I sometimes have students approach me at Calvary Christian School and ask, “How do I know what God’s will is for my life?” I then ask them, “What do you want to do?” If they have previously surrendered to Christ I usually discover that God has preceded his calling in their lives by placing within them a desire. It’s not always a desire to preach or teach, sometimes it’s a desire to work with babies, to fix people’s teeth or to work with animals.
I was a junior in a Christian boarding school when I felt God calling me to preach and teach. There was no rebellion toward the will of God in my life. I set about preparing myself to answer his call with great gusto. I went three years to a Bible College and then went on to the university and achieved degrees in teaching and administration. After completing college, through a series of unexpected circumstances, I found myself preaching in a small church in Columbus, Georgia. I had said ‘yes’ to the path God had chosen for me.
I soon discovered that it may be easier to choose the right path than it is to stay on the right path. Satan began to do a work on me. The church was difficult, in need of major changes but with huge obstacles preventing change. I was young, immature, and wondering why I was in a small church in Columbus instead of preaching in a Billy Graham Crusade. I then began to feel the lure of materialism. I had friends who drove nicer cars and lived in bigger homes. I felt like I’d never ‘be known’ if I didn’t leave the church and strike out on my own.
I left the church and entered public education and spent 15 or more years taking the path most traveled. I followed the crowd. I turned my back on the will of God and I suffered heavy consequences. I frittered away my relationship with God. With God absent from my marriage it soon ended. I fled Columbus and spent two years teaching in North Atlanta where God pulled the rug out from under me and showed me just who I really was. In my moment of greatest despair and deepest loneliness, I realized that doing life my way wasn’t going to bring peace or satisfaction. Doing it my way had already cost me way too much. So, I surrendered to God and returned to Columbus to seek his will once again.
What I discovered was that the callings of God are without repentance. The first thing God began to speak to me about after restoring my relationship with him was my call to preach. Sermons began to come to me. I began to listen to sermons on the internet and on television. I attended church and left every service feeling that I should be in a pulpit somewhere proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ.
I thank God for second chances. I am now an associate pastor of a Nazarene Church here in Columbus. I have ample opportunity to preach and teach the word of God. I have a wonderful wife who is very supportive of my ministry. She would tell you that if I didn’t have a willing congregation come hear me on Sunday mornings I would preach to the empty pews and the lofty rafters.
How do I know I am called to preach? God placed an overwhelming desire within. I have to eat, I have to sleep, I have to breathe and I have to preach. I can say along with Paul to the Corinthians (9:16) “Yet when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, for I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!”
I am compelled and I desire to preach but the paradox is that it is not a pleasant thing. The responsibility of accurately preaching the truth is weighty on the soul. The burden of being chosen of God to share a message of salvation that may very well determine the eternal destiny of some who listen is not a burden I would wish upon anyone. The feeling of unworthiness is a constant battle. There is a constant awareness that I am too small for the job, that I am imperfect. I’ve got such a long way to go. I’m not all I wish to be. I’m not even near what God wants me to be. I may not be all that I should be but, praise God, I’m not at all what I used to be! I am reminded daily that there are more things I don’t know than there are things I know. But one thing I know for sure, God has called me to preach and I’m going to do what he has asked me to do.