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What-is-God-calling-me-to-do

What is God Calling Me To Do?

Written By Daniel Ryan Day, USA

Daniel is the author of two books: Ten Days Without and Intentional Christian. He is also the operations manager of a company that operates a family entertainment center, hotel and restaurant, as well as a blogger at intentionalchristianity.com. Daniel attempts to live out intentional Christianity in North Carolina, as a husband, father, and businessman.

 

There have been so many times in my life when I didn’t know what to do. Sometimes, those moments were silly, and getting the answer wrong didn’t have significant consequences. Like this past Christmas, when I got way too stressed out trying to figure out the perfect Christmas present for every person on my gift list. I mean, really. What’s the worst that could happen?

But there have been other moments when I felt like the decision I faced was life-changing, and if I chose the wrong road, it could mean missing out on what I was supposed to do with my life.

I think my culture places a lot of pressure on young adults to figure out the rest of their lives when they are between the ages of 18 and 24—especially when it relates to choosing an occupation. As a result, we are left with over-stressed teenagers, degree-less college students, and young adults (some in their 30s and 40s even) who bounce from job to job trying to figure out the answer to the question: What am I supposed to do with my life?

For Christians, there’s a deeper longing within us than just the desire for a purposeful and fulfilling occupation: Christians are also searching for God’s will for their lives, because we believe that God should have something to say about our future. We think the choice of a job is not fully up to us.

But what if God never tells us what He wants us to do? What are we supposed to do if God seems eerily silent whenever we ask Him to tell us what He wants for our lives?

That’s how it was for me. I begged God to tell me His will for my life. I was willing to do whatever He wanted me to do; I was willing to move wherever He wanted me to move. But He was quiet—too quiet. Just like the foreboding scene in a thriller movie that comes right before someone dies. Maybe I’m going to die. I hope not.

 

This is God’s Will For Your Life

Because I couldn’t find the answers to these questions, I became frustrated with God. Have you ever been frustrated with God before? Well, I was. In fact, I got so frustrated that I Googled it—yes, I actually Googled, “What is God’s will for my life?”

I landed on a webpage with a list of Scripture passages. After reading the first verse on the list, I nearly threw my computer out of the window. It was Jeremiah 29:11, which said that God had a plan for my life.

“I know God has a plan!” I yelled out loud. “The problem is that He won’t tell me what it is!”

I read the next verse listed, 1 Thessalonians 4:3. “For this is the will of God, your sanctification.” What?! I had been searching for the will of God for I-don’t-know-how-long, and it was right here in the Bible the entire time! It made me wonder what else I’d missed, and what other callings might exist. I started searching.

Later in that same book, 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, I found this verse: “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” And then I noticed 1 Peter 2:15: “For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people.”

The more I searched, the more I found, and I soon discovered that the description of God’s will for our lives was quite long—super long. So long, in fact, that I started to feel overwhelmed by the call of God. How could I remember, much less do all of these things?

But then the Holy Spirit reminded me of a promise that Jesus made to all who would follow Him: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).

During Jesus’ time, a yoke was a wooden bar that was placed on the neck of an ox, allowing it to pull a heavy load. Often, two oxen were yoked together so they could pull twice as much.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t know anyone who still uses a yoke and oxen to pull heavy loads. So I like to think of this verse in light of the baggage tractors I see at airports. Have you ever looked out of a plane window—or watched a movie that takes place at an airport—and noticed the baggage trains? Usually there’s a tractor followed by four or five baggage cars full of suitcases. Think of a yoke as one of those tractors. It’s got to be a pretty heavy load, right?

As I was reading through Scripture and taking note of the many commandments, expectations, and callings that God had for me, it was like adding a new suitcase to the baggage train. By the time I was finished, I had a lot of baggage cars on my train, and they were all full of the specifics of God’s will for my life. It was a heavy load.

But Jesus said that His yoke—all the responsibilities and expectations of what it means to follow Him—was supposed to be easy and light. So if I am burdened by what it means to follow God, something’s wrong.

