Preparing for a Life of Full-Time Service
A QUESTION-FILLED TIME
The Bible records the many different ways that God directly called His workers. However, for some of us, such a call to full-time service may not be immediately obvious.
The desire to offer our best to God may have been sparked when we were reflecting upon a sermon or attending a seminar. Perhaps, in personal reflection and prayer, we found ourselves aspiring to devote ourselves to full-time service. During such moments, it is natural to also wonder, among other things, if it were really God’s will for us to take this path.
For many years, I asked pastors what I should do to prepare myself. I cherished the idea of full-time service, but I had no idea how to work toward it. Was I acting upon God's will or my own? What is the right way to go about finding out?
One thing I was absolutely certain of, however, was that I was not worthy. Well aware of my weaknesses, I wondered: Will God accept my service? Will I really be able to make it on this path?
Then, when I wanted to take the step to serve full-time, there were no suitable available positions. Perhaps I had misunderstood God's intent for me, or perhaps the time wasn't right yet. Does God still want me to serve Him? If so, when is the right time to make this switch?
WAITING FOR THE ANSWER IN HIS TIME
Full-time service to the Lord is a very important life choice. It is not wrong to question whether this is indeed God’s intended path for us. While we pray to God for guidance, it may be some time before a clear answer comes. Being human, this uncertainty can be difficult for us to bear.
However, waiting can be beneficial because time will show whether our desire to serve is a true call to service or just a momentary stirring of emotions. Since this waiting period is inevitable, instead of fretting anxiously, we can use it to deepen our understanding of ourselves and God.
While we cannot foresee how and when God will use us (like Moses, cf. Ex 2–3), we should put in every effort to know ourselves. Our character and habits have the potential to significantly enhance or become breaches in our faith and service. Therefore, on our journey towards salvation, we must continually work to become more aware of our shortcomings and improve in these areas. We are then well-equipped to fit into whatever future God has planned for us.
Examining ourselves is no easy task. We can humbly ask our friends and family to help us identify our strengths and weaknesses. Tackling multiple areas at once may be overwhelming, so start with one or two. Working through these various issues helps prepare us not only for full-time service, but also for our marriage, family, and career.
Getting to Know Me: Practical Questions for Self-Knowledge
· What are my greatest strengths and weaknesses? What have I done to enhance these strengths and overcome these weaknesses?
· Am I grateful and content? How should I cultivate a thankful heart and simple life?
· In what areas do I need more self-control? How can I be more watchful in these areas?
· What drives my day-to-day choices? How does the well-being of others impact my decision-making?
· What is my main communication style? How do I adapt my style to effectively communicate with different types of people?
· With whom do I not get along and why? How should I change to improve my relationship with others?
· How do I respond to criticism or suggestions for improvement? How can I learn to be more focused on introspection and not on the critics?
· What should I do to improve conflict management? How can I avoid combative thoughts or behavior and instead be more peaceable?
· Do I feel bitterness toward certain family or church members? How can I overcome any resentment with past events or circumstances?
Managing work and stress
· In my local church, what holy work am I willing or unwilling to do and why?
· How should I improve my work ethic? What should I do to be more productive, efficient, and effective?
· How do I handle stressful situations? What methods can I use to overcome intense stress?
Many of these questions reveal thoughts and deeply-rooted concepts that we were probably unaware of. God will guide us to see our imperfections if our hearts are pure and willing to change. After humbly confessing our weakness to the Lord, continue to think through each shortcoming in prayer. Look to the word of God to cleanse and align our thoughts and actions with God's standard. Keep track of any progress or setbacks in each area, while continuing to humbly yield to God’s instruction. When we feel discouraged about overcoming old habits, God is our reason not to give up.
For Jerusalem's sake I will not rest, until her righteousness goes forth as brightness, and her salvation as a lamp that burns. (Isa 62:1)
God desires to see us as bright shining lights without shadow or taint. Though the goal feels unattainable, particularly in man’s eyes, with God, nothing is impossible. God is ever willing and committed to helping us overcome our weaknesses. He does not stop working toward our righteousness, so we should not give up on ourselves.
In my own journey, the process of seeing and grappling with my weaknesses changed my life completely. I came to see that my behavior and choices often stemmed from my doubts of God’s protection. As I dug deeper into what I based my identity on, God helped me to see many unhealthy and ungodly values. During this period of deep introspection, God was my greatest supporter who never turned away from the ugliness I needed Him to heal. As I confessed my need for others' approval and my self-idolatry, this new self-awareness changed my interactions with my family and my friends. I began experiencing true joy when serving at my local church. The process of facing myself not only prepared me for full-time service, but also led to a deeper experience of God, a happier life, and more fulfilling relationships with others.
