I struggled with this matter of “Missionary Calling” before coming to Japan. How did I know that God was really calling me to serve him as a missionary? How did I know it was Japan? How could I be sure that this was not just a figment of my imagination? I did not have a vision, nor a moment of overwhelming emotion. Rather, all I had was a steadily growing conviction through sermons I listened to in church, people I spoke to, and five years of experience of short-term missions to Japan.
I spoke to many experienced missionaries about this matter of calling. One told me, “It’s ok not to be absolutely sure—as long as you are about 80 percent sure, that’s good enough.”
Eighty percent sure?
I was comforted and troubled at the same time. Was I going to leave my home, my career, and my comforts based on 80 percent? What if the other 20 percent was right and I was simply mistaken? What about missionaries who left the field after one or two terms due to health reasons, lack of finances, family situations, or unforeseen circumstances? Or missionaries who have spent many years in the field but seen little fruit? Did they mistaken their calling?
One go-to passage for missionary calling is Isaiah 6:8:
“Then [Isaiah] heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?’
And I said, ‘Here am I. Send me!’” (NIV).
I wished that I could have heard the voice of the Lord asking me if I would go for him. Surely then I would have the confidence and faith to obey since I could know with 100 percent certainty.
However, we usually forget to read the rest of the passage where God tells Isaiah that the people he goes to will not understand, their hearts will be hard, and they will not repent. What? What was the point of calling Isaiah to go and speak to the people then? If nothing was going to work, why call him to go? I’m not sure that many of us would want to say yes to that calling. What we learn then from Isaiah, is that being called by God does not guarantee success, and that God’s purposes for calling us may be very different from what we imagine.
As I wrestled with this, I studied the instances where the word “calling” appears in the Bible. Unlike being called to a specific vocation or role, it seems clear to me that most of the time, we are all simply called “to belong to Jesus” (Rom. 1:6) and “to be his holy people” (1 Cor. 1:2). The call to Jesus and to holiness, are for us, a 100 percent certainty.
I was given the sound advice by a fellow missionary that, “If coming to Japan doesn’t grow you closer to Jesus, there is no use for you to come here.”
Even if I was only 80 percent sure that God wanted me to come to Japan to serve him, I could be 100 percent sure that he wanted me to put my faith in him and be willing to sacrifice my earthly treasures to follow him. Perhaps, knowing my heart, he wanted me to take that step of faith without the 100 percent certainty of a vision or a voice, because what I am called to, is to simply trust and obey.
—By Levene, an OMF missionary
Will you pray for Japan?
- Pray that people who feel God’s tug on them to serve in Japan would be bold in following him.
- Pray that Christians around the world would trust and obey God in all matters.
- Pray for missionaries who feel discouraged at the discrepancy between what they thought God called them to and what they are seeing.