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Called: Afshin Ziafat

by Afshin Ziafat July 26, 2021

I grew up in a Muslim home, and I was disowned for becoming a Christian at the age of 17. My father disowned me. However, a year and a half later, he took me back in, but only if I would become a doctor like him. The plan was that he would pay for my entire medical school after college, and then I would take over his practice; really I would be set for life. This was the road I was headed down. 

For my calling story, I never received a lightning bolt or a tablet from the sky that fell on my lap that said, “you’re supposed to go to ministry.” Instead, I received multiple affirmations and small signs that God was calling me and it just continued to ramp up. I was involved in a Christian fraternity in my college and people would say to me, “man, I feel like you’re called.” I continued to push that away because I didn’t want to confront my dad, who had already gone through a hard time with me becoming a Christian, and then say that now I’m going to be a pastor.

So, I just continued to push it away. However, my older sister, who became a Christian, wrote me a letter. In the letter, she said, “Afshin, you’re running from God to please dad. A Christian, out of God’s will is like a fish out of water. He’s going to struggle until he’s put back in the water.” Everything in me, was struggling. I knew I was called. She quoted 1 John 2:17, “the world and this desire to pass away. But the man who does the will of God lives forever.”

The hardest thing I had to do was take my dad to lunch, my hand shaking the whole time, and explain to him that I was no longer going to be in medical school, but instead going to seminary to be a pastor. My dad called it the biggest stain on his life. He said, “it is as if you have died in my heart.” I said, “Dad, you know how much I love you and how much I want you to be proud of me.” (It was my dream for my dad to say, “I’m proud of you”, when I graduated medical school.) So I continued, “you know how much I want you to be proud of me.” Then my dad responded, “son, not only will I never be proud of you, but I’ll always be ashamed of you as long as I live.” Those are the hardest words to hear from your father. Although, when I was driving from Houston to the Dallas Fort Worth area to attend seminary, I’ve never sensed the peace of God all over me like I did in that entire drive there.

So many people say, “I’m just waiting to get a peace before I make this step.” For myself, it hasn’t worked that way. It’s was a struggle. It’s been “no… are you sure God?” “I have to tell my father…” It was only after I took the step that God flooded me with peace and affirmation. So, I would just encourage you to trust the Lord. Since then, my relationship with my dad has been restored. He just passed away last year and I was able to share the gospel with him so many times towards the end of his life. My prayer is that he believed and I’m leaving that in God’s hands. Even so, God has been faithful every step of the way. So trust the Lord. 

In Isaiah 30, where God speaks through the prophet Isaiah, it states “woe to my people who make plans for their life without consulting me. Who go to Pharaoh and to Egypt to ask the advice of Pharaoh in Egypt to get their advice, their advice shall turn to their shame.” We tend to do this. We ask so many people, “what should I do?” And God is saying, “come to me.” Isaiah 30:18 also utters, “Blessed are those who wait on the Lord.” Now, this waiting is not a passive waiting. It’s like a waiter waiting on a table who’s attentive to that table, who’s seeking to serve. In the same way we are attentive. We’re seeking the lord. Further, in verse 21, it says, “you will hear a word in your ear saying this is the way. Turn in it when you turn right or left.” Therefore, I would encourage you to seek God with all your heart. Don’t worship the plan of God, worship God, and allow him to unfold the plan. Precisely as Psalm 37:4 states, “delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.”

My concern would be is if you were not pursuing God and pondering, “is this thing that’s in my heart that I want to do from God or from me?” However, if you have made God first in your life, and you are truly delighting yourself in him, pursuing him, and waiting on him, as Isaiah 30:18 states, then you can trust that the things that are in your heart are probably coming to you from God. So, Seek the Lord. Trust him and step out in faith. 

My road in ministry has taken a few turns; sometimes unexpected turns. I knew that the Lord had impressed on my heart to preach the word of God. That is what I was called to, yet for a period of time, it was as an itinerant speaker or doing mission work and training pastors that went into Iran to plant underground churches. Now, for the last 10 years, it’s been as a lead pastor of a church called Providence Church in Frisco, Texas. Ultimately, it is has been a joy in every season of my life, to preach the word of God unashamedly and preach that Jesus is the only hope for all of mankind. Honestly, if I were to think back about whether there is anything that I would rather do with my life than to give it to see the gospel and the kingdom advance, the answer would be, “no way.” There was a period of time that I thought being a doctor was everything for me. However, no one could pay me millions of dollars to return to that plan because I get to do what I believe is the greatest calling anyone could ever have.

I’m Afshin Ziafat and this is my calling story.