [Ecclesiastes 8:16-17, ESV]

To the men and women who have felt God begin to reveal His will for their lives, do not waste time trying to know exactly what you will be doing or when you will be doing it. I have never felt more miserable than when I spent my time trying to learn every aspect of what God wanted me to do. I could try and figure things out all I wanted, but I only ended up disappointing myself. I would think that I finally figured out when this or that would happen, only to find out that I was completely mistaken. Conversely, I have never been happier than I am now that I have let go of trying to understand everything. I do what God has called me to do, I do it in the way God called me to, and I continue to fast and pray as I watch God working in my life. When the time is right, God will reveal more to you.

That being said, it would be incredibly foolish to assume that you have heard from God without testing what you have heard. You should not go off of what you feel on your heart today, or even what you have felt on your heart for a few days. You may know exactly what your calling is, and you may have realized immediately. I, for one, learned very quickly that God has called me to write. However, the way I would write, and the places that I would share my writing, were not revealed to me until months after God first revealed my calling to me. While we should not waste time when God has a calling for each of us, we must recognize that serving God is the greatest duty we have as human beings, and with such a duty to fulfill comes the importance of making sure that we do it correctly.

I had already begun to write and publish my work onto my website, but I wanted to learn more about how to serve God. I heard somebody quoting Charles Spurgeon, who has continued to be regarded as one of the most influential ministers of the Word. I do not agree with some of his views when it comes to matters of soteriology and free will, but those issues are secondary to the Gospel. I am not the only person to have an incredible amount of respect for Spurgeon. My respect for him came not from the way others spoke about him, it came from the things that he preached. After hearing somebody quote a lecture that Spurgeon gave, I decided to purchase the collection of essays for myself, so that I could really spend time reading what had caught my attention when his work had been quoted. The lecture that led me to purchase the rest of his essays was one titled, The Call to the Ministry.

Upon reading the lecture in question, I found that it held more power than it had when I heard it quoted. Spurgeon explains some of the things that I had experienced, but could not articulate myself. In this lecture, Spurgeon explains four things that we can use to test whether or not God called us to serve in ministry.

I will use his points as a rough outline for this essay, but I will not focus as much on those who have been called to be pastors and evangelists. Instead, I will use each point to explain a more generalized approach to confirming one’s calling. Spurgeon also quotes a letter that John Newton (he wrote Amazing Grace) sent to a friend of his, which will provide us with even more wisdom when it comes to discerning what God has called us to do.

Without further ado, let us examine how a person can discover his or her calling.

  1. A calling from God will produce a desire unlike any other.

When God called me, I remember feeling like I had been hit by a brick. It was a moment of clarity, where I could see a glimpse of what I would be doing someday. I saw part of God’s calling for my life, and as soon as I felt God reveal something to me, I felt like I had been hit by a brick. I had work that evening, I had been resting before I left, but as soon as God began to reveal things to me, I was wide-awake. I was incredibly excited. I cannot describe the way I felt, but I can say that I went from being on the verge of falling asleep to writing notes on my phone about all the things that I wanted to share with others. I had seen just a glimpse of what God had called me to do, but that glimpse changed my life.

Despite the way things looked at the time, I could not shake what God had put on my heart. Day after day, week after week, month after month, I felt an unrelenting desire to do what God had put on my heart. I had no idea how I would do what God had called me to do, when I would be able to do it, or if I would do it at all. All I knew is that I wanted to do this thing, and I could never stop thinking about how much I wanted to do it. The thing that God had given me a glimpse of seemed impossible, and that was not because I was being pessimistic. I had no experience, no formal education about the Bible, no credentials, no reputation, no connections, nothing. I was given a glimpse of my calling, but nothing more.

The point of me sharing this part of my testimony is that I want to provide my personal experience with the desire that comes when God calls a person to do something. I mentioned how I cannot describe how I felt when God first revealed my calling to me, and I meant it. Thankfully, Charles Spurgeon explains the way I felt, and in a far better way than I could ever explain it.

“The first sign of the heavenly call is an intense, all-absorbing desire for the work. In order to a true call to the ministry there must be an irresistible, overwhelming craving and raging thirst for telling to others what God has done to our own souls…”

Spurgeon also shares a quotation from a man named Joseph Alleine: “Do not enter the ministry if you can help it.”

Alleine is not saying that we should not go into ministry, he is telling us that we should not go into ministry if we can resist it. The reality of being called to do something is that it creates such an intense desire that it becomes nearly impossible to even imagine doing anything other than what God has called us to do. When God calls you to do something, you will feel a desire to do whatever He has called you to do, and that desire will be there in your heart, regardless of how crazy or unlikely the desire may seem. That desire will outlive any setback, any amount of time passing, and any amount of work that it will require. There will be such a desire to do what God has called you to do that you will find yourself thinking of that calling all the time.

In response to feeling God revealing His calling for your life, you should immediately begin to pray about it. I recommend that you take time to fast and pray, and that you do that for as long as it takes to hear God confirm what He has revealed to you.

On the other hand, there are some desires that may seem like they came from God, but did not. I love music, I love God, and I have felt the desire to write music about my faith. When I say that I felt that desire, I mean that I felt it once or twice. When I felt God calling me to be a writer, I felt the desire to pray about it, and I felt the desire to study the Word, and to write all the time. By the time I started my website, I had written more than a hundred thousand words in my journal. I wrote between 4 to 6 pages per day, while I managed to write more than 10 pages on certain days. Every single day, I felt the desire to write. I continued to write, even when it did not seem like it would benefit me. Even when it looked like I had failed, like nothing would ever materialize from the desire I felt, I continued to write. Eventually, God put my writing to use, but that is a story for another time.

If you have a desire to do something, that desire glorifies God, and that desire sticks with you no matter what, then you should be praying for God to prepare you to do what He has called you to do. The first sign of a calling from God is the intense desire that it produces.

  1. A calling from God will be something that you can do.

When God calls us to do something, He will equip us to do that to which we have been called. If we need money to do what God has called us to do, God will provide the money that we need. If we need courage, God will give us courage. If we need a companion, God will provide one. God is faithful, He loves us, He cares about us, and He has a purpose for each of us. If God wants a person to be a good witness to others by being a world-famous athlete who speaks publicly about his or her faith in Christ, He will call a person who will be able to reach the point of being a world-famous athlete. God would not (for example) call me to be a world-famous athlete, since I am terrible at playing sports. I am not athletic, and I am not built to be an athlete. I am not interested in playing sports for a living, and I have no history of being even remotely athletic. In this example, God would call somebody who has a love for playing sports, has incredible skill when it comes to playing sports, and has a heart set on Him. There are billions of people alive today, and only God knows how many people will exist before Jesus returns someday. God could empower somebody like me to become a world-famous athlete, but I have no reason to expect that He would, especially considering how many people are far more athletically gifted than I am. When God calls us, He calls us to do things that we can actually do. 

