March 28, 2016
How does a Christian young person discern God’s will regarding career, college and calling to ministry?
Should students forget about college and start an African orphanage at 18 years old like Katie Davis did? Or pursue a degree in intercultural studies from a Christian university like the University of Mobile? Why not earn a business degree, get a job, marry and then answer God’s call on their lives?
Scripture offers direction for students who are seeking God’s path for their futures. Christians are called to a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Under the lordship of Jesus, we are called to worship, stewardship, fellowship, discipleship and leadership. A calling to ministry is a call to be a disciple, a call to preparation and a call to global disciple making.
There is no secret formula, but Acts 1 provides us principles that the early Church followed to discern and obey God’s will.
Principle 1: Remain faithful to Jesus’ last instruction until He gives you something else (vv. 4, 8, 12).
The disciples returned to Jerusalem after the ascension because Jesus told them to do so. We live in a day when God’s Word is treated as optional. The New Testament tells us that it is God’s will for us to experience grace (John 6:40), exercise growth (1 Thess. 4:3) and express gratitude (1 Thess. 5:18). If we are unwilling to obey God in these instructions, why should He grant us discernment for a college major, a career or a call to missions?
Principle 2: Gather with fellow believers in unity and in prayer (vv. 13–14).
Whatever petty grievances or competitions they had previously, the disciples put them aside as they awaited empowerment by the Holy Spirit to be witnesses. Seeking God’s face in prayer aligns our wills with His will. Whatever He teaches us in prayer will be for His glory and for the benefit of the body of Christ.
Principle 3: Listen to what God is saying in His Word (vv. 15–20).
Peter took the position of leadership entrusted to Him (John 21:15–17). He called believers to discern God’s will for a replacement for Judas as 1 of the 12 disciples. His evidence for this call was Scripture, quoting from the Psalms. God continues to speak today through His Word. We must pray God will give us ears to hear what the Holy Spirit is saying to us.
Principle 4: Discern what preparation is required for the Christ-centered task at hand (vv. 21–22).
To be qualified, a man must have followed Jesus from His baptism until His resurrection. Many men followed Jesus through His ministry but only two met the requirements. High school students may choose to major in fields for which they have little aptitude and no experience, or they may discern a calling for ministry for which they have no training. Personal experience, godly counsel, character development and faithfulness over time are often factors in the preparation. A call to ministry is a call to preparation. At the University of Mobile, we require ministry students to participate in ministry teams and a semester-long ministry internship to help them prepare for their vocational call. While attending college, students will encounter all sorts of opportunities to gain experience in ministry and missions. Students who can identify spiritual mentors and discover where God is working in communities around the world will be prepared for a lifetime of global disciple making.
Principle 5: Look at the circumstances and trust that God will guide you as a group and as an individual (vv. 23–26).
Once the disciples discovered that two men met the qualifications, they used a method for discerning God’s direction. They cast lots. The early Church believed God was so involved in the affairs of the congregation that He would direct them to the man of His choosing. He did and Matthias was affirmed.
Here is one caveat: Beware of looking at the circumstances first. Immature believers have a tendency to look for short cuts to God’s will, assuming that every open door is an indication from God. Mature believers recognize that He guides in a variety of ways.
Remain faithful. Pray together in unity. Seek the Lord in prayer. Study the Word. Make preparations. Look at circumstances. Trust God. He will lead you.