“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined the things that God has prepared for those who love him.” 1 Corinthians 2:9
Called. That word carries with it a dual weight of responsibility and identity. First of all, how do I know if am called? Secondly, what am I called to do? Finally, what if my calling is not as cool as someone else? So many questions! So much confusion! And, let’s be honest, so much comparison. I don’t know of a generation before ours that has desired a sense of calling more than the present one. We want to live our lives on mission. We want to live for something greater than ourselves. I believe ours is the generation that wants to look back and know our time wasn’t meaningless. This desire is both good and honorable, but also proves disappointing if your present situation doesn’t seem all that grand or Nobel Prize worthy. As women who love Jesus, we can often fall in the trap of comparison and think our callings aren’t worthy if they aren’t on a platform or widely applauded.
I so get it; I’ve struggled with the pressure of “the call.” Let me be clear, I know, without a doubt, I am called. I believe every Christ-follower is. From my very first days of following Jesus (even though I barely knew any of the Bible, nor was I walking in victory in every area of my life) one thing was for sure—I knew my life was not my own anymore. I belonged to Jesus, and my life was His! That was my first sense of calling. The internal drive that says, “Jesus, I am Yours!” Deep within there was the response of surrender to the One, who rescued me and gave me life. Long before there were books published, speaking opportunities or anything resembling Redeemed Girl Ministries; there was a young woman in her mid-twenties who said, “Jesus, take it all!”
Perhaps you are reading this, and you, too, are surrendered. You know your life belongs to Jesus, and you want Him to use your life for something that glorifies His name. Now, what? Is your current path the one that Jesus has for you?
To answer that question, let’s turn to the Bible and look at Moses. Moses was a man of destiny. His entire life is a miracle in the making. He was rescued as a baby from a death sentence and raised as a Prince of Egypt. One might say that God set him apart for a great mission. Indeed, he was set apart. Born as a Hebrew slave but raised by a daughter of Pharaoh, Moses was positioned to be the deliverer of God’s people from slavery.
But as we examine Moses’ life we see our first principle of calling:
#1 GOD CAN ONLY USE US AFTER HE HAS FIRST BROKEN US.
Ouch! I’m sure that sounds harsh but let me explain what I mean by “broken.” In Moses, we see a man who carries a sense of calling from an early age. He sees the suffering of God’s people and wants to do something about it. Now, his passion to “do something” is not wrong, it’s just misdirected. His first attempt to deliver God’s people was to kill an Egyptian whom he found beating a Hebrew slave. Good passion, wrong action. Moses attempted to “do something” in his flesh, or rather, his own strength. For this reason, he was forced to flee Egypt, to hide from Pharaoh and live in the barren wilderness for 40 long years. But God is still at work, for there in the wilderness, Moses was broken. Broken of confidence in self, he learned not to rely on his strength, but on the Lord’s.
How do I know this? Because the next time we see Moses in scripture, he is a man who doesn’t look to himself as the solution but rather looks to the Lord for the power to carry out the call. Moses is now a man who can be trusted by God with a great mission because he was broken of self-reliance. Often the Lord will allow wilderness seasons to teach us to rely on him and to walk more in his strength than our own. Perhaps, right now you are walking through a time of life that is forcing you to draw closer to God. Maybe, just maybe, God is using this season to shape you for your call! I know this was true in my story. The two years before I launched Redeemed Girl were the most difficult of my life. That wilderness season broke me, but in it I learned complete dependency on Jesus—my confidence was in Christ alone.
The next scene from Moses’ life teaches us another important truth about calling:
#2 GOD CALLS US TO USE WHAT IS “IN OUR HAND.”
Now Moses led the flock to the far side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. So Moses thought, “I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up.” When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!” And Moses said, “Here I am.” “Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” Then he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God. The Lord said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey. And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.” Exodus 3:1-10
We tend to use the “burning bush” as a metaphor for a time when we know God called us to a particular mission. For Moses, it was there at the burning bush that the Lord told him to deliver His people. This was no small task for Moses! No big deal; just set free a few million people who were held captive as slaves in Egypt! God always call us to do something far greater than our ability because that is where we get to see His glory!
I love Moses’ response. His first instinct was to tell God that He picked the wrong guy. He offered up all the reasons why he was not a great candidate. Gone is the self-confident Prince of Egypt, the man now humbled before the Lord is aware of his desperate need for divine empowerment. God’s response infuses us with hope:
The Lord said, “Go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.”… Moses answered, “What if they do not believe me or listen to me and say, ‘The Lord did not appear to you’?” Then the Lord said to him, “What is that in your hand?” Exodus 4:1-2
What is in your hand? Seems like a random question, right? But it is not. Moses was a shepherd, so in his hand was a staff. Just a common, ordinary staff used to lead sheep. Nothing special. But here we find the amazing thing about the Lord: God uses our “nothing special” in order to do the extraordinary, bringing glory to His great name. He calls us where we are, with abilities we already possess to do “exceedingly more than we can begin to imagine!” (Ephesians 3:20)
The Lord told Moses that he would use that staff and through it perform miracles. Miracles, that would deliver His people and show His redeeming love. All God need was what was in his hand.
WHAT’S IN YOUR HAND?
For many years, I knew I wanted to serve God, but didn’t know what He wanted me to do. Growing up, I was not the most talented kid in school. I lost every race and never excelled at anything requiring a skill. So as an adult woman, all that was in my hand was a deep love for Jesus, coupled with a passion for His word. Then one day my Pastor called and said, “Marian, we want you to teach a Bible study.” I protested and offered up all reasons why I couldn’t do it: fear of public speaking being first on my list, quickly followed by a complete fear of failure! But something in my heart told me that this call was from the Lord. I went to my mentor, and she said, “Marian, you have everything needed to serve Him well. Stay humble. It is not about you. All you need, you already have in your hand—a passionate love for Jesus and His word.” With this encouragement, I said, “Yes!”
The funny thing is, I didn’t even know that teaching was one of my spiritual gifts. I didn’t know because I’d never used the gift. Even though there was still so much for me to learn, I stepped out in faith and began to use my what God put in my hand. Honestly, I was so nervous that I nearly threw up before each lesson. But those early days of teaching Bible study were the foundation for the call on my life that still carries on today.
What about you?
What passion, gift or ability has the Lord placed in your hand? What is the Lord calling you to do to make Him famous? Perhaps you’re a mom and “in your hand” right now are your kiddos or perhaps you’re a college student and “in your hand” is a group of girlfriends who don’t know Jesus. Whether you are 18 or 80, the Lord has placed something in your hand for His glory.
Marian Jordan Ellis