In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul writes about how the Holy Spirit gives us each spiritual gifts, and how those gifts differ between people.

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills. [1 Corinthians 12:4-11, ESV]

As for why the Holy Spirit gives different gifts to each person, Paul makes it very clear in verse 14:

For the body does not consist of one member but of many. [1 Corinthians 12:14, ESV]

There are different roles to play, there are different skills, and different callings. For me, God has given me the ability to study well, to understand complicated subjects, and to teach about the Bible to those who may or may not have the same gifts that I have. I do not boast about my ability, and I am sure that there are countless writers, theologians, scholars, and laymen who are far greater at explaining the Bible to others than I am. When God first called me to serve in ministry, and He began to reveal part of how I would be serving Him, I realized that I had a lot of work to do in order to reach the level of skill that I would need to serve God.

When we are called to do something, while there can be exceptions, most of us will not be very good when we begin to serve God according to His calling for us. I am sure that my writing will be far better in a few years from now, and the writing that I do today is far better than anything I wrote six months ago. When I first began to write, I was not very good at it. The things that I wrote first are not the same as the first things that I published. If you compare the way I write in this essay to the way I wrote in the first one or two parts in my study through the book of James, the difference is very obvious. My initial attempts at writing were far less enjoyable than the ones that I first published, but that makes sense considering I had been writing for a while before I published anything.

I want to take a moment to encourage people who feel called to do something, but they are not doing well at whatever they have been called to do. While a calling from God will be something that one has the ability to do, he should not judge whether or not he has been truly called based on the first few attempts at serving in the way that he was called. If I tried to judge whether or not God called me to become a writer, and I made that judgment on the first day that I felt called, I would not have written this essay, nor would I have written the tens of essays that I have published before this one. If you have been called, and you know that you have been called, then you should be more focused on what you know about your ability to do whatever you have been called to do. I was not a very good writer when I was first called, but I had always been a good writer when compared to people around my age. I had always excelled in my English classes, I had been a reader since highschool, and I had wanted to write a book ever since I was a little boy. I have access to some of the things that I wrote in school, and let me say, those essays were horrendous. When I read my essays from school, there are many thoughts that come to mind, but “called by God” is not one of them.

When I began to serve God in the way that He had called me, I tried to compare myself to Christian writers that I really enjoyed. If I wanted to verify that God had called me to write, it would be silly for me to compare my writing ability to that of a C.S. Lewis, or a Charles Sprugeon, or to anybody else. God called me, so I should be focused on whether or not my abilities reflect the calling that I believe God has for me. Do not expect that, when God calls us, we will immediately be amazing at whatever it is that we have been called to do. God calls us, but He does not give us everything at once. The second part of knowing the calling that God has for you should be something that you have in mind for weeks, months, or even years. Do not let a single failure discourage you, and do not let one poor performance kill what God will do with the abilities that He has given to you. As with anything, we must make a habit of praying, asking God for wisdom, asking Him for guidance, and asking Him to work in and through us.

That being said, if somebody feels called to do something that is entirely out-of-character, and the calling seems ridiculous, that person should be very careful. While God absolutely has the power to call somebody to do something that is totally out of his or her character to do, such a calling would be an exception. If you truly feel called to do something, but you do not see that calling reflected in your abilities, then you should seek the advice of more mature Christians. 

  1. A calling from God will be used by God to do great things in the lives of others.

The third way to identify whether or not a calling is from God is to examine the fruits of that calling. In the words of Charles Spurgeon, “In order further to prove a man’s call, after a little exercise of his gifts, such as I have already spoken of, he must see a measure of conversion-work going on under his efforts, or he may conclude that he has made a mistake, and, therefore, may go back by the best way he can.”

In other words, if God has truly called us to do something, when we go and do whatever we feel called to do, our actions should result in “conversion-work”. Spurgeon, being a preacher, is writing for those who have felt called to preach (primarily). When he refers to “conversion-work”, it is my understanding that he is describing people coming to Christ, though the “work” in question could (and likely does) refer to the work that is done in order to bring people to salvation, in addition to salvation itself.  When a person is called to become a minister of the Gospel, when he or she acts on that calling, the calling will be confirmed when people are saved as a result of his or her ministry.

The only issue with Spurgeon’s description is that it does not help somebody who feels called, but not to become a preacher. The concept that Spurgeon uses as the basis for his third criterion for a calling from God is one that is based in Scripture. The concept in question comes from Matthew 7, where Jesus describes how we should test people by their “fruit”. Jesus is referring to false prophets, but the idea of examining the fruits of somebody or something is incredibly useful in discerning the will of God.

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit…” [Matthew 7:15-18, ESV]

It is very easy to say, “God told me this”, or “God called me to do that”, but we are not to judge whether or not God said something based on what a person says. Rather, we should look to evidence to support what people claim that God said to them. If you feel called to preach, and you see people come to Christ as a result of your preaching, your calling is likely from God. I say “likely”, since there is always the chance that our interpretation is incorrect. After all, if God uses all for the good of those who love Him (which He does), it is safe to assume that He will use even those who preach without having been called to do so. If a person is naturally talented when it comes to speaking, it would make sense that his or her speaking would have a greater impact on others than the speech of somebody without the talent that he or she has.

That being said, if you feel called to do something, you are able to do whatever you feel called to do, and you see God working in response to what you do, then I think you have good reason to believe that you have truly been called by God. I am very, very hesitant about saying whether or not something has come from God. I am comfortable saying when God speaks to me about something, but I am only comfortable because I have come to recognize God’s Voice in a way that makes identifying something from Him much easier than it used to be for me. There are two rules that should come before all others when it comes to discerning the will of God: (1) God will never contradict the Bible, and (2) we can always be incorrect. If we keep those rules in mind, we will be in a far better place to discern what is or is not from God.

If you have been called to start a business that will be used to share Christ with others, a good sign that you have truly been called is that your business will do well, that doors will open when they would normally remain closed, and that you will see the Holy Spirit working in and through that business. If you have been called to write songs that glorify the Lord, a good sign that you have been truly called is that you have a desire to write songs, you write songs that sound good, and the Holy Spirit speaks to people through your songs. Whatever your calling may be, God will work through you when you do what you have been called to do.

