I think one of the most classic illustrations of “being called” comes from the Old Testament story of Samuel (from 1 Samuel 3:1-10). If you recall, Samuel was working in the temple under Eli when one night the Lord called Samuel. Samuel ran to Eli and answered, “Here I am, you called me.” But Eli said, “I didn’t call you. Go back and lie down.” The Lord called Samuel two more times, and each time Samuel ran to Eli thinking it was Eli calling him — not recognizing the voice of the Lord. Finally Eli understood it was the Lord who called Samuel, so he instructed Samuel to answer right from his bed: “Speak Lord, for your servant is listening.”
We can learn a lot about our own calling from Samuel as well as Paul’s experience when they were called. Although different they are similar in many ways. For example, neither Samuel nor Paul recognized the Lord’s voice when He first spoke. Samuel thought it was Eli, and on the road to Damascus Saul/Paul didn’t know what to think (see Acts 9:5). Probably the most important example they both provide is the perspective from which they answered the Lord. Many of us think a “calling” implies something we must “do”. While this is somewhat true the doing is not initially a task. The Lord was not calling “for” Samuel or Saul/Paul to do anything; rather He was first calling “to” them. This is a profound difference because before the Lord will instruct or direct us — He requires our undivided attention, recognition of His person and authority, and willingness to obey.
To be called we need Samuel’s perspective which he demonstrated when he replied: “Speak Lord, for your servant is listening.”
In John 10:27, Jesus said, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” So how do we know the Lord’s voice? Through Scripture. By being in the Word (reading the Bible) we become familiar with the Lord — we come to know Him — so when He speaks to us we recognize His voice. Unfortunately, too many of us don’t hear Him clearly because we’re not familiar with His voice and as a result we regularly are led astray. However, there are three parts to this story: first — recognizing His voice, second — listening to what He says, and third — our willingness to obey. It is not enough to just be hearers of the Word, we must also be doers. What is your perspective right now relating to the Lord? Would you know His voice? If so, when He speaks what will your answer be?