R. Scott Pace. Answering God’s Call: Finding, Following, and Fulfilling God’s Will for Your Life. Nashville: B&H Academic, 2020. 144 pages. Hardcover, $19.99.
The story is familiar. One chilly, autumn Lord’s Day morning, a young man—a high school senior—is converted as he listens to the pastor enthusiastically press home the words of Jesus: “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mark 2:17). The young man immediately throws himself into following Christ with zeal, devouring books and delighting in service, even in the most mundane and unseen ways. Nevertheless, as he grows in his walk with the Lord, a nagging question haunts him. One day, the eager college-junior approaches his home church pastor and anxiously asks, “What is God’s will for my life?”
R. Scott Pace is no stranger to this question and prays his book will be a blueprint to help readers find, follow, and fulfill God’s will for their lives (xiii). Formerly serving university students at Oklahoma Baptist University, Pace now splits his time between leading college students as the dean of the College of Southeastern, and preparing future pastors and missionaries as an associate professor of pastoral ministry and preaching at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. His latest book takes its place among two of his previous compact volumes, Preaching by the Book (2018) and Student Ministry by the Book (2019), adding to the growing Hobbs College Library from OBU, edited by Heath A. Thomas.
Finding, Following, and Fulfilling God’s Will
Pace divides his book into three parts, each composed of an introduction and two chapters. In part one, “Answering God’s Call,” readers learn “how the Lord calls an individual, why he calls people to specific tasks, and how we can discern his personal will for our lives as we answer his call” (1–2). Christians have a calling that is both universal and unique. Moving readers away from merely exploring the calling of God mystically, Pace insists all Christians have a call to salvation, service, and surrender (2–3). Regarding uniqueness, Pace says, “The Lord has chosen you to serve him in a particular way, at a specific place and time, with a unique combination of talents and gifts, for his strategic purpose” (4). This part of the book focuses on confirming and clarifying God’s call on your life.
Part two, “Assisting the Church,” covers God enlisting us in and equipping us for His service. These days, most young Christians do not have a high view of the church. Pace aims to correct this misunderstanding by laying a biblical foundation for the church with three passages from Matthew––the Great Confession, Great Commandment, and Great Commission (Matt. 16:13–18; 22:34–40; 28:18–20). He says, “God has specifically called you to serve his kingdom and has provided you with the necessary gifts to accomplish his purpose for your life” (42). In this section, Pace shows how believers should function within the global and local church and how God’s purposes for the church will affect and can determine our callings.
Part three, “Abiding in Christ,” details the spiritual disciplines of approaching His throne and applying His truth. Knowing God is eternal life and should be the only boast of a believer (John 17:3; Jer. 9:23-24). Pace says, “If knowing God in a more personal and intimate way is going to become our driving motivation in life, we must devote ourselves to the spiritual disciplines that position us to ‘grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ’ (2 Pet. 3:18)” (77). I have observed believers tend to find either praying or reading the Bible to come more naturally to them while feeling weak––and sometimes defeated––in the other area. Very rarely have I seen someone who was both a tremendous Bible reader and a prayer warrior. To my shame, the following quote is accurate: “If you want to humble a man, ask him about his prayer life.” In chapters five and six, Pace encourages readers to devote themselves to the basics––prayer and the reading and application of God’s Word––and gives them practical steps to take. Finally, Pace concludes his book with some thoughts drawn from Colossians 3:23, insisting what we do, how we do what we do, and why we do what we do all matter to the Lord.
Strengths of the Book
Three strengths of Pace’s book deserve mention. First, Pace does a good job walking the fine line of dealing with calling for both church members and those who will serve as pastors and missionaries. His current role of working with college students and seminarians helps him uniquely speak to those who will inhabit both the pew and pulpit. He says, “After all, God’s calling is not limited to vocational ministry; he uses all types of careers for his kingdom purposes” (7). It is important to remember there is no junior varsity in the kingdom of God––all are equally important and useful to the Lord of the church as members of His body (1 Cor. 12:11–27). However, as pastors seek to develop future ministry leaders, two ditches must be avoided regarding calling. First, pastors occasionally witness people running from a calling to serve the Lord as a pastor or missionary. These people forget Paul’s trustworthy saying, “If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task” (1 Tim. 3:1). Equally detrimental, though, is the person who perceives a calling from the Lord that He never gave. Chapter one will be beneficial for pastors discipling members and for members seeking to determine God’s will for their lives.
Second, Pace helps readers discern their call according to Scripture without neglecting the Holy Spirit’s work. Much of Baptist life concerning the discernment of God’s will for our lives is steeped in an overly mystical––almost Schleiermacherian–– subjective experience. Conversely, Pace says, “Our success in every area of life will be determined by our reliance on God’s Word. Scripture provides everything we need to succeed for Christ when we allow it to inform and infuse our lives” (98). The reader will appreciate the amount of Scripture woven throughout the pages of his book, culminating in chapter six, “We Must Apply His Truth.”
Third, in addition to a focus on biblical truths, Pace is determined to give readers a practical application of the material he presents. In each chapter, readers searching for God’s will for their lives will discover the “Living It Out” section relevant and valuable. With my struggle to pray, I found the “Living It Out” section in chapter five, “We Can Approach His Throne,” to be practical and beneficial.
Pace’s book is recommended as being particularly helpful to university students and seminarians. As an adjunct professor of Christian Worldview and one of the pastors at a local church, younger Christians regularly ask me to help them discern God’s will for their lives. I am always looking for helpful ways to counsel these eager inquirers. In addition to Am I Called? by Dave Harvey and Called to the Ministry by Edmund P. Clowney, I now have an accessible resource to give to students and congregation members.
Editor’s Note: This book review was originally published in the Journal for Baptist Theology and Ministry.