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Sometimes I get distracted in my service to God. He placed me in some clearly-defined ministries during this phase in my life, but I negotiate plenty of competing priorities and distractions. Many times, the ministries take second place.

I lead 2 Bible study groups, I’m a faith blogger, and I write Bible study guides for small groups. My primary spiritual gift is teaching and these ministries make up the road God paved for me.

Besides the typical daily distractions, even other ministries could steer me away from the path God laid out for me. I can do other things that He may not have reserved for me. I could teach in other ways, like helping out in Sunday School. Or, in lieu of direct teaching, I could support leaders of a variety of care ministries. I could also join the choir and participate in church musicals. I’d really enjoy that.

I can do these other things in self-sacrifice for God and people, but they may not be what God wants me to do. They would be parenthetical – the “other ministries” in my life résumé.

So, I say no to those ministries.

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Paul knew how to say no and to focus on the special request God made to him. He went “all-in” for the gospel, and he was successful because he had clarity and focus on his mission.

Paul was “set apart for the gospel of God” (Romans 1:1). His mission was to preach the good news of Jesus to Jews, Gentiles, and kings (Acts 9:15). But when Jesus commissioned Paul, He didn’t tell Him His plan for his life. He needed to take steps of faith before God revealed it to him.

In the same way, we probably won’t hear God’s plan for our lives by waiting for a sign, and we won’t get it just by reading the Bible. That may sound blasphemous, but what we really need to do is serve God in faith, knowing that He will lead us into the ministries He designed for us. We get the road map while we’re traveling down the road. We know whether to turn or to go straight as we approach the intersection.

Of course, if you’ve traveled the road for a while, you probably know things get cloudy. The crossroads come and go, sometimes at breakneck speed, and sometimes they come when we’d rather just pull over and rest. Opportunities come that may or may not lead us further along God’s path for us.

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You may not know God’s plan for your life. That’s okay. Keep reading, but also read about discerning God’s call in my two posts on Why I Write.

Knowing God’s Specific Plan for Our Lives
How God uses coincidence to deliver His specific message to us

Knowing God Will Bless Our Work
Assurance that we can trust God to make His plans prosper

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God’s mission became clear to Paul after he took some steps of faith, and he owned the road God paved for him. Here are a couple of lessons we can learn from Paul’s example of owning God’s plan for his life.

 

When we are on God’s mission, it is essential to maintain clarity and focus.

It’s easy to get distracted or sidetracked. It can happen in a moment. Even godly pursuits can distract us. When we endeavor to carry out God’s plan for our lives, it helps to clarify our tasks and focus our efforts.

Paul refined his craft. He not only knew he was to be a missionary, but he was also very clear and intentional with his message (Romans 1:1-6, 1:14-16, 3:20-31, and 7:7-13). He was so clear on the details that he could demonstrate the relationship between the gospel and the law of Moses, a serious bone of contention with the religious leaders.

But there were things that could’ve distracted Paul. He had a deep desire to minister to the Christians in Rome. He also knew he would be in life-threatening situations, but here’s what he said about that:

I am ready not only to be bound,
but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” 
Acts 21:13b

He was focused on his mission to preach the gospel at the expense of enjoying fellowship with Christians in Rome (Romans 1:11-14), at the expense of his civil freedom, at the expense of his physical comfort and well-being (Acts 9:16), and at the expense of his own life. That’s how critical his mission was to him (Romans 1:16).

But when we encounter difficulties or sheer exhaustion, we may just want to stop. There are plenty of activities we’d rather enjoy. We should take breaks sometimes, but service also has a way of energizing us to continue. It energized Paul.

Related from Romans:

 

When we are on God’s mission, it is more natural to press on than it is to pursue our own delights.

Paul longed to visit the Romans, but he was too busy doing God’s work. The reality that some people had not yet heard the gospel compelled Paul to forego his own wishes and reach the people God placed immediately in his path (Romans 15:22-23).

Paul pressed on (Philippians 3:12-14). He didn’t look back. He worked hard. He took bigger steps with great yearning to fill the void in every heart with the gospel. He did this not with super-human fortitude. He did it in weakness. He was able to press on and endure extreme difficulty because when he was weak in his humanness, he was strong in God’s power, capability, and sufficiency (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).

Paul wrote that those who are mature in their faith should imitate him. He urged us to think of ourselves as people on God’s mission, and to follow the example of those who serve Him the way Paul did (Philippians 3:15-17).

