Monday, January 17, 2011

God Doesn't Want Your Life

I'm not sure where it came from or when I acquired it, but somewhere along the line early in my Christian faith I began to believe a devastating falsehood that I think most Christians share. The lie was that when making large decisions, God required me to go through an overtly spiritual, divine-will seeking process one can only describe as... well... pure hell. Allow me to describe it for you...

It began whenever a noteworthy decision with two or more options would present itself to me. Should I major in Religious Studies or Business? Should I ask so-and-so out, or should I not? Are they 'the one'? Should I take the youth pastor position in small-town Indiana or start a rock band in Cincinnati? The moment I realized a necessitated decision lay ahead, I would descend into a spiritual malaise of utter confusion that would usually end in extreme frustration. In short, it was a sort of spiritualized waiting game designed and implemented by me to gain God's attention and demand He point me in the right direction. Because after all, I just wanted what He wanted for me, right? I wanted to please Him by awaiting His will, and not blindly pursuing my own. And above all, I didn't want to go against His will for my life. It all felt so wonderfully spiritual to me at the time, and I thought surely it would work. Sound familiar? For many of you, I'm willing to bet it does, which brings me to my next question... How's that working out for you?

For me, God's almost total non-responsiveness to my 'What shall I do next' questions left me feeling like the details of my life weren't important to God; that I wasn't loved enough by Him for my problems to matter; that maybe God wasn't there after all. Over the last 10 years of my spiritual journey, almost nothing has been more damaging to my faith than the conclusions I've drawn from these erroneous, self-imposed requirements for determining God's will. As I've matured however, I've begun asking whether my questions were right to begin with. And as I've done this, I've rediscovered the Gospel all over again and clarity where once only confusion reigned. What in fact I've come to realize is that there is far more freedom in Christ than fear-mongering for those who would wrestle to find God's will for their lives. Not only was my process NOT what God required of me, but it was in most ways the precise opposite of the faith and responsibility He hoped to see me demonstrate. In fact, it was sin ... plain and simple.

Wrestling with God's will is all-to-often sin because for most Christians, the searching doesn't stem from faith and confidence in God's goodness and plan, but rather a lack thereof. It doesn't stem from belief in the Gospel's message that we are powerless to earn a right relationship with God apart from Christ's work, but rather the fear that we must choose each step we take in life correctly to maintain God's blessing, avoid His eager displeasure, and earn His favor. We think if we overtly spiritualize our decisions, God will actually be impressed with our overt spirituality! Furthermore, we think if we disregard or de-prioritize cognitive reasoning and material factors we'll be more holy in our decision-making, as if God didn't create our minds and the material world with the same intention for good and glory as the spiritual. What I'm describing in fact, is in essence the very definition of 'man-made religion' and the opposite of faith and relationship with Christ. The torment Christians subject themselves to in decision-making is more likely than not a religious ploy ... nothing more. We do genuinely want God's will for our lives, but we also lack the faith to believe He'll be with us wherever we go. So we wait, and we pray, and we wait, and we stress, and we lament, and we mope, all the while believing this will get God's attention and motivate Him to interject. The hard truth however is this process neither impresses, glorifies, nor pleases God.

God doesn't NEED your life ... He is fine without you. That's not to say God doesn't VALUE your life, He just doesn't need you for His Kingdom to hold together. But that's what we as Christians often believe isn't it? We often see ourselves as TOO important in the big picture of God's Kingdom. This view is pretty arrogant if you think about it and demonstrates a similar lack of faith that it is God who builds His church and not man. That's not to say we shouldn't view our calling to serve our local church, community, and God's Kingdom with the highest of priorities in our lives and hold others accountable to that, but there's a big difference between elevating the calling we all share and elevating the person called. Bottom line is... God's Kingdom is bigger than you or anyone you know or any building you visit on Sunday mornings. He will be glorified and He is in control. Even when people go out of their way to disobey or blatantly resist His expressed will, even maiming His Kingdom and people, He goes on building it none-the-less and works all things for the good and glory of those that love Him. What would your next decision look like if you really believed this?

God doesn't WANT your life ... He gave it to you. Now certainly God does want to come INTO our lives and conform our hearts to the image of His Son. But what I'm saying is, in doing so, He doesn't want to turn your life into that of a drone or puppet that no longer thinks or expresses its own singularity. He doesn't ask us to check our brains, personalities, preferences, or individual giftings at the door, but rather asks us through faith in Christ to now wield them for His glory instead of our own. That's amazing! God wants to REDEEM your life and personage, not throw it away or take over responsibility for it. Belief in Christ offers far more than fire insurance. It offers the restoration of our lives (namely, the divine gifts of will, talent, and personality) and grants us the privilege of using them to participate in the spreading of His Kingdom. We should use God's gifts. We should take full advantage of this privilege.

Lastly, God is not RESPONSIBLE for your life and how you choose (or fail to choose) to live it ... You are the responsible party. Yes, I said the dreaded "R" word ... responsibility. I think it's imperative for us Christians to understand that while Christ has taken away the ultimate penalty for our sin, He hasn't removed the yoke of being fully accountable to God for our choices. God is not responsible for our decisions, nor does He want to be. But when we ask God to direct our every step without simultaneously stepping out in faith, that's precisely the arrangement we attempt to create. We'd rather God treat us like robots in order to dodge the responsibility for the hardest decisions life brings, but in doing so we miss the weightiest of His blessings ... the opportunities to exercise faith. We hedge ourselves against failure by casting the responsibility for decisions and their outcome upon His shoulders, rather than believing that in either failure or success God is good and He is with us, even to the end of the age. When decisions we've made don't go well or opportunities we'd hoped for never come, we blame God's sluggishness or our lack of spiritual performance rather than praising Him nonetheless and readying ourselves to step out in faith all over again. In doing all this we judge Him. We hold Him accountable for that which He is not. We believe lies about God's love for us. And in short, we don't believe the good news of Christ. Fortunately there is a better way.

Though shalt love the Lord God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength (Luke 10:27). We are freely called to wield everything we've been given for His purposes, and to do so with the stamp of our personality all over it. Our decision-making process doesn't need to be robotic nor religious if it's been redeemed. Whether we go to the right or the left with His purposes at heart, God is faithful enough to be with us always, gracious enough to correct us if we make a mistake, and big enough to use it for His glory and our good regardless. Now that's good news!


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