 

The Greatest Calling and the One Like It

The truth is that Jesus simplified our calling for us. He said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:37-40)

I think that Jesus not only gave us the greatest commandment, but in this passage, He also outlined what I call the greatest calling. First and foremost, you and I are called to walk in relationship with God. Instead of having to remember a long list of do’s and don’ts—like a long train of baggage cars—Jesus removed the heavy burden of the law of Moses from our shoulders and gave us a simple summary of the purpose of our lives.

What is this purpose? It is simply this: Love God and love others. That is the greatest calling, and if you remember nothing else, I hope you remember this truth: God has called you—and that’s His will for your life—to love Him with all of your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself.

 

When-I-Dont-Have-Clarity-on-Gods-Will

When I Don’t Have Clarity on God’s Will

Written By Janel Breitenstein, USA 

We weren’t clearly “called” to Africa. That I know.

Though I’d longed to work overseas from the time my hair was in pigtails, my husband hadn’t felt it would best utilize the way he was made (“I don’t have the gift of evangelism”, he says). I’d wrestled with this before we decided to marry and hadn’t quite forgotten it, even though 10 years later found me half a hemisphere away from my dreams. I was smack in the middle of suburbia, complete with four little kids, the picket fence, and the dog.

I worked diligently to avoid thinking about the dreams I’d willingly put on hiatus, to cultivate contentment in what I realized was a rich and—though decidedly unsexy—still beautiful life. It was a different dream of mine, you might say. I wasn’t spooning rice into the bowls of refugees, but feeding and discipling my own kids. I deeply believe in “faith expressing itself through love” wherever God puts us, even when we don’t understand.

Cut to one April night. My husband arrived home late to me propped up on pillows after a long day of filling sippy cups and refereeing kid conflicts. He tilted his head curiously and said, “What would you think of us pursuing non-profit work overseas?” That’s where I just about fell out of the bed.

A Google search unearthed EMI (Engineering Ministries International), a faith-based non-profit group of design professionals. They create hospitals, schools, clean water projects, and more for the impoverished while developing architects and engineers in poor areas.

So there we were, contemplating whether or not to sell 70 percent of our stuff in Little Rock, Arkansas (in the U.S.), and move to a continent I was sure was buzzing with malaria and typhoid. Honestly, I was thrilled. Africa was a dream I’d put on the shelf believing that “maybe God will explain one day why He said no”, but now it seemed about to come true.

But even when circumstances seemed to be leaning that way, neither of us had any unshakable indications about God’s will. Our emotions, though indicators of our desires, had been proven in the past to be rather fickle and unduly influenced. Honestly, we weren’t sure if this was a calling from God that we couldn’t ignore, or just an opportunity that God was giving us to serve Him. That’s when my husband said something one night that I’ll never forget.

“I don’t know that this is a ‘obey or disobey’ kind of thing.” You know, like I don’t think we’ll get eaten by some form of gigantic fish if we stay here in North America. He continued: “I think God is giving us a choice on this one. I think it’s more like an alabaster jar. It would just be a beautiful act of worship to Him.”

(That was a reference to the container of expensive perfume that a woman used to anoint Jesus just before He went to the cross, in Matthew 26:6-13.)

The thought stuck with me. I must confess I’m not the kind of person who’s ever heard God speak audibly. Do I know His voice? Well, yes, I do. That’s not to say that I, being 100 percent human and flawed, don’t get His voice all jumbled up with the flawed attitudes and personal desires so artfully cloaked by my subtly conniving, work-in-process heart.

Sometimes I get it wrong. Sometimes I’ve gone with what would be the most awe-inspiring in the sight of other Christians. Sometimes I’ve gone with what’s the hardest (because God must surely want me to do what I don’t want to do, right?).

I know we sometimes get frustrated by ambiguity and all the things we don’t know; all the things God doesn’t tell us. We’re more than willing to obey, but we just want to know exactly what He wants us to do.

But what I like about my husband’s “alabaster jar” is the beauty of the choices God gives us. I don’t have any “God told me” answers for friends questioning me on my decision to go to Africa (although I do know that those words can be a bit of a conversation killer . . . who wants to argue with God if He’s said I should go?).

