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I will take you briefly through the following ten signs of the apostolic calling. You may be able to identify with all of them, maybe you will not. It all depends on your spiritual maturity.
It might even be possible that the Lord has called you to an apostolic ministry, but you have not faced sufficient preparation yet to be ready for this phase. So if you have received a personal conviction of an apostolic calling, but cannot identify with most of these signs, then give the Holy Spirit some time to work in your life.
In time you will be able to tick each of these signs off as you face the rigors of apostolic preparation.
Sign 1. Set Apart
Romans 1:1 Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God,(AMIV)
This sign follows perfectly from what I have shared already. To be set apart means to be appointed. It means to be separated from the rest. If you have received a personal revelation of your apostolic calling, then you are very much set apart!
You can no longer see yourself as a regular churchgoer. Another fire burns in you and you will indeed find yourself separated. You always find yourself on the outskirts of church fellowship and standing outside of the boundaries of “how things are done” in the local church.
You are not complacent or satisfied with how the church is run and you burn with a greater vision. This discontentment is what sets you apart. If you were content with the way things were and you were accepted by the majority, then you would not be separated would you?
I am afraid that this is a great price for one to be called an apostle and if you find yourself having a need to be accepted or recognized, then you are about to find out that being ‘separated’ is part and parcel of the apostolic calling.
Sign 2. Spiritual Entrepreneur
Galatians 2:6 But of these who seemed to be somewhat, (whatever they were, it makes no difference to me: God accepts no man’s person:) for those who seemed [to be somewhat] in conference were no greater than me:
7 But on the contrary, when they saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed to me, as [the gospel] of the circumcision [was] to Peter;
8 (For he that wrought effectually in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision, the same was mighty in me toward the Gentiles:)(AMIV)
Paul certainly understood this sign of apostleship! He was always different. Even amongst the apostles of his time, he stood apart. Being brought up in the Jewish tradition and trained by the greatest Jewish teachers of his day, the Lord sent Paul to the gentiles! He was indeed a spiritual entrepreneur who did things differently!
He had a vision that the others did not and this is one sign that is prevalent in all who are called to the apostolic ministry. If you are always doing things differently or coming up with new ways to structure the church, then this is indeed a sign of apostolic ministry.
Your ideas might not always work out, but you are always coming with new concepts and new patterns. You have an idea in your mind at all times of what you would do “if you were in charge” and when given the opportunity you would turn things upside down!
I remember an illustration that my father shared with me once. He shared how when he first started out in ministry he was put in charge of the youth group. He was brimming with so many ideas of what he wanted to do. He wanted to implement a complete structure and form a mechanism where each member of the youth would be given a place where their ministries would be identified and then trained in that position.
Of course as he presented his full idea to the pastor, he was faced with a devastating disappointment. The pastor said, “If I had to implement that in the youth, I would have to implement it to the entire church and I am just not prepared to make that kind of change.”
This is what makes the apostle stand out! He is not only willing to take chances, but he is also willing to change. Just as Paul was willing to leave his entire Jewish heritage behind and mingle with gentiles, so will you as an apostle be called to change and to rock the boat when everyone has just become comfortable.
Do you desire to bring change? Are you forever changing the “way things are”? Then you can certainly identify with Sign 2 of apostolic calling!
Sign 3. Called by Jesus (Personal Encounter with Jesus. Miraculous call)
Acts 26:15 And I said, Who are you, Lord? And he said, I am Jesus whom you persecute.
16 But rise, and stand upon your feet: for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to make you a minister and a witness both of these things which you have seen, and of those things in the which I will appear to you;
17 Delivering you from the people, and [from] the Gentiles, to whom now I send you,
18 To open their eyes, [and] to turn [them] from darkness to light, and [from] the authority of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.(AMIV)
If you have had a personal encounter with the Lord Jesus and received your calling from Him directly, then you can identify with this sign. There have been many occasions where I have seen the Lord Jesus, but one occasion really stands out to me as the day He called me to be an apostle.
I had been going through a lot of change and I had been struggling with many issues that the Lord had revealed in my life. It seemed to me that the whole world was against me and that I was the greatest failure of them all!
I was standing in my bedroom and cried out to the Lord with all that I had. I cried out, “Lord, what do you want from me?” In that instant I felt as Paul must have when he was struck to the ground. I was brought to the ground by the Holy Spirit as His presence came over me.
In that instant I was in the throne room of God. I heard the Lord say to me very clearly, “Go heal my people.” After a moment more, I heard Him speak again, “Go feed my people.” And again, “Go set my people free.”
