How do I know if God has called me to a task?

jesushealing.jpgI’ve had this question posed to me several times. It’s not an easy one for a couple of reasons.

First, when the New Testament speaks of a Christian being “called,” it usually means called to obey the gospel. On the other hand, when Jesus calls James and John to follow him (Matt. 4:21 ff), they are being called to “be fishers of men,” a very specific task.

Second, although we have many examples of God calling an individual to a very particular task–Abraham, Moses, Gideon, the Apostles, among many others–I can find no doctrine that Christians are, as a body, each called to a very specific task.

On the other hand, there’s no reason to suppose that God no longer wishes particular people to take on particular tasks. For example, we know that the Spirit gives particular spiritual gifts to us, and we are called to use those gifts in God’s service. If my gift is encouraging, then I’m called to be an encourager. In this very real sense, as everyone has at least one gift, everyone has at least one calling.

However, I know many people who feel called to a very particular task, and know of no reason to doubt the reality of what they are feeling. It would be very consistent with God’s nature to sometimes appoint specific people to specific tasks.

I personally feel very strongly called to do some of the things I do. I knew I’d be an elder for decades before I was ordained. I know I’m supposed to teach. I also think I’m supposed to help fight legalism in the Churches of Christ–hence I’ve had The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace published, I speak at the lectureships, and I maintain this web site. In fact, I feel driven to do these things.But I don’t think that everyone has such particular callings — or at least, not all the time. I don’t have much in the way of scriptures to support this, but here’s how I’ve got it figured. How do I know what God wants me to do?

* Pray for discernment. If God has a specific (or more general) task for you, he’ll lay it on your heart. Spend time in prayer asking, and if God has something special in mind, he may just be waiting for you to ask. Ask.

Some deny that God communicates in this way, and I can only say that I’m sorry they’ve never experienced it. Maybe if they were to ask in faith they’d learn otherwise.

* Ask yourself what you’re good at.

You may be like Gideon or Moses and not feel up to what God wants out of you–and so it’s good to ask Godly people what they see in you, too. Many churches do gifts assessments, and part of a good program is to have others in the class tell you what they think you’re good at. Many people are surprised at what they’re told!

* You may have to train for the task given you. You may be gifted to teach but need training in Bible study or lesson preparation. Don’t confuse lack of preparation with the absence of a gift.
* It’s easy to fool yourself. I know people who feel they are called to teach, but they have NO gift of teaching. God gifts those he calls.

Seek outside advice to be sure you haven’t turned a personal wish into a mission from God.

Gifted people generally enjoy using their gifts. But some few people enjoy things they are very poor at. Ask an honest person.

* You may need help from others (Moses needed Aaron). Don’t be afraid to recruit others to help–God doesn’t necessarily call you to go it alone. Jesus sent his missionaries out two by two. He gave Gideon a small army. Paul traveled with a group of missionaries.

* Don’t be afraid of pushing for things outside your or the church’s comfort zone. Sometimes God wants a change.

* On the other hand, never, ever despise the ordinary.

(Luke 9:48) Then he said to them, “Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. For he who is least among you all–he is the greatest.”

Simply caring for a child can be the Lord’s calling. My wife oversees our cradle roll class on Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights. She recruits and trains the teachers. She prepares the lessons. She buys the toys she uses as props. It’s a gift, an obsession–and it’s a calling.

* Pray a lot. If you feel God has something in mind for you, then you aren’t through praying. Rather, like Jesus, it’s time to get serious about your prayer life.

* Expect to have a hard time at times. Paul got beaten, shipwrecked, rejected … . Pharaoh didn’t listen to Moses. David was nearly killed by Saul and spent years in the wilderness before he took the throne. Be patient. Persevere.

* Study hard to be sure what you’re doing is true to the word. God never calls you to violate his word.
* Some among us will never accept the idea that God is alive and active today by any means other than his word. It’s tragic that some think this way, as they miss out on so many blessings. Don’t worry about it. Just do what you’re supposed to do.

* And if at times you feel a little driven–even obsessed–even when you can’t figure out your next step or things are going badly. Well, that’s very likely the Spirit pushing. Let him push.

(Gal. 5:25) Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.

* Oh, and did I mention that it’s important to pray? That’s really important.

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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0 Responses to How do I know if God has called me to a task?

  1. Pingback: What’s Wrong With How We Do Church?: Escaping Our Denial « One In

  2. davidevans says:

    hi i don,t know any thing about how tobe aminster if this is the will of god shall i pray till god give me ansewer.

  3. Jay Guin says:


    Yes, you should pray. No, that's not all you should do, as I discuss in the main post.

  4. Hey Jay thanks for posting this. I've been feeling called to do something and you confirmed in me what I already knew and what I already knew I needed to do.

    So thank you for writing this and sharing with all of us cause it has realy helped me by just being a confirmation for me.

    – Jeremy Newton

  5. Jay Guin says:


    I pray that you've chosen God's path. I'm sure you have. He'll certainly be with you as you walk it.

  6. carolyn says:

    What's the difference between a calling and fulfilling a need in the church. Should we feel a "calling" before we step out to do anykind of service?

