I am in a season of life right now in which I am seeking God’s direction for my future ministry. So I have been thinking and praying a lot about God’s guidance. There are two key questions that you can ask to help find direction, namely “Who are you?” and “What do you want?”
Interestingly, these two questions play a major role through several seasons of the science fiction show Babylon 5. In the show there are two ancient races that work to guide humanity and the other “younger races.” The Vorlons keep asking “Who are you?,” while the Shadows ask “What do you want?” In the show these two ancient races are seen as in opposition to each other, but in the end both questions are important.
Who are you?
From a biblical perspective, the way that God has wired us is an important form of guidance. If you can’t carry a tune then you are probably not called to be a worship leader. If you are naturally drawn to new people then perhaps you are called to be an evangelist. God uses our personalities and natural talents, as well as spiritual gifts, as means to serve Him.
On the Transformed blog of Western Seminary, Chad Hall has written a number of articles on how who you are shapes your leadership. The first article in the series is on Identity. Knowing who you takes you a long way toward understanding God’s path for your life. Growing up we were told that we could be anything that we want, but that is a lie. Who we are opens some doors and closes others. God is his sovereignty has prepared us for what he has called us to do.
Several years ago I was in a leadership meeting with several young adult leaders. One person was struggling to choose between two ministry opportunities. I said “When you understand who you are, then you will know you should do.” Maybe it was because it was late and we were all tired, but everyone just stopped talking and stared. She said, “Pastor Ken, say it like Yoda.” So I replied, “When who you are you understand, what you should do you will know.” Gotta love Yoda-speak for pithy sayings.
What do you want?
Recently I’ve been reading books on growing as a writer and developing my “platform” so that people will actually buy my book once it is published. One suggestion that I seen several times is to sit down and make a list of what I really want. While this question could lead to a focus on selfish desires, our sanctified passions often point to the ways in which we are called to serve. Do you have a deep love for the Bible and delight in studying it? Perhaps you are called to be a Bible study leader. Is your heart deeply moved by the suffering of those around you? You might be called to serve in mercy ministries. A God-given passion can be a powerful form of guidance.
Here we need to be careful to follow after sanctified passions. Just because you desire to do something, even ministry, does not automatically mean that it is what God wants you to do. We need to submit our dreams and desires to the Lord, to lay them on the alter as an offering to Him. We need to ask God to search our hearts and uncover our motives. We need to know which desires are from Him and which are not.
This is the process described in Rom. 12:2: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (ESV) The phrase “by testing you may discern” translates a single Greek word that was used of testing gold in the refiner’s fire to be sure that was really gold. Passions that are from God make it through the refining process and come out beautiful and pure. Those that are not are burned away.
What is your experience in seeking God’s guidance? Have these two questions been helpful to you?