Jan 092013 20 Responses

“God Called Me” vs. “I Want To”

I rarely say “God called me.” On occasion I might use it about a past event where God’s hand is easily seen. I use it in reference to the clear commands of Scripture (i.e. God called me to forgive/love/pray, etc). But beyond that, when I decide to do something I usually say, “I want to…”

Here is why:

God created time and space.

God chose to act in time and space through his son Jesus.

God created humanity giving us the ability to reason, calling us to be involved in his creation, and revealing himself to us so that we might know him.

God sent his son at a specific time and place to die and rise again making a way for humanity to be reconciled back to God.

The life, death, and resurrection of Jesus are historical events revealing the wisdom of God.

Faith is the life-changing trust that Jesus was who he said he was and results in me living my life in response to him.

Faith is not separate from reason, but is partially derived from our God given ability to reason. I use the senses God has given me to gather data which my God-given mind deciphers and I act, in faith, in response to what I believe God is calling me to do. I trust his sovereign control. I am empowered by the presence of his Holy Spirit. But in the end, I must make a decision without an audible voice from God, a miraculous sign in the sky, or an epiphany from heaven.

I make the best decision possible in light of the information I’ve been given and trust God to use that decision no matter if I’m right or wrong.

Why am I a pastor of a church? Because I want to be (and because so far the people want me to be as well).

As long as my desire is in line with God’s Word, I am free to act.

Clearly, when my desire conflicts with God’s Word, it is sin for me to act (no matter how much I desire to do so).

Why do I hesitate to say “God called me?”  For two reasons:

  1. Because saying “I want to” is no less honoring to God; and
  2. Because I’m afraid if I am wrong, I (and possibly others) will have blamed God for my mistake.

On decisions of where to live, work, what to do, and anything that isn’t a direct command in Scripture, I prefer to say “I want to” rather than “God called me.”

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20 Responses to “God Called Me” vs. “I Want To”
  1. Seth Reply

    I like this post, and in fact, this was one of my major rants in college. I loved the break-up conversations that went like this–“I think God’s calling me to singleness right now.”

    I almost always called horn-swaggle on those statements, because, the truth was, the girl was annoying, or the dude smelled bad, or the couple was just not compatible.

    If it is God who works in us to will and want according to his good pleasure, why do we have to seek to justify our decisions by saying “God called…”? Why not just say, as you do, “I want…”? I might suggest it’s because men have been trying (for all of recorded history) to justify whims by slathering them with God’s call.

    Lord have mercy.

    • Kevin Reply

      Seth, I think “God called me” often really meant “I don’t want to talk about it so I’m playing the God card.”

      • Seth Reply

        Yes. Absolutely.

  2. Kristi Reply

    My favorite response to “how do I decide?” is “love God, and do what you want.” So freeing and yes, no less honoring.

  3. Craig Reply

    Great post Kevin!

    • Kevin Reply

      Thanks Craig.

  4. Jenny Reply

    Kevin, I enjoy your writings. However, I do not recall Abraham or Moses saying “I want to. “. I do recall King David saying “I want to” with regards to building a temple. But it is God who initiates His will and we, like Abraham and Moses, have the choice of being obedient. And we like David have the choice of correctly responding when God says NO to our ‘want to’. God called Abraham to leave Ur; He called Moses to lead His people out of slavery. They believed and followed God knowing He had called them. David bowed and praised God when He told him NO. I do not believe that for a person to say ‘God called me’ is in anyway using the ‘God card’.

    • Kevin Reply

      I think there is a difference between an Old Testament prophet and our experience. We have the Holy Spirit and the Bible. In the past God spoke to our forefathers at various times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us through his Son. God told Abe to go, more often than not he tells me, “look at my Son and respond in faith.” I trust God to sovereignly move, but I can’t say for sure that I’m supposed to preach in Fort Smith tomorrow instead of Van Buren. I can just say that wherever I preach, I better do so in faith. No doubt, there are some things in which we can clearly say “God called,” but on other issues we can’t be sure. We can only do the best we can, walk in faith, and trust God. We tend to say “God called” because we are either trying to convince us or others that the move is right. On some issues there isn’t so much a right or wrong decision as much as a right or wrong way to carry out that decision. These issues often include–where I live, which Christian I marry, what job I chose, etc.

