I love time travel movies. Some are done well, some are just bad, but I enjoy the mental gymnastics of the whole thing. The preminse is almost always the same: there's a problem, someone has to travel back in time to fix the problem, hero fixes problem, future disaster averted.
Along the way the inevitable questions always come up: "But if we travel back in time and fix the problem, won't that correct the time line and thus make us unaware of the problem in the past that we have to travel back and fix, making the problem arise again? Or will the corrected timeline continue as the "real" timeline? Which one then is the "true" timeline? Though physicists tell us it's theoretically possible, there's a problem with time travel.
"What does this have to do with ministry?" you say. Sci fi fantasies and pop-culture physics aside the same problem exists for those who use words like "called" or calling".
Though much goes into considering a "calling" and there is, at the time, a fair amount of confirmation of that "calling", it's unfortunately far too easy to travel back in time and change the past.
We go back, we revisit...and sometimes we rewrite.
A "calling" as we will talk of it, is a specific request or command of God for a specific action. All Christians are called to surrender their lives to God, those who have a "calling" are saying that they recognize that God is asking or commanding something specific of their life and particular to them as a demonstration of the general surrender of the Christian.
A life spent following Jesus is not easy. The road is not always smooth and just because the road gets a little bumpy doesn't mean God has not called us.
One particular attack the enemy uses to thwart "calling", even against those who have seemed so sure of it; is the ability to travel back in time.
"Are you sure God said that? Are you sure you didn't just want that? Are you sure it wasn't that influential person in your life who convinced you? Why did you think that anyway?"
Times get hard, the road gets bumpy, the skies get a little dark and we go back and try to revisit the past...and suddenly we're not so sure. It's the enemy's attempt to alter the timeline. As in the movies, the question inevitably comes up, "Which timeline is the 'true' timeline?"
Effective leaders have closed that door of attack to the enemy. They have limited his ability to attack them at way by guarding their "calling". Here are some suggestions to do just that:
1. Journal. Not everyone is a journaler but you should find some way of accurately recording your past and most especially the life changing moments in which God has spoken into your life. We find in scripture that Abraham would often set up altars, monuments, to memorialize when God spoke to him. We need the same kind of reminders. An accurate picture of the past is a protected past.
2. Refuse to be a Revisionist. Going back can be useful. Many times it can serve to encourage us. It's the revision of the past that's dangerous. No calling is absolutely certain; every "calling" has an element of faith attached to it. Ultimately this is what the enemy seems to make his primary target. We read times in scripture when the apostles and disciples thought God wanted something from them and acted on it and God corrected them, rebuked them stopped their movement. God will protect your heart and faith that way. If your heart is right He won't let you walk ten years down a path that's wrong for you without telling you. Walk by faith.
3. Be Careful Little Mouth What You Say. Those who are most prone to this attack are those who are all too ready to say "Thus sayeth the Lord..". Be careful of what you consider a "calling". Be very discerning, and conservative on what you say God has "called" you to. Don't call it a "calling" unless you are as sure as you can be. God's calling is not always the voice of your desire.
4. Don't Be So Quick To Jump Ship. Once you are as certain as you can be that God has "called" you to something, a ministry, a position, a lifestyle, a church, etc., etc., let God guide that path. Know that it will present challenges as the path of our calling is also one of the mechanisms of our personal transformation, and that will include hardship. "The testing of your faith develops perseverance." Once you are as sure as you can be of a "calling" do not leave it until you are as certain as you were getting into it that God is calling you out of it. Don't let circumstances, feelings, hardship or personal desire be your guide. It's God's calling let Him be its Director too.
5. Err On The Side Of God. Let God be the benficiarty fo your life. Often this requires taking our own name off that line. "You are not your own, you were bought with a price." Live like it. Make decisions that demonstrate it. When in doubt, when both answers seems right, or God doesn't seems to be answering, follow the one that best serves God (which is also often the one that least serves us). This doesn't make it the right answer, it's just the safest.
May God bless you on your Grand Adventure. May your past be sure, the footing of your present steady, and the outlook of your future ever-increasingly brighter. God bless you!