7 Stages of a Call from God
When God calls you into relationship with His Son, there are distinct stages He will take you through in your journey with Christ. These seven distinct stages can be seen in most every believer throughout their lifetime. Understanding these stages can help us prepare for the future events God may bring into our lives. God's destiny for your life will involve stages that may question God's activity in your life. Nevertheless, they are needful to bring you into full maturity in your relationship with God. What are these seven stages? Let me introduce each of these stages before we begin.
Stage 1 - Salvation
Stage 2 - Preparation
Stage 3 - Crisis
Stage 4 - Testing
Stage 5 - Confirmation of Your Call
Stage 6 - Fruitful Stage
Stage 7 - Elevation by God
Now, let's discuss each of these stages.
Stage 1 - Salvation -- Called to Someone, not Something
"Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight," declares the LORD. 
Let me ask you a question. Can an egg fly? Certainly it was made to fly. However, in order for it to fly there has to be a transformation from being an egg to being a bird. It is one of the greatest transformations in nature. An egg becomes an eagle which can soar at great heights and accomplish great acrobatics in the air. Friend, God made you to fly. But until there is a transformation, we will never experience that transformation.
When God calls an individual He first calls them into relationship with himself. He is called to someone, not something. Many times we hear people talk about being called to a noble endeavor. And, certainly He does call us to things. But if we are not careful we fail to enter into the greatest of all callings - knowing Him.
The apostle Paul understood this concept. He understood his greatest call was to the Savior. "To know Him and the power of His resurrection that he might become like him." The great prophet Jeremiah reinforced this relationship with God when he said, "Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight," declares the LORD. 
Moses came to understand this great truth when He was leading hundreds of thousands out of Eqyptian slavery. God described Moses as a friend of God who could speak to God face to face. Moses had achieved great things through his relationship with God. However, the people of God rebelled when Moses took too long to return from the
God wants to bring every human being out of slavery. Slavery of sin and bondage to a promised land of purpose and meaning through a relationship with His Son, Jesus Christ. He has done this by providing His very own Son, Jesus Christ as the payment for mankind's sin. Paul explains this in Romans: "For if, when we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation."This is why the Bible describes this as the Good News. The God of the universe wants to have a personal relationship with you and me. However, He is such a Holy God that there had to be a way for a Holy God to have a relationship with such an unholy people. Jesus became that holiness and became sin for us in order to bridge the gap to God. "He is a God who is passionate about his relationship with you," according to Exodus 34:14 in The Message Bible.
What a wonderful thing. The God of the universe not only wants to give me salvation for my sins, He also wants to know me and become my friend. However, each of us must accept this invitation from Him because God gives us the freedom of choice. The Bible summarizes this best in the most quote verse of all time, "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son." If you have never taken this first step, let me encourage you right now to stop what you are doing and ask Jesus to come into your life as Lord and Savior. Until you do this, the rest of this teaching has little relevance. Stage 1 represents the act of getting onto the train. The train will take us to through the next 6 stages of our journey.
Convenience. Crisis. Conviction.
I have observed that there are three ways people come to Christ. Heaven is a benefit that is easily reconciled in our minds once we conclude there is a God and there is a Heaven. After all, who would not want to go to Heaven? Many have come to Christ by responding to the greatest unique selling position there is - an opportunity to receive eternal life through Jesus Christ. Some of us have come to Christ as young people. Some have come to Christ later in life. Usually those who come to Christ earlier in their lives do so out of this first stage - convenience. They reason that this decision is a logical decision.
The Bible speaks of two forms of the Gospel. The gospel of salvation speaks of salvation through Jesus Christ. Unfortunately, many people have simply taken out "fire insurance" and have not learned what it means to walk with God. The Gospel of the Kingdom speaks of the total aspect of God's Kingdom which includes salvation but also the bringing of God's Kingdom onto earth. In the Lord's Prayer Jesus prayed, "Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven." Jesus spoke more about the
Many people have come to Christ out of a crisis in their lives. I have not idea what percentage of people come to Christ out of a crisis, but I can only guess that it is a high percentage. The reason I believe that is mankind is generally rebellious and seeks its own way. It is only when we discover our way does not work that we are willing to consider alternatives. Someone once said, "There is a place of obedience for every person." What this statement says is God can place us in situations that motivate obedience. "Foxhole Christianity" is another way of saying there is place of obedience for all of us when the kettle gets hot enough. There primary motivation is "help me Lord." That is why salvation through crisis sometimes does not produce a salvation that lasts because once the heat is off, many times the individual returns to his old life. He was never really serious about a relationship with God, only deliverance from their pain.
