What Is A Calling From God?

Christians often use the term “calling from God” or “I feel called to do this”. But what does that even mean? What is a calling from God?

Let’s work together to understand God’s calling in the Bible (from examples and Bible verses) and to explore what it really means to live out our calling.

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What is calling in the Bible?

Understanding the call of God in the Old Testament

The Hebrew word for call is “Qara“. It is a fairly complex word meaning to call out, to proclaim, to cry out, to invite, to commission, to appoint or to give a name.

1. Calling = naming

It is first used in the Bible as God named His creation–calling light and dark, and naming the first people–Adam and Eve. God is the first active person in calling and naming His creation.

Also interesting to note, name meanings are often very important in Hebrew culture and were more picked for their meaning than the way modern names are chosen for the way they sound. In naming there is also a sense of proclaiming and speaking future truth over a life.

We can also see this in the New Testament as Jesus called Simon (he has heard) and changed his name to Peter (the rock). He did it again to Saul (meaning prayed for) to Paul (meaning little or humble).  

2. Call meaning to cry out. 

We also see the word “Qara” used in the most literal sense of a in simple call. Like anyone would cry aloud with their voice “Come in for dinner!” or even it is used of animals crying out or bellowing.

We see this in verses like Psalm 120:1 “I call on the Lord in my distress, and he answers me.”

i call on the lord in my distress, and he answers me. psalm 120:1

Both of these ideas of calling–naming and crying out– were expanded on in the New Testament into the idea of the call of God which is more commonly used today.

Understanding calling in the New Testament

One Greek word call in the New Testament is “klesis”. Klesis means calling, a call to something like a vocation or an invitation. In the Bible it is most often used of the divine invitation to embrace salvation. 

Let’s dive a little deeper into what are the types of God’s calling.  

1. The General Call

The general call is the good news of Christ Jesus death on the cross which paid for our sin and allows us to enter into eternal life and relationship with God. This calling is given to all people everywhere thanks to Jesus’ redemptive work.

The Holy Spirit activates the general call (which many refer to as the “effectual call”) prompting and interacting with each of our individual choices to follow Jesus.

This general call after salvation includes God’s call for His children to be holy, to do good works, and to grow in our sanctification. (I Peter 1:15, Ephesians 2:10 and 1 Thessalonians 4:3)

woman sitting cross legged and reading in a small book with pen in hand

2. The Specific Call

A specific or technical call is the call or invitation to a particular vocation or mission or specific calling. Many in the Bible received an audible external call (like the apostle Paul) and some received an inaudible internal call (like to practice more grace in your parenting). The kingdom of God certainly needs specific kinds of spiritual gifts at work to be effective.

We may initially think that has to be huge works like going to the foreign mission field to preach the gospel of God or going into vocational ministry or writing books about God.

Katie M. SCott, a woman in white shirt and black pants gesture to the side on a stage at a modern looking church

God’s purpose and call on our lives can be very simple things as well–like leading a small group of teenage girls at your church or homeschooling your children or moving to a certain neighborhood in a city or being an encouragement to other followers of Christ in your small town.

a mother wearing a white sweater pats the back of her newborn son

These may not seem like important things, but they are a not lesser calls by any means.

How can you know your specific calling from God? 

If you are unsure of your specific calling don’t get hung up on trying to define it.

  1. Be obedient to God’s general calls in your life like growing spiritually by serving in a local church and prayer and Bible study.
  2. Then simply be open to the job or ministry opportunities God places before you.
  3. Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal His specific call to you.
  4. Seek counsel from wise people in your life who love the Lord. Ask them what spiritual gifts they see in your life and how God could use that gift in the local and global church. 

photo collage man reads from Bible in a group and Bibles held in a circle with words figuring out your calling in between

What God’s Calling Can Look Like In Your Life

In the Bible we see people of faith like Elijah, Paul, the prophet Jeremiah and Nehemiah–people who were called by God to do incredible things. Armed with a clear mission and calling from God they conquered kingdoms, rebuilt walls, challenged apathy. But I wonder if they ever questioned their mission.

  • Was it “the right fit”?
  • What would people think?
  • Was their mission fulfilling?

So here is some encouragement for God’s call in your life. woman in blue shirt with hands folded on desk

1. Stay true to your calling. 

It is all too easy to drift off course…to miss the calling in all the other worthy pursuits. It’s easy for me to fill my life with good things that aren’t the main thing–loving Jesus and living like Him.

Luke 10:40 “But Martha was distracted with much serving…but the Lord answered her, ” Martha, Martha you are anxious and troubled about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen the good portion which will not be taken away from her.”

