Running from God’s Calling on Your Life: The Essential Bible Study


Lord’s Library contributor Jared Helms offers this comprehensive Bible study on running from God’s calling in your life, with key verses and commentary. Check out Jared’s YouTube channel and two blogs: A Light in the Darkness and Blind Faith Examples. Lord’s Library’s Ministry Leaders Series is a collection of contributed articles written by ministry leaders on key Christian topics.

Ministry Leaders Series BadgePsalm 139:7-10: “Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me.”

To run from the presence of God is impossible, but to run from His will is quite possible. You can go your own way in life. And if our rhetoric, poetry, music, or stories give any indication we want to go our way. It is a deep-seated desire in the race of man to determine our own course as scripture says in Proverbs 16:25: “There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.”

The Gospel

Running from God’s Calling

There is a way that seems right, feels right, and appears right to us. We can find all sorts of confirmation of the rightness of what we are doing, and we expect it all to pan out for us. But how often has it panned out for us really? If the ways that seem right to us lead to death, why do we keep walking them? Why are we so bent on going our way?

These questions need to be answered first to bring into view the promise of our own paths. With a clear view of what we are seeking, we can proceed to contrast what we actually receive from going our own way. Next, we will look at the ways we go about running from God’s will. Finally, I wish to point the way back to the straight and narrow path for any who would return.

Before we go any further, we must understand that everyone has run from God at some point in their life, many of us have run from God’s Will in multiple seasons. There is no one who can come to this discussion innocent and unconcerned. We are all born into sin, fleeing from God’s will at our first demanding cry.

The born-again Christian with a regenerate will still be tempted to run from God’s designs on their lives, even as those lives are eternally secured in Christ.

Therefore, as we enter this discussion let us humble ourselves, feeling that our hearts are prone to wander, leaving the one we love Who has first loved us. This difficult confession if earnestly made can spare us much grief. It is for this very purpose this one writes, to spare the reader unnecessary pain.

Why Run?

God does not call us to comfortable or easy lives. He promises us hatred and persecution from the world. See Matthew 10:22, 24:9, and John 15:18-19:

  • Matthew 10:22: “And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved.”
  • Matthew 24:9: “Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake.”
  • John 15:18-19: “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.”

The Bible also promises attacks from the Devil and his cadre of demons. See Ephesians 6:12 and 1 Peter 5:8:

  • Ephesians 6:12: “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”
  • 1 Peter 5:8:Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:”

Nor do we see in Scripture any of the saints being delivered from the ordeals of life. Consider Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 1:8-9: “For we would not, brethren, have you ignorant of our trouble which came to us in Asia, that we were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life: But we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead:”

We can read of many of his troubles in the book of Acts and know that his life, while fruitful, was far from easy. Indeed, in calling Paul to a life of ministry God said in Acts 9:16: “For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name’s sake.”

The other apostles and those who came after them also led difficult lives that often-met painful ends. The prophets of the Old Testament likewise had difficult lives. Jesus’ own life was filled with hardships, ending in torture and death on the cross, and it is this life that ours are to resemble. God’s calling often baffles us; defying our sensibilities and understanding.

Consider that He called Jeremiah to preach to a people whom He knew would not listen. See Jeremiah 7:27: “Therefore thou shalt speak all these words unto them; but they will not hearken to thee: thou shalt also call unto them; but they will not answer thee.”

According to 1 Corinthians 1:26-27, God calls the weak to prove His superior strength: “For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty;”

So, it is no wonder that we are tempted to abandon God’s call on our lives and go our own way: even less so when our fleshly desires are compounded by the pressures of the world’s constant call to self-determination. We long to have our cake, and eat it too, gaining eternal life without losing our lives. But this can never be for it is written in Matthew 16:25: “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.”

To lay down our lives involves sacrifices both great and small. Some sacrifices appear so small that we think them trivial and ignore them, others seem so great we dare not face them; either way we lose the path by losing faith. And here we encounter a second difficulty; God’s ways are not our ways, His are higher than ours according to Isaiah 55:8-9: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

That God’s ways are higher means that they don’t always make sense to us. We can follow God’s reasoning all the way, but we cannot fully grasp what He is doing and this makes us uncomfortable.

So, we have God calling us to a difficult life of doing things that do not always make sense. The appeal of doing what makes sense to us promises to deliver an easier life. We run because it promises to satisfy our desire for ease, comfort, and prosperity. We run because it satisfies our reason. In this we are encouraged and supported by the selfish desires of the flesh, the pressure of the unregenerate world, and the temptations of the Devil. With this chorus of affirmation, it is easy to become convinced that we are on the right path heading towards a good destination.

Yet, we have been provided with precepts and illustrations that contradict our optimistic appraisal, and show the promises of ease to be false and the reason to be flawed. Let us turn our attention to these examples from God’s word, and see what are the true consequences of leaving the straight and narrow way.


