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6 Ways to Know If You’ve Been Called By God

Following God’s call was one of the toughest things I ever had to do. And what made it especially hard is that the same questions kept coming up every few years until I’d settled them for good. In college I sensed God calling me to care for the poor, hungry and oppressed in other nations. And af…
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes

Following God’s call was one of the toughest things I ever had to do. And what made it especially hard is that the same questions kept coming up every few years until I’d settled them for good.

In college I sensed God calling me to care for the poor, hungry and oppressed in other nations. And after graduating, I went to do just that, first in Indonesia and later in the Dominican Republic. Case closed, right?

No, when Karen and I had three babies in the first five years of marriage, it got confusing. Yes, I had heard a call, but now I had new responsibilities and new opportunities to make money. I had to go back to God and pray about it all over again. What to do? It was a struggle.

How do you know?

How about you? How do you know if you’ve been called by God? The first thing I had to recognize was that we’re all called by God. Paul writes encouraging everyone: “I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.” (Eph. 4:1) We are all called. I could run, but I couldn’t hide from that call.

Beyond that, I had the example of God calling people in Scripture. The conversation between Paul and Jesus as recounted in Acts was especially helpful. Paul shares the story with King Agrippa. He says Jesus told me this: “I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen of me and what I will show you.” (Acts 26:16) 

It’s a simple sentence, but it has a lot to teach us about the calling of God. Specifically, we can see six aspects of a call that apply to us. 

1. Revelation  

“I have appeared to you…” 

The principle of revelation is that Jesus has made himself known to you.

Have you had a revelation? Has Jesus made himself known to you? Think back to the first time you ever came to grips with the person of Jesus. I was about eight. I remember my mom sharing the story of how Jesus had been so cruelly tortured. In that moment, Jesus made himself known to me.

Jesus appeared to Paul in a dramatic fashion; to others of us he reveals himself in a more subtle way. We are accountable for the glimpse of Jesus which we have been given. This is the start of our relationship with him. 

If you have not met the person of Jesus Christ, then you are missing God’s plan for your life. He may not be as dramatically obvious as he was with the apostle Paul, but He does desire to appear to you.

This prompts a question: Have you seen Jesus and responded to him?

2. Role  

“…to appoint you…” 

God made us with an inbuilt need for purpose. The principle of appointment is that Jesus wants to give you a role.

The Bible says that God is not willing that any should perish and he has enlisted us to make sure that they don’t. When an army recruit enlists, he is given a rank and a role. When Jesus appears to us, he not only does so to save us, but to save the world through us.

Dwight L. Moody said, “For years Jesus has been leading me where I never could have gone myself.” Where has he been leading you?

Many of us have never listened for or responded to Jesus’ appointment. And in the absence of information, we make assumptions about what we should be doing. Let me encourage you to block out time in your calendar just to pray and hear from God about his appointment.

What is the role that he has given to you?

3. Servanthood 

“…to appoint you as a servant…” 

The principle is that you are called first to be a servant.

What does Jesus appoint us to do? First, he calls us to learn the role of a servant. This may have been easier to learn in Jesus’ day when class distinctions and slave status were prevalent.

Too many Christians have never made Jesus Lord of their lives. He is their savior, but not their master. We have become a church of takers rather than servants.

Gen. William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army said, “The greatness of a man’s power is the measure of his surrender.” Have you surrendered your house, your car, your dreams, your family to Jesus? Only after we take up His agenda can we receive His commission. If you’ve done so, then, with Paul, you’ve taken on the role of a servant. 

Have you responded to His call to serve?

4. Witness

“…and as a witness…” 

God has also called you to be a witness.

A witness is one who testifies. We are called to testify to what we know of Jesus. We know for example, that Jesus has given us the gift of eternal life. We know that he desires to give that same gift to everyone else. We testify to what we know.

Have we taken on the role of a witness? Are we bothered by the fact that so many in the world are struggling to find hope? Are we looking for ways to boldly give an account of what God is doing in our lives?

Where has he called you to be a witness?

5. Observation   

“…a witness of what you have seen of me…”

The principle of observation states that You can only witness to what you have seen of Jesus.

Some of us hide behind the excuse that “my faith is a personal thing”, when in fact, we haven’t seen enough of him to make an impact on us.

Growing up, I was anything but bold about my faith. I had kind of borrowed a relationship with Christ from my parents. So I didn’t have much boldness. I mostly fumbled with words when it came my time to share who Jesus was to me.

