Why I believe the question “God, what is your will for my life?” belies the Hedonism of our culture and not the Gospel: The Mission of God: part 2: Worldview #13:

Why I believe the question “God, what is your will for my life?” belies the Hedonism of our culture and not the Gospel: The Mission of God: part 2: Worldview #13: May 15, 2023

I discussed in my post two weeks ago that the question, “God, what is your will for my life?” is the wrong question. I suggested a number of reasons why I believe the question is problematic. In this post, I wish to add to the discussion and to contend that the question may actually undermine the Gospel itself.

I drove by a church one time and outside they had a sign that read, “Discover who God created you to be.”

Now this may seem like great advertising for a church. And I am sure that they meant well and that the staff and leadership team were simply trying to reach people and get them in the door.

But if you have been reading this blog for any time, you might suspect that I find the banner troubling.

NB: I have written some posts related to this previously. For example, my two recent posts (here and here) on Easter week in 2023.

The question radically undermines the Gospel.

I would contend that the question, “God, what is your will for my life?” radically undermines the Gospel. How?

Simple: the question places the focus on the individual—what is your will for me? The Gospel, however, is centered on Christ! The Gospel, in fact, calls us to deny ourselves: “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me” (Mark 8:34).

This may not seem like much to many—which I believe is part of the problem—but the difference is significant.

In my estimation, the question betrays a deep-seated self-centeredness that belies the Hedonism of our Enlightenment and post-Enlightenment world and not the Gospel of Christ.

NB: I wrote a series of posts on “What is the Gospel?” Post 1; Post 2; Post 3; Post 4; Post 5.

We also did a Podcast Series in Oct 2021 on, “What is the Gospel?” (search determinetruth podcast wherever you get your podcasts).

The Missio Dei (mission of God)

In order to keep this post brief, I will only remark that we often fail to understand fully what the Missio Dei (the mission of God) is. In short, what is often, if not almost always, omitted from the discussion of the Missio Dei, is the fact throughout the biblical text the mission of God centers on making God known!

Note that the goal of making God known occurs 70x in Ezekiel alone![1]

When it comes to discerning God’s will in other words we must recognize that God’s will begins with making Him known! And, I should note, this begins with making Him known where we are at, not where He wants us to be.

Finding one’s purpose: education is the key to success

Another problem with the question “God, what is your will for my life?” is that one of the keys to achieving one’s goals is education. That is, if one discerns that God wants them to be a _____________ (fill in the blank), in most cases one of the primary keys to attaining this dream is through education.

But the educational system in the US—let alone the question of education globally where many girls/women are denied access to education simply because they are girls/women (and this doesn’t even begin to address the racial disparity in our own system)—is not just.

Sure everyone has access to education in the US, which is great. But not everyone has access to the same education. As I noted in my post on Dec 5, 2022, if we want to overcome poverty and racial injustice, then we need to change the educational system. In that post, I also referenced this article from the Atlantic.

Note: I also wrote on the inequities of our educational system in a post on Sept 14, 2022.

Does God have a specific purpose for each of us?

The question “God, what is your will for my life?” too often assumes that there is some God-ordained purpose for you and it often presumes that you will only be happy when you find it.

But what happens when a person does not attain this purpose?

What happens when things or circumstances which are beyond a person’s control don’t turn out the way they hoped/wanted/dreamed?

What happens when calamity strikes a home, a family, or an individual?; when they get cancer; or a spouse dies; or a child dies; or they get afflicted with an illness or a disability? And what happens to those whose lives have been radically altered by an earthquake, a flood, or an invasion? (again note that I pointed out in my post from two weeks ago that the question assumes a privileged and Western-centric context).

Even more troubling is the question of what happens when an individual makes poor choices and finds themselves incarcerated, disabled, homeless, or in rehab. Are they supposed to feel even more guilty because now they must also come to terms with the fact that they failed to follow God’s will for their lives?

