"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts." (Isaiah 55:8-9)
"This says I'm to put my energy and attention into my Divine purpose and destiny;
How do I know what my Divine purpose and destiny is?!"
Wow. From my point of view, what a "loaded" question! The answer to it is quite paradoxical, for the answer is both very simple and very profound. One of my co-workers vocalized that question today. I'm not sure if she was looking for specific answers; if she was really addressing it to anyone, or if it was more like she was thinking aloud. I know there are those zealous Christians who would say I should have stood up and answered it right then and there; ignoring the job and responsibilities of the moment. That, however, would have been completely outside of God's will and would in fact (by my very inappropriate behavior) have given the wrong answer to the question.
I don't know if the woman had any idea what a profound question she was asking. Someone could easily write a twelve-hundred page book in an attempt to answer that question. I'm not quite up to a twelve-hundred page book, but I was so impacted by her question that I felt I had to attempt to write an answer to it.
Simply put, the answer is found in what Jesus says (from the Sermon on the Mount) in the sixth chapter of Matthew's Gospel:
"But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you." (Matthew 6:33)
Yeah, it's that simple- and that profound. We've got to be thinking and acting and living in accord with what God wants and desires for us, and not according to our own selfish plans and motives. On our own, our whole pattern of living is, well, wrong! That's the point of the verses from Isaiah that I opened with. On our own, we don't think like God thinks, we don't act like God acts, and we don't live like God wants us to live. Now, someone might well object to what I'm writing here, saying, "Hey, this is not about God's holiness; this is about a cool, meaningful, enjoyable, fulfilling, happy lifestyle for each of us! It is about what we want!" No. It's when we do what we want to do that we get into trouble! To find God's destiny and plan and purpose for us, we need to tune ourselves out and we need to tune into God!
Psalm 37:4 speaks of a person being given his or her heart's desire. Boy, we like that one! That's a great verse! That's a great promise. But read it carefully. It says:
"Delight thyself also in the Lord; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart." (Psalm 37:4)
Yes, we are to delight in the Lord- in Him- in His ways and purposes. And, it doesn't mean we'll then get all kinds of selfish, foolish junk that we're secretly craving. It means that ultimately His desires will become our desires.
If I'm coming across as some sort of "holier than thou" person, that's not my intention. The fact is, truly yielding to the Lord and His will can be very difficult. Now, it's not really supposed to be difficult, but it can be. We make it difficult. Have you ever seen how a little kid will stall and stall about picking up his toys or cleaning his room, even when promised a reward for doing so? It becomes absurd. The child makes the whole situation a hundred times harder than it needs to be; only because he's trying to exert his own selfish and lazy will! We all do the same thing- too often.
I don't want to go into great detail, but I've not actively pastored a church for over four years. A lot of professional doors have been closed to me. I've experienced a number of other losses that are far too personal to write about. The fact is, a lot of this came about in my own life because like too many pastors, I thought that the church I pastored was mine and that the life I was living and planning was mine. I made the mistake that too many pastors make- of thinking I had everything under control and nothing could interfere with it. And, it all toppled. As painful as the losses have been, in many respects I forgot about Matthew 6:33 and Psalm 37:4. And, I guess I forgot about Isaiah 55:8-9, too. Now, don't get me wrong, I believe God has good things in store for me and a good future ahead for me, but I'm just saying no one is immune to messing up in this area- not even pastors!
My answer to that woman and anyone else who would ask that question about God's purpose and destiny is to take inventory of your life. Is there "stuff" that is not in line with God's purpose and destiny? Well, that's got to go! Well, really the first thing that's got to go is the whole, "I'm as good as the next person- God doesn't expect the impossible from me!" attitude. Yes, He does! That's why we need Jesus! None of us could ever please God on our own- ever! We need Jesus, and not just in some superficial way. We need Jesus one-hundred percent! Every one of us deserves to go to Hell. I do. Jesus Christ came to die for our sins and pay the eternal penalty for our sins, so we don't ever have to go to Hell. But (see John 1:12) we must receive Him. We must be born again, as it says in John chapter three. Each person must admit he or she is a sinner, must admit her or she hasn't got it all together, and must ask Jesus to come into his or her heart to one-hundred percent be their Personal Savior. That's called being "born again". That's the beginning.
The problem is that a lot of Christians have this "fire insurance"; but they have not gone much further with God. They still have their plans and their ways and their (well) everything. They plan out their lives and run their lives and just ask God to stamp His blessing on it. That's not at all what God wants of us. He wants us to seek Him. He want us to get out of the way and listen to Him. (Perhaps the best way to listen to Him is to spend time in His Word, the Bible.) When we do that stuff, He will lead and guide us into paths that most of us would probably not have taken on our own, but that will lead to the very best and most fulfilling lives we could ever imagine. Right now, I'm very earnestly endeavoring to do this- to try to get Bob Baril out of the way and the Lord front and center. Honestly, I have not mastered this! It's a daily walk.
But here's a great illustration: I've written a lot of fluff and foolishness on my blog over the years. My blog is just something I've mostly fooled around with as a hobby. But writing a piece like this makes a person very vulnerable. You can come across as judgmental or "holier than thou" as I wrote above. You can make people uncomfortable. You can risk being thought of as some sort of a radical, Bible-thumping nut, totally out-of-step with the twenty-first century. As I pondered this, I absolutely considered not writing this piece. Bob Baril wants to be popular, funny, and liked. I don't want to be thought of as an Old Testament prophet like Jeremiah who had few friends and faced a lot of rejection. Today, I had the choice to take the risk and write this piece, or just be "cool" and forget about it. Well, I chose to obey the Lord and I wrote it.
Do you want to follow God's destiny and purpose for your life? Then you've got to become a Matthew 6:33 person. You've got to be willing to allow God to make radical changes in your life. You've got to be willing to risk losing friends and even family in some cases. But there are riches in the Lord that are worth more than all of Bill Gates' money. The most Godly woman I ever knew was the late Opal Reddin. She taught at Central Bible College. Her husband became very ill with heart disease and died. It was hard for her, but she absolutely walked and lived in and through the Holy Spirit. You could just feel the presence of the Lord around her, and she was very humble. The most Godly man I eve knew was the late Norman Milley, Sr. He worked construction in the Boston area for decades. He worked with guys who used the foulest language and lived like the Devil. Yet, this man was a giant of the faith. Believe me, those guys who worked with him trembled when he walked by, the power of God was so evident in his life! I also remember that I could just feel the presence of God around him. He was tall and had a head of thick white hair. I think he must have looked like the prophet Samuel. Listen, I want to be a person like Opal Reddin was and like Norman Milley, Sr. was. That's living in God's purpose and God's destiny!