  1. A calling from God can be confirmed through other mature Christians.

The final of Spurgeon’s points regarding the way to verify a calling from the Lord is to see what other Christians say. When God calls you to do something, He will often confirm your calling by giving you a supernatural desire to do whatever it is that you have been called to do, by giving you the necessary skills to do what you have been called to do, by working in and through you, and by revealing your calling to other mature Christians. There is a level of discernment that God gives to each Christian, and as we grow in our knowledge of God, we grow in our ability to discern His will. There are some, however, who possess the gift of being able to “distinguish between spirits”.

If you feel called to do something, or you feel like God wants you to make a certain decision, it would be a good idea to speak to a more mature Christian. I would consider myself to be a fairly mature Christian, but that maturity does not mean that I am always right, nor does it mean that I do not need to seek counsel from other, more mature Christians. Those who are new in their faith have an even greater need to seek out godly counsel, since new Christians would not have the same experience in discerning the will of God as a mature Christian would have.

The biggest obstacle that I encountered when it came to seeking advice from more mature Christians was the fear I had about them telling me that I had been incorrect. I was not worried about being told that I was incorrect, I was worried that the things that I had a desire to do more than I desired anything else were not from God. I was worried that I would never get to do the things that I had felt called to do. I did not let that fear stop me from seeking counsel, but it did make seeking counsel more difficult than it needed to be. The reality is that, whether I was correct or not, I needed to know God’s will for my life. If God had not called me to do the things that I had felt called to do, whether or not another Christian tells me that I am mistaken will have no effect on the outcome. If God has not called me to do something, if God has not revealed something to me, then I will not be able to do what I felt called to do, and the thing that I thought He revealed would not happen. If I am mistaken, I need to know. On the other hand, there are not many things that give me joy like feeling God reveal something to me, only for that thing to be confirmed by other Christians. It is so amazing to watch God do something, especially when He has given you faith to believe that it would happen.

I will conclude my explanation of this point by offering advice to two groups of people. To those who are looking to have their calling confirmed by other Christians, I must give you a bit of a warning: no matter how mature the Christian, they could be incorrect in their judgment. I have experienced multiple instances where I have brought something to more mature Christians, only for those Christians to be completely mistaken in their assessment of whatever I brought to them. I have felt led to do certain things, I have asked for advice from more mature Christians, and some of those Christians told me, flat-out, “God did not say that”. Sometimes, those Christians ended up being correct, but not always. I have asked for advice from more mature Christians, regarding something I felt led to do, and I have been told, “I believe that God is behind that desire”, only for the desire to lead me nowhere (or down the wrong path). While we should always seek confirmation from more mature Christians, we must remember that just as we can be incorrect, other people can be incorrect as well. There have been certain things that I have felt like God wanted me to do, other Christians said not to do those things, yet I could not shake the desire to do whatever I felt God telling me to do. In those situations, I found that I had heard from God, and I realized that when I saw God do what He had said He would do. Seek godly counsel, read the Bible, and pray without ceasing. Discerning the will of God is not something that we can do without God revealing His will to us. God is always correct, and His word always comes true, but our understanding of His will is limited, and we do not always know how to interpret what He reveals to us. Let God confirm what He has spoken to you. If you take something to more mature Christians, and the response that you receive does not sit well with you, I would highly encourage you to pray about it.

This brings me to my second piece of advice, with this advice being targeted toward the more mature Christians that I have been encouraging people to go speak to. As a Christian who has spent a considerable amount of time praying, fasting, studying the Bible, and seeking God’s will for my life, I have developed a fairly good understanding of what God sounds like when He speaks to me. That being said, there is always the chance that I will misunderstand what God is saying to me, or that I mistakenly attribute something to God when it has really come from my heart, or from the enemy. I am not the exception here. With maturity in our faith comes greater responsibility to live in a way that glorifies God. As I have explained before, humans are fallible beings, and it takes a significant amount of arrogance to think that we could understand everything that God does. When a Christian asks me for my thoughts about something that they think God has spoken to them, I am incredibly careful in what I say, and in how I say it. It is such an honor that anybody would trust me enough to ask me for advice with something as important as what God wants them to do. I pray for wisdom regularly, and I pray before I respond to a request for help in discerning the will of God. Even then, I am very careful about what I say.

The longer that I walk with Christ, the more mature I become in faith. The more mature I become in my faith, the less often I mistakenly attribute something to being from God. Despite the maturity of my faith, I still make mistakes in discerning the Voice of God. I am aware of the risk of mistakenly attributing something to God, and I factor that risk into my judgment. I am not perfect in providing advice to others, but I have gone to great lengths to make sure that I do not repeat the mistake that I saw other Christians make when I first began seeking God. I remember feeling God put something on my heart, and I remember how exciting it was. I would be kept awake at night, thinking about what God had put on my heart, and how much my joy would be multiplied when I saw God work in the way that He had said that He would. Those to whom this advice is targeted already know the feeling that I have just described, and they understand just how powerful a desire is when it comes from God.

I also remember going to other Christians, I remember sharing the desire that God had put on my heart, and I remember their responses. Some were encouraging, some told me to exercise caution, or that they were unsure if the thing I had felt had come from God, but some were quick to tell me that I had not heard from God. Knowing how wonderful it feels when God gives me a desire, and knowing how much I was impacted by the people who told me that I had not heard from the Lord, I feel incredibly strongly about exercising wisdom in discernment, as well as wisdom in the way we share our thoughts. To be told that I had not heard from God would have helped me if I had not heard from God, but when I truly heard from God (which I had, in this example), I was absolutely crushed by the way certain Christians were so quick to tell me to give up. If I had taken the advice that some Christians had given to me, I would not be here, I would not be writing this, and I would never have been blessed with all that God has blessed me with as I have served in the place that He has called me to.

When I say that I remember the way people responded when I shared what God had spoken to me, I mean that I remember exactly what those people said. I could quote many of those responses verbatim, and that should say something about the importance of choosing our words carefully. It is also worth mentioning that, when a desire is truly from God, that desire does not go away. It is good for a Christian to seek godly counsel, so why would we, as Christians, respond in a way that would punish the person who did the right thing and sought godly counsel? The desire that comes from God does not go away, but when people are quick to tell somebody that such a desire did not come from God, that person is given great sorrow, and the devil is given a tremendous amount of ammunition to use in discouraging, tempting, and confusing that person.

