"When did you receive the call?" That's the question young, aspiring ministers ask seasoned pastors. "The call" has come to signify the very moment the pastor knew God wanted him or her to minister and shepherd a flock.
Biblically, the most evident passage referencing "the call" is the Apostle Paul's Damascus road experience. In Acts 9, we read about God's miraculous conversion of Saul, a religious leader who persecuted followers of The Way. Speaking of Saul, the Lord said to Ananias, "Saul is my chosen instrument to take my message to the Gentiles and to kings, as well as to the people of Israel" (Acts 9:15). In what seems like an instant, Brother Saul wais filled with the Holy Spirit, had his name changed, had blinders physically and spiritually removed from his eyes, was baptized, physically nourished himself to regain strength, and went off to begin preaching (Acts 9:17-22). That is "the call"—a unique, divine assignment given by God for his purposes, which requires faithful and active obedience, unwavering commitment, and devotion from the one called.
When pondering "the call" on this particular day, however, I was questioning neither a pastor nor an apostle, for divine callings are not limited to those offices of leadership. I was interviewing a university professor of divinity. He knows he is called to teach because he feels the same anointing of the Holy Spirit—that mighty rushing wind—in the classroom that his colleagues feel when they are proclaiming the truth of God's Word from the pulpit. In the classroom, teaching students, is where he feels most alive, like he is fulfilling his purpose on this earth. Not only is he anointed to teach; he is also good at it. He is a good professor because he has been prepared and equipped to do the work well.
A divine calling is first birthed out of conviction. God miraculously does a work—either immediately or progressively—on a person's heart, and that work propels the person into action. Many refer to Paul's Damascus road experience as the immediate heart-change of God. Certainly, this is where the Holy Spirit entered Paul's heart. However, the Father had been progressively and relentlessly pursuing Paul long before then. Paul's heart had always belonged to God; his vision was just a little distorted. Before Paul had an intimate encounter with Jesus on the road, the Father was preparing Paul through his birthright, citizenship, faith tradition, language studies, work, education, and life experiences. God's sovereign hand was at work in Paul's life from the beginning, aligning every piece to build Paul's character so he would be the faithful man God called to preach good news to the Gentiles.