      • Jenny Reply

        Yes, I know that in the New Testament and now God speaks through His Spirit to men and women. But I do believe it was the “Macedonian call” and not the “Macedonian I want to”.
        I know that the Spirit leads us (when we are walking in the Spirit) according to our desires. But speaking from what my church family is going through right now, I am thankful to have my pastor saying “God called me” and not “I am leaving because I want to leave.” And believing this as strongly as I do , I will be anxious one day in the future to hear a man of God stand in our pulpit and say, “I am here because and only because God called me here.”

        • Kevin Reply

          This is exactly why I started this blog–for good conversations where we can learn and grow. Thanks for the comments. Nothing teaches me more than questions.

          Why does “God called me” bring more comfort than “I want” assuming the “want” perfectly fits within what God has allowed, commanded, and fits underneath his sovereign control? How do we know God’s call when facing issues of multiple good choices without our desires playing a part. I tell people all the time, “after eliminating any choices which might violate God’s word, after seeking Godly counsel and prayer, if you still have two good choices, in faith, pick the one you want.”

          Clearly someone can follow their desires into sin, but equally clear, someone can claim God called them when he didn’t. In my opinion, our tradition over uses “God called me” in situations where God has likely given us choices (i.e. where to live, work, etc) and we under use it where God has clearly called (honor your father and mother, do not covet, forgive, etc).

          I think I could be in a 1k different places which would honor God and bring him glory. At this point, I choose Fort Smith. Whatever happens, God is sovereignly in control so that even if I’m wrong, he can use me. I think his greater concern is not where I pastor, but HOW I pastor and WHO I am wherever I live. That’s why I prefer to say “I want” vs. “God called.” So for me, I want to pastor CB and, so far, God has allowed it. If I ever leave, God will have provided the opportunity, but chances are I will have the desire to go.

          The only place this isn’t true for me is preaching. I feel called to preach. Of course part of that call was that God gave me a deep desire to preach.

          (I learn more from the comments and conversation than I do the original blog posts.)

  5. Stephen McCormick Reply

    As I posted on Tim Drain’s Facebook page, it isn’t either God does something obviously supernatural to direct me, or, I use the intellect that God gave me to pick a course in life based on my desires and hope it is actually in line with God’s will, but both. They are not mutually exclusive, they are both essential in God’s program, and both are God honoring. As I posted in my God stories God has done supernatural things in directing my in my walk with Him, but far more of that direction has come as I have meditated on His Word. Engaging the supernatural direction of God is not without pitfalls or mistakes on my part, but neither is picking a direction as Paul did following his intellect and desires (godly mind you) trying to repeatedly go into Asia to do ministry only to have God slam the door tight.

    • Kevin A. Thompson Reply

      My point is that you can never know for sure if an event or activity is actually God. In faith, you can believe it is, but you can’t be certain. We can always be certain about God’s Word. Here is what I see as a problem: for a vast number of people, if I put on Facebook that I had a vision from God about you and tomorrow at 10am I was going to tell you about it, most people would be on pins and needles regarding that vision. However, if I said, tomorrow at 10am I’m going to preach. Most people wouldn’t greatly care. Ironically, the dream may or may not be from God. God’s Word is clearly from him. My dream should probably be ignored–it would have more to do about me than you, but God’s Word should clearly be applied. We are a people more in love with what God might be saying than what God has clearly said. Your stories are great, but I can’t guarantee they are from God. It doesn’t hurt for you to believe they are. They very well could be. Yet we can’t say for certain. We can say without a doubt God’s Word is from God. In the past, God spoke at various times and in many ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us through his Son Jesus.