To the Christian who desires to know his or her calling, use the confirmation of other Christians to influence the way you deal with something that you believe God has revealed to you, but do not let others make the decision for you. God has called you, not them. At the end of the day, it is your responsibility to act upon the calling from God. Use wisdom, use discernment, and use the wisdom and discernment of other Christians, but do not give others the responsibilities that God has given to you. In the words of Charles Spurgeon, “Considerable weight is to be given to the judgment of men and women who live near to God, and in most instances their verdict will not be a mistaken one. Yet this appeal is not final nor infallible, and is only to be estimated in proportion to the intelligence and piety of those consulted.”

To the Christian who is sought out for advice by the Christian who desires to know his or her calling, be gracious in your response, understand the way it feels to have a desire from God, and remember the way that such a desire felt to you when you experienced it. Control your tongue, control your tone, and speak words of encouragement to others. This does not mean that you should affirm everything that somebody says to you, just because they claim to have heard from God. It does mean, however, that you must be aware of your fallibility whenever you are counseling a brother or sister in Christ. Your response will have a profound impact on the person to whom your response is issued.

If you have listened to the person who has sought your counsel, if you have prayed about it, and if you have a conviction that the person in question has not been called to the thing that he or she claims to have been called to, then it becomes your duty to tell them. Do not tell the person in a way that would cause undue grief, but in a way that shows the love of Christ to them. It would be strange for a person to feel called, hear that they must have been mistaken, and not feel at all upset about the news. Knowing the way that most people will be heartbroken to learn that they have misunderstood what God wanted them to do, we must show as much grace to them as we can. It is better to guide somebody on the path that God has for them than it is to humor their misunderstanding of God’s will, but we must not add to the person’s grief. In the words of Charles Spurgeon, “My heart has always leaned to the kindest side, but duty to the churches has compelled me to judge with severe discrimination. After hearing what the candidate has had to say, having read his testimonials and seen his replies to questions, when I have felt convinced that the Lord has not called him, I have been obliged to tell him so.”

The mature Christian will have a greater desire to show grace and love to others, but that desire should not outweigh the duty to stop a person from doing something that God does not want them to do, especially when that person could find themselves in a position to lead others away from Christ. Be gracious, but do not abdicate the responsibilities that God has given to each of us.

Although this essay is long enough, I would like to go over the letter that the late John Newton sent to a friend of his, regarding the same subject that we have discussed in this essay. Newton shares three signs of a true call from the Lord, and we will now go over each sign.

  1. “A warm and earnest desire to be employed in this service. I apprehend the man who is once moved by the Spirit of God to this work, will prefer it, if attainable, to thousands of gold and silver; so that, though he is at times intimidated by a sense of its importance and difficulty, compared with his own great insufficiency (for it is presumed to be a call of this sort, if indeed from God, will be accompanied with humility and self-abasement), yet he cannot give it up.”

I love how Charles Spurgeon explained how we can tell if our calling has truly come from God, but I think that John Newton does an even better job. Perhaps I prefer Newton’s explanation because his explanation jumped out at me and made perfect sense to the situation that I found myself in as I read this for the first time. Regardless, Newton has an abundance of wisdom, and God has blessed us by preserving the wisdom that He once gave to John Newton.

The point of this sign is that, if God has truly called a person, that person would rather do what he or she has been called to do than anything else. Going back to Spurgeon’s explanation, this would be what he referred to as a “raging thirst”, where the person being called can do nothing other than the work to which he or she has been called. One who has been called to ministry will not go into the ministry out of desperation, he will desperately seek to serve in the ministry to which he has been called. God has a plan for each person, so when He calls you, He wants you to do what you have been called to do. If God wanted another person to do what He called you to do, He would have called that person. Given how important each member of the Church is to the overall health of the Church, it makes sense that the desire to serve in the position to which the Lord has called us would be all-consuming. The all-consuming nature of a genuine calling from the Lord makes sense, considering what we know about the meaning of life. The book of Ecclesiastes is all about the things that people focus on in life, and how none of them will mean anything in the end. Many people describe Ecclesiastes as being “nihilistic”, but such a description could only be made by an individual who lacks a solid understanding of the message behind the book of Ecclesiastes. It is not that work is pointless, it is not that education is pointless, it is not that wealth is pointless, it is that a life that is entirely about the pursuit of wealth, the storing up of wisdom, working, or spent in pursuit of anything else of this world, will not mean anything in the end. God gives us things to do, people to meet, and things to enjoy. Those things are from God, and we should enjoy them for as long as we live, but those things should come second to the real reason why we exist. The meaning of life is summed up in Ecclesiastes 12:13:

The end of the matter, all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. [Ecclesiastes 12:13, ESV]

Knowing that the meaning of life is to fear the Lord and to keep His commandments, the responsibility to do whatever God calls us to do makes perfect sense. When God first called me to serve in ministry, I felt a desire unlike any desire that I had ever felt before. It was more than just a desire, it was my spirit responding to a call from the Creator. My purpose in life is to fear the Lord and to keep His commandments, so when the Lord tells me that He wants me to do something, my spirit responds in a way that I struggle to describe. My spirit knew the meaning of life before my mind did. If God has truly called you, you will know. I have never felt such an intense desire as I did when God called me. From the moment the Lord calls us, our minds change, and whatever God has called us to do becomes the thing that we desire above all else.

Newton also raises a very important point about the way a true calling impacts a person. God can do anything, and we can do all things through Christ. However, when God calls a person to do something that could only be done by Him and His strength, the soul responds accordingly. The person being called will experience humility and “self-abasement”. When God calls somebody to do something that he or she could not do alone, that calling makes the person’s weakness clear. When God calls you, you will become aware of just how weak humans are, and you will acknowledge that God is the only One Who can do what must be done. A calling from the Lord will create a sense of inferiority, of weakness, and of humility. In the context of approaching the Lord, the humble in spirit will be blessed. In fact, without humility, we will not be able to do what God has called us to do.

The reward for humility and fear of the LORD is riches and honor and life. [Proverbs 22:4, ESV]

This does not mean that the calling of God will cause the person being called to give up. Quite the opposite is true, in fact. When God calls you to do something, despite your weakness, you will have a desire to do whatever God calls you to do. That desire does not go away, and it will endure no matter how many setbacks you encounter, no matter how much time and effort must be spent in order to reach the place that God has called to you to go to, and no matter what your senses perceive. The person being called will feel like the calling would be impossible, “yet he cannot give it up”. God’s calling produces humility, which leads us to completely rely upon the Lord.

  1. “Besides this affectionate desire and readiness to preach, there must in due season appear some competent sufficiency as to gifts, knowledge, and utterance. Surely, if the Lord sends a man to teach others, he will furnish him with the means.”