Honestly, sometimes I feel the temptation to add clarity for God. . . out of my own fear or lack of comfort. When I decided to marry my husband, for example, I was worried that I was “selling out” on what might be God’s call overseas. Choosing a marriage over what might have been my “calling” sounded wrong. I wished I could get a clear sign from God so that I could say, “God came to me” or “God called me”.

But honestly, what I had were inclinations following prayer, a multitude of wise counselors, and careful consideration of what Spirit-led wisdom looked like in the whole of Scripture, my heart, and my reality. (For example, part of what I knew I loved was cross-cultural interaction and understanding, and compassion for the poor—which I could experience in my own country and could therefore still carry my dream back home, in a way.)

Yes, I amazingly got to enjoy both dreams. But God’s plans don’t promise to wrap it all up so neatly this side of heaven. They’re not a lucky charm to happiness and prosperity.

I find poignant the cautionary words of Peter Scazzero, an American pastor and author in the book Emotionally Healthy Spirituality: Unleash a Revolution in Your Life in Christ, as I steer away from taking God’s plans into my own hands: “I, like Abraham, had birthed many ‘Ishmaels’ in my attempt to help God’s plan move forward more efficiently.”

Recently, I also heard a sermon by Francis Chan, another American pastor and author. Chan acknowledged he was only about 70 percent confident of what God wanted him to do in a major decision he’d described, and about 90 percent in marrying his wife. Instead, he talks about what he dubs “prinking”—praying and thinking about what the mind of God would be on this.

One blog posting quoted Mother Theresa, who when asked to pray for clarity for a person, replied, “I have never had clarity; what I have always had is trust. So I will pray that you trust God.”

Some of our decisions, I think, are just the option to love elaborately. Though my husband and I witnessed no writing on the wall, no dreams or visions that we could faithfully attribute to God, we knew that Africa had so much fewer resources than our developed country. In Scripture, God’s heart for the poor—and the orphans and widows—compelled us to join Him. The chance to know Him more vividly, to worship Him through sacrificing the lives we knew and “stepping out of the boat” were simply . . . priceless.

What’s your alabaster box?

 

This article was originally published on the writer’s blog here. This version has been edited by YMI.

Gods-Will-Isnt-Found-in-Books

God’s Will Isn’t Found in Books

Written By Ana Chavarria, USA

As Christians, we are known for believing that we are to follow what the Bible tells us to do. Sometimes, this gives others the impression that we serve a God who has an unending list of commands that we need to follow.

The reality is quite the opposite. In many aspects of our lives, the Bible does not give us rigid instructions on what we should do. Instead, God gives us guidelines—and the freedom to choose how we want to live our lives.

For instance, the Bible does not have an explicit set of rules on dating. As a result, many of us tend to turn to books about “how-to-date-the-godly-way” for guidelines about relationships.

When I was 14 years old, someone passed me a book on dating which became everything to me. I tried to follow everything it said to a tee. I forgot that while it offered some valuable lessons that came from the Bible, it was not the Bible. Instead, I mistakenly took the Bible verses given by the author as validation that all his “rules on dating” were from God. I remember that the book kept repeating that “courtship” was the only godly way to start a relationship, and that “dating” was not purposeful and could lead to sinful acts. By courtship, he meant not going out just as a couple, always having a chaperone around, and keeping the physical contact to holding hands. Dating, to him, was more of an exclusive relationship. It made sense when I read the author’s experience with courtship and how it worked out for him.

As a result, I grew up thinking that dating was basically a sin and it was wrong to express my feelings to someone. I ended up keeping all my feelings within and this gave me a lot of unnecessary stress.

When I started attending college, I befriended people who were in very godly and healthy relationships. I started to question my beliefs about dating and realized they had a very weak foundation. I wasn’t so sure anymore. All around me, I heard great stories of how God led my friends to the right person in different ways. It was like seeing for the first time that God works in a personal way.

That’s when I realized that what might have worked for the author of that book might not work for me, or for somebody else. Perhaps that’s why we sometimes get frustrated trying to abide doggedly by a set of steps that are said to lead to “godly living”. When we do that, we may not be allowing the Holy Spirit to guide our lives in a personal way.