      • Stephen McCormick Reply

        Fascinating. In every story I have posted, every case, each one takes place as a direct result of believing and applying the Word of God to life. This is exactly the same word of God which we both believe is authoritative. In every case the result is exactly what might be expected if God honors faith in His Word. And your response as a pastor is, “Your stories are great…but we can’t know if it is God.” That is truly astonishing. I have been a preacher, teacher, pastor, and missionary, and inductive Bible study teacher since 1980. I love the Word of God and love to train people to study it. It is the foundation of the Christian life, and sorely neglected in our age. But here is my opinion, based on simple observation over 5 decades. My answer to the dilemma that you posit between those are more excited about the announcement of a supernatural move of God, over the simple preaching of the Word of God is that the average preaching of the Word of God has little to no impact on the lives of the listeners because it is not preached or applied in faith. People are starving for a move of God in response to faith in His Word. That is what Jesus demonstrated by the manifestations that accompanied his preaching. That is what he taught his disciples and apostles to do. That is what the apostles were instructed to teach their disciples. And that is the heritage that is passed on to us. Are there counterfeits? Absolutely, and we were told there would be. Are we warned in Scripture to test spirits that communicate through people? Yes. Are we warned not to accept every prophetic word without testing it? Are we told not to despise prophecy? Yes, by the same authoritative Word of God. Or do you believe that only certain parts are authoritative?

      • Stephen McCormick Reply

        Kevin, I am not against you, I am for you. I am not against the studying and preaching of the Word, I am emphatically for it, and the thrust of my life work backs that up. The great irony is that I used to accept arguments against (or at least diminishing) the supernatural interaction of God with his people when they believe and apply that Word. I felt uncomfortable doing so, but all the “big guns” in evangelical circles said so. And then I realized that the rationalizations were basically the same things the Pharisees and Sadducees used with Jesus dressed up in contemporary attire. Let’s have coffee some time…

        • Kevin A. Thompson Reply

          Stephen, I’m not offended. I just disagree that the stories you sited are an application of God’s Word. It’s okay to disagree. I disagree with myself half the time. Thanks for reading and commenting. Please continue to do so as you see fit.

          • Stephen McCormick

            I appreciate your openness to discuss topics we disagree on, and I accept your invitation to continue to comment.

            Perhaps I was mistaken not to include my scriptural justification in each God story I shared on Tim’s Facebook page. To me the connection seemed clear enough without explanation, but it was obviously more subtle than I realized. I can do it with each one, but let me start with the first story.

            I needed wisdom about what to do. I was already submitted to God’s will, if he chose to express anything specific.

            Jesus said, “If anyone would follow after me, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. Whoever loves his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel will keep it unto eternal life.” Luke 9:23-25

            I really liked the truck, I had bought it for a great price, it ran great, and was in a terrific condition. I could think of a dozen selfish reasons to keep it. But I believed one thing that was happening was God was testing my willingness to set aside my selfish desires.

            Additionally, I knew it would be a tremendous burden on my wife, dealing with the stress of not being able to pay our bills. The admonition of Paul, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her…” (Eph 5:25) weighed on my mind. I could do without the truck if it meant keeping my wife from being anxious about money to pay bills.

            I wanted to be as spiritually sensitive as I could be so I fasted and prayed, a common practice in scripture when crying out to the Lord for his direction and deliverance from adverse circumstances.

            James wrote “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.” Ja 1:5-8

            I have gotten used to such direction from the Lord, so it was no surprise when my sister in Christ’s name came to mind. Solomon wrote, “Trust in the Lord, with all your heart, and lean not unto your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths.” Prov 3:5-6 (One of several life verses for me)

            I also appreciate Psalm 72:12 “For he will deliver the needy who cry out, the afflicted who have no one to help.”

            James also warns, “You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.” Ja 4:2c-3

            Jesus repeatedly told his disciples they were coming into a time when they would ask in his name and he his Father would do whatever they asked in accordance with His will. (John 14:13, 14; 15:16; 16:23, 24, 26)

            I was very specific in what I was asking of the Lord for an answer, to sell the truck now, or to wait. I wanted a specific answer to a specific prayer so I would be without uncertainty, one criteria for wisdom from above. (Ja 3:17 RSV)

            I was also very careful not to give any indication what was going on in my life, or what I was seeking an answer to so as to not prod her into giving me what I wanted to hear. I honestly did not care at that point whether it was to sell now or wait, I only wanted input from the Lord if He would choose to give it.

            The answer came totally at the end of the call, without provocation, and without any context that could be misconstrued. “The Holy Spirit says, ‘Now is the time.”

            Scripture says not to despise prophecy, but to test everything. The word she gave me was exactly what I needed to hear, and could not have been more specific. It fit all the criteria I could apply.

            Does that help you better understand how much scripture that story is based on? If you would care to pick any of the others I can do the same thing. I hope that clarifies what I left as vague. My apologies for that. I will be more careful in the future.

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