In other words, if a person is called by God, he or she will be equipped to serve in whatever capacity God has called them to serve. God calls good singers to sing, He calls good writers to write, He calls good preachers to preach, and He calls good leaders to lead. I can play guitar, and when I practice for a while (I am very rusty), I can play fairly well. However, my level of ability is nowhere near the level of ability that I would need in order to be called by God to make music to glorify Him (I did play on a worship team for a bit, and I did not have much of a problem, but I am unable to write songs to save my life). If God wanted me to make music to glorify Him, He would have given me the ability to write music.

Spurgeon gives a fairly good explanation of the way a person behaves when he or she is motivated by human desires, rather than a call from God:

“Another exceedingly large class of men seek the pulpit they know not why. They cannot teach and will not learn, and yet must fain be ministers…Such men, like raging waves of the sea usually foam forth their own shame, and we are happy when we bid them adieu.”

As I explained earlier in this essay, we should not expect to have every ability that we will need from the moment that we feel God calling us. Newton explains this concept in a far better way than I could, saying, “But then I say these are to appear in due season; they are not to be expected instantaneously, but gradually, in the use of proper means. They are necessary for the discharge of the ministry, but not necessary as pre-requisites to warrant our desires after it…It is sufficient if your desire is fixed, and you are willing, in the way of prayer and diligence, to wait upon the Lord for them; as yet you need them not.”

I find it interesting that Spurgeon disagrees with Newton’s beliefs about the gifts that we need in order to serve God in the way that He has called us. At the end of the explanation that we just read, Spurgeon writes, “We should hesitate to speak precisely in this manner. The gifts must be somewhat apparent before the desire should be encouraged. Still in the main we agree with Mr. Newton.”

Personally, I would agree with portions of what Newton says, as well as portions of what Spurgeon says, but I would not completely agree with both. I believe that when God calls a person, he or she will have, at the very least, the potential to possess the skills that will be needed in order to serve in the capacity to which the Lord has called them. I was not a writer when I was called to become one, but as I prayed and sought God’s will, I began to see certain skills being strengthened, certain skills being formed, and my mindset being shifted in order to align more closely to what God desires for my life. The standard that Spurgeon describes is that the gifts that we need to do whatever God calls us to do must be “somewhat apparent” before it would be wise to encourage us in pursuing that which we feel God calling us to do. As for what “somewhat apparent” means in this context, we do not know. If God calls me to be a writer, should I be satisfied if I have two hands to write, and two eyes to see? Would my gifts be considered “somewhat apparent” if I did not write well, but I wrote a lot? There is plenty of room to argue about whether or not a person has a gift, and I believe that this room for argument was intended by Charles Spurgeon. In short, I lean more towards reliance upon God’s power to create things from nothing, to lead us to where we should go, to give us new opportunities, and to provide us with the skills that we need in order to serve Him in the way we have been called. I do not feel comfortable disregarding a person who feels called to do something when the person is unable to serve in that capacity at the moment they feel called. If I did not have arms, God could have given me arms. If I did not know how to read, God could have given me the ability to read. God can do anything, and I am very hesitant to think that others are not called because I cannot see them doing what they feel called to do.

These signs are far better for one to use in assessing himself than they are for assessing whether or not another person has been called by God.

  1. “That which finally evidences a proper call is a correspondent opening in providence, by a gradual train of circumstances pointing out the means, the time, the place, of actually entering upon the work.”

Of all the points that we have examined in this essay, John Newton’s third point is my favorite. One of the most exciting ways I have seen God reveal parts of my calling to me is when He accomplishes something that I notice and acknowledge that, had God not been involved, it would not have happened. When God reveals your calling to you, you will see things happen that would never happen naturally. People will say things that shed light on something that you have prayed about for a while, certain situations will speak to something that you are experiencing, you will see opportunities present themselves, and you will watch as the Lord leads you to where He wants you to be. Watching God work in my life has been wonderful, and I have kept a journal where I have written down all the things that God has done in my life as He has led me to the place that He called me to. I would encourage everybody to keep a record of the things that God reveals, the things that God does, and whatever you pray about. One of the best ways to endure the season of waiting is to reflect on what God has already done. Reflection also helps to combat the doubt that we experience as we seek the Lord and His will for our lives.

Newton expands upon his third point by describing the way we must not expect to be free from doubt when God has not revealed the full nature of our calling. He shares wisdom with us, telling us how, if God wills for us to be doing something, then we can rest assured that we will be doing that thing when God desires for us to do it. God will make a way, God will order our steps, and God will open doors. Remember how a genuine calling from God will cause a person to feel humility and a sense of insufficiency to do whatever God has called them to do? It is when people forget that they cannot do everything that they end up making mistakes. The less we interfere in what God does, and the more we give to the Lord, the better things will be. This does not mean that we should live our lives as if God will do everything and let us know when our callings are ready for us. I have experienced periods of time where God has told me to continue doing something that He has already told me to do, or to wait for Him to do something before I do anything else, but unless God tells you to stay where you are, continue to pray and pursue the thing that you have been called to do. Never make assumptions, never guess, and make sure to seek God’s will and His wisdom before you make any decisions, especially when it comes to what He has called you to do.

Newton describes the way it feels to know God has called us to do something, how hard it is to wait, and how we must be patient:

“It is very difficult to restrain ourselves within the bounds of prudence here, when our zeal is warm; a sense of the love of Christ upon our hearts, and a tender compassion for poor sinners, is ready to prompt us to break out too soon; but he that believeth shall not make haste.”

In other words, it is very difficult to stop ourselves from going out and pursuing what we feel called to do, but if we truly know Christ, we will wait for Him to lead us, we will submit to His timing, and we will demonstrate the patience that the Holy Spirit produces in those who walk in step with Him.

Finally, to those who are concerned that they may have made a mistake that has ruined their chances of seeing God do what He revealed to them, I want to share with you what John Newton writes about the way God protected him from going the wrong way, from making decisions that would endanger his calling, and from going too far, too soon:

“But the Lord graciously, and as it were insensibly, hedged up my way with thorns; otherwise, had I been left to my own spirit, I should have put it quite out of my power to have been brought into such a sphere of usefulness, as he in his good time has been pleased to lead me to. And I can see now clearly, that at the time I would first have gone out, though my intention was, I hope, good in the main, yet I overrated myself and had not that spiritual judgment and experience which are requisite for so great a service.”

