John Ortberg raises the question of whether or not “having peace” about an open door is a proper criterion for determining God’s call (All the Places You Will Go, pp. 137-138). He argues that “having peace” about the calling of God is not the usual pattern. In fact, and I think he is right, that not having peace is often an excuse for capitulating to unbelief and fear, resulting in disobedience. If we think about the calling of Moses, Gideon, Barak, Jonah, Jeremiah and a host of others, that would be correct.
The question is, does that mean the usual pattern is the one we should emulate, or is the pattern of Joshua, Samuel, Isaiah and Jesus the one we should follow. While we might argue about the nature of the struggle Jesus had in the Garden of Gethsemane, the whole tenor of His earthly ministry was desiring to do but one thing, namely to do the will of His Father in Heaven, and it was His joy to do just that. Indeed, Jesus not only experienced joy and peace in the doing of His Father’s will, but told His disciples that His peace should characterize their lives as they followed Him (John 14:27; 16:33).
Often in discussions of God’s will, Philippians 4:6-7 and Colossians 3:15 are cited inaccurately. Context in both passages speaks to God’s mind on how believers should relate to one another. God wants believers living in peace with one another. But is there a better passage to which one might appeal to make a case that there is a peace of God which ought to characterize a calling of God?
God spoke to Joshua shortly before he was to lead Israel in the conquest of Canaan, and said to him:
“Have not I commanded you? Be strong and very courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged; for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9 NIV84
May I submit that when we fear and are terrified by God’s calling, it reflects a lacking in our knowledge of the God who calls us? It may be the usual response to an open door, but it is the wrong response. Isaiah “saw the LORD seated on a throne, high and exalted…,” and once cleansed of His sinfulness, heard God’s invitation “Whom shall I send?” and he eagerly responded, “Here am I. Send me!” If our hearts are right with God, “having peace,” the kind that comes from God, ought to be the rule not the exception to the rule.
Too often, I have trembled when I should have experienced the peace that comes from knowing,
“The one who calls you is faithful and He will do it.” 1 Thessalonians 5:24 NIV84