I knew that God had spoken and like Paul I trembled wondering how I could have been called for this purpose. The Lord Jesus then spoke many other personal things to me during that time and when He had finished, I felt Him place His hand upon my shoulder and tell me to stand. I stood up knowing that God had called me.
I stood up knowing that I was called to be an apostle and I stood up knowing my purpose and place in the Kingdom of God. It is that calling that has remained as gold through the many fires I have faced since and it will remain my foundation until I have completed every mandate that God has given me. Then I will pass that foundation on to the next generation.
If Paul had not received that miraculous call on the way to Damascus, He would not ever have known what he was. Before that time he really thought that He was doing the work of the Lord. Before that he felt that he was being the best Jew that he could be.
How misdirected he was! He was correct in knowing that he was called, but not until his conversation did he know his place and purpose.
So you too need such a call before your apostolic training can begin. This call might in fact usher you directly into apostolic training. This goes way beyond an inner conviction. This is a miraculous and personal call directly from the Lord Jesus. Such a personal encounter will change your life and such a calling will set you firmly toward the goal of apostolic office.
Sign 4. Early Call (Called from Womb)
Galatians 1:15 But when it pleased God, who set me apart from my mother’s womb, and called [me] by his grace,(AMIV)
When exactly does the Lord call the apostle? Is it when he makes a commitment? Is it when he decides it is a good idea? Well in Paul’s case, he was called from the womb. At first glance this seems like a strange comment. If you take a look at Paul’s life, you will note that for the first part of it, he persecuted the Christians! He was very far from being an instrument in the Lord’s hand.
Yet even in his sin, Paul hungered for God. Even as he persecuted the Christians, he did it in zeal for the Lord. If you can identify a hunger for the things of God from a young age, then this too is just one sign of an apostolic calling. You might not have had a full knowledge of God or understood what was happening, but even in your heart as a child, you hungered for God and sought after him.
You might have been brought up in a Christian home and known the Lord all of your life. Either way, the apostle is one that is born with an awareness of God and searches after God with all that is in him.
Sign 5. Trained in Secret
Galatians 1:17 Neither did I go up to Jerusalem to the apostles [that were] above me; but I went into Arabia, and returned again to Damascus.
18 Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to become acquainted with Peter, and stayed with him fifteen days.(AMIV)
There is this misconception in the church that the call to apostleship is one of glory and of fame. As you continue with me along this journey you will come to discover that the complete opposite is in fact true!
If you take a look once again at the life of Paul, you will notice that the first thing that happened after he was called is that he spent 3 years in Arabia in obscurity to be trained. Paul was not the only one who was trained in secret. You hear nothing of Jesus until He was already trained and ready to implement His mandate.
David was sent to the wilderness and poor Moses to the backside of the desert. Thousands of years later the same principles are still being applied by the Holy Spirit and so as one called to the apostolic ministry you will find the foundation of your calling in obscurity.
Now this can be particularly hard for someone who has a desperate need for recognition, but until you have been trained in secret, you will not be ready to rise up in the public eye.
So if you were active in ministry or in your church when you received your calling to the apostolic ministry and then everything fell apart, then you are right on track. If you suddenly find your ministry opportunities drying up and everything being taken from you, then take heart! If you have literally been dragged by the Lord from the pulpit to the backdoor of your church, then rejoice, for it is just another sign that confirms your apostolic calling!
Sign 6. Rejection and Opposition
1 Corinthians 4:10 We [are] fools for Christ’s sake, but you [are] wise in Christ; we [are] weak, but you [are] strong; you [are] honoured, but we [are] despised.
11 Even up to the present time we are hungry, and thirsty, and are naked, and are beaten, and have no secure home;
12 And labour, working with our own hands: being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it:
13 Being defamed, we entreat: we are made as the filth of the world, [and are] the scum of the earth until now.(AMIV)
This picture that Paul paints for us is certainly not a pretty one! Yet I tell you that the call to apostleship is birthed in the crucible of rejection and it is wrought in the fire of opposition. Have you ever tried lifting weights to tone up your muscles?
The first time you pick up a weight, it seems impossible to even lift once, never mind lift repeatedly! However as you pit your muscles against that weight time and time again, your muscles grow in strength until you can lift a greater weight.
Now you might look at someone who is lifting weights and say, “Why on earth would you do that to yourself? Why go through all that pain?” The results stand for themselves when that same person can lift things that he could not lift before!