To be like him or to share him with others, we must first see him.

What have you seen of Jesus?

6. There’s More 

“a witness…of what I will show you” 

Your witness changes as Jesus progressively reveals himself.

Our testimony is like bread – it must be kept fresh. If allowed to grow old, it’s staleness becomes evident. Our walk with Jesus is a daily, ongoing thing.

Our testimony or witness of his power in our life should be continually updated as he continues to regenerate us and show new aspects of his character. He has promised to show more of himself as we walk with him.

The point here is that we must continually choose to walk in the right way and to grow in Christ and as we do so, we have a fresh witness. We share with others our own ongoing experience.

People need to hear an immediacy and relevance in our witness. They know what day-old bread looks like. They don’t want crusty stuff, they want reality.

As you live your life, are you experiencing more of Jesus?


To sum up, we are all called. What Jesus gave Paul he gives to us all. None of us are second-class believers. He calls us to share what he’s given with a needy world. You have a call. Why not step into it?

Comments (22)

  • Thank you, Seth! The Lord has been speaking to me about what being a witness looks like in this day and age, especially here in Jerusalem. So thank you for shedding more light on it.

  • Thank you for this Seth. My daughter is currently on the World Race (N squad) they have just moved from India to Nepal, one month down. At launch I was totally engaged in what the speakers were saying and what was in store for this year. My last conversation with my daughter (26, but who has lived back home for the past 1 1/2 years) was to be all in, be focused and not worry about contacting us…I would be ok with no news is good news…I told her contact when she could but not to focus on home…focus on what God called her to do.
    Well that was October 3,2016….120pm we walked away from Taylor feeling good, not ever that sad, just excited for her. Hours later, sitting in the Atlanta airport checking facebook, it hit me like a tidal wave..she is not boarding this plane with us, she isn’t coming home with us….I suddenly was in a flood of uncontrollable tears, sobbing tears that I could not control or stop. I started regretting so many things, like why didn’t I make our last moments better, more powerful, sadder, why didn’t I have thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations before she left…why didn’t I do this or that…it wasn’t until days later that I started to recognize that those thoughts were all provoked by Satan. But I was still thinking I am ok with her being all in and not contacting us..it will be ok, God’s got this. Then days passed weeks passed, Facebook is full of “other’ racers parents joyous face times, calls, emails Facebook messages etc and slowly day by day of seeing from others and not my daughter, I was in panic mode, not because I was worried for her safety but because I wanted, needed, to hear her voice and know for myself she was ok…I trusted (so I thought) she was ok, but I needed control of that situation, I needed to hear from her. I laid on her bedroom floor crying out to God, then something took me back to Michelle Guinn’s talk to us about trust and how we may think we do, but we really don’t and God will bring us to total dependence and brokenness before we can move forward…it hit me…I do not trust God…I only trust me, and this is not working!! SO God and I had a talk, and I surrendered control, I put my trust In him, or at least I started to, its a work in progress…but after 13 days, at 3am my phone dings and its a text from my daughter..then a brief facetime call, I thanked God and cried. I only heard from her 2 times In October. India has terrible wifi!! But I know now I can do this, she is ok and I am ok and I am learning to trust without borders and KNOW God is in control and everything will be ok. My kingdom Journey is happening right at home, right In my heart. I have always been a believer, but for the first time In my life, I am gaining a relationship with the Lord. I am beginning to understand God sized prayers and asks, and I am beginning to KNOW without a doubt that with God, all things are truly possible. Thank you Seth for your book and your finding of the World Race. Its life changing, and I will have some pretty great testimony to share of this year when I gave God back control..well actually He always had control, I just thought I did, but never really did!!

    • Wow, Sissy – what a great testimony! God has been tough, yet gracious with you. He has taken your daughter on a race, and it would appear, you on one as well. And you are getting what he wants to give you.

      I get so sad watching many WR parents not go for it. Content in their own comfortable world, they miss out on his best.

  • Good stuff Seth! I am reminded of the Jesus movement revival back in the late 60’s and 70’s. While at a Keith Green concert, I heard him one night say, “we are all called to go…” (Mt.28)… “the real question should be, ‘is God NOT calling you to go…’”. So, for me personally, I’ve always lived in such a way that he’s called me to be light, and set others free, everywhere. And until I hear him say “stay home and don’t go”, I will continue going to the nations, and my neighborhood with this wondrous thing called Good News! I’m so thankful to be doing it with you.