  7. Jay Guin says:

    What’s the difference between a calling and fulfilling a need in the church?

    "Calling" refers to God's action in urging an individual to take on some task. We have plenty of Biblical examples of God calling someone to a task.

    Of course, we have even more examples of someone taking on a task without being called. Calling is not essential, and we have no power to make God call us.

    And I'd never limit God. Doing something just because it needs doing (a very fine motivation!) is not a calling from God. But God can call someone to do anything by any number of means.

  8. Jeff Steffler says:

    Hi there,
    I believe in my case God will not give me a direct answer He has been speaking too me through His word and anointed people in my church twice when I went up for prayer they told me that they sensed astrong anointing on me and just this Sunday the same person said as she grab my hand these hands will heal thousands Praise God I was healed as a infant of water on the brain I was labeled a miricle baby in Pittsburgh Pa in 1969!

  9. Tonycocciajr says:

    I believe that we have revelation through the word, our personality (emotion) and life experiences that all contribute to the way we see ourselves in service to the church. I'm not sure I can accept the "laying on my heart" theory other than to say that I, (as one who has freedom in Christ) can decide for myself how to use what talents I believe I have been given (through God's grace) to serve Him (Proverbs 16:9) based on those 3 influences I first mentioned. Perhaps there can be other different [real] forces that prompt someone else. I hate to sound legalistic, but those OT examples you present are in fact, OT examples, including those in the gospels you use, where God communicated one on one to fulfill his purpose. I appreciate your thought expressed in the third paragraph. I strongly believe in the spiritual needs efforts (lessons, surveys) to assist people in determining what they are good at, again based on prompting similar to what I mentioned initially.

  10. Tonycocciajr says:

    I forgot to mention that to decide what will be done "by us" to provide God with a way to speak to us is pretty arrogant to me.

  11. Alabama John says:

    Sometimes God has a need somewhere and you are called to fill it without you even knowing it until afterwards.

    Or, maybe not at all.

    Someone may be praying for someone just like you to come help them or help them come to Jesus or the truth and you are called and go kicking and fussing, but you go and when there realize why you were called. Sure humbling to be called by God!
    Reminds me of the wonderful story of Lydia the seller of purple praying on the river shore.

  12. Wisconsin Sarah says:

    I have had many dreams in which people have spoke to perform a specific task (ie. pray a novena for the souls in purgatory) and then I feel a “push” to do more now and I feel a deep, I don’t even have the words for it, fire when I pray the rosary and sometimes I feel that I am called to be nun…yet, that is not possible because I am a mother and I am married. I have gone to my priest yet he has not returned my phone calls and feel in dier need of a spiritual director but I am starting to wonder if this is just an inner want to know Christ or if I really need to press on and if I need to press on, I have no idea where to turn next. Do you have any recommendations?

  13. Alabama John says:

    W. Sarah,

    Pray and listen to your instinct. You have the wonderful womens intuition on your side.What you can do best for good will come to you.
    Try just simply talking to folks you know or come in contact with and do far more listening than talking yourself. Ask questions that bring the person out and talking freely.
    You will learn more by listening and from that you will understand what is needed from you in regard to that person.
    Start small and just help in small ways.
    Listening is the easiest thing to do and will help the most.
    I always get a laugh when folks tell others what a conversationist some are and how they helped them and all they did was listen and nod their head.
    Americans are so busy and when off fill their time with activities of many kinds, even TV.
    Going off by themselves and just sitting still, putting all worldly things aside and just wait for thoughts to come to them is totally foreign to most.
    This is needed by so many of us. Native Americans are very good at it. But, its taught from childhood.
    Try it!
    God bless your efforts and willingness to learn and do.

  14. Kyle Edwards says:

    just wanted to say thank you so much for writing this, this has truly helped me out a lot and helped me realize things, praise God for that, but anyway i feel this calling to do something with singing, but im struggling with confidence and i have a fear of singing in front of people.. but the people who have heard me said im really good and i should do something with my voice and i sometimes feel like im not good enough to sing either ya know… but im really passionate when it comes to singing for Jesus and i devoted my life to full time ministry recently at a christian camp because i felt a calling to do that… and i feel an urge to go after singing in the ministry field… but im so nervous about failing and stuff, and idk i feel like i worry too much sometimes, but thanks for reading this and id love it if you wrote back!! btw whoever reads this please keep me in your prayers with this singing thing in my life and pray that ill stay on track and follow Gods will… thanks again!!!

  15. Courtney D. says:

    I was originally just reading this because a friend of mine wanted me to see what an impact it had on his choices to go out and do what God wants him to do. As I was reading, I realized that God has given me more gifts than I have realized. He has given me the gift of encouragement. I’ve encouraged many people and just been that friend that won’t judge them for what they’ve done in the past and I’m able to give them loving advice, but also honest advice. I also have the gift of worship. I’m wanting to go out and play bass in a band, go on tour, and on the off tour go and speak to teens or kids that don’t have hope. Kids in the hospital due to a deadly disease or kids with depression, kids who have lost family members that were close to them. I feel so honored to serve God and I cannot wait to see what happens!

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