Jesus replied, “Let us go somewhere else-to the nearby villages-so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.” (Mark 1:37-38)

I believe there are two types of Christians. Some, though they have experienced God’s generosity to them in Christ, still treat others with a miserly attitude. They are stingy with their time, talents and treasure. They have no problem drawing boundary lines and keeping others out.

But there is another group that understands the generosity of God to them and desires to be channels of generosity and grace to others. And because they are generous with their time, talent and treasure, they need to be reminded of another principle of Scripture. The principle?

A need does not necessarily constitute a call of God.

As we seek to discern what the Lord is calling us to do with our lives, the principle must be kept in mind. A need may constitute a personal call. Or it may not.

For example, the apostles were made aware of the problem of overlooked Grecian widows (Acts 6).  They saw that the problem was addressed even while insisting that it would not be right for them to neglect prayer and the ministry of the word. In other words, while overseeing the food distribution of the widows was a noble task and a need, they would actually be neglecting God’s call on their life if they were to take it on.

Similarly, Jesus made a priority decision after spending time in prayer. While Peter saw the crowd and his growing popularity—“Everyone is looking for you!” Jesus replied, “Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.” (Mark 1:37-38) Prayer separated the important from the urgent, the obvious from the hidden.

Perhaps the most obvious time the Spirit overrode a need and a desire is when the Spirit would not let Paul preach in Ephesus or any of Asia Minor but sent him over to Philippi, Thessalonica, Athens and Corinth.

Paul and his companions traveled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia. When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to. So they passed by Mysia and went down to Troas. During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them. Acts 16:6-10

Though he desired to go to the largest city in the region, Ephesus, for some reason the Spirit of God sent him further away.

What is the application for us as we seek to discern the mind of the Lord for our own lives?

We will be presented with a myriad of opportunities and needs. In fact, we should not hide from those needs but seek to hear them out. For some we may only be called to pray. For others, we may be called to engage.

Those who are generous with their time and talent in advancing the kingdom must seek God for their own call in fulfilling a need. While we can pray for many needs and should never turn a cold shoulder when presented with a need, we must make sure that serving does not cause us to give up a greater calling from God.

A need does not necessarily constitute a call of God. It may or it may not.

As we seek to discern what the Lord is calling us to do with our lives, let us keep this principle in mind.