I think many Christians, at some point in their life with Jesus, have had a desire to be involved in some sort of full time ministry. Well, God has called some to full time, staffed ministry and others He has not. But here is the kicker, He has called all of us to a full time ministry where we are at. When I was about two years old in Jesus, He called me to teach His word. I started a Bible study and taught His word. I thought that might someday lead me to a pastor position but I was wrong. I was not disappointed or upset with the Lord and I continued to teach as He opened the doors. I had taken that step out in faith when He first called and began to teach. God knows our capabilities and He knows where He can use us, so, I don’t believe He is going to ask us to do something we are not able to do; He does not set us up for failure. Later in my Christian life, He directed my wife and me to move from the California to Pennsylvania. That might sound like a reasonable request to some but this was a move across the country leaving a very well paying job and a healthy ministry behind and there was no job or source of income waiting at the other end. Because I was spiritually mature enough to know God wouldn’t tell me to do this without having a plan to provide for us and also having a need for me to do His work somewhere in Pennsylvania. I got it, but at first I didn’t like it and it took about six months of praying and seeking the Lord’s guidance for this move across the country. Taking a step out in faith is showing Jesus that you have put all your faith and trust in Him for the adventure you are about to embark on. Something as simple as talking to a person at work about Jesus after being directed by the Lord to do so, is taking a step out in faith. Jesus is not always going to call everyone to India or Africa; He puts us where we are going to do the best work for Him. It will be something or somewhere in which He has gifted us for. Taking a step out in faith when God calls, is telling Him, “I am ready and available to do your work where and when and how.” I remember, as a young, new Christian, thinking about doing God’s work in some place I was totally unfamiliar with or doing something I had no idea about. But, I had very good mentors who explained, from a Bible stand point, how God calls us to do His work. Remember, God knows what our skills are and He also knows what gifts of the spirit He has given us and He will call us to a work that requires those specific needs. If you haven’t heard God calling yet and you have been a Christian for a while, maybe you are not listening. Praying is more than our talking to God, it also involves our listening for God’s voice speaking to us. There are many Christians in the Church today who never hear God calling out to them because they are not listening to Him. They have received fire insurance (saved from the fires of hell) and that is all they care about. Another reason may be the person has not had enough mentoring or a discipleship program which helps them start their spiritual growth. As we study His word and grow spiritually, we will feel the Lord tugging on our heart and hear Him calling us to a ministry work. Most times, this does not involve quitting your job and going to a far away place or even a close place. It will, in most cases, involve us in a ministry in the local church or in our local area. But, there are those God will call to foreign missions, domestic missions or pastoral ministry. The Lord usually places this on a person’s heart before the actual calling out. Regardless of where or what He calls us to, we need to respond by taking a step out in faith.
As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, “Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then, having fasted and prayed, and laid hands on them, they sent them away. Acts 13:2-3 NKJV www.biblegateway.com
As these saints gathered in Antioch and ministered to the Lord, it was obvious that Paul and Barnabas were called out to the mission field to preach the gospel to the gentiles. They were fasting and praying, seeking the guidance of the Lord and the Holy Spirit spoke to them. This is not only a Bible thing; this is for us and Christians in churches all over the world seek the Lord’s direction and guidance in this manner. It is not rocket science, it is simply praying and listening to God. I would like to share two examples or testimonies of how people responded to God’s call. One is a testimony of a good friend and the other is one from my experience in stepping out in faith.
Taking A Step Out In Faith
Paul Stanton was responsible for sharing Jesus with me which ultimately led to my salvation. I met Paul on a secular job site where I was his Work Lead; the first day he showed up with a Bible under his arm. Now, to some of you that might not seem like an extreme thing to do but this work place was one of the worst I had ever seen and it was more vile than any place I had ever been, including the military. This job site had people doing drugs, alcohol and sex during work hours. This is not an exaggeration; as a matter of fact, I wrote a book about this place and how the Lord made His presence known here and how He changed hearts and lives at this job site. The book, A Rose in the Desert*, was titled after Isaiah 35:1,
The wilderness and the wasteland shall be glad for them,
And the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose;
You see, the location of the job site was in the desert, 40 miles from the nearest town. It was as immoral as you could imagine and seemed to fit the wasteland description in the verse and as Jesus came in and changed hearts and lives, it blossomed like a rose in the desert.
Paul was offered this job and he took it because he was unemployed and had been praying for work when this job literally came right to his front door. But that is another story for another time. Paul showed up at this vile, immoral job site with a Bible and the guys were freaking out because nobody ever had brought a Bible to work. Paul was faithful and with the strength of Jesus, held his ground. He had only been saved about six months when he started this job and it would have been easy for a Christian that young in his faith to just throw in the towel, but Paul prayed and stood fast with Jesus. Can you imagine what it would be like to go to work every day as a Christian to this type of atmosphere? Can you imagine showing up for work in the morning and knowing that the people you work with might be and probably are under the influence of some type of drug or alcohol? I can, actually I don’t have to imagine it because I was part of it! Paul did this every day but Jesus began to melt the hearts of some of these guys and before long some of them were getting saved. Jesus used Paul in this place for about five years and then called him and his wife, Patty, to the mission field. Cutting through all the details of how and where they were going, it came down to the hard truth of needing $10,000 for the expenses required for this calling. They took a step out in faith, believing the Lord would provide the needed funds for the expenses. They sold everything they owned, car, household goods, everything. Now, they admitted to not having much and the total they had after selling everything was $2000. They were $8000 short; most people would have given up. But, they had stepped out in faith, sold everything they owned and they were sure the Lord would provide the rest of the money. One Sunday morning after church service, a man, who Paul had never saw before, approached him and asked if he was indeed Paul Stanton. Paul told him yes and the man nodded and walked away. A few days later this man shows up at the home where they were staying with two checks, one for $3000 and one for $5000. The Lord had provided for their needs and they were off to the mission field. Now, I know there are skeptics who will scoff at this; but I say, “Put yourself in their position. They had nothing, they had sold everything, and were still $8000 short, $8000 is a lot of money and even more at the time this happened! No, I say they stepped out in faith and God honored that, knowing how serious they were in their faith about answering this call and He blessed them with the funds they needed. Why should we be surprised or shocked at this? Was $8000 too much for God to come up with? If He calls, He will provide.