The conversion that I believe God enjoys most is when a child comes to Him out of conviction. They are deeply sorrowful for the life of sin and separation they have lived and repent in humility before Him. The person usually enters into a life of conviction with God. Their attitude is, "have me Lord." They begin moving down the funnel of obedience that is based on knowing God personally (see diagram below). They are motivated by love, not shame or guilt.
Those who come to Christ through conviction are often those who experience the supernatural aspect of God more in their lives because they seek to know God. As a result, God reveals himself to them. The early disciples experienced God at this level. Their lives exemplified a life of signs and wonders. And they did them in public where the rest of the marketplace could see them, not in the temple. "The apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders among the people. And all the believers used to meet together in Solomon's Colonnade."
Mike & Sue Dowgiwicz, Restoring the Early Church
Extraordinary versus Ordinary Calls
Once we come to know Christ we need to realize there are ordinary calls and extraordinary calls. God sometimes calls individuals to a work that is going to have major consequences to His Kingdom. Abraham, Moses, Joseph, David, Paul and many others had extraordinary calls. God calls each man to a specific work. Jesus was called to a specific work. That work is determined by God. I have also observed that the depth and width of a person's call is often proportional to the faith experiences God brings into their lives. When God parted the
This does not mean that God does not call every individual to a specific task. However, it does mean it might be through the natural skills and gifts God gives that individual. He may call you to be an entrepreneur or a nurse or a construction worker simply to meet the human needs of mankind. This too is a holy calling from God.
So, my friend, the first stage in your journey involves the most important stage - being called to some-one, not some-thing. Our lives are to be played out for an audience of one - Jesus Christ.
Stage 2 - Preparation
"In the beginning we do not train for God, we train for work, for our own aims; but as we go on with God we lose all our own aims and are trained into God's purpose. Unless practical work is appointed by God, it will prove a curse."--- Oswald Chambers
How did God disciple the twelve in whom he invested three years? There are four distinct stages I see. Let's consider the life of Peter. Peter first met Jesus on the seashore. He became a follower of Jesus for three years. He was evangelized by Jesus to be one of the key leaders in a movement that would change the world. After the initial stage of meeting Jesus personally, Peter simply spent time with Jesus. For three years he walked with Jesus, observed, questioned, argued, made stupid mistakes and became the leader of the church after Jesus was gone. During this time he was equipped by Jesus to become a leader. He gained knowledge and information. However, that knowledge and information was not enough for Peter to become a spiritual leader of others. There had to be another phase of development in the life of Peter.
I appreciate the heart of Peter. He is often criticized for being impetuous. However, keep in mind he was the only one willing to step out of the boat to come to Jesus on the turbulent sea. He was a risk-taker. He said things that were out of order at times. But Jesus saw the heart of Peter. And that is why Jesus chose him to lead the church despite his imperfections. Peter's third stage is what I call his empowering stage. That may seem like an oxymoron when we think of what Peter did in this stage. He denied Jesus three times during the time of Jesus' betrayal. Jesus let him see his heart. It was a crisis moment for Peter. He thought he was a faithful follower. But he realized his faith was on one inch deep. Peter's heart had to be circumcised. Circumcision is always painful, bloody, and personal.
Every follower of Jesus must realize how deep his faith is. In 1994 I went through the greatest crisis of my life. I had major financial losses, a family crisis, and lost 80% of my business --- all in three months time. The crisis would last seven years! In the early two years of that crisis my faith was tested to the point of suicide. It was the greatest crisis of belief I have ever known. I had to come to grips with the adversity and determine if God was still God when I could not reconcile the events taking place in my life. The grace of God led me to stand firm and seek Him with my whole heart. I saw nothing positive in my life during those first two years. But I kept pressing in. Finally, Jesus made Himself known to me through several unique divine encounters. He revealed to me that He was not going to deliver me at that time, but He would walk through the trials with me - and He did.