Christian books and biblical counsel can provide guidance and answers to questions often asked in the Christian life. But they can also distract Christians from the most important thing—our personal relationship with God. If we are really seeking His face every day, He is going to show us His way for us individually.

Think of it this way: there are many books on dating, and each book is going to say what the author has learned about the subject. How do you know for sure which one is absolutely right, and which one to follow? Each author has a unique set of struggles which brought him or her to the place he or she is at now. It was that experience which made him or her write a book full of life lessons and advice for Christians.

Today, I am dating a guy who lives and glorifies God in everything he does. And that makes me want to be a better person every day. It’s an amazing experience to be able to journey together with the one you love towards God.

That said, God has different plans for each one of us. Christian life is not about determining who does it better or trying to model after others; it’s about letting go of yourself and letting God take over your life. You will be surprised by what He is able to do. Trust in Him and He will lead you to the path He has planned just for you!

“If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”—John 8:31b-32

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ODJ: Sweet Music

Our music practice was not going well. The team was tense because we were gaining no traction in selecting and practicing songs for an important event. Then it happened. A young woman said softly, “I think we should pray about this.” And with that, she called out to God to help us move forward in practicing and performing well for Him.

Nehemiah also knew the power of prayer. Forced to live in Babylon for decades, he had become the cupbearer for the Persian king Artaxerxes (Nehemiah 1:11). Nehemiah was saddened to learn of the sorry state of Jerusalem and his people there, so he asked the king for permission to go and help lead the restoration of the city—but not before he spent “days” calling out to God (v.4). Nehemiah’s prayers to “the great and awesome God” included requests for Him to intervene and move the king’s heart so he could return home (vv.5,11).

The following spring, as Nehemiah served “the king his wine,” Artaxerxes asked him why he looked so sad and how he could help. “With a prayer to the God of heaven,” Nehemiah requested to head home to “rebuild the city” (2:1-5). What happened next brought joy to Nehemiah’s heart, for the king gave him permission to pack up and head back to Judea.

This cupbearer and his praying ways remind me of the One who once asked God the Father, “If you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me” (Luke 22:42). Jesus prayed often—seeking God’s strength and that His will be done.

After the young woman prayed for our music team, things finally began coming together. The unified sounds must have been sweet music to God’s ear. May we always remember to pray—seeking God’s will for each situation we face.

—Tom Felten

365-day plan: Jeremiah 38:1-13

May 26, 2016 

READ: Nehemiah 1:1–2:6  


With a prayer to the God of heaven, I replied (2:4-5). 

Our music practice was not going well. The team was tense because we were gaining no traction in selecting and practising songs for an important event. Then it happened. A young woman said softly, “I think we should pray about this.” And with that, she called out to God to help us move forward in practising and performing well for Him.

Nehemiah also knew the power of prayer. Forced to live in Babylon for decades, he had become the cupbearer for the Persian king Artaxerxes (Nehemiah 1:11). Nehemiah was saddened to learn of the sorry state of Jerusalem and his people there, so he asked the king for permission to go and help lead the restoration of the city—but not before he spent “days” calling out to God (v.4). Nehemiah’s prayers to “the great and awesome God” included requests for Him to intervene and move the king’s heart so he could return home (vv.5,11).

The following spring, as Nehemiah served “the king his wine”, Artaxerxes asked him why he looked so sad and how he could help. “With a prayer to the God of heaven”, Nehemiah requested to head home to “rebuild the city” (2:1-5). What happened next brought joy to Nehemiah’s heart, for the king gave him permission to pack up and head back to Judea.

This cupbearer and his praying ways remind me of the One who once asked God the Father, “If you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me” (Luke 22:42). Jesus prayed often—seeking God’s strength and that His will be done.

After the young woman prayed for our music team, things finally began coming together. The unified sounds must have been sweet music to God’s ear. May we always remember to pray—seeking God’s will for each situation we face.

—Tom Felten

365-day plan: Jeremiah 38:1-13

MORE
Read 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 and consider how prayer, joy and thankfulness work together. 
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What things have you been trying to handle without prayer? Why is it so vital that we seek God’s will to be done as we pray to Him? 

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