    • Yes – Keith Green had it right. Will we walk out that truth in our generation? I know you will and I aspire to as well.

  • Sissy, I read your reply just a few moments ago, and I am overjoyed with what’s going on in your heart. With what I do, I get to spend time with racers and their parents during Parent Vision Trips (PVT’s). Your response to what God is doing with Taylor is so good. And seeing what He is doing in you, is extra good!

  • Great word, Seth. I wholeheartedly agree that He’s given every one of us a calling. So many miss it without even knowing it. Thank you for following the calling He gave you, even when it was hard.
    One thing I heard recently (I believe from someone at AIM) is that calling without character leads to burnout. Since then, I’ve been wrestling with the question of how much someone needs to focus on character building before fully stepping into their calling. I’ve thought about how both formal education and informal training can play into character building.
    What do you think about that original comment –calling without character leads to burnout–? Do you agree?
    What would you say to young people who feel their calling from the Lord but are in the process of receiving education or training?

  • That’s a good question, Drew. I do not agree that “calling without character leads to burn out.” Burn out is a function of a lack of fit between capacity, interest and job requirements. You can have great character and still burn out.

    You build character by placing yourself in situations where failure is a real possibility.

  • Thank you for this post. I am not old enough to go on either World Race trip yet but I am looking at colleges and praying that God would show me exactly what he has planned for me and how he would like me to serve him following high school. I really feel led to attend college and go on a mission trip before settling down to serve him in a community. I am excited about possible paths in my future and I really feel called to serve abroad to those who have not heard his word and children. Thank you again for this post, it has only encouraged me more and assured me to continue praying for the Lord to show me in the coming months and years how I can serve him. God bless you!

  • I love this message, thank you very much. I can now make my mind. I have the feeling to establish a church for God but I thought I don’t have the call.
    Please update me on new messages. God bless you Seth.

  • I was called by Jesus at 16. I did everything I could to ignore it. I’m 44. I’m successful in the city of London. I didn’t want this but I can’t not answer. It’s too loud. How do I go forward?

    • Hi Ben – get someone who you would trust to help you ask and answer the questions that will build stepping stones to the call. For example:

      1. What specifically do you feel called to?
      2. What did you hear and how did you hear it?
      3. What do you love to do and what are you good at?
      4. Begin to brainstorm a list of experiments you could make to test out various options.

      If I can help, I’d be happy to give you additional counsel.

  • I know what’s expected of me. It’s the skills I’ve used to make myself so successful in the city – I just don’t know how to start

  • To answer (and, by the way, thank you for your help)

    I first met Jesus at about 11 years old. A preacher visiting my school helped bring the holy spiritual to us all. I was so excited. ‘How is the headteacher going to explain the force we can now all feel ?’was my overriding question. He did, but badly.

    1. My calling is to help break down barriers, be they social, economic, geographic, political or religious. My calling is to fight predudice and injustice.

    2. I met Jesus at 16, but felt his love before. A preacher visiting my school facilitated (I was 12) the holy spiritual wrapping itself around us. (More below)

    3 I’m gifted with the ability to inspire. I’ve made good money doing so. I do now. At 16 I had this on my conscience. Although Jesus never demanded it, I was always nagged by knowing my skills were not being used correctly. I became president of my uni. I used my skills for myself. I make good money in the city. Jesus asks me every night if I’m ready. I’m not. I didn’t ask for this and I’d prefer a quiet life – but I can no longer see what I do every day on the news and go on without listening and acting. And trying. To answer your question properly – I don’t feel like I’m asked at all. I’m nagged. I’m reminded of what I could offer every time I see injustice.

    4. What could I bring? I think I could inspire people to love one another. I think I can help people realise that god isn’t an old man sitting on a cloud – god is within us all. I’m not suggesting I could stop wars – but I can be a voice that makes others think.

  • Sounds like you’re well on your way! God has given you some clarity and he’s equipped you with some skills. The main thing now is just to find a place where, as Frederick Buechner says, “your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger coincide.”

    My counsel is to find a mentor to guide you and some specific places where you can offer your gifts to build the kingdom.

  • Charlotte Ngubeni

    Thank you this has encouraged me I also took notes, very informative. May God bless you.

  • Yes I had experien all of those sign but I never understands them .. please I need someone to help me follow up.

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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.

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