This crisis period took my foundation much deeper than I could ever imagine. God gave me a verse that described the process He was taking me through. "I will give you the treasures of darkness, riches stored in secret places, so that you may know that I am the LORD, the God of
Every believe needs to have their faith tested to see how deep their faith really is. It will ultimately define their walks with God and their usefulness in the Kingdom.
Finally, the fourth stage is the engagement stage. This is the stage God begins to use you for His purposes. God raised up Peter and gave him authority to lead. He confirmed his call through signs and wonders. The fruit of his relationship with Jesus was now being evident to others.
Now a word of caution to many of you. I find that many people try to walk through these stages without stage three - the empowering or circumcision stage. Unless someone's faith is tested they will begin to walk in their own strength. They will birth spiritual things in their own strength, the one thing our Lord never did. Much of Christian enterprise today is Ishmael, doing things in our natural strength. Like Abraham and Sarah, they begin to maneuver and help God fulfill what they believe God wants. They end of birthing an Ishmael. Ishmael was a bad idea that looked like a logical solution from Abraham and Sarah's perspective. After all, this was an acceptable custom during their day and they were beyond child bearing years. So, Abraham would lay with Hagar in order to birth the "promised son". We have been suffering the consequences ever since.
God wants to know us and to use us for His Kingdom. In order to do that, He takes us through these first two stages. These two stages may take a long time of preparation. It is often a continual process but the adversity is dependent on our cooperation and His purposes for our lives.
Have you ever had a divine interruption? The apostle Paul had one on his way to
"If my people would but listen to me, if
how quickly would I subdue their enemies and turn my hand against their foes!" 
When the people did not listen to God He decided to orchestrate things in order to get their attention.
If you study the scriptures you will find a consistent pattern -- God interrupts the lives of people He calls into mission with Him. It doesn't always have to be a negative encounter, but often it is. It often involves being separated from your current way of life. It often removes you from an ability to control your environment so that you are placed in a totally dependent mode with God. For many of us controllers, this is a scary place. This desert place is where God separates you from your old way of doing things and you wonder if He has abandoned you.
The word desert comes from the Hebrew word Dahbar which means "to speak." God often places us in a position where we are quiet enough and hungry enough to listen. C.S. Lewis said, "God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world." You see, it is a sign of immaturity that requires God to shout. Sometimes God has a real difficult time getting the attention of his kids. So, he starts with a gentle nudge ... then a push . then a slam ... then an all-out assault. Take a look at this very disturbing verse in Isaiah. I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster; I, the LORD, do all these things. 
Surely God does not do this intentionally, you say. He most certainly does! Why? Because God is more concerned about making you more like Him than giving you a comfortable life. The goal of the Christian life is not life, it is death! - death to your old way of living so that Christ can live supremely in and through you. There is a dying world out there and God is more concerned about bringing in as many of those lost people than meeting your comfort needs. And sometimes it requires getting the attention of his self-sufficient Church to wake up to His mission. We need to get back to a biblical gospel. Jesus learned obedience through the things He suffered.  If that is the way Jesus learned obedience who was the perfect Son of God, what do you think that means for us kids?
A.W. Tozer said, "It is doubtful whether God can bless a man greatly until he has hurt him deeply." In 1994 I was allowed to enter a seven year "Joseph pit experience." I went through a marriage breakup, lost a half million dollars, 80% of my business and had several "Judas betrayals". It was a devastating time in my life. It made no human sense at the time. I had been walking with the Lord. I was not in a backslidden state. I had marriage challenges, but my spouse and I were seeking to work them out. Still, the storm came and it took me to an utter depth of soul experience.
During those dark days I experienced such pain it is hard to express it in words. For a year I could not talk to someone without breaking down in tears. My life was totally destroyed from a financial perspective. I had lost relationship with my only daughter. I was forced to pay large amounts of alimony and child support for seven years while my business deteriorated.
