Subtle changes can become seismic shifts over time. Here is a change that is sometimes made with good intentions, but ends up making a mess of our discipleship: We can shift from understanding that our calling is to serve the purpose of God, to believing that God is to serve our purposes. And this shift has a lot to do with fear.
Consider some basic teaching of the Bible. God created the world for his purpose. We didn’t exist at creation to have a purpose of our own. Throughout the Bible, God called people to serve his purposes. King David is a great example. The Lord made David the king to point the way for the future King Jesus (1 Samuel 16; 1 Chronicles 17). As king, David was serving God’s purpose. God was not serving David’ desire to be king. This is made clear in Acts 13:36, where David is said to have served God’s purpose in his generation; then he died.
Now consider the subtle shift. To be more helpful, appealing, and relevant, God is sometimes said to be interested in helping us find our purpose in life. Everyone wants to know their purpose, and the need for purpose can be a doorway into relationship with Christ. But sometimes, something gets confused along the way. We start to think that our purpose is the one we choose for ourselves. Soon, we come to believe that God’s purpose is to serve us so we can fulfill our dreams.
The result of the subtle change related to finding our purpose in life is the seismic shift of believing that discipleship is no longer about denying ourselves, taking up our cross, and following Christ. Discipleship becomes about finding a purpose, dreaming a dream, and then taking God on to help us fulfill it. That’s not the way of Christ.
God has, indeed, created us for a purpose. In Romans 8:28, we are told that God is active in the lives of his children to work all things together for good. The children of God are identified as those who are called according to his purpose. The text doesn’t say God works in the lives of people so they can fulfill the purposes of their choosing. It says that he works in the lives of those called for his purpose. That purpose is to glorify him. We glorify him most when, as Romans 8:29 says, we are being conformed to his Son, Jesus Christ. Our calling and purpose is given to us “in Christ.”
What does this have to do with fear? The purposes of God cannot be thwarted. He will accomplish what he intends. As those who are called to be conformed to Christ, we can be sure that he will bring it to pass. Nothing and no one can stop God. That’s why king David said, “even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil” (Psalm 23). David knew he was a part of God’s purpose. He did not fear because he was sure God would accomplish it.
So many of our fears are rooted in the prospect of unfulfilled purposes and dreams. But for the Christian, this fear is removed when we see ourselves taken up into the purpose of God and come to believe that he will bring it to pass.
Join us Sunday as we continue to hear the word of the Lord to us saying, “Fear not.”