God has placed calls on our life that frame who we are and what He expects us, commands us, calls us to do in this world He has made, this world in which we are His servants. Scripture describes God’s call on our lives in a multitude of ways that stretch from broad to precise. So, where do we start if we want to form a biblical understanding of the different ways that the Bible speaks about the call of God?
It must be remembered there is the deeply serious call to the sinner, of which we read in the story of the Garden of Eden when “the Lord God called to Adam . . . Where art thou?” (Genesis 3:9). This was calling a sinner to account for his sin. The story of call to Abraham help us to understand the spiritual meaning of the call of God. There are two aspects of the call both very definitely set forth in the history of Abraham. We read in Hebrews 11:8, that “he was called to go out,” referring to the world that he was to leave behind. Then we read, “he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance.” Here the new world into which he was called is in view. Stephen also refers to these two aspects of the call of Abraham, for he tells us that God said to Abraham, “Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and come into the land which I shall show thee” (Acts 7:3).
Jesus also stated, “I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Matthew 9:13). We are not called because of our goodness or because we deserve to be called, but because we need to change! The Bible plainly states that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). We are called to repent and change, to grow and overcome and to learn to live by the laws of God—for a truly awesome purpose that is outlined in numerous scriptural passages. Jesus also cautioned, “many are called, but few are chosen” (Matthew 20:16). In essence, He said a calling does not mean that a person will automatically be in the Kingdom of God! He states that “no one can come to Me unless the Father draws [calls] him” (John 6:44, 65). Remarkable as it may seem, Jesus did not go running after followers who did not understand His message to try to get them to change their minds—so they could be saved! Jesus knew that God was calling those who were given to Him and that others were simply not being called at that time. Other scriptures reveal that their calling— their opportunity to understand—would be at a later date.
The Apostle Paul was inspired to reveal additional details about a calling. He explains that “all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). Paul shows that if we accept that calling and are willing to be led by God’s Spirit (following what God opens our minds to understand) we will have the opportunity to become “heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ” (Romans 8:14–17). That is an awesome opportunity, as we will see! Paul wrote to the Corinthians that “you see your calling brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many noble are called” (1 Corinthians 1:26–27). God is only calling those who are humble enough to follow His instructions as recorded in His word—the Bible. God is not able to work with people who like to argue over the Scriptures or who want to interpret the Bible according to their own feelings. We are not called to change the world now—that will come in the future—we are called now to change ourselves! The main purpose for our calling is to learn to live by the commandments of God (1 Corinthians 7:19). Paul urges the Ephesians to “walk worthy of your calling” in humility, gentleness, patience and love (Ephesians 4:1).
We are also told in Scripture that God gives His Spirit to those who obey Him (Acts 5:32; John 14:14–15). This means that if we begin to compromise the truth of God, argue with the Scriptures and follow our own ideas we will begin to lose the discernment that God’s Spirit imparts (2 Timothy 1:6–7). We could then be deceived, and we could lose out on our calling! John reveals that we are to be “called children of God” and that “when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is” (1 John 3:1–3). Our purpose for being called is to learn to become like God—to think as He does and to act as He does. This will require serious effort on our part (1 John 3:4). Those who accept this calling to repent and change and grow in their understanding and application of the laws of God will be given the opportunity to reign as kings and priests with Jesus Christ when He returns to establish the Kingdom of God on this earth (Revelation 1:6; 5:10; 11:15–18). Again the Apostle John’s inspired writings reveal the answer. In the book of Revelation, we are told that Jesus will return to this earth in triumph as King of kings and Lord of lords, “and those who are with Him are called, chosen and faithful” (Revelation 17:14). As we have seen, those who are called are given special spiritual understanding that is not yet available to the rest of mankind. This understanding enables them to grasp the true purpose of human life and the overall outline of God’s plan. Those who are chosen have accepted their calling and repented and are being led by the Holy Spirit to grow and change.
Peter goes on to show (as did Paul in Ephesians 5) that our calling involves learning to follow God’s instructions. We are to be subject to government, servants are to be subject to their masters, women are to be subject to their husbands, husbands are to love their wives, children are to honour their parents and we are all to be of one mind (1 Peter 2; 3). We are called to learn God’s way of life so we will be able to teach it to others—both now (1 Peter 3:15) and in the future Kingdom of God (Isaiah 30:20–21).