Choose the best.

2.Your calling’s expression can be seasonal. 

I’ve found this to be so true in my life. The calling hasn’t changed, but how I live it out day to day shifts significantly I’ve had to let go of some things–good things even, ministry things–so I can focus on my health and my calling in my family first.

mom and dad with three kids eating ice cream outdoors

I know it won’t always be like this. Each expression and season of calling has sweet and bitter moments, but in each expression God has something for me. And something particular for me to bring to others.

Esther 4:14 “For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?”

Embrace your season.

3. Trust God to equip you for what He has called you. 

You are not the first person to feel overwhelmed or ill equipped (or even *gasp* dissatisfied) with the calling. And here’s the thing. Your calling? It is too much. It’s bigger than you can handle. That’s kind of the point.

2 Corinthians 4:7 “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.

Rest in His power.

woman with long dark hair raises her hands singing thanks to god while looking at the ocean

And know that as followers of Jesus we are all in this together! Figuring out our calling and then trying to live true to it is hard soul work. It’s much easier to be busy and distracted. So let’s encourage and help each other.

Hebrews 13:20-21 says “Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.”

To learn more about studying the Bible be sure to grab your FREE BIBLE STUDY WORKSHEETS to help guide you through your Bible reading.

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10 Bible Verses About God’s Calling

1. 1 Peter 2:9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.

God’s call saved us from darkness to light, choice, royalty and holiness as His children. 

you are a holy priesthood bible verse

2. Romans 11:29 For God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable.

God’s general call to us to salvation can never be taken away. God’s specific calls in our life can change and/or the expression of them can change. 

3. 2 Timothy 2:9 He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time.

God’s saving and calling us has nothing to do with us earning it–it’s all because of God’s grace given to us before we were even a twinkle in God’s eye. 

2 timothy 2:9 bible verse on background of salt lake sunset

4. 1 Thessalonians 4:3 It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality.

Wondering what God’s will for your life is? That you be sanctified (aka transformed day by day to look more like Jesus by the Spirit’s power and the grace of God). Want to know where you can start with that big call? Start by living your sexual life according to God’s commands. 

5. Ephesians 4:1 As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.

You’ve been called by God–live out that gift in your everyday life. 

live worthy of the calling. you have received

6. 1 Peter 4:10 Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.

God’s calling isn’t about us showing off how great we are, but about stewarding God’s gifts to us for the building up of others. 

7. Ephesians 1:18  I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people.

God’s salvation call on our lives gives us hope–certainty that God will richly bless us in eternity. 

9. 1 Peter 1:15 But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do.

God’s call is holy and His call for us is holiness. 

so be holy in all you do bible verse 1 peter 1:15 with lake with pink sunset in background

9. Philippians 3:14  I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Perseverance is necessary in our faith walk–but this salvation call is worth it. 

10. Hebrews 3:1 Therefore, holy brothers and sisters, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, whom we acknowledge as our apostle and high priest.

Our calling is to fix our minds on Jesus–to not get distracted or distanced from the spiritual reality going on in our ordinary moments. 

More ways to grow your faith

A next step for you

Spend some time this weekend articulating your specific calling. If you had to summarize it in a sentence what would it be?

If you don’t feel like there is a specific external call on your life right now ask God about an internal call–what is He wanting to grow in your life during this season?

Here’s how I wrote out my specific calling.

“God has called me to encourage believers to live a little more like Jesus in their everyday moments.”

It’s very simple, but it is a constant reminder to me of how I am to be living my life. Are my friend encouraged to be more like Jesus because of me?Are my children? Is my spouse? This is a calling that will keep me busy from now until eternity.

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  1. I think that so much of finding and living out our calling is being silent before the Lord. Being still. Psalm 46:10 is incredible. We all know the “Be still and know that I am God part” but then it goes on to say “I will be exalted among the nations. I will be exalted in the earth.” To me this verse says “don’t fear, don’t fret, don’t go crazy” because God is working and his work will accomplish much more than our overwhelmed and overbooked busy-ness can… God will accomplish his will when we are still and listen to his voice. I have a hard time sitting and being patient. I have a hard time not DOING. And of course, there IS a time for doing. But I think usually our problem isn’t doing, it’s being still. So I’m working on learning what the glorious ACTION of being still looks like. And I think I’ll be working on it for the rest of my life.

    1. Absolutely! I think it is sometimes hard for me too because I fight the urge to explain myself when it looks like I’m not “doing something” or when I’m doing something that doesn’t look all that important. It’s hard to “choose the good portion” when I don’t want to be misunderstood.

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