Rejection and opposition are the spiritual weights that strengthen the apostle. As he pits his conviction and spiritual strength against all that comes his way, he finds himself standing to overcome storm after storm. Facing and overcoming the rejection and opposition is what will make you fit for the Master’s use.
I remember the first time that I was openly opposed in ministry. I was so devastated! I was told that I did not speak for God and that I was in deception. I felt like a wannabe weight lifter lifting a heavy weight for the first time. It was heavier than I expected! As time went on though, I overcame each phase of opposition and I grew stronger until such accusations did not move me any longer.
Looking back I thank the Lord for these times because they have enabled me to overcome many storms along my apostolic walk. So if you are facing rejection and opposition from your family, church and friends because of your calling and all your ‘new ideas’ then rejoice!
Not only is it a confirmation of your apostolic calling but it is a tool in the hand of God to forge you into the apostle that He has called you to be.
Sign 7. Called To Forsake Everything
Philippians 3:8 Yes without doubt, and I consider all things [but] losses for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and consider them [but] dung, that I may win Christ,(AMIV)
Apostle Les has a quote that I think perfectly describes the point I am going to expand on here. The quote goes, “It is not good enough to be prepared to die for Christ. You must be prepared to live for Him!”
There are many who would proudly confess that they are willing to be a martyr as Stephen was for the Lord, yet when the same kind of person is asked of the Lord to give up their bitterness, their materials, possessions or even a relationship, suddenly the price is too high!
You will find that the call to apostleship will cost you more than just your life. It will cost you your family, friends, material possessions and even your country. Paul knew this well and the greatest price for him was to let go of his achievements and great learning.
Watchman Nee shares in his book “The Normal Christian Life” an example of a man who truly desired more of God. He dedicated his life to God but there still lacked that ‘something’. When he went to the Lord in prayer, he said to the Lord, “Lord I desire more of you and I am prepared to pay any price for it.” The answer he received was not what he had expected.
You see this man had only one passion in life. That passion was to complete his doctorate and to wear the title ‘Dr.’ in front of his name. He gave everything else up to the Lord and even went into ministry full time, but this is one thing he desired more than anything.
So you can imagine how he must have felt when the Lord said to him, “The one thing I require of you is your doctorate. I ask that you give it up for me.” This was a painful decision for this man to make. He begged and pleaded with God.
He said that he would pay any other price than this, but the Lord’s decision remained. So just two days before he was to hand in his qualifying examination that would give him the title he had worked so many years for, He wrote his examiners and told them that he would not be completing his studies after all.
Now to you it might seem that the Lord was being harsh with this man. Why couldn’t the Lord just let him have the doctorate? Well that man could have had his doctorate and sacrificed the anointing for it, but he came to realize that this doctorate was something that he could boast in and not something the Lord could boast in.
Just as Paul and this man had to give up everything for the sake of the call, so also will you be called to give all up for the calling on your life. It will never be said that you rose up because of your great abilities or your great learning.
Rather it will be said of you that you are an example of the grace of God! Your boast will always be in the Lord and this is why you will be called time and time again to lay all upon the altar for the sake of the call.
At times you might not have understood this and thought the Lord unfair. Perhaps you were tricked out of privileges or lost honor that you really deserved. If so then rejoice, for it is another sign that God has called you as an apostle and that His hand has been on you to prepare you.
Sign 8. Suffering For The Call
2 Corinthians 1:6 And if we are afflicted, [it is] for your consolation and salvation, which results in your enduring of the same sufferings that we also suffer: and if we are comforted, [it is] for your consolation and salvation.
7 And our hope of you [is] steadfast, knowing, that as you are partakers of the sufferings, so [shall you be] also of the consolation.(AMIV)
It is difficult to understand why suffering must come for the calling on your life when those around you are affected. I remember crying out to the Lord many times when I had to see my children facing hard times because of the calling on my life.
I went to Les and aired my frustrations and my anguish. He just smiled and said to me, “I faced the same thing when you were a child. I also cried out to God. But I have come to know that if it had not been for those hard times you had to face, that you would never have grown up into what you have become in the Lord.”
This caused me to rethink my life and also realize that the suffering that the apostle is called to face as part of his preparation is both a privilege and a necessity for their mandate. With each conflict I have faced and overcome, it has given me the weapons and knowledge I need to help others overcome.
Paul said it so well in the above passage. He said: “knowing, that as you are partakers of the sufferings, so shall you be also of the consolation.(AMIV)”
Because of the suffering that Paul had to endure those under him were consoled, because he faced the sufferings for them. Just as Jesus went to the cross and faced death for us, so also will you be called time and time again to face sufferings and to overcome them for the sake of others.