Calling is the truth that God calls us to himself so decisively that everything we are, everything we do, and everything we have is invested with a special devotion, dynamism, and direction lived out as a response to his summons and service.
2.0 STATE OF GOD’s CALL- IN VISION AND DREAM
In Acts 2:26-27, Peter starts by reminding the people of the prophecy of Prophet Joel, who prophesied about dreams and visions in Joel 2:28 “And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions.”
State of God’s call is a supernatural revelation of God given to a person in the form of a dream or trance-like state usually for the purpose of revealing the glory of God or the meaning of past or future events. Example of visions in the Bible include Abraham’s vision in Genesis 15, the dreams of Nebuchadnezzar and Daniel in Daniel 2 & 7, the visions of Isaiah in Isaiah 6, and the visions of Ezekiel throughout his book. Ezekiel received most (some say all) his prophecies as visions, which makes Ezekiel unique among the Old Testament prophets. Whereas John received vision on completing the book of Revelation in the New Testament.
The main difference between visions and dreams in the Bible is that dreams are received while the person is sleeping while visions are received while the person is awake and they are often “in the Spirit.” In other words, the person sees a dream when unconscious while the person sees a vision when he or she is conscious. We could say that the person sees a vision while semi-unconscious in the sense that he or she is not in his / her natural self. The person has to enter into some form of trance (Numbers 24:4, 16). Visions, night visions, dreams, and trances all refer to visions received while in various physical states.
Vision: A vision is a sight, something the person sees in his or her spirit when he / she is awake. One can say it’s something the person sees “in his or her mind’s eye” when he or she is awake. But to be technical, everything the person sees, whether from the spiritual realm or the natural realm is seen in his or her mind’s eye. The person’s mind processes and filters all the information it receives and then it constructs a picture. That picture is what the person “sees.”
Night Vision: A night vision is simply a vision that the person has when half asleep or half awake. In other words, it’s revelation the person sees when he or she has some physical awareness. Some refer to this as the twilight state. It’s the state the person is in early in the morning when he or she is just beginning to wake up or at night when the person is just beginning to fall asleep. The person is aware that he or she is sleeping and dreaming, but he or she is fully aware nonetheless. Visions that the person has in this state are what the Bible refers to as night visions.
Dream: A dream is more commonly understood. A dream is something the person sees when he or she has little to no physical awareness. There are various categories and types of dreams. Some dreams are from God and some are not, but everyone dreams—whether they realize or remember it or not. In fact, everyone has both dreams and night visions, but not everyone has visions and trances.
Trance: Trances are not only okay, but they are Biblical and God-given (Daniel 10; Acts 10-11, 22:17). A trance is no different than a vision, night vision, or dream in regards to the revelation. The difference lies only in the person’s physical state. A trance is like a dream in the sense that the person has no physical awareness. The difference is that it comes on the person suddenly. The person is awake and then he or she suddenly falls into a deep sleep-like state, the person sees a vision, and then he or she is suddenly fully awake again. The reason that the Gospel was openly spread to the world was because of a vision that Peter had while God put him into a trance (Acts 10-11).
2.1 Call in VISION
When God wants something for us in the future, he often puts a vision in our minds for this outcome in the present so we know what to work towards. When God is giving you a vision, He will also provide you with the supernatural determination to work towards that vision. The apostle Paul summarizes God’s will and vision for all humanity in a nutshell: “… God our Saviour … desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:3-4).
God, through His Son Jesus Christ, reveals the knowledge of truth Paul is referring to: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved” (John 3:16-17). That is God’s vision prepared and outlined for mankind, including you. It is the offering of, and the way to, eternal life in the kingdom of God: “That whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:15). “They will come from the east and the west, from the north and the south, and sit down in the kingdom of God” (Luke 13:29).