Answer God’s Call And Move Forward
The final passages in the book of Ephesians discusses the armor of God and when looked and studied closely, we notice there is no armor for our back. There is a simple answer for that, God doesn’t want us moving backward and He doesn’t want us looking back when we should be moving forward. I know we have all heard the analogies of warfare when describing the Christian life and that is what this passage is speaking about, spiritual warfare. In combat your can’t hold your ground if you are moving back and the Christian life is the same way. When God calls us, we need to move forward to the ministry or place He has called us. I was serving in a local church in California and at the same time working at a full time secular job (mentioned earlier in this writing). The Lord called me to leave those positions and, with my wife, return to our home state of Pennsylvania. There was a thriving ministry at the job site that kept me busier than my duties at the church and I was not ready to leave these situations. We had visited Pennsylvania and returned home and everything was business as usual until I came home from work one day. Here is the excerpt from my book, A Rose in the Desert,
We had been home a couple of days when my wife dropped a bomb on me as I came in the house one day after work. She very boldly announced that she thought we should move back to Pennsylvania! At first I was stunned; was she serious? I then posed these questions to her, “Did you fall and hit your head today? Are you thinking straight?” And finally, “Are you in your right mind?” Move back to Pa.??! I couldn’t even consider that. It was cold in Pa. in the winter and there was snow and ice and other cold things going on in Pa. in the winter. In the summer it was humid and sticky and miserably uncomfortable. There were mosquitoes and other flying insects we didn’t have in the desert. This was too much to think about after just walking in the door from work. A Rose in the Desert, Bill Petite, Outskirts Press, March 2012 p. 146
That was God calling me to go and at first, as you can tell from the excerpt above, I didn’t want to go! A few weeks went by and I then began to realize that God really was calling me to go to Pa. and I began to pray about this. Over the next few months, as I prayed and waited on the Lord, it was becoming more and more clear to me that we were going to Pa. When God had called, I was not as strong in my faith as I might have thought. As the months went by, the Lord instilled in me a faith that was strong and resilient. He taught me many things about faith and trusting Him to take care of everything. I heard testimonies of great faith and heard messages of faith even when the topic wasn’t faith. I had come to a point in my Christian life where I totally trusted Jesus for everything. We had eliminated all distractions such as television. We shut the television off the day after I got the real clear message from the Lord that He wanted us to go. It was clear and I had such a peace concerning this move and after initially refusing the idea of leaving Southern California, I couldn’t wait to get going! The Lord had enlarged my heart, which I thought was faithful, and He taught me more than I could have ever thought, about faith. So, I took the first step and quit my job, packed up our belongings and traveled across the country to Pa. and trusted in the Lord to provide. The Lord provided for our needs and we never went without. I began a ministry work and the Lord provided me with a job and a place to live and we began ministering to our new community. What a blessing it was to take that first step and move out in the direction which the Lord wanted us to go. I had heard so many testimonies concerning Christians being called and sent out but, until I took that first step, I then knew what it was really like to be obedient and take that step out in faith. Actually, over the next 5 years, the Lord took us across the country two more times and both times were the same. We left Pa. and traveled back to Southern California without any type of employment waiting for me and then eight months later did it again, returning to Pennsylvania. In both instances, Jesus provided for our needs and provided a means of income. We had definitely grown in our faith and trust in the Lord.
As a Christian, we have a tendency to get into a comfort zone and when the Lord taps us on the shoulder and tells us He wants us to go here or there or do this or that, we resist because we don’t want to leave our comfort zone. Being a Christian is more than attending church services a couple times a week. It is doing God’s work; responding to His call and telling people about Jesus. There are not enough workers to cover all the places God wants to reach out to. This is the words of Jesus to His disciples,
Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.” Matt. 9:37-38 NKJV
Answering the call which the Lord puts on your heart is not interrupting your life, it is God’s attempt to fulfill it. When we are obedient to the Lord’s calling, we will be blessed and our lives will be changed, but changed for the better. We live in a society that is all about self and selfish ambitions; everybody wants fulfillment and satisfaction. They want the pleasures which are offered by this world and they are only concerned with themselves. We can answer God’s call and teach this lost and miserable world about Jesus and begin to change hearts and lives through the power of the Holy Spirit. So, answer God’s call by taking a step out in faith.
If God calls a man to a work, He will be with him in that work, and he will succeed no matter what the obstacles may be. -D.L. Moody