Moses prayed for it at Mt. Sinai when he said,
“If Your Presence does not go with us, do not bring us up from here.”
Gideon wanted to be certain he had it, so he asked for the signs of wet fleece on dry ground and dry fleece on wet ground (Judges 6:36ff).
King Solomon knew its importance for himself and his kingdom when the Lord appeared to him in a dream (1 Kings 3:5ff).
The disciples knew they had it because Jesus Himself had called them (Matthew 10:1-4).
Joshua and the Children of Israel did not have it when they went to battle against Ai (Joshua 7:1ff).
King Saul lost it when his selfishness overshadowed his love for God (1 Samuel 15:10ff).
What is it?
It is the confidence of knowing that God is leading you through His chosen earthly representatives. Neither Moses nor Gideon nor Solomon nor Jesus’ disciples were perfect in their personal lives, in following God’s lead, or in their leadership of others. However, each leader and his followers could be confident that God was leading through the man He had called for the task.
Christian congregations—with called servants and those who follow—are able to have this same confidence. This confidence comes from the knowledge that the call to serve in a Christian congregation is a Divine Call, that is, it is call from God Himself.
Our ascended Savior Himself gives gifts to His Church through individuals who are called to serve “for the equipping of the saints for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:12). Jesus said, “If two of you agree on earth concerning anything they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20). Therefore we have the confidence that Jesus is providing individuals to lead His flock on Earth. At the same time He is present and actively guiding the process of calling such leaders.
Every child of God has a call from Jesus to “make disciples of all the nations,” but then within Christian congregations particular individuals are called to serve on behalf of the whole. These leaders include pastors, teachers, Sunday School teachers, Board members, Council leaders, and others. Each has a call to serve in a specific office in a specific capacity on behalf of a specific body of believers. These individuals are called by Jesus, and because of Jesus’ authority we can be confident that these leaders are called and led by God Himself.
The New Testament Scriptures give examples of this very thing. The congregation in Antioch sent Saul and Barnabas on their first missionary journey but were directed to do so by the Holy Spirit (Acts 13:1ff). Paul instructed Titus to appoint elders in every city on Crete (Titus 1:5) but certainly not without the Spirit’s direction. Paul told the Ephesian elders, “…take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers” (Ephesians 20:28).
If God is the One calling a new pastor, teacher, or other leader, why doesn’t He make His choice more plain? Why does He have a Christian congregation go through a process in calling someone? There are undoubtedly many reasons why God does this, and one of these reasons is, quite simply, trust. God wants His children to dig into His Word to find direction. He wants His children to use the truth He has given and apply it to their lives. He wants His children to turn everything over to Him in prayer and then take Him at His Word, trusting that He will guide and bless the decision. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6).
God’s call doesn’t always match what human reason might suggest or expect. The prophet Amos was a sheepbreeder of Tekoa when God called him to be a prophet (Amos 1:1). Several of Jesus’ twelve disciples were fishermen, and none of them were trained Bible scholars. Had Jesus set up a search committee, hired a “head-hunter,” or held an election, none of the twelve would have been chosen. Yet Jesus called each one of them, equipped them, and poured out His Spirit upon them to do the work for which they were called.
David was just a shepherd boy, but God called him to be king of His people Israel. When Samuel went to anoint the next king, he thought that David’s oldest brother was prime king material. However, Samuel wasn’t making the choice. God told Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).
Called servants don’t become omniscient. Called servants have limits, weaknesses, and sin. They don’t make perfect decisions all of the time, and the same can be said for every one of the individuals they serve. The frailties and weaknesses of the called and those they serve is a reminder of just how much we all need our Savior—equally. It can only highlight the fact that “we have this treasure in earthen vessels” (2 Corinthians 4:7) and that God’s strength is made perfect in our weakness (cf. 2 Corinthians 12:9).
With that knowledge we can go confidently forward. In spite of the weaknesses and shortcomings of sinful human beings, in those prayerfully chosen and elected to be our leaders we are being led by God. Praise the Lord!