What happens when we run from God’s call? The Bible is filled with narrative examples to show us what even a minor deviation from God’s precise calling leads to. We have Sarah and Abraham doing God’s will in their own way leading to a history of war that continues to our own day. The Israelites doubted God’s ability and subjected themselves to forty years of wilderness wandering. We have Israel suffering the inaptitude of King Saul, David suffering setback after setback each time he strayed from God’s way, and Solomon suffering for his folly. However, the most outstanding example is that of the prophet Jonah who did not want to go to Nineveh to preach repentance.

There are a few things we can glean from the example of Jonah. First, Jonah suffered greatly in his refusal to yield to God’s call. He endured a horrific storm at sea, and then three days in the belly of a fish: some commentators believe he was dead during this time. He continues to suffer until the end of his book with a negative attitude.

Second, Jonah did not suffer alone; everyone on the boat with him suffered until he relented and yielded to God’s call on his life. It is to deceive ourselves and think our response to God’s call only affects us, but this is never the case. When we stray from the path God has set for us everyone around us suffers.

Finally, we see that Jonah’s resistance is futile. God is going to have His way, Pharaoh couldn’t stop the exodus, Jezebel couldn’t snuff out God’s worshippers, and Nebuchadnezzar and his heirs couldn’t overcome Daniel and his faithful friends, so who can stand against God’s will? Isaiah 46:10 makes the matter perfectly clear God is going to have His way: “Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure:”

As we see in all the examples of Scripture, He disciplines His wayward children, allowing them to suffer the consequences of disobedience until they return to the way. See Hebrews 12:6: “For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.”

Running from God’s call on your life is disobedience, and the result of disobedience in the life of a believer is misery. There is misery from placing ourselves further from the fullness of the love of God. We reject a portion of that love in rejecting His call on our lives. This leaves an emptiness that we want to fill, and so we chase satisfaction in places where it cannot truly be found.

This leaves us exhausted and disillusioned. Depression may well follow, even an overwhelming despair. Those around us are hurt, for we cannot minister to them as we ought. They are hurt because they must witness our suffering. They hurt because of the result of the discipline we are under. Many more may suffer because we bear a false witness, declaring to follow Christ while running from Him. We will suffer the pangs of our violated conscience, provided we have not sheered it numbness. The one who writes this testifies that it is so.

Here the writer asserts to you dear reader, the further outside of God’s design we attempt to live the more miserable out lives will become. There are a few reasons for this:

  1. If we try to use a screw-driver as a hammer the task of driving a nail is going to be much harder than if we used a hammer. In the same way, when trying to use God’s creations in ways outside of His intentions it is not going to work as well.
  2. God has written His law on every heart according to Romans 2:14-15: “For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another;)” When we go against the grain of reality, we experience a disconnect between reality and our perceptions. This disconnect is uncomfortable for us as it continually reminds us that our perceptions are invalid. This requires us to dedicate substantial energy to reinforcing our invalid perceptions. Ultimately this is a losing battle as we cannot alter reality.
  3. The promises of rest offered outside of God’s Will are always broken leading to a mounting disappointment. The human soul can only handle so much disappointment before it collapses into disorder.

Some may point to contrary examples, but we remind our readers that appearances can be deceiving. We should not be surprised that life outside of God’s Will is miserable. A life outside of God’s Will is a life of sin, and the wages of sin is death according to Romans 6:23: “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

When we heap up death for ourselves how can we live well?

We cannot miss this point: running from God’s call is sin. We sin when we do things that are against His commands, and when we fail to do the things that He commands. In fleeing His Will for our lives, we do both. Again, it doesn’t matter how slight the deviation seems to us, it is a sin against an intimately Holy God, and it deserves eternal death. We are good at deceiving ourselves on this point. It is one of the key ways we run, so let us examine this more closely.

The Ways We Run

A journey of disobedience begins with a single step. If we start to disobey God in the seemingly trivial things of life, we shall soon find ourselves travailing much larger decisions so as to disobey with impunity. We convince ourselves that these things are not important enough to trouble God, that He has no interest and nothing to say on the matters at hand. We create a void in God’s revelation and slip through it to do as we please.

Ironically, we are prone to hold God accountable for the results. In truth, it was our failure to esteem His precepts that led us to the consequences we complain of.

Our rebellion doesn’t need to be as blatant as Jonah’s to end in disaster. Abraham and Sarah were trying to accomplish the manifested Will of God but rejected His chosen means, and the results are still being felt today. Moses missed out on the land of promise by tapping a rock rather than speaking to it once. God’s ways are not our ways, what seems minor to us is major to Him. Therefore, if we are careless in small steps, we will suffer great falls.

Along similar lines, we often claim ignorance as a blissful excuse to follow our hearts, rather than seeking God’s. Indeed, we may have the sensation for our own flesh confused with God’s promptings and so go about doing our will while perceiving it to be His will. This situation can feel all well and good, but it is actually among the most devasting we might fall into.

You see, when we follow our hearts we are acting as the world acts, blurring the distinction between God’s people and the world, and so distorting the impact of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We are in short ruining our witness by failing to live the difference. Not only will this disillusion non-believers it can lead to our disillusionment as well. The issue here is a lack of understanding either genuine or affected which leaves us disconnected from God’s direction and so slaves to our own.