In the vision of Peter about Cornelius (Acts 10:11), we learn a lesson here that God will always appear to those who seek him. This vision removes the greatest conflict of the era: Jews versus Gentiles. It showed that they are one, and God was ready to save all of them, in so far as they believed. It is the archetype of unity amongst brethren. The Vision of Paul at Traos (Acts 16:9) shows that He guides the steps of the righteous person because in this vision, God sends Paul definitely to the place where he supposed to go. This vision shows us that the will of God is for His children, and He will always send them where He wants them to go, in so far as they want to do His will. When Paul obeyed and went to Philippi, it ended up being one of the best churches he will ever start. If you obey and do as the Lord wills, you will never fail! In the Vision of Paul in Justus’ house at Corinth (18:9) God wanted to encourage Paul to make him know that He was with him, no matter the attacks from the people. God wanted Paul to keep preaching and not be afraid. My friends, God is with those whose hearts are towards him so that he can help them. His eyes actually run to and fro, seeking for them. You show yourself to God by believing in his Son and constantly being in prayers.
If you believe you have had a vision and feel that perhaps God gave it to you, prayerfully examine the Word of God and make sure your vision is in agreement with Scripture. Then prayerfully consider what God would have you do in response to the vision (James 1:5). God would not give a vision to a person and then keep the meaning of the vision hidden. In Scripture, whenever a person asked God for the meaning of a vision, God made sure it was explained to the person (Daniel 8:15-17).
2.2 Call in DREAM
Dreams are living mental images, occurring during sleep. Functions of dreams vary per individuals and purpose. Job 33:14 summarizes the purpose for which God may give anyone a dream. Dreams are for (a) didactic or instructional purposes in Job 33:14-16; Matthew 1:20, (b) Warning; to preserve man from danger in Job 33:17-18; Genesis 20:3, (c) Revelations – to reveal the future in Genesis 37:5-10 and (d) Encouragement- to encourage for the present life in Judges 7: 14-15. Dreams have various sources. If we walk with God, we should take dreams seriously!
We have the evidences that dreams come from God for example, Genesis 20:3; 28:10-12; 31: 11, 24; Judges 7:13-14; I Kings 3:5 and Job 7:5. If we have a little fear of God, then He will speak to us in a dream or some other means like He did to the wife of Pilate (Matthew 27:13-19). If there is a child of God who does not dream, or God does not speak to him or her in a dream at times, then that person is not walking with God (I Samuel 28:6,15). God will never do anything without revealing it to his prophets (Amos 3:7-9; Joel 2:1-3).
However, some dreams also come from a man’s heart; when you think too much about something (Ecclesiastes 5:3; Isaiah 29:7-8) and from the Devil, like nightmares. That is because God does not bring to us the spirit of fear (2 Timothy 1:7), and nightmares come just to frighten us (Daniel 2:1-13) and lead us astray from God (Jeremiah 23:27, 32).
3.0 METHOD OF GOD’s CALL- DIRECT CALL AND MESSAGE FROM GOD
God addresses each human race as an individual and by name, and thus indicates us His will as to what we should believe and do. He can speak us by dreams or visions, as He did to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Eliphaz; He can address us by a voice, as He did Samuel; He can send a special messenger to us, as He did to Ahaz, to Ahab, to David, and to Hezekiah; He can direct an angel to convey a message to us, as He did to Daniel, to Zacharias, and to the Virgin Mary; He can call us to His service by an internal voice which we cannot disregard, as He did Jeremiah and Ezekiel; or He can speak to us in His majesty and glory, as He did to Isaiah in the temple, to Saul on the way to Damascus, or to John in Patmos. God can thus keep up a constant communication with men in such a way that they cannot doubt that He addressed them, and in such a way that in yielding they cannot doubt that they were obeying His will.
If God desires to communicate His message to a person, He can use whatever means He finds necessary—a missionary, an angel, a vision, or a dream. God actively speaks to us through them and these can have scriptural meaning. If you’re looking to better understand how God speaks to us through dreams and visions, here are two ways God uses these messages to reveal His purpose for your life. Pay attention to what He is telling you. He may be speaking to you right now and you don’t even know it. When we understand what God is saying to us, we can communicate with Him in a new way and also live in His purpose.