If you are waiting on God, if you have begun to understand the calling that God has for your life, and you are struggling to be patient as you await further instruction, I would encourage you to seek out opportunities to honor the Lord in whatever capacity you can, within the place that you find yourself in. Spurgeon describes how, “fervent lovers of souls do not wait until they are trained, they serve their Lord at once”, and I agree with his statement. Whether you have many opportunities to serve Him, or you have few, you should do everything for the glory of God. If you have a good day, pray and thank the Lord for the blessings that He has given to you. If you have a bad day, pray and ask the Lord for strength, thank Him for the things that He has blessed you with, and ask Him to encourage you. Whenever you eat, thank the Lord for it. Whenever you go to bed, thank the Lord for the home you live in, the bed you sleep in, and the blankets that keep you warm as you rest. Read His Word and keep Scripture on your mind, in your heart, and in the things that you speak to others. When you experience an emotion that you should not be experiencing, pray and ask the Lord to help you overcome it. When you find an opportunity to do something to bless another person, take it. Let your mouth speak of things that bring encouragement to others, glory to God, and blessings to anybody who hears you. Do not grow weary in doing good. Use this time to focus your mind on things that glorify God, to center your mind on Christ, and to develop a deeper relationship with Him. Make use of whatever opportunities God has given to you, give thanks to the Lord, and pray for the abilities to do what you have been called to do.

It is important to remember that, if God tells you not to go to a specific person, not to go to a specific place, not to do something in particular, or anything else like that, you must obey Him. Every part of God’s plan is accomplished in accordance with God’s perfect timing, so if He tells you to do something or not to do something, you must obey Him.

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. [1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, ESV]

I pray that this essay has blessed you, brought clarity to your situation, and has encouraged you to pursue the Lord more than ever before. I have seen the Lord bless me greatly, I have been blessed by the people who have supported me in the ministry that I have been called to, and I have experienced the things that Spurgeon and Newton have described. I want to conclude this essay with a bit of a story from my life. I have been watching God do wonderful things in my life, and each day is better than the last. I pray that you are encouraged by the things that I will share with you now. God bless you all!

For a while now, I have wanted to share what has been happening in my life in the past few months. Considering how I have written an essay about how to discover what God wants each of us to do, I feel that now would be a good time to share one of the things that I felt God put on my heart, give me faith to believe in, give me peace of mind, and give me the training that I needed in order to do what I had felt led to do.

This story begins in the first few months of 2022. Somewhere during April or May (if I remember correctly), I was at home, reading a Bible plan. That Bible plan was found on the YouVersion Bible application, which is the application that I have used to read my Bible for at least a decade by this point. I remember looking at the plans that were available for me to read, seeing all the artwork, the clever titles, and the way my friends had rated those plans so highly. It became abundantly clear to me that YouVersion has many plans, and those plans are very good.

Knowing how good the plans are, I was really confused at the way I felt. I had been praying for God to reveal what I should be doing, and He had already given me some hints (as well as some clear messages). I was beginning to recognize what it felt like when God gave me a desire, and how that type of desire was so much more intense than any desire I could ever have on my own. I felt one of those desires that I knew could only come from the Lord, and this desire was really crazy to me: I want to write a plan for this application.

I looked up how to submit a plan to YouVersion, but I was met with a page that told me how they were not accepting applications at the time. I filled out the form to be notified whenever YouVersion opens up to new applications, but, as of writing this, I have not heard back. I still had that desire, but I did not know how I would be able to do anything with that desire, especially considering how I had no ability to even send an application in, let alone have my application approved. Furthermore, I had no experience in ministry (outside being a missionary kid), I knew little about the Bible outside of the core doctrines, and I had no connections. I had no experience, no connections, no money, nothing. How would I ever get a plan published?

I was at a dead-end, but I did not feel like I was looking at a hopeless situation. I prayed, I asked God to make a way if writing a plan is part of His will for my life, and I asked for strength to make it through that day. That desire never went away, but I was able to focus on what God had revealed to me that I was actually able to start working on. Before I launched my website, I had a period of about a week or so where I could not stop reading my Bible. I did not have class, so I was able to sit down at my father’s desk, take my Bible with me, and read through a lot of my Bible each day. When I hear about somebody reading the Bible in two months (or less than that), I usually think that the person must not have remembered as much as they would have remembered, had they read the Bible at a slower pace. In general, I still hold to that position, but I do understand how God may give people the desire to read through a lot of the Bible in a very short amount of time.

I read through the New Testament again, then I reread the Epistles several times. I had plenty of time, I had a desire to read my Bible unlike any desire that I had felt before, and I really loved the Epistles, so I often read several of them each day. I began to remember passages, I began to have verses and concepts brought to my attention when I prayed, and I began to hear the Holy Spirit speak to me through His Word. I bought some highlighters for my Bible, and I took notes all over each page. I had colored all over the pages, taking notes for things that I felt I needed to remember, things that the Holy Spirit spoke to me through, things that were interesting, and things that encouraged me. I kept that Bible, and I still read it. It always makes me smile to see all my notes, and to remember how God did something in my heart during the week I took all those notes.

I launched my website and I began to use my knowledge of the Bible to put together some essays. I began to write about James, since it was the book that the Holy Spirit spoke to me through the most, and I had begun to develop a fairly good understanding of the text. The first essays that I wrote are still available to read, but they are not as well-written as what I have written recently. I got into the habit of writing, I got used to writing about the Bible, and I got used to studying each verse on its own, understanding its context, and understanding how I should interpret each verse. I kept a personal journal, and I often wrote about the things that I had been reading in my Bible. Most of those journal entries would make for terrible essays, but they made for excellent practice in pondering the meaning of God’s Word.

I watched as God blessed me in this little ministry that I had started. I felt led to start my website, then I felt led to write essays for that website. As I did what I felt led to do, I watched as the number of people viewing my website increased with each day. For four months in a row, the number of people who visited my website doubled. Month over month, I watched as God blessed me. I began to see that the thing that I had felt led to do was more than just a desire, it was part of what God had called me to do.

In September of 2022, I saw an advertisement on the Bible application, asking people to volunteer with YouVersion. Something about that advertisement caught my eye, and I felt led to submit an application. I received a response, I submitted whatever information they requested of me, and I waited. Eventually, after some meetings, some training, and a lot of prayer, I was welcomed into YouVersion’s Spiritual Support Team. There were many different places to volunteer, but I chose to volunteer with the group that answers prayer-requests, in addition to responding to questions that people have about the Bible. The latter responsibility is what really seemed fun, but the former was still very exciting. I began to write responses to people. Each week, I wrote fifteen emails, with some being incredibly long. I have become more efficient in how I send out these emails, but I remember spending several sessions per week, with each session lasting for an hour or two, writing emails to people. I loved responding to people, and I love responding to people today. My favorite part of praying for people is that, sometimes, I would open my inbox and find an email from a person that I prayed for, telling me that God had answered our prayers. Of the fifteen emails that I wrote per week, perhaps three or four would respond with the type of email that I just described. I believe that God answered the other prayers as well, but it was always nice to hear from the person that I had been praying for.