What is a person supposed to do then?

Some blame God because He failed them. After all, others had their dreams fulfilled. So it must not be fair that I don’t have mine!

Still others blame themselves, which only adds to the conviction that they are a failure.

This is one of the problems with many contemporary churches. We come across to many as though we in the church have it all together and everyone else has failed.

This is one of the reasons why many of those outside the church want nothing to do with us or Christianity. After all, they “already feel bad enough” (I put this in quotes because I have heard others say this when explaining why they don’t want to go to a church).

In light of this, I urge you to consider what others might think when they see the sign in front of a church: “Discover who God created you to be.”

Joy in serving others

I would respond by noting that one of the greatest joys comes in serving others.

I would also note that one of the plagues which American families face is the fact that we have become so individualistic and so focused on pursuing “God’s will for my life” that we often neglected our responsibilities to our family.

Now I am not denying that some are not called by God to leave their family and go to the mission field. But what about the rest of us?

The question betrays our privilege.

as I noted in my last post, the question “What is God’s will for my life?” is a question of privilege. Not everyone will be able to do what they most want. As I noted, For many people in the world, survival demands they do what they can.

Does this mean that they are missing “God’s will for them”?

An alternative

What if instead we encouraged others to join us as we strive together to follow Christ and to pursue the peace and joy that comes from being faithful to Him regardless of where life has us at the moment?

Then when calamity strikes our ambitions do not need to change. And we do not need to question God’s love or His fairness (why do others get to pursue their dreams but I have to fight for survival or struggle in my grief?)

Victor Frankl (a doctor whom the Nazis imprisoned in a concentration camp) said, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”[2]

In conclusion

I often conclude my course at the University with a reminder to the students that we were made to bear God’s image and because of this true fulfillment in life comes in living in accordance with God’s design. And God’s design is that we bear His image and make Him known to the world; that we rule over His creation as He would—by laying down our lives in love for one another and for His creation.

Thus, I hope and pray that you find the peace and joy in Christ that comes from following Him and serving others. I hope you find the pleasure that comes from using the gifts that God has given you to glorify God and serve others.

I am not sure, however, that I will pray that you find God’s will for you. This prayer seems too ego-centric.

NB: last week’s post was on Daoud Nassar. I noted that I respect and admire no human being more than him. Today (if you are reading this on May 15, 2023 when it goes live, is the day of his hearing before the Israelis regarding his land. Please be in prayer. And if you are reading this after May 15, 2023, pray anyways. God is outside of time and I am sure he can count your prayers retroactively!!)

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[1] See Ezekiel 6:7, 10, 13, 14; 7:4, 9, 27; 11:10, 12; 12:16, 20; 13:21, 23; 14:8; 15:7; 16:62; 17:24; 20:12, 20, 26, 38, 42, 44; 21:5; 22:16, 22; 23:49; 24:24; 25:5, 7, 11, 14, 17; 26:6; 28:22, 23, 26; 29:6, 9; 16, 21; 30:8, 19, 25, 26; 32:15; 34:27, 30; 35:4, 15; 36:11,23, 38; 37:6, 13, 27; 38:16, 23; 39:6, 7, 22, 28.

[2] Ortberg, John. All the Places to Go . . . How Will You Know?: God Has Placed before You an Open Door.  What Will You Do? (Kindle Locations 127-129). Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

About Rob Dalrymple
Rob Dalrymple is married to his wife Toni and is the father of four fabulous children, and two grandchildren. He has been teaching and pastoring for over 33 years at colleges, seminaries, and the local church. He has a PhD in biblical interpretation. He is the author of four books (including Follow the Lamb: A Guide to Reading, Understanding, and Applying the Book of Revelation & Understanding the New Testament and the End Times: Why it Matters) as well as numerous articles and other publications. He is currently completing a commentary on the book of Revelation titled, “Revelation: a Love Story” (Cascade Books, pending 2024). You can read more about the author here.

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