3.1 Direct Call
Though seemingly rare, God has and still can speak audibly. Adam and Eve heard God’s voice in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:8). God spoke audibly to Moses from the burning bush (Exodus 3:4-6) and to all Israel from Mount Sinai (Exodus 20:1-22). In the New Testament, the Father endorsed Jesus at His baptism and His transfiguration with a literal voice. Saul and his posse saw Christ in a blinding light and heard His voice (Acts 9:3-7; 26:12-18). The will of God was made known to Saul of Tarsus by a direct communication from the Redeemer Himself. The “vision” which appeared to him was such that he could not doubt that it was Divine. He who spoke announced Himself to be the Saviour of the world, and the purpose for which He thus addressed Saul was distinctly made known to him: “I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee, delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee, to open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me”
God hardwired us with an inner awareness of what is right and wrong with an inclination to do right. Elijah was camping in a cave on Mount Sinai when God manifested Himself. Elijah saw a powerful wind, a mighty earthquake and a fierce fire, but God wasn’t in any of them. Instead, God spoke to him in a “still small voice,” also translated “a gentle whisper” (1 Kings. 19:9-12). God often speaks to us by the inner witness of the Holy Spirit to our spirit (Romans 8:14-16). God will speak to us more often as we learn to recognize His voice. Jesus indicated, “My sheep hear My voice” (John 10:27). This sort of absolute surrender and dedication to the Lord’s call to do His work is also seen in the lives of the apostles of Jesus Christ. When Jesus called Peter and Andrew, who were fishermen, to be “fishers of men”, “they straightway left their nets, and followed him” (Matthew 4:18-22; Mark 1:16-20). Likewise, when Jesus called Levi, who was a tax collector, to follow Him, “he left all, rose up, and followed him” (Luke 5:27-28; Matthew 9:9; Mark 2:14). Once, Peter confessed to the Lord how resolved and dedicated the apostles were to His cause, saying, “Lord, we have left all, and have followed thee” (Mark 10:28-31; Luke 18:28-30).
God is sovereign, and He can speak however and whenever He wants. God is still speaking; are we listening?
3.2 Message from God
Angels are agents on assignment—God’s messengers sent to minister to heirs of salvation. There are numerous instances in Scripture where angels informed, warned or conveyed divine messages to individuals. They are still on the job. “If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God” (1 Peter. 4:11). An “oracle” is an “utterance, a spokesman or mouthpiece.” God speaks through preachers and teachers, but He can also speak through our spouse, kids, friends, enemies and even animals (Numbers 22:28-30). God uses human channels to speak words of prophecy, tongues and interpretation and words of wisdom and knowledge (1 Corinthians 12:8-10). God also expresses Himself through human vessels to distribute His message in anointed sermons, songs and writings. Albert Einstein noted, “Coincidence is God’s way of remaining anonymous.” When I was praying about printing my first book, the estimated cost was $3,000 in the late 1980’s. I was in a meeting when a woman I had never met before nor seen since gave me an envelope and said, “God told me to give this to you.” It contained a diamond ring which appraised for . . . you guessed it, $3,000. You can call that a coincidence; I call it providence—God confirming and providing for His will.
The Bible is a main way God speaks today but it is not the only way. The Bible is God’s general Word for everyone. God speaks to us when we read the Bible on nearly every issue that applies to modern living. Jesus, the Bread of Life, taught us to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread” (Matthew 6:11). God has fresh spiritual manna to share with us every day if we’ll take the time to read His Word. Jesus said, “The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life” (John 6:63). The Word is a specific message the Holy Spirit inspires us personally. It’s a specific word for a specific time and for a specific need. It occurs when the written or spoken Word comes alive with special meaning in our situations.
How do you hear God’s call in your life? How do you understand what you hear? These questions have been asked throughout the ages and continue to be asked by all who seek to discern God’s presence and call in their lives. In scripture there are many examples of people struggling to understand God’s call to them. When you seek to discover God’s call in your life, you enter a time of discernment. While discernment has many parts, there are four basic steps to discovering one’s vocation. The first is a call to become aware. You are called to listen to God, to yourself, and to those around you.
If you are to listen to God, then prayer is essential. You need to take time to be in conversation with God, to ask God for help and guidance. Look to the life of Jesus to see the prominent place of prayer in discernment. In the gospels, before every major decision Jesus went off alone to pray. He did this prior to choosing the 12 apostles, and he spent much time in prayer as he prepared for his Passion and death.
While you need time alone, you also can find God’s voice in the voices of those around you. Your call is not for you alone. While you may grow personally and your relationship with God may develop as a result of your call, your vocation is always a call for others, a call to be of service to others, a call to pray for others.