At the same time during this period God quietly began a rebuilding process in my life. I sought God out of the pain of the situation and over time I began to discover secret treasures from God. I would discover Isaiah 45:3: I will give you the treasures of darkness, riches stored in secret places, so that you may know that I am the LORD, the God of Israel, who summons you by name. He also spoke to me through Hosea
"Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the desert
and speak tenderly to her. There I will give her back her vineyards,
and will make the
Three years into the adversity I began to reflect on some of the things God was showing me. I began to write a daily email devotional called TGIF Today God Is First. Every day for nine months I would write one message and send it to friends and associates. Soon it got up to several hundred people who received it. When I missed a few days in a row I began to get emails asking where their devotional was. It revealed to me that it was helping people. By January 2004 it was going to 75,000 people a day and 1,000 new subscribers were being added a month. It goes all over the world and I get letters testifying of the comfort they receive from these simple messages of encouragement. It was the adversity in my own life that allowed me to connect with so many others around the world at their point of need.
Depth and Width of Your Faith Experience
I have learned that the depth and width of your faith experience often determines the level of call upon your life. What do I mean by this? God frames our lives through our life experiences. Those experiences are the platform from which God speaks His life through our life. When Moses came to the Red Sea God performed a miracle that is still talked about. Moses would forever be associated with that miracle. His authority to lead was associated with that miracle. If God is going to use you to speak to a large number of people, He will sometimes create experiences in your life that will be used to speak to others in order to give you a platform and the authority to speak so others will listen. It is like a mouthpiece that gives you a platform from which to speak and minister to others. You can see this pattern in other characters in the Bible such as Abraham, David, Jacob, Paul, and Peter. God brought them into insurmountable challenges that required the intervention of God which ultimately brought glory to Him.
I often wonder about some of the dialogue Moses must have had when God told him to take this particular route to the
God often leads his people to a dead end in order to demonstrate His glory. You see, it is not about us, it is about Him. He is all about gaining glory for Himself. So, many times we are faced with situations in our lives that can only be solved by God.
At times it appears as if God has not only forsaken His Word, but has deliberately deceived us. Such was the case when Moses kept obeying God by delivering His message to Pharaoh. However, each time he delivered God's message the people of
Then the LORD said to Moses, "Go to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart and the hearts of his officials so that I may perform these miraculous signs of mine among them that you may tell your children and grandchildren how I dealt harshly with the Egyptians and how I performed my signs among them, and that you may know that I am the LORD." 
Oswald Chambers understood this process. He was known as the pastor of the haphazard. One does not realize the journey God had Oswald on until you read his biography and realize it was a life full of uncertainty and change.
"No matter what revelations God has made to you, there will be destitution so far as the physical apprehension of things is concerned. God gives you a revelation that He will provide: then He provides nothing, and you begin to realize that there is a famine-of food, or of clothes, or money-and your common sense says, 'Abandon your faith in God.'" 
Death and Resurrection
This process is designed to bring death to our old life and resurrect a new life in Christ. Without the cross and the resurrection, there is no victory. There are two key passages that reveal insight into the death process and the resurrection.
Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints. .you have freed me from my chains."
If we died with Christ, we believe we will also live with him.
Both of these passages affirm the need for the death, but also reveal the next step is resurrection and freedom in Christ.
Seven years to the month the Lord brought me out of my "Joseph pit experience" with a remarkable sale of one piece of property that allowed me to retire all of my debts and become debt free in my business and personal life. During the latter part of the seven years he began a restoration among my relationships with others. I was remarried in 1998 to a wonderful woman, Angie. God gave me my daughter back and I was able to watch her come to know the Lord in a remarkable way. Truly the Lord showed his faithfulness in restoring me.
Does God always restore? It is clear in scripture that God does not always restore in the physical realm or in our lifetime. We see in Hebrews 11 the following passage that tells us that some will not receive their inheritance until we get to heaven.
All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country-a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them. 
What determines whether you are one in whom God might restore in the physical realm? I believe it is really an issue of God's mission and purpose for your life. I have seen many Godly people not receive a physical restoration of things lost. But, I have also seen many more receive abundantly more than what they lost in their pit experience. I can only believe the reason for a lack of restoration is that God is using even this for a greater purpose that we do not understand, just as our friends in Hebrews 11 experienced. If He does restore I believe it is for the express purpose for encouraging others and bringing glory and honor to His name. 
If our testimony is weak, it is because we have gone through no crisis with God; there is no heartbroken emotion behind it. It is essential to go through a crisis with God which costs you something; otherwise, your devotional life is not worth anything. You cannot be profoundly moved by doctrine; you can only be profoundly moved by devotion" says Oswald Chambers.