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How do we discern our calling? God has given us 3 ways

Via Graceworks

Dr Tan Soo Inn // January 25, 2021, 10:18 pm

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"Any journey to discern our calling must begin with a commitment to pursue that calling when it is made clear to us," writes Dr Tan Soo-Inn of Graceworks. Photo by Vladislav Babienko on Unsplash.

How does one discover one’s specific calling?

I graduated from dental school in 1978 and embarked on my dental career. But in the months before my graduation, I was growing in the conviction that my calling lay elsewhere – in serving as a pastor-teacher (Ephesians 4:11) – not because I saw that as more spiritual that dentistry but because that was what I believed God wanted me to do.

Still, it represented a major change in my life trajectory. I needed to be sure.

I looked to the Scriptures for help but found no explicit teaching on how to discover my calling. 

But I discovered a wealth of biblical wisdom to guide me in my search. 

Preparing the heart

How does one go about discerning one’s calling? 

We must be in a posture of submission before we are ready to receive God’s call.

We begin by first preparing our hearts. Any journey to discern our calling must begin with a commitment to pursue that calling when it is made clear to us.

If our attitude is one of curiosity – we want to know our calling but there is no commitment to actually do it – we shouldn’t be surprised that the heavens are silent. That is why God had to prepare Moses so that he would be ready to receive his call at the burning bush (Exodus 3:1-6).

We must be in a posture of submission before we are ready to receive God’s call. Jesus states this principle in John 7:17. 

The first step in discovering our calling is the choice to do the will of God. 

Discovering God’s will

There are times when God conveys His calling in dramatic ways, for example, the experience of Moses at the burning bush (Exodus 3:1-6) or Paul encountering the risen Christ on the Damascus Road (Acts 9:1-19). 

If our attitude is one of curiosity – without commitment – we shouldn’t be surprised that the heavens are silent.

Clearly, these were special calls for special people at special times in salvation history. 

However, nowhere does the Bible teach that such special callings are the norm. In fact, there is little direct teaching regarding how one can discern one’s calling. 

Instead of a method, God has given us resources to guide us. And there are spiritual disciplines that can help us tap into those resources. 

God has given us at least three resources to help His people discern His will:

1. The Spirit of God

The first resource is His Spirit. In John 16:13a, Jesus said: “But when he the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth.”

The first resource for discerning God’s will is God Himself.

Discerning our calling is not something we do alone. God Himself is with us in the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit. 

In discovering our life calling, we see that God promises to guide us step-by-step over time through the work of the Holy Spirit (Psalm 23:3, Psalm 25:9, Isaiah 48:17, Jeremiah 10:23).

2. The Bible

The second resource the Lord has provided to help us discern our calling is the Bible, the Word of God.

The Spirit and the Word work together, fulfilling Jesus’ promise that the Spirit will guide us to the truth.

Commenting on 2 Timothy 3:14-17, Bruce Waltke writes: “The Scriptures are given to us to teach. That means the Lord gave us the Bible to help us learn how to do things.”

The Bible helps us in our call discernment in at least two ways. First, it gives us clear understanding on the whole subject of calling.

Next the Spirit uses the Bible to guide us by bringing our attention to the parts that are relevant to our quest. Here, the Spirit and the Word work together, fulfilling Jesus’ promise that the Spirit will guide us to the truth. 

3. His people

The third resource the Lord gives us for call discernment is the community of believers. 

Gordon T Smith writes: “[W]e cannot effectively address any of these (vocational) questions on our own. We need the grace of good, clear, honest conversation, without flattery or cliche. We need to be in conversation with women and men, both in the community of peers and those older than ourselves.”

The wisdom of Proverbs 15:22 holds true for the call discernment as well. “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.” 

God helps us to discern our calling by providing us with His Spirit, His Word and His community. 


This is an extract from Discover Your Calling: The ABC of Vocational Discernment by Soo-Inn Tan of Graceworks. Republished with permission.

The book can be purchased directly from Graceworks at $14, including free shipping. You can buy it here


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About the author

Dr Tan Soo Inn

Rev Dr Tan Soo-Inn is the founding director of Graceworks. Since 1985, he has been journeying with people through his ministry of preaching/teaching, writing and mentoring. Originally trained as a dentist, he answered God's call to go into full-time, church-related ministry in 1981. He is an Arsenal Football Club fan and his favourite movie is Star Wars: Episode IV.

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