What Does God Want Me to Do with My Life? Michael Horton Explains
'Tis the season for commencement speeches. On June 12, 2005, Steve Jobs gave one of the more memorable ones. His advice to the Stanford graduating class? “You’ve got to find what you love.” This is a common answer to the graduate’s question, “What am I supposed to do with my life?”
But what about the Christian? What are we supposed to do with our life? Michael Horton has an answer, one that’s different from Jobs’s.
In his new book Core Christianity, a helpful guide that tackles the core beliefs that all Christians share, Horton directs our attention away from ourselves—finding what we love—and toward God and our neighbor. His advice on calling begins in a unique way, reminding us where we are and where we’re heading:
we are located in a precarious intersection between this present evil age and the age to come. Christ’s kingdom is already here but it is not yet consummated. Christ came the first time in humility and self-sacrifice to bring salvation; the second time he is coming in power and glory to judge. (157)
“So what should we do in the meantime?” he asks. Good question!
Before he answers it, he outlines three possible ways to wait for the end.
3 Ways to Wait
There have been three ways in which Christians have answered our question about Christian calling, especially as we await Christ’s return:
- Triumphalism: We transform the world through our wisdom and resources to make it a better place fit for Christ’s return
- Defeatism: We abandon the world going to hell in a hand-basket, saving who we can and waiting for the end
- Witness-ism: We bear witness to Christ, suffer for that witness, and love and serve our neighbors in our individual worldly callings.
Horton believes this third answer is what we should do in the meantime. He insists it’s the biblical one that recognizes the perennial already-not-yet tension in which we find ourselves. “Christ’s kingdom is already inaugurated and present, yet we wait patiently for the renewal of all things at the end of the age.” (158) While we wait we serve, and serve freely.
Free to Serve
What does God want us to do while we wait? “We are called neither to change the world nor to abandon it but to love and serve our neighbors to the best of our ability.” (164) There’s an aspect of this serving that’s crucial to grasp: We are free to serve, not obliged, because of the gift of salvation.
Horton emphasizes that we live “in a grace and not a debt economy.” Which means “We no longer offer sacrifices for guilt. At last, we are free once again to be thankful, to offer ourselves as ‘living sacrifices’ of praise rather than dead sacrifices of guilt.” (159) As passive receivers of the gift of salvation we are “made active worshipers in a life of thanksgiving that is exhibited chiefly in loving service to our neighbors.” (159) Here’s where our theology meets our discipleship:
God serves us with his saving grace. We do not offer our good works to God as if he should repay us; rather, all good gifts come down to us from God. Then, through us, he serves our neighbors with what they need in daily life. Our good works have nowhere else to go than out to our neighbors who need them. (160)
What Is God’s Will for My Life?
Another way we’ve asked our question about what God wants us to do is, “What is God’s will for my life?” Horton makes an important distinction between God’s revealed will and secret will.
When it comes to answering our question, he says it’s important to realize we only have access to God’s revealed will, which is his moral and saving will in the Bible. So “when it comes to the practical decisions we make in life, we are responsible to discern God’s will only insofar as it is revealed in Scripture.” (166) Everything else belongs to God’s secret will—including the contours of our calling. Which is why Horton advises that we not worry so much about getting it right.
“Don’t worry about the other callings,” Horton advises, “especially those that may lie in the future. Just be who God has called you to be right where you are, with the people he has called you to serve.” (167)
I like Horton’s closing advice: “give up whatever script you may be working on for your life movie. Dig into God’s script and the Holy Spirit will cast you as a character in the greatest story ever told. This is core Christianity.” (168)
Continue exploring the essence of our Christian life and calling in Christ by engaging Core Christianity yourself. Not only will you discover God’s story for your life, you’ll understand God’s will for your life, and why it matters.
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