After a while of volunteering with YouVersion, I felt the Lord telling me to do something. I was in my bedroom, sitting in front of my computer, and I felt like I should reach out to one of the people that I had met while volunteering with YouVersion. I had volunteered for a month or two by that point, and I had always completed the work that I promised to complete when I became a volunteer, I did not cause trouble, and I had made a few friends. I posted a message in the group-chat for YouVersion’s volunteers, asking if I could speak to somebody about a question that I had. I received a message shortly thereafter, to which I replied by sharing a short version of my desire to write plans for YouVersion’s Bible application. I knew that they were not accepting applications, but I really felt like I needed to ask.

To my surprise, I received an email address to contact. I had never reached this far before, and I was incredibly excited when I saw that I had made it closer to this desire that I had prayed about for so long. I contacted the email address that I had been given, then I waited. Again, to my surprise, I received a response, telling me to fill out a form. That form was an application to become a partner with YouVersion.

It asked for a few things, including my name, my organization (my name), and a sample of what I wanted to have published on the Bible application. I took a day or two to figure out what I would do, then I submitted a day of a plan that I wanted to write, but had not written. My application had been received, and I had been given an idea of how long it would take to receive a response. I was incredibly excited.

By this point, I felt confident. I was not confident in myself, nor was I confident in my writing, but I was absolutely sure that God had led me to where I was, that I was doing something that He had put on my heart to do, and that I had been obedient. I told my family and friends about how I would be able to publish plans on the Bible application, and I was preparing to write the first plan that I would submit.

On Sunday, as I was in church, I felt like I needed to go home after the service ended, sit down in front of my computer, and write some more of an essay that I had been working on. It was called “Squandering Our Faith”, and it was about the way we can delay God’s plan for our lives if we do not position ourselves in the correct way. I had already broken the essay up into seven points, and I had finished writing the text for two or three of those points. I expected to get home from church and finish writing a point or two, but I was mistaken. I sat at my desk and wrote for a couple of hours. I finished writing the entire essay, and I was amazed at how much I enjoyed writing it. It was thirteen pages in total, and I was very happy with the way it turned out, so I published it on my website.

A day or two later, I saw that I had received a response from YouVersion. I was excited. I sat down at my desk, opened the email, and felt my heart sink.

“Thanks for submitting a proposed Reading Plan to YouVersion. We appreciate your passion for God's Word and your desire to help others make it an important part of their every day.

We reviewed your content sample this morning, and at this time, we will not be taking any further steps to include your plan in the app. We receive submissions every week, and while there is lots of good content out there, we want to be sure we are adding a variety of diverse, high-quality Plans that our global community can engage with.

We encourage you to continue to explore ways to share your valuable content with the Christian community! We hope you’re able to showcase the content through other communication channels and for God to use you and this content to minister to many.

Again, thank you so much for your passion for the Word. Keep seeking Him there daily and continue to invite others into the journey with you.”

I was disappointed, but not as much as I should have been. I felt this urge to sit down and finish the plan that I had been preparing to submit when YouVersion approved my application. Before I did so, I prayed, I asked God to help me, and I asked Him to give me peace. I spent around three hours writing. I finished my plan, put each day’s content into a single document, and sent it off to YouVersion. I applied for the second time, and I was given another estimation of how long I would need to wait for a reply. I had around a week or so of waiting to do, so I kept writing for my website, kept praying, and kept trusting God.

I had an idea of when I would receive a response, based on the timeframe that YouVersion had given to me, but as each day passed, I began to feel confused. The night before the final day of the timeframe that I had been given, I had a dream. In that dream, I saw my plan. It had been published, and it was doing well. It was the plan that I had submitted, and it was the plan that I felt incredibly passionate about.

Later that day, I felt God speak to my heart. I realized that YouVersion would not reply by the date that they said they would. However, I had an idea come to mind, and I believe that the idea was not from my head. The idea was to wait a bit, follow up with YouVersion, and see if that gets me approved. I had already tried to email them a few days before, but I had not heard back. I prayed, I told God that I would wait, and that whenever the time was right for me to follow up with YouVersion, I would do so.

Less than a week later, I felt led to follow up with YouVersion. I checked my email the next morning and saw a new email in my inbox:

“Hello there!

We were able to review your content sample and it looks great! Let's continue the process!”

I had been eating breakfast, but I got up and ran to show my father that my application had been approved. That day, I submitted my first plan to YouVersion. I was given a tentative date for the plan to release, and I could hardly wait. January 9, 2023, would be the day when I would finally see the thing that I had prayed about for so long come to pass.

On the night of January 7, I saw that my plan was still marked as being “in review”. I had suspected that YouVersion had forgotten to change the status, but I felt like I needed to make sure. I reached out to YouVersion and asked if I had been worried about something silly. I was told that they would look into the situation.

I felt incredibly discouraged. I had been preparing to see this plan go live after months of work, but I had run right into a roadblock. I was wondering how many roadblocks I would need to run into before the plan would go live, or if it would go live at all. I prayed, and I asked God to give me peace. Before I went to sleep that night, I felt peace. I felt this sense of assurance about the date that my plan had been scheduled to launch on. I did not know how it would happen, but I had this feeling in my spirit that I would see God get this plan onto the application, and that it would go live on time.

The next day, I felt really discouraged. It was the day before my first plan was supposed to go live, but my plan was still being reviewed. I began to feel less hopeful as the day progressed. I went to sleep, not knowing what would happen, but feeling like I would not see my plan go live any time soon.

I went through January 9, feeling really discouraged, but being committed to the other things that God had put on my heart. Before I went to sleep that night, I felt like I should check my emails. I opened my inbox and was greeted by an email that I really did not expect to see.


Your Bible Plan is now live”

My reaction was a mixture of shock, excitement, and confusion. I looked at when the email was sent to me, and I was even more amazed: “Monday, January 9, 7:24 PM”.

My plan went live, and it went live on schedule. I thanked God, but I also asked for forgiveness. I asked God to forgive me for doubting Him. I was really confused as to why I was so discouraged up until that point, but I knew that God forgave me.