 

What are those next steps God wants us to take?

Let’s walk those steps in faith, hone our craft, and continue on our roads, even when they get uncomfortable – maybe dangerous, at times.

Share about your next steps in the comments. I’d love to hear about what God is asking you to do, and I’d be happy to pray for you.

Learn more about how God dwells in us here.

Now to him who is able to establish you in accordance with my gospel…
to the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ! Amen” 
Romans 16:25-27


Stephen De La Vega

Author Bio

Stephen met Jesus as His Savior in the 80s and served God in various capacities ever since. In 2017, he published his first Bible study series for small groups and began blogging about practical Christian living. Stephen currently leads a Bible study at his workplace and another in a home setting. He believes the study of God’s Word should be a priority for every person who trusts Jesus as Savior, and spiritual growth is utterly dependent on it. So, God’s Word is central to everything he writes. Stephen and his wife have three sons and live in California. You can read more at Stephen De La Vega.

 

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26 Comments

  1. I live this post Stephen. I have also learned that God can change how or where we minister at a moments notice. When He dos, we must be willing to keep following or the current ministry may become our work and not His. We are along for the ride while God does all the directions. It can be scary at time but will be a blessing in the end.

    1. Hi Yvonne. Yes, God can suddenly change our ministry, though it would probably be another way we exercise our same spiritual gift(s), since He designed us that way. I totally agree that the ministry is God’s not ours. That’s why I don’t really fret when only 2 people show up for Bible study, or we don’t cover what I planned to cover. It is more critical to follow the lead of the Holy Spirit.

  2. I am praying God will guide me in the next steps with my writing. Opportunities come along and I want to say yes to everything. Yet, I know in my heart and soul that sometimes I need to say no. Not every opportunity is meant for me. 🙂 With God’s guidance, I will keep writing and pray my words will draw people closer to Him.

    1. Yes, Melissa. God is guiding and sometimes we come across opportunities that are not meant for us. I enjoy your writing. You teach God’s truths in everyday activities. That’s real life.

  3. This is SO good, Stephen! I can see your gift is teaching, to be sure. You’re good at it! And you’re spot on about staying “in our lane,” so to speak. It’s way too easy to get pulled in different directions that the Lord never intended. Paul is an excellent example! Good word. Thank you!

    1. You’re right, Lisa. I try to stay in my lane, literally, on the road and at a consistent pace, and I notice others who weave about, speed up and slow down, and just make travel hard for themselves and others. I think the same thing happens in ministry. It is more effective to stay on the path God designed for us than it is to try to get everything done, tell others how to “do it right,” hope in our own timing, or buck up against something that maybe God put in place to slow us down. Thanks for reading.

  4. Stephen, great message for those of us with callings on our life…every Christian! Love these thoughts: “We get the road map while we’re traveling down the road. We know whether to turn or to go straight as we approach the intersection.” I agree 100%!

    I’m a writer, blogger, speaker, Bible study leader and mentor other women. I’m learning to stay in my own lane and not veer to the right or left with distractions, my own desires, or comparing myself and ministry to those walking close to me or when I see their callings online. Like Paul encouraged, I want “to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called.” Ephesians 4:1

    1. Hi Karen. I know things don’t always seem ideal, but you are doing well. If we’re walking the path God designed for us, in a manner worthy of His call, we’re being successful – successful through God’s strength. I often want to veer off path, especially when I notice things that aren’t right, but God is filling in those other gaps just like He’s filling mine.

  5. Great insights here, Stephen: “But when Jesus commissioned Paul, He didn’t tell Him His plan for his life. He needed to take steps of faith before God revealed it to him. In the same way, we probably won’t hear God’s plan for our lives by waiting for a sign, and we won’t get it just by reading the Bible. That may sound blasphemous, but what we really need to do is serve God in faith, knowing that He will lead us into the ministries He designed for us.”

    Your explanations on these really fleshed out these truths: “He was focused on his mission to preach the gospel at the expense of enjoying fellowship with Christians in Rome (Romans 1:11-14), at the expense of his civil freedom, at the expense of his physical comfort and well-being (Acts 9:16), and at the expense of his own life. That’s how critical his mission was to him (Romans 1:16).”

    This is the way we go about it. We walk in what God has given us to do, and he directs us AS WE GO. We set aside our fleshly desires, even the good ones, if they draw us away from the mission he has given. Great post, brother!

