A teen recently texted two missionaries… “How do you know if you’re going where God wants you to go vs. where you want to go?”
Wow that’s a biggy. There are many forces to consider when tackling this one. We have emotions, desires, histories, pressures from family, cultural expectations – not to mention good days and bad days.
How do you really know?
Let’s first assume we are talking about something big – like a long term move to another country.
(NOTE: These principles will likely apply to other decisions like a change in job, a prompting to drop big coin in the offering plate, or maybe confirmation that he’s the one to marry).
Here’s how I’d start:
TEST YOUR MOTIVES. The best way to do this is talk to God about it. I would ask God what He thought of the idea. I would write down the responses I felt he gave me. Let’s be serious, even a call to long term mission can be influenced by all kinds of motivations (ie. an obligation to huge need, one’s family, the climate, political security, economic stability).
FAST FOR ONE MEAL. This would help me focus. I would try fasting one meal/day for as long I needed to. During that break for one or two hours I’d ask God to test my heart, again I would write down anything that came to my mind, whether pictures, Bible verses, a friend’s name to call, songs, new ideas.
TELL SOMEONE YOU RESPECT. Always test what you hear from God with others. This is the way we learn in the family of Christ. The more people you share it with the better. WARNING: who you share it with matters. They should be sensitive to God’s spirit, not people who tell you exactly what you want to hear. Mix it up, a friend, a mentor, and a parent.
ASK ADVICE FROM YOUR PASTOR. Often a leader in your church will be able to coach you in a direction based on the collective vision of your local church. How confirming would it be to discover your mission team was praying for another missionary to Asia, at the same time your family was sensing a call to go there!
GIVE TIME. If it is God, it won’t go away…really. Ever. God’s the One who designed your life; He will keep it in front of you. I know people that even tried to run from a call to long term mission but couldn’t (they met people from that country, they dreamt about it, others brought it up in conversation, TV shows highlighted the place and on and on).
RESEARCH. This is the twentieth century folks, talk to missionaries on skype, read up on the internet, go to cultural community centers, attend church congregations with people from that country – all the time quietly asking the Lord, are you asking me to give my life to these people?
TAKE STEPS TO PREPARE. I would ask am I willing to invest in whatever it takes to make me more suited to contribute. Start learning the language. Consider the big decision of an appropriate university degree (biblical studies, health, development, education, etc)? This increases the commitment and tests the calling.
TALK TO A REPUTABLE MISSION ORGANIZATION. Believe it or not, there are numerous great organizations dedicated to helping families and individuals match their life call with the appropriate assignment…give me shout, I may know of one or two
TAKE A TRIP. This is further along in the discernment process, but these days, many find a short term vision trip to be an excellent tool to hone in on the direction. You will learn to identify with people on the ground. The trip is best if it is guided by missionaries or leaders who will help you discern the fit and the timing.
ACT IN RADICAL TRUST. Confusion is not from God, trust and peace are. If you are overwhelmed with doubts or fears, wait a little longer, wait for peace not complete clarity. Risk is always a little scary but God always makes it clear enough, He is a great Father and Guide…He knows what you need.
Mother Teresa said the last thing she ever had to depend on was clarity, what we need is trust.
How did you know that little prompting was God’s voice leading you to do something huge?