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English: Isaiah; illustration from a Bible car...There are promises, commands and callings of God which each play a specific role in our lives as individuals and also in the corporate body of Christ.  Sometimes we err when we confuse these three very different types of divine communication and thus understanding their differences can greatly aid us in obeying our Father’s voice.

My intention is not to condemn anyone with this essay but rather to bring clarity to us in order that we may better understand our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Remember, condemnation is nebulous while conviction is specific.  If you feel convicted the remedy is simply to confess your sin, repent of it (i.e. make the changes necessary) and act out your repentance with all due diligence.  We all have sinned and there is none righteous among us so realizing you are a sinner only proves your are human.  Just like when a child falls into the mud all we need to do is to put on the clean clothes His righteousness and go on about His business!

To begin with, there are two types of promises that God gives: conditional and unconditional.  Many times conditional promises of God have an “if” clause which signifies that if you do “A” then He promises to do “B”.  For instance, if we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us of our sins.  Whether you receive God’s promise of forgiveness, though freely given, depends upon your act of confession.  Sometimes people fail to receive the promises of God simply because they will not take the action necessary to possess them.

The second type of promise God gives is unconditional.  For example it is written in Isaiah 65:17,

“For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind.”

This type of promise will come to pass regardless of circumstance, time or people involved. Unconditional promises require no effort on our part.

When God gives you a personal promise it is wise to try and determine what type of promise God is making.  Normally all promises given to us are conditional and require some type of action on our parts.  Sometimes we fail to receive Gods blessings by assuming that what He promises will just fall into our laps without any sacrifice on our part.  This is generally not the case and we need to ask God what He requires of us so that we may obtain the promises He so graciously gives.

The next type of communication from God is the command.  Commands are different than promises because they are meant to be obeyed right away without delay.  The Bible states that when God gave the commandment for Abraham to circumcise all the males of His household he obeyed the selfsame day. When God said to sacrifice Isaac he got up early the next morning and went. God never commands you to do something without expecting you to obey immediately.  Whether it seems possible or impossible is not relevant. When Jesus called the twelve disciples they simply left what they were doing and followed Him straightway.  If you are truly a disciple and God gives you a clear command you are obligated to simply obey now.

Some treat God’s commands as optional or even dependent upon their personal circumstances and thus either ignore or modify what He says to them. The fact of the matter is that if God speaks it is time to obey regardless of inconvenience or circumstance.  In fact one person wanted to delay following Jesus to bury his father and our Lord rebuked him. Jesus said let the dead bury their dead and commanded him to go and preach the gospel.  If Jesus considered even burying the dead of less importance than obeying His Fathers voice then our natural circumstances and obligations are of little importance either.

We should to try to understand if God is giving a promise or a command so that we know if we should follow it immediately or wait patiently for its fulfillment. Often times when God commands us His will needs to be done immediately or we will miss the window of opportunity to carry out His purposes.  As I have said before delayed obedience is often times no obedience at all. Had not Philip immediately obeyed the voice of the Spirit he would have missed the Ethiopian.

Sometimes when God commands we actually manufacture confusion in order to obscure in our hearts and minds what God is plainly saying.  Sometimes we think that if we act confused we do not have to face the full force of what God asking of us to do.  However, God understands the difference between real confusion because you don’t know what to do and manufactured confusion because you don’t want to do.  The “I don’t know or I don’t understand” excuse does not really impress God or relieve you of obeying His commands.  Instead of relying on confusion to help us we should instead ask God for wisdom from above to assist us.

The third way God speaks to us is through calling us to perform some sort of task or ministry. God sometimes calls us very early in our lives knowing that it will be years before we are actually able to fulfill it. God does this because there are certain things you need to do in order to prepare yourself for the work He has called you to accomplish.  If He puts in your heart at an early age to go to China perhaps you will read and dream about going there and when the opportunity presents itself you may study the Chinese language or go to Bible College to prepare.  Here is a truth,


“God calls years before the actual event simply because it takes years to fashion you into the vessel that can actually be sent.”

Callings, though spread over many years, require us to yield to Gods spirit and prepare our hearts in order to actually carry them out.  Also, you have to receive the calling deep in your heart in order to be willing to stay the course when opposition presents itself.

Strangely enough, some think that if God truly calls it will be an effortless journey with circumstances and people aligning in perfect harmony. Unfortunately, those who think such things rarely make the sacrifices necessary to follow God’s will because they believe opposition or sacrifice mean that it must not be of God. However, a cursory reading of the life of the apostle Paul should convince any rational person that such thinking is gravely in error. It is written in 2 Corinthians 11: 23-27,

“Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness.”

High callings in God cost us everything for they require us to sacrifice ourselves to perform Gods will.  If we want to be true disciples of Christ we must pick up our cross and follow Him.

The scriptures state that many are called but few are chosen.  Indeed many are bidden by God to come but not everyone actually shows up.  Here is a truth,


“If you do not show up when God calls it is impossible to be chosen.”

For example, a call went out from the King of Persia to all the young and beautiful virgins of the land to come and present themselves before the king in hopes of being chosen as His queen.  Obviously,  only those who answered the call could be considered for this high honor. Here is a truth,


“At some point being called demands personal action.”

Moreover, those who wished to have the possibility of being selected as the king’s future wife needed to go through an entire year of preparation and purification before they were presented to him.  Likewise, those of us who have been called need to prepare ourselves for consideration or else we will not be chosen.

Lastly, sometimes, when those who are called refuse to come they are replaced. We should never believe that if God calls and we refuse to come that God cannot not seek another to fulfill His will.  This is especially true with callings.  When God calls He has a specific purpose in mind that needs to be fulfilled.  If you despise His calling long enough He will give what was intended for you to another who will fulfill it.  When the children of Israel refused to go into the Promised Land God let that generation die in the wilderness and brought up a new and chosen generation willing to answer His call.

In conclusion, we need to open our spiritual ears and allow ourselves to hear clearly what God is speaking into our lives.  Is His voice speaking promises, commands, or callings or some combination of all three?  If we are being called are we making ourselves ready?  Are we hiding behind self made confusion so that we do not have to face the realities and consequences of His designs?  All these factors and more play into understanding God’s promises, commands, and callings in our lives. Let us all heed our King’s voice and submit to His will so that in the end we will be counted worthy to be His chosen bride.


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