    1. Yes, AS WE GO. It seems easier to say wonder what God has in store for us while we’re sitting back, waiting. But God wants us to respond with action. He wants us the say, “Yes, Lord,” and then follow Him. I play recreational ice hockey, and when we’re standing still on the ice, we are not successful participants in the action. We need to be moving in order to respond to the game play. If we’re not moving, we spend our time and energy trying to pick up speed while the play passes us by.

  6. Stephen, this was so well done! Discerning God’s highest calling, is how I try to say “no” to competing ministry calls. I’m still learning this skill and the absolute importance of doing so. I loved how you walked through Paul’s model of faith scripture by scripture, choice by choice. No, following the Lord’s will is not always crystal clear. But our passion to love Christ and live out His will for us, helps us follow His leading, come what may. May all distractions fade away before the beauty of our Savior!

    1. I like that, Melissa: “discerning God’s highest calling.” Paul did that when he focused on the prize, and that kept him on track and in the game (making a difference). Thank you for that nugget. God bless your efforts to follow Him!

  7. It’s so hard to not get distracted by other good opportunities. I remember how hard it was to quit my job at a Christian camp in order to pursue journalism. I knew God was directing me away from ministry life, but it can almost seem wrong to leave or to not accept a position doing ministry. The truth is, God’s path is ministry, even if what you’re doing isn’t under the ministry umbrella of the job world. Thanks for providing more insight for following God’s direction!

    1. I remember your story about quitting your Christian camp job, Emily. You followed God’s lead. I knew a pastor who stepped down from his role and that decision didn’t set well by some. But going a different direction is often the right and God-honoring choice. Francis Chan did something similar when he left his mega church. You make a great point: God’s ministry is not confined to what we understand to be vocations. God bless you in your service to Him.

  8. Wonderful post and timely! I have been quite frustrated with the many distractions in my life, keeping from the calling I feel a God has given me. Thank you for this needed post, Stephen!

  9. Thank you for this one, Stephen! It is so easy in the days of social media to “feel” like you aren’t on the right path when others appear to be super-spiritual in their understanding of their calling. You remind me to do the next thing God has for me.
    Amen!

    1. Yep. It often looks like people have it all figured out and are settled into their life vocations. That’s great if it’s true, but the next steps are really all that God expects of us. We don’t need to have it all figured out. God’s already done that.

  10. This is so good and convicting, Stephen. I honor God by staying focused on the road and path He has for me. That is a powerful YES.

  11. Wise words. Lately, rather than asking for God’s leading (which I know He has already promised to give), I’ve been asking for the ability to RECOGNIZE His leading as He gives it!

    1. Recognizing is definitely something that is easier only after time and practice. And there are so many ways He communicates with us, so lots to recognize. And when we recognize direction or communication as coming from God, it is an amazing realization. God is so good to remain involved in our lives. I wrote about coincidence as a way God communicates in the 2 posts that I mentioned in this post. They are great reads for anyone trying to make sense and the things that happen in their lives.

  12. I love this so much. I remember the lightbulb moment I had a few years ago that even GODLY pursuits may be distracting us from the true path God had planned for us. What an important lesson. Thanks for the great post, Stephen! 🙂

    1. Light bulb moments are cool because they change our perspective and behavior in positive ways. There is no shortage of ministry opportunities, I mean, if we sit down long enough to consider them, but there are probably only 1 or 2 or 3 that God really wants us to do. We’re only one 24×7 person, right? This is why it’s so important that every believer exercise their spiritual gifts for the benefit of others. It’s also important that anyone in spiritual leadership roles train people and provide opportunities for them to do God’s work. Thanks for reading and God bless your efforts to serve Him.

  13. This is good and so true! I find myself pulled in multiple directions and maybe not focusing on any one thing really well. I find myself praying constantly for guidance to know what I should focus on.

    1. It’s so easy to be pulled in multiple directions, isn’t it? I think it takes practice and time to ween ourselves off of the multiple and focus on the few. It takes commitment too because we might see some of the things we have been doing left undone. But being involved in ministries, even too many, can provide a good platform to hear from God and follow His lead. And sometimes the right direction is the one that seems least likely. Serving God in these capacities gives us the opportunities to watch God work and to listen as He speaks to our hearts. Blessings to you as you follow.

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