The other day I opened my bible for the first time in at least two weeks, if not longer. It’s not that I’ve wanted to neglect reading the bible; I don’t know what exactly the reason is. I guess it’s in part due to feeling like I’m still questioning so much about what I believe.
I opened my bible to Proverbs and began reading chapter 3, knowing full well I would find myself face to face with this bible passage that once served as a compass for how to live my life: “Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek His will in all you do, and He will show you which path to take” (vv. 5, 6).
Yes, it reminded me that faith isn’t entirely about knowing; it’s about trusting. It reminded me that my own understanding will always be flawed and limited, and I should only depend on what I’m able to understand to a certain degree. These were great points to reread and think about, but what struck me most was the insight I came away with thanks to a note I wrote years ago in the margin. Beside the second half of the passage in verse six, I’d written “What is His will? Eph. 5:1-2.”
I’ve read Proverbs 3:5-6 and Ephesians 5:1-2 countless times since I’d written that reference note as a sophomore in college. Still, I followed the note and flipped back to Ephesians, bracing myself to read what I expected to be more familiar verses that would only throw guilt and obligation on me. Instead, I found this:
Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are His dear children. Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered Himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God.”
Although I’ve read these verses innumerable times in the past, here with fresh insight was God’s will summed up in three key points.
- Imitate God in everything you do.
- Live a life of love.
- Follow Christ’s example.
The almighty will of God, the supreme obligation of every Christian, the high calling of Jesus upon my life was encapsulated in just two verses. There was no pomp, no flaming angels with trumpets to accompany the proclamation, no elaborate embellishments printed on the page around these verses. Just circles and lines I’d penciled in long ago around the words, with the same three points scrawled in my handwriting along the top of the page.
Imitate God in everything. Live a life of love. Follow Christ’s example.
I think we Christians like to complicate our faith. We’re made to believe we have some special, high calling upon our lives that only each of us can fulfill. However, I cannot recall a single place in the New Testament where it ever says Christians must seek to discover their own unique callings and purposes in life beyond the three points outlined above. The bible says we each have unique spiritual gifts we’ve been given to discover and use, but it’s not our individual gifts that define our lives’ core purpose. I think the bible, more than anything, speaks about our shared, central purpose as Christians: to love God and our neighbors, and, as Ephesians 5 says, to imitate God, live a life of love, and follow Christ’s example.
Why do we place so much emphasis on figuring out God’s specific will for us individually when individuality is not what Scripture emphasizes when it comes to finding our purpose as Christians?
The beauty of verses like those in Proverbs and Ephesians about living out God’s will is that they can be applied to everyone, and will look completely different for everyone. It does not look like everyone becoming missionaries to third-world countries, or starting up an urban ministry, or going to seminary, or pursuing whatever God-given passions they may have.
After reading my bible that day, I felt I could throw this huge weight off my back of needing to find out what I am supposed to do with my life. It’s not about finding the right magical path I’m destined to walk down; it’s about choosing to seek God’s will in the free decisions I make every day about who I will become and what I will do with my life.
For some reason it seems like what the bible says about finding your purpose isn’t enough. It’s like saying, “That’s fine and dandy what You said, Jesus, about how God’s will can be summarized by loving God with your whole self and loving your neighbors (see Matt. 22:36-40). Still, I think there’s something even deeper I need to figure out, something more particular about what I’m supposed to do for God with my life.”
Finding God’s specific calling for my life has been a complete distraction from what He’s already told me His purpose for my life is. Instead, I’ve been sent on a frustrating wild goose chase for some mystical thing that I’ve now come to believe doesn’t really exist.
I’m not downplaying the fact that God does have things He specifically wants each of us to do. I’m not saying it’s a waste of time to think about how you in particular can be living out God’s will—every Christian needs to think about that. What I am saying is we need to stop indoctrinating Christians, especially younger generations of Christians who already have enough to try and figure out about life, with the idea that you have to determine what your exact calling in life is. Because it’s somehow become not enough to read verses like Ephesians 5:1-2, or the Great Commission Jesus gave in Matthew 28:18-20, and still come away wondering what your God-given purpose is.
I believe God gives us the big picture of the kind of lives He desires Christ-followers to embody. I’m starting to see more and more that God also gives us a lot of freedom and responsibility to choose the details of the kind of lives we’ll lead, shaped by the principles about His will revealed to us in Scripture.
I don’t have to live under the constant pressure that I haven’t figured out yet what God wants me to specifically do. He’s already told me as I was reminded by reading these passages, and He’s already told you.
Imitate God in everything, live a life of love, and follow Christ’s example.
Love God with your entire self, and love your neighbors as yourself. Tell the world about Jesus and make disciples, teaching them how to live out everything He said. Press on toward the heavenly prize for which God has called you in Christ (Phil. 3:14). Use whatever gifts you have to love others and continue the work of building Christ’s Church (Eph. 4:11-12).
Live your life freely and responsibly as you walk daily with God. Be reminded, as Ephesians 5:1-2 says, that you are God’s child whom He loves and sacrificed Himself for. More than needing people who can pin down their particular mission statement, the world needs people who will truly live and love like Jesus.