As it is written in John 8:31-32: “Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” God’s word is truth. See John 17:17: “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.”

Reading the Bible prayerfully, carefully, and thoroughly is a sure means of knowing God’s Will can calling.

Our favorite words when it comes to God calling on our lives are: “I can’t.” We are in distinguished company when we say this. Moses said it, Paul thought it, along with numerous other notable saints throughout history. Every one of these has proven beyond any doubt that God equips those whom He calls. You are right to say you cannot, but God most certainly can. Our objections are overruled by God’s sheer ability. There is nothing that He cannot redeem.

Hiding behind self-doubt does not deliver us from disobedience, it only displays a lack of faith. Our excuses are so often nothing more than a justification for our own selfish determination to do what we want rather than what God wants. It is evidence piled upon evidence that we do not truly know or understand who God is.

God is the maximum utmost, He is the greatest of all, and in Him is contained all goodness. See Genesis 1, Psalm 2, Psalm 19, Psalm 23, Isaiah 43, Isaiah 45, Isaiah 53, Daniel 2:20-22, Daniel 3, Daniel 4, Daniel 5, Daniel 6, John 1:1-14, Ephesians 1, James 1:17, and the Book of Revelation:

  • Daniel 2:20-22: “Daniel answered and said, Blessed be the name of God for ever and ever: for wisdom and might are his: And he changeth the times and the seasons: he removeth kings, and setteth up kings: he giveth wisdom unto the wise, and knowledge to them that know understanding: He revealeth the deep and secret things: he knoweth what is in the darkness, and the light dwelleth with him.”
  • John 1-14: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe. He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.”
  • James 1:17: “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.”

Therefore, the pursuit of all that is in Christ is best in life, according to Philippians 3. Therefore, to answer God’s calling on our lives no matter what it is, no matter how difficult, is the very best thing for us. Though we may lose all earthly goods, we will gain the eternal. As Jim Elliot rightly said, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”

Turning Back

It would be a great disservice to the reader if having done everything in our power to convince you to cease in the flight from the Will of God, we did nothing to show the way back into the center of God’s Will. Fortunately for us all the way back is simple. See 1 John 1:9: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

All that is necessary to be set back on the path is to confess our flight for the sin it is. The obstacle is a hard heart that refuses to submit to God’s way as we see with Jonah. So, if today you have heard the word of God do not harden your hearts, but relent and repent. See Hebrews 3:7: “Wherefore (as the Holy Ghost saith, To day if ye will hear his voice,”

Jesus has already paid the penalty for the disobedience of those who believe in Him, that they may live eternally with Him. See John 3:16 and Ephesians 2:8-9:

  • John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
  • Ephesians 2:8-9: “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.”

Once we have repented, we must begin to earnestly seek God’s Will in our lives. We start by conforming our minds to His perspective. See Romans 12:2: “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”

This is best done by reading and meditating on God’s Word. See Psalm 1 and Psalm 119. We ought also to pray for God’s Will to be done, asking for wisdom to know what we ought to do. See Matthew 6:9-15 and James 1:5-6:

  • Matthew 6:9-15: “After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen. For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”
  • James 1:5-6: “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.”

With prayer and the Word of God, we can know what we are called to in every moment of life. God wants us to know His will far more than we want to know it.

So, let us be encouraged, dear readers. Recall the promises of Mathew 6:33 and Matthew 7:7-12:

  • Mathew 6:33: “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”
  • Matthew 7:7-12: “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him? Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.”

Remember the story of the Prodigal Son from Luke 15:11-32, and how overjoyed the father was to see his son returning? it is a picture of our Father in Heaven: “And he said, A certain man had two sons: And the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his living. And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living. And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want. And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him. And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants. And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him. And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son. But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry: For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry. Now his elder son was in the field: and as he came and drew nigh to the house, he heard musick and dancing. And he called one of the servants, and asked what these things meant. And he said unto him, Thy brother is come; and thy father hath killed the fatted calf, because he hath received him safe and sound. And he was angry, and would not go in: therefore came his father out, and intreated him. And he answering said to his father, Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment: and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends: But as soon as this thy son was come, which hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted calf. And he said unto him, Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine. It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found.”

Be also reminded of Hebrews 4:15-16 and Isaiah 42:3:

  • Hebrews 4:15-16: “For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.”
  • Isaiah 42:3: “A bruised reed shall he not break, and the smoking flax shall he not quench: he shall bring forth judgment unto truth.”

Return to the narrow way and be welcomed. Know again the goodness of God in full with peace, hope, and joy. May it be so for us all to the glory of God. Amen.

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Jared Helms
Jared Helms

Jared Helms

Jared received his Bachelor of Arts from Bryan College in 2012, and his Masters of Divinity from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in 2017. He has pastored churches in Kentucky and Tennessee. Most importantly, Jared has walked with Christ most of his life. His interests extend from theology to church history, but he is particularly passionate about ecclesiology and homiletics.

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