A deep recognition of God’s attributes is indispensable to a life of service. Knowing the beauty of God's character is an unending source of motivation to improve ourselves when working with different types of personalities. Knowing God's omniscience reassures us that our efforts are not in vain though our tasks are unseen or bear no results. Knowing God is trustworthy allows us to willingly submit when we ourselves do not understand a particular assignment of the church. Knowing God's goodness allows us to fully trust Him with our lives, even in the face of obstacles.
We need to serve God for who He is and because of whom He has made us to be. It is not wrong to seek personal fulfillment and meaning in serving God, but these are insufficient to keep us motivated when work is tedious, unglamorous, and unappreciated by others. What we view as meaningful may also change as time passes, but God's character remains steadfast.
Getting to Know God: Practical Questions for Enhancing Our Relationship with Him
· Do I express appreciation for God’s attributes?
· How confident am I of God's love? What were the moments that I felt His love most?
· How large of a part does God play in my identity?
Communion with God
· What drives me to pursue knowing God more?
· Is my spiritual cultivation characterized by consistency?
· Are there situations in which I am less likely to want to think about or draw close to God?
· How can I retain the fear of God in my daily life?
Experience of God
· In what ways do I find joy in the Lord?
· Have I experienced victory gained by relying on God's mercy rather than my own ability?
· What words of God do I hold onto in times of difficulty?
· When I feel unmotivated or tired in service, what do I do to recharge and obtain strength from God?
· Who are the spiritual friends and family members to whom I can turn to for spiritual advice and prayers?
Besides a deep understanding of God's unchanging character, a clear conviction and understanding of God's plan for our lives can keep us motivated through difficult times. Do we know how our lives fit into God's plan? What is God's purpose in our lives? The answer, which requires time and God's revelation, is one that we must eventually find an answer to. Knowing that we are carrying out God's intended role for us is vital for an unwavering commitment.
I had a direct experience of this when I first began to work full-time for God. On the outside, I appeared committed as I had quit my previous job and left behind friends and familiarity to move to a new city. But in my heart, I knew I was not fully engaged; part of me was afraid of fully accepting full-time service. Doubts that I was suitable for this path gnawed at me, and anxiety about failing prevented me from full commitment.
This internal struggle made me unhappy and I lost motivation. I was always trying to get out of doing things that were difficult or were out of my comfort zone. I complained and blamed others for making my life and job difficult. I could not imagine staying in this job for the rest of my days.
However, thanks to God's mercy and intervention, my personal answer came unexpectedly during a prayer. I saw that everything in my life had been leading up to and preparing me for this work; even stages in my life that I had felt were failures were actually training periods. There were other people whom I had thought were better suited to this work—those kinder, better at communication, more patient—yet they had found their callings elsewhere. I realized that this part in God’s workforce had long been prepared, even before I myself was aware. It was up to me, however, to embrace it.
Understanding how God had been molding me throughout my life gave me strength to embrace this path. In that moment, everything changed. Nothing changed externally but everything changed within me! The fear that I was not the right one for this job disappeared. Since this was the path that God had prepared, I knew that He would continue to provide and guide. He would complete the work He had begun (Phil 1:6). Though I still had much to improve in my character, submission, and service, I was no longer afraid of my weaknesses.
While God's workers may not appear
to be the best in man’s eyes, they are His, so He Himself will build them up
and equip them (cf.
HE MAKES ALL THINGS BEAUTIFUL
When it comes to serving God and
His church, we do not have to worry that we might be overlooked or forgotten by
Him. The good works we are to do have already been prepared by God (Eph 2:10).
No matter what our role is, when God's predetermined time comes, He will call
us to His work. What is critical, however, is our willingness to cleanse and
prepare ourselves for service to Him (
As we embark on this journey of intentional preparation, we will find out increasingly how inadequate we are. If it is God's will for you to be a full-time worker, it will be a lifelong lesson on denying oneself and following Jesus' example. God's calling will come at His appointed time, not because we have become complete, but because full-time service is part of His way to further purify us and grow in true righteousness and holiness (Eph 1:4, 4:23–24). God has a plan for each of us. Let us have faith that His knowledge is above anything we could imagine, and accept and trust that whatever God has arranged for us is the best.