The Freedom to Choose Your Path
In my last article, I asked, "Does God have one, and only one, plan for our lives?" We concluded that there are a rare few of us who do indeed have our courses charted by God, with limits on our freedom and even our free will. But this appears to be the exception rather than the rule. We called this the Moses-Abraham difference, and today we're going to explore biblical reasons for holding to this freeing view of life and work.
Just as Moses is our poster-boy for God-ordained, narrow-call Christian lives, so Abraham is a strong indicator of the freedom we have in Christ. Think back to Genesis 13 where we find Abram. (God would change his name to Abraham later.) God has promised to make Abram into a great nation, and Abram is journeying to claim the land that comes with the promise. Traveling with him is his nephew Lot, and the two huge migrating households begin to bicker. Abram then does a remarkable thing: He takes his nephew up to a high point, and as the two look left and right, Abram lets Lot choose which path to take!
Don't miss the significance of "first pick" here, because it was Abram and not Lot who had God's promise. It was Abram, not Lot, whose course was already charted by God. On the surface, it might be tempting to cast Lot into the Moses Group in this whole "calling" debate. But when Abram allowed Lot first choice, he was recognizing a truth each of us should also recognize: God is not restricted by circumstances in blessing our paths.
It was Abram's willingness to obey God—his desire to honor him, that was the trigger for the blessing and not whether Abram went left or right at the fork. So it is with the rest of us, those for whom God doesn't make his narrow call clearly apparent.
There is good news and bad news for us. Clearly the good news is this freedom we experience. The bad news, of course, is that our freedom carries with it heightened personal responsibility for our choices, and an expected intentionality few Christians are taught in their discipleship/spiritual growth activities.
So, while we have this great freedom, it is not a freedom to be selfish or self-absorbed. Rather, our freedom means we're given the right to choose which vocation we use to serve God and others (think of the Great Commandment), testify to his grace (think of the Great Commission), and serve Creation (think of Adam's responsibility to tend the garden).
In other words, God doesn't expect us to jump from the bank into the river of life and let the current take us where it will. He also doesn't expect us to pick our career because it will make us the most money or provide us with the most security or give us the best chance for fulfillment. Rather he expects us to select the vocation that best indicates our desire to be obedient, best indicates our desire to be faithful to his Word, and that seeks to contribute to the tending of his Creation. Under this freedom, a stand-up comedian bringing joy to others qualifies, as does a dishwasher, a truck driver, a doctor, and very nearly every profession we can imagine. It's the state of our heart, and not the specific task, that God honors, meaning, as with Abram, God will bless our labors whether we go left or right at the fork in the road. This is not merely some version of the "prosperity gospel." When our work is blessed, it yields fruit for God's kingdom.
But if we're this free to choose our careers, why do we wonder if our work matters to God? Sadly, too many of us cannot measure our faithfulness or obedience because we no longer know God's Word. Where once Americans, including deistic Founding Fathers, were intimately familiar with God's Word and could therefore count on the Holy Spirit to "google" truth stored in their hearts to either convict or confirm their life choices, most Christians today suffer from severe Biblical illiteracy. We can't know if we're pleasing God if we don't know what pleases him!
When we're too busy for regular Bible reading and study, then we're no longer able to know with any confidence if what we're doing with our lives pleases God. Instead, we rely on the always-deadly "what seems right in our own eyes", or in the vernacular of the day, "what feels right." Our feelings have little to do with genuine faithfulness. (This is also the danger of reading only what writers write about the Bible instead of reading the Bible itself. Even the most diligent of writers make mistakes and impose their viewpoint onto Scripture.)
Those of us in the Abraham Group of calling carry a greater obligation to choose wisely and live faithfully. As Jesus said, "to him whom much is given, from him will much be required."
Up next in part three: THERE'S STILL HOPE! We'll explore God's supernatural ability to redeem the work and service of even those who failed to pay attention to serving him until most of their lives have been lived.
Questions for personal reflection, online discussion, or small groups:
- Have you experienced God's blessing on your work? How did your work yield fruit for God's kingdom?
- Read Matthew 22:34-40. How do you serve God in your work? How do you serve others in your work?
- Read Matthew 28:16-20. How does your work testify to God's grace?
- Read Genesis 2:15. Are you taking care of creation as you go about your daily work? How?