1. We prioritize our relationship with Christ.
You may have heard it said, we become like that which we worship. The more time we spend with Christ through Bible reading, church attendance, worship, and prayer, the more our thinking and actions begin to naturally mirror His.
He transforms us, revealing and purging sin, shifting our priorities, and helping us develop the mind of Christ. Our role is to engage. His role is to mold our affections, thoughts, and perceptions—to stir within us a heartbeat for the things of Him.
2. Cultivate a listening ear.
God rarely speaks in an audible voice, but He does speak. Isaiah 30:21 promises, “Whether [we] turn to the right or to the left, [our] ears will hear a voice behind [us] saying, ‘This is the way, walk in it.’”
Jesus made a similar promise in the New Testament, saying His followers would know His voice just as sheep do the voice of their shepherd. This analogy gains depth when we understand ancient sheepherding customs.
Each day, as their shepherd cared for them, the flock learned to recognize his voice. At night, they were corralled into a pen shared by numerous others. Imagine the “sorting mess” this potentially created come morning! But all the shepherd needed to do was call out to his sheep. Because they knew his voice—and trusted his heart—they came.
In a similar way, through our relationship with Christ, we learn to recognize His voice. Whenever He speaks and we respond in obedience, our spiritual sensitivity grows.
3. Pay attention to your season and limitations.
When my daughter was young, though I valued missions and church ministry, I often felt time- and energy-challenged.
But that didn’t mean I couldn’t leave an eternal impact. God showed me my most important role during that period was raising my daughter. Therefore, when evaluating opportunities, I needed to ensure I was prioritizing my family. (This is often true for caregivers or those struggling with an illness also.)
To discover the unique, hope-filled role God has for us today, we’ll need to consider and accept our circumstances. We may have to release some expectations in order to embrace—and enjoy—the life God has for us now.
4. Pay attention to your passions.
What gets you riled up, keeps you up at night, and creates an urge within to act? Is it witnessing shattered families? Then perhaps God is calling you to serve in a marriage ministry. Is it seeing the impoverished taken advantage of? Then maybe He’s calling you to advocacy or to help facilitate life skills classes. Does a report on child abuse haunt you long after you turn off the television? Perhaps God wants you involved in foster care or to serve an underequipped and overtired parent.
Our emotions are God-created, and as everything God created serves a God-ordained purpose, we can assume God created our feelings with purpose as well. Though our feelings can be deceptive and tainted by sin, I believe they can also be God-led. By prayerfully paying attention to times of “righteous” anger, God alerts us to how we can become part of His solution for an injustice or broken area.
We never want to rely on our emotions alone, but we can use them to direct our prayers. When we bring them to God for His direction and filter them through the truth of Scripture, they can provide hints as to how God may want to use us.
5. Check – and guard – your heart.
I’ve found, my heart most needs guarding when I least feel like guarding it and I’m most tempted to seek my will and pursue my plans. I can easily convince myself a desired opportunity is not only harmless but also preferable to that which offers less potential payoffs.
This is especially true involving outlets closely related to my calling, but which I discover, when evaluated honestly, God hasn’t assigned to me. For example, as a writer who receives great enjoyment from anything word related, and who also finds pleasure in shopping and eating out, I can over-emphasize or spiritualize reasons for pursuing the most lucrative opportunities. I can guard against this tendency by doing regular heart checks.
In Psalm 19:12-14, Scripture provides an excellent prayer guide we can follow to help with this. “But who can discern their own errors?” the psalmist asks. “Forgive my hidden faults. Keep Your servant also from willful sins; may they not rule over me. Then I will be blameless, innocent of great transgression. May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in Your site, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer” (NIV).
6. Note what comes naturally.
When something is easy for us, we may assume it’s easy for others as well. Because of this, we may miss the calling associated with it. For example, my daughter has a seemingly innate ability to adapt her teaching presentation to students’ particular challenges. This has allowed her to tutor those with learning disabilities or are struggling to understand the concepts they’re learning.
She didn’t realize this propensity was indeed a gifting until she encountered those who lacked this particular gift or had been taught by those who did. Similarly, my husband is gifted in leadership and coaching, qualities he readily displays in casual situations. He often asks, when engaged in conversation, “What can you do differently next time?” Statements such as these arise spontaneously and come from his desire to see others grow and succeed.