As a pastor I am sometimes attacked by thoughts that I am an imposter. They don't last for long and they usually arise from a brief moment of wavering, or doubt, or misdirection. Sometimes they arise in the face of failure.You can't be on the road as long as me without quickly realizing the source of these attacks in the vulnerable moments and once it is realized it is an easy thing to dismiss with the facts and promises of God. One of the things that dispels such thoughts is the unwavering knowledge that I did not choose this calling but I was chosen by Jesus.
When I was about 7 years old I had a pastor who would call me his "Apostle Paul" every time he saw me. I thought it was funny being referred to as a Bible character because I didn't know too many other Paul's. To be honest it made me feel special. Before this pastor left our church to pastor another one he sought me out. I remember him putting his hand on my shoulder and saying, "My apostle Paul, God has called you to be a herald of his Word. You will be a great man of God." Then he was gone from my life. I had no idea that he had just seeded the call of God in me and anointed me for the ministry.
I did not think of that moment, or of God or of that calling until I was well into my teens. At the age of 16 years I knew that something was nagging me but I was fighting to determine my own path. At the age of 18 years that war in me sent me spiralling into a complete rebellion against God. I stopped attending church. I got into drinking and drugs. Parties and friends became my priority. I had no idea how many people were praying for me but I wanted to get as far away from Jesus as possible. However, it did not take away this nagging subconscience awareness of God's calling.
I remember once having a big fight with my mother when she was getting after me about becoming serious about my future. I was so frustrated with her that I heard myself saying in anger something like "Leave me alone. I'm going to be a pastor!" Totally shocked I ran away from the argument.
I also remember having a conversation with my best friend at the time. We were both in the Canadian militia and on a day off we took a long walk away from the base. We started reflecting on our future and again I was shocked to hear myself telling him, "I don't know how but I think I am going to be a pastor". It was completely contrary to the life I was living. His response? "I can see that."
It was not long after that Jesus intervened and turned my life around 180 degrees. Some of you have heard this but it completes the story of the acceptance of my calling. It was the morning after a great party and I was waking up in a terrible condition. As I lay there refusing to open my eyes I had this nagging feeling someone was in my room. Thinking it was my mom or dad and I was about to get yelled at, I opened my eyes.
It wasn't my mom or dad.
It was the incredible presence of Jesus Christ. I knew who it was and I knew what he wanted and nothing in me was about to resist. Through my entire being I heard him pronounce one word: "Enough". With that word I was out of bed and flat on my face, crying, repenting, receiving the love and forgiveness of my sweet Jesus.
In that moment I was filled with an overwhelming awareness of everything I had become, everything I had done and the pain I had inflicted on God. Yet, even as the words of repentance were touching my lips, I felt all those things lifted off of me and all that was Jesus entering in. My spiritual eyes were suddenly thrust opened and things became so clear but before I could be overwhelmed again by the grief of my sin, the assurance of Jesus washed over me like a giant wave and in that wave was also the assurance of my calling. The war in me came to an end as I gladly,and with much joy, surrendered myself to the direction of the Spirit.
This is the reason those pangs of doubt don't stand a chance in me, because I know that it was not my choice but instead that I was chosen by Jesus:
You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last. (John 15:16)
It is also how I know that no matter if I have moments of weakness and I mess up, my calling will always be part of me. It is wrong and terrible when pastors fail but that does not end their calling. It means that they must go through restoration of which the Church is an essential part of the process. And make no mistake, the Lord will restore them. We need to always remember:
For God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable. (Romans 11:29)
That goes for everyone of my readers as well. Each of you has a calling you have received and you have been equipped with gifts from the Spirit. Even when you don't "feel like it" it is still who you are. It is what God has given to you and he is not going to take them away. It doesn't matter how far you run he will always want to bring you back to it. Look at Jonah when he tried to run away or how about Elijah and his cave experience?
The only caution I throw into this is that you need to make sure you are operating in your calling and that you haven't hijacked someone else's. It is a shame but we have a lot of people acting as pastors who have been called to other things. It is like the Church thinks that the only calling is as a pastor. There are tons of callings but the callings of Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist, Pastor and Teacher are a special group that has been set aside as trainers in the Church. They are called to serve the sheep, to feed, nurture and train in good works. Theirs is a life of great sacrifices, lots of heart break and tireless service. But they are only one group of many in this fantastic Body of Christ.
Know your place, your calling and stand in it. Serve with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength and make sure that your motivation is the love of Jesus. End the war in yourself and surrender to his purpose for you. It was knit into you in your mother's womb, it has probably already been spoken into you, it is probably the thing you fear the most and it will yet be confirmed in you by the Spirit. Your actions will not remove it from you. You can't run away or hide from it. It is who you are. So be the best you that you can be so Jesus will be seen and glorified in you. Allow the Spirit to kick those nagging doubts to the curb and know that you have not chosen Jesus but he has chosen you.