In hindsight, I think that God humbled me, that the devil was attacking my spirit, or perhaps a bit of both. I was completely taken by surprise when I saw that I had been able to have my first plan published, and I was so amazed at what God had done in my life. I was totally focused on God and how He had blessed me.

My first plan was the same plan that I submitted to YouVersion on my second attempt, and it was the same plan that I felt like I needed to go and write that one Sunday morning. God had been working in my life, and this was just the beginning of what He would do. It is worth mentioning that the plan that had just been published had been the plan that I had seen in my dream. It is also worth mentioning that I saw that same plan in my dream. But what about the part where my plan was doing really well? Well, God made that part of my dream come true as well.

The statistics that YouVersion has provided to me are not always up-to-date (it refreshes once a day, if I am not mistaken), but I can still see how well my plans are performing. I almost forgot to mention that I submitted a second plan, which released a week after my first plan did. I remember the first time I checked my analytics and saw that it had updated. I was absolutely amazed at what I saw: 290 people had subscribed to my plan within 24 hours of it being available. How could this have happened? I had never had anywhere near that type of success, and most of my writing had not been read by anybody other than myself. After praying for months and months, after praying for guidance, after praying for a sign, after praying for wisdom, I watched as God gave me a sign that was absolutely clear: I am doing what God has called me to do.

This is not the final thing that I plan to do, nor is it the final part of God’s plan for me. The past month or so was not a culmination of my ministry, it was the beginning. In my journal, I had set a prediction for my first plan, which was that it would have 10 subscribers by the end of the week. My prediction was not even close! By the end of January, I had seen the number of subscribers skyrocket, reaching over 4,900! I saw the number of completions (people who completed my plans) reach nearly 1,800! I watched as people began to read all the essays that I had written, but had not been read by anybody. I watched as God blessed me in ways that I had never imagined, and I am still seeing Him bless me.

Of all the things that God has blessed me with, nothing compares to the messages that I have received on my website, on my phone, and in my email inbox. Nothing brings me more joy than reading a message from somebody who has been blessed by what I published. I do not write for money, I do not write for fame, I do not write for respect, and I do not write out of boredom. I write because I love God, God loves me, He loves everybody else, but not everybody knows that. I do not want to share the Gospel with people just so that they do not go to Hell, I want to share the Gospel so that people can experience the same level of joy, the same level of fulfillment, and the peace that only comes from above. When I read about how somebody has been impacted by something that I have written, I am overjoyed. I thank the Lord for the opportunities that He has given to me, all the people that He has introduced me to, all the wonderful things that He has shown me, all the blessings that He has given to me, and all that He is preparing for me.

I wanted to share this part of my testimony, not because I feel special. I am just a man, and I am one of many. My point in sharing this part of my testimony is to share with everybody the way I have seen God bless me, and how I have experienced the things that Spurgeon and Newton have described. The start of my calling began with a desire. That desire gave me even more of a reason to seek out the Lord, to seek His wisdom, and to seek His guidance. That desire never went away, and because it never went away, it was always there to motivate me. I had been given a goal, that goal was the thing that I wanted more than anything, and I would pursue that goal no matter what it took. That goal is not one thing. Rather, that goal is a combination of many things that God has put on my heart. I am not at the end, but I am far further in my journey than I have ever been.

That desire consisted of many things, and I was able to do what I felt called to do. I did not know how I would reach the goal that I had, but I knew that if I trusted in the Lord, if I prayed, if I dedicated myself to honoring God in all that I did, I would see God lead me to the place that He had called me to. I was not fully equipped at the time, and some of the things that I felt called to do were completely out of my character to do. Where I lacked skill, God supplied skill. Where skill did not exist, God created it. God will equip us to do what He has called us to do, and I have experienced this.

I remember the first time I heard somebody tell me how something I had written encouraged them, and I remember the joy that I felt in my heart. I struggle to comprehend how I could have helped anybody with something that I had written. When I began to see God work in and through me, I really knew that I had been called to serve the Lord. God could use anybody or anything, but I was watching as God used me on a consistent basis. This was no accident, this was no coincidence, this was God. God had called me, He had equipped me, and He had been using me to bless others.

When my first plan was published, my life changed. I watched as everybody I knew began to read through my plan. I heard from people that I had not heard from since I was a little boy, and I watched as people began to review my plan. I kept being told how God had something special for me, how I had a calling on my life, how they were really impressed with my work, how they are really proud of me, and how they could see the way God had been working in me. I always feel uncomfortable talking about the way people describe me. When I tell people that God is the One Who has done all the great things that have my name attached to them, I genuinely mean what I say. I know myself, I know my strengths, I know my weaknesses, and I know that the things that I have been able to do recently would not have been possible had God not equipped me. I could not succeed without God, and I do not want to try. Within a single day of my plan being available, everybody I heard from had told me that God had something big planned for me. The day that my plan was released was the day when I saw every mature Christian I knew affirm my calling. It was so encouraging, and I spent more time than ever thanking the Lord in prayer. God is good, God is faithful, and God is able.

Through many doors being opened, many doors being closed, I have been led to where I am today. Through trials, through pain, through suffering, and through hardships, I have been strengthened and equipped to serve the Lord in the way that He has called me. I was a broken person, but God brought me to where He wanted me to be. He has blessed me, He has guided me, and He has never let me down. Whenever I have a dream, a vision, some kind of prompting in my heart, I get incredibly excited. When God promises something, He overdelivers, and He does so at the perfect time.

I have seen how God has equipped me to serve in the way that He has called me to serve, and I have seen the joy that serving the Lord has brought to my life. Now that you have read about some of the ways to figure out what God’s calling is for your life, you must devote yourself to Him. Pray everyday, fast if you must, and ask for direction. If you do not hear from the Lord, keep praying. Keep seeking God, keep knocking, and never grow weary in doing good. If you have walked away from the Lord, rededicate your life to Him, then ask for His help. Clean your life up, reconcile with your brothers and sisters in Christ, and seek to be closer with God today than you were yesterday. Each day is filled with decisions. There is good and evil, right and wrong, so we must choose which side we wish to pursue. Do we want to follow what is pleasurable to the flesh, leading us to eternal death, or do we want to pursue the Lord, pursue His calling for each of us, and experience joy and peace unlike anything the human mind could fathom? I have made my choice, and I pray that you make the same choice as I have.

Introduction (Philemon)

It may seem strange that I would bother writing about Philemon, considering its brevity, as well as its apparent lack of meaning. I have r...