The Lord has chosen you as His vessel and to be effective you need to have the life-changing answers that will revolutionize the church.
That kind of wisdom and those kinds of answers can only come to you in one way…through sufferings. So if you have faced more hard times than the average believer and you seem to experience one wave of difficulty after the next, then rejoice! For this is another sign that you are called to the apostolic ministry and it is also the tool of the Lord to prepare you to be effective in ministry!
Sign 9. Call to Leadership
Romans 11:13 For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify my office:(AMIV)
Paul was never satisfied to be a follower. He thought as a leader and acted as a leader and as a result the Lord could use him. There are many sheep but few shepherds, and so with the call to apostleship comes a call to leadership. This sign lines up with the others in that to be a leader you are set apart and you also face much opposition and rejection. You will do things differently and will not be afraid to do so.
What is a leader? Firstly a leader is someone who has followers! Do you find people are drawn to you without you having to do anything? Are you the kind of person that people look to for answers? This denotes the beginning of leadership.
A true leader is one that takes responsibility for his actions and the actions of others. Paul was such a leader and never forgot his failures and successes. He took full responsibility for the failures in his churches and he also carried the weight of his personal failures, calling himself the ‘least of the apostles.’
The Lord could use Paul because he was willing to follow the Lord instead of man. Are you the kind of person that has never been content with following? Perhaps you are always asking questions and looking for the truth for yourself. Then this is another sign of your apostolic calling.
The apostle seeks to know the truth for himself. He does not just accept anything everyone says, but listens and then seeks his own revelation and conviction. He is discontent with the meager bits of teaching and truth that are handed out and seeks more. Then as he receives that abundance from the Lord, he hands it out to those around him.
The leadership qualities in the apostle in preparation might not be easy to see from the outside at first. But if you take a look within, you will see a divine discontentment with the way things are going and a spiritual restlessness with the mediocrity of the church.
Such a discontentment and restlessness denote an apostolic ministry and if you can identify with that then be encouraged for you are not in rebellion, you are simply called to the apostolic ministry!
Sign 10. Has A Pattern – The Old To The New
1 Corinthians 3:10 According to the grace of God which has been given to me, as a wise master builder, I have laid the foundation, and another is building on it. But let every man pay attention how he builds on it.(AMIV)
Just like the prophet has the ability to see the spiritual hunger in the people of God, the apostle has the ability to see the flaws in the old church structure, desiring to usher it unto the new.
The apostle is as a master builder who will look at a structure and notice all its weak points. If you find yourself going to church services and noticing its cracks and flaws, then this too is a strong apostolic orientation.
If something is your trade, you find that you cannot even mingle socially without it affecting you in some way. Using again the illustration of the builder, if building is his trade, he cannot go into a single building without noticing it. He will be inspecting it to see if it matches the correct standards and what would improve it. Now does this make the builder rebellious or out of order? Not at all, it is just who he is, he cannot help himself.
The apostle is the same. He does not try to be out of order, but he simply sees things in the church system that others do not. He sees the things that are correct and the things that are incorrect and cannot help himself but to judge every church or ministry he comes across by those standards.
You are always wanting to let the people of God know that there is a “Promised Land” where things are different! You desire to show them a better way and a new building that does not have the flaws of the old.
Now if you have this orientation, it is not to say that your judgments are always correct. You may begin with an apostolic orientation, but your early judgments are likely to be based on your own ideas and preconceived notions.
This is why apostolic preparation and training is necessary, to ensure that when you do rise up into apostolic office that you judge according to the Lord’s standards and not your own.
If you could identify with these points then it is clear that the Lord has called you to an apostolic ministry. Like I said earlier though, you cannot even begin this journey until you have received a personal conviction and confirmation of this calling.
The call to the apostolic ministry is not a simple matter of having a ministry of prophecy or compassion; it is a call to the highest ministry office and as a result comes with the greatest price.
The price that you will be called to pay will not be one of monetary value. Who could have prepared Abraham for the sacrifice of Isaac? Was he not prepared to offer God all he owned and all that he had? Yet the Lord required of him the thing that was dearest to him.
So as one called to the apostolic ministry you will also be called to give up anything that stands in the way of your calling. If you dedicate yourself to this calling and accept what is being offered to you, then know that the price of your pride, of your zeal, of your emotion of your strengths and weaknesses will be required of you.
The fires of apostolic preparation will strip you of everything you are and the molding of apostolic training will change you into a new image. Into the image of Jesus Christ.