How many times have you heard it said, “You can do anything you set your mind to”? As great as that sounds, there are many bothersome things with that statement, the least of which is that it is flatly wrong. When I was a young ridiculous teenager, many, many years ago, I was a Beatles fanatic. I would dream about being on stage singing “She Loves You” with thousands of girls screaming for me, and, of course, being able to perform so well. I started taking guitar lessons and was certain I would be turning heads in no time.
Then reality began to set in. After years of effort, that golden voice that resonated in the shower, that made me certain girls would be chasing me down the block when I left my house, was typically way off key when heard in the real world. Not to mention other missing traits, excellent guitar skills, superb song writing skills, rhythm…sadly the list goes on. As I got older it became clear, I will never be a Beatle. DUH! This was simply absurd, as is our propositional phrase. God had gifted those men with extraordinary abilities, and no amount of practice, money, or coaching could ever cause these abilities to inhere in me.
Yes, reality does at times suck. And, can you imagine if we could do ANYTHING we set our mind to? There have been times I’ve wished for some dreadful things. I am grateful I wasn’t able to accomplish any of them—thank God for my limitations. HUH? Yes, we are fallen creatures with the ability to do great harm. Limitations, among other things, limit the damage we can do.
The phrase “You can do anything you set your mind to” is only true for one person, really three persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Only a being that possess omnipotence and complete sovereignty over all things can produce and guarantee a particular outcome. How unbelievably fortunate we are that our God possess these wonderful qualities and is also good, perfect, and without error or malice. Otherwise we would be doomed.
It’s really the word ANYTHING that kills the phrase. Still, most people, at one stage, or even several stages in their life, ask the question, what CAN I do with my life? Is it too lofty to believe that we have something special to offer? No. The Lord himself not only encourages it, but has also ordained it:
“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:10 KJV
Aside from the fact that the works are to be good, the phrase “God hath before ordained” means that God had been intimately involved in planning our lives before we were born, and with that has instilled in us the traits necessary to achieving these plans, though we may not know it, or maybe we do? God is not limited in what he can instill in any human being, that is, within the bounds of what he has decided a human being can or can’t be.
For example, he gave David the power and skill necessary to defeat lions and bears in hand-to-hand combat. And who can forget he was given the ability to defeat Goliath. God had ordained this for David. I don’t believe anyone else could have defeated Goliath, but David. If we pause here as David is faced with the challenge of Goliath, and ask the question, what can David do with his life at this instant, we can see that God had provided the evidence David needed to make his decision. The question arises, did David have any assurance that he could do this? The obvious and typical answer is, yes, of course. David had great faith in his mighty God. This is true, but the more relevant question, is, did David believe God could and would do this through him? That is the question at the core after all, right? He knew, in the Lord, he could overcome incredible odds from his experiences fighting lions and bears. In David’s case, I would argue that he was provided sufficient reason for trusting that God would use him this way. David was keenly aware that God had been working in his life from long ago as we can see from his words in this Psalm:
“For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb. I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth; Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; And in Your book were all written The days that were ordained for me, When as yet there was not one of them.” Psalm 139:13-16 NASB
We must do away with the notion that God only started working in our lives when we got saved, when in reality He started in eternity past and continued through our birth to present day.
Furthermore, we must be aware of any unwillingness in us to do what God has prepared for us, as it was in a certain great figure from the past. Long before David, was Moses. Raised in the Pharaoh’s household, he became intimately familiar with the ways and mindset of this aristocracy. And they with him. God did not choose at random, a man to lead his people from bondage in Egypt. He purposed to use Moses and orchestrated circumstances that lead to Moses being taken from his true family and placed in the palace of Pharaoh to be reared in Egyptian culture. All this was done to prepare Moses for his future calling. Unfortunately for Moses, unlike David, when his time came, he did not greet it with open arms. He was resistant and full of excuses. He did not see himself as fitting the part. He did not consider his history as being woven by the sovereign hand of God to prepare him for this day. Thankfully, God in His mercy condescended to Moses concerns, and appointed Aaron to be his mouthpiece. This is a wonderful picture of how God is willing to help us succeed in doing what he has called us to do.
One last example from the life and ministry of Paul. Being the humble guy, he was, Paul said:
“Although I myself have confidence even in the flesh. If anyone has a mind to put confidence in the flesh, I far more: circumcised the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law a Pharisee; as to zeal a persecutor of the church; as to the righteousness that is in the law, found blameless.” Philippians 3:4-6 NASB
Yes, yes, he does say in the next verse that whatever things were gain, he now counts as loss, but this is meant in the sense that it is not those things that contribute to his salvation and relationship to Jesus. The things he calls out here did have value in Paul’s ministry. And the Lord is the one who sovereignly instilled them in him and did so before Paul came to know Jesus. Paul’s vast knowledge of the scriptures contributed greatly to his ability to express how Jesus fulfilled the messianic scriptures. Most Christian biblical scholars, if not all, consider Paul to be the greatest theologian that ever lived. His knowledge, under the power of the Holy Spirit, has given the Church a great understanding of the essence and power of the Gospel. This, along with his zeal for the Gospel, allowed him to spread the message to so many, in the face of great adversity. This man was well prepared beforehand by God. We can easily see how God used these divinely instilled qualities strategically for spreading the Gospel.
You may say these are lofty examples, and I’ll never be a Paul, David, or Moses, and you would be correct in saying so. God does not need you to be Paul, David, or Moses. He needs you to be you. You are at your best when you are being the person God made YOU to be. You Christian, are the missing part in someone’s life, or in some community or church. YOUR effectiveness may be on hold until YOU discover from the experiences YOU’VE had, the way YOU feel, the convictions YOU hold, the skills YOU embody, the sufferings YOU’VE endured, and even from the weaknesses YOU possess, that YOU have something precious to offer, instilled by the hand of God.
Think through your life experiences from as far back as you can remember, both good and bad. How did people and events affect your life? What drives you? What do you feel deeply about, and why? What things have you learned to do well? What skills have others noticed in you?
Instead of just thinking about these things, write them down…it will help to paint a clearer and more useful picture.
Lord, help me to open my heart and mind to what you have instilled in me. Help me to understand who you have made me to be and do. Help me to let you use my life, that it may be profitable for you. Amen.
Guest Discerning Dad
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