Cathedral Age is pleased to bring readers regular feature articles by prominent guest contributors. this issue’s guest writer is evangelical pastor and best-selling author rick warren.
Every New Year we make resolutions and plan for the future. But this year, I want you to look beyond 2012. What do you think God wants you to do in the next ten years? Where do you think he wants you to be? As you think about those questions, I want to tell you about five things God will use to help you fulfill your mission in life.
Gifts and Talents
Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received. —1 Peter 4:10
The first step toward fulfilling God’s mission is to recognize and understand the unique gifts he’s given you. These gifts include the things you can’t control—your parents, your nationality, your race, your language—but they also include your shape: your spiritual gifts, heart, abilities, personality, and experiences. These are the things that make you uniquely you.
You are not responsible for the gifts God didn’t give you. In other words, if you are not artistically gifted, you are not expected to paint like Rembrandt. But you are responsible for the gifts he did give you.
When you get to heaven, God isn’t going to compare you with anyone else, but he will compare you with yourself. What did you do with what you were given? What could you have done if you had trusted God a little bit more? Romans 14:12 says, “Each of us will be accountable to God.”
In the Hebrew Scriptures, we’re told Esther had three assets that God gave her to use to fulfill her destiny. She was intelligent, beautiful, and she had an attractive personality. Because of these qualities, “Esther was admired by all who saw her. … The king loved Esther more than all the other women; of all the virgins she won his favor and devotion, so that he set the royal crown upon her head and made her queen” (Esther 2:15b, 17).
God gave Esther these gifts for a purpose. God has given you gifts for a purpose. And just like Esther, you have a responsibility to be a good steward of those gifts—not for selfish uses, but for the good of others. Your gifts are not for your benefit. God gave you gifts for the benefit of other people.
To know your destiny, you have to know your talents and decide how to use them. So I want you to make a list of the gifts God has given you. Don’t forget to include your shape and the things you can’t control. Ask yourself, “What has God given me to use for good?”
God will use your weaknesses as well as your strengths. Let’s look at Esther again. She had several big limitations that made her perfect for the role God wanted her to fulfill. She was an orphan adopted by Mordecai; she was a minority, a Jew living in a Persian country; and she was a single woman. A single woman in a male-dominated society had zero rights.
God used all of these things, along with the gifts of her beauty, brains, and personality, to fulfill her destiny. Think about it. If she had been a married man, she wouldn’t have become queen. And if she hadn’t been a minority, she wouldn’t have cared about the Jews and what was going to happen to them.
Sometimes what looks like a disaster in your life is part of a much bigger plan. But you will never fulfill your destiny if you are having a pity party. Esther could have just said, “If only I hadn’t been chosen, if only I wasn’t Jewish, if only I was like someone else.” A lot of people do that. They live their lives in resentment, always looking at people and saying, “Well, it must be nice to be them.”
If you have that attitude you will never fulfill your destiny. You have to realize that the unpleasant obstacles in your life are often God-ordained opportunities to make a difference.
I know it is hard to see that when you’re in pain. Look at Job. He was the wealthiest man in the world, and then God allowed everything to be taken from him: his family, his wealth, his health. And when Job started asking God why, he was silent. Job said, “On the left he hides, and I cannot behold him; I turn to the right, but I cannot see him … but he stands alone, and who can dissuade him? What he desires, that he does. For he will complete what he appoints for me; and many such things are in his mind” (Job 23:9-10, 13-14).
You might be in a situation right now, where everything is going wrong and you can’t figure it out. But God knows. Nothing in your life is accidental. The pleasures and pains, the opportunities and obstacles, God can use it all. There is nothing God cannot use for good in your life if you’ll give it to him.
When Esther’s maids and her eunuchs came and told her, the queen was deeply distressed. —Esther 4:4
What are the things that stir your heart? What is it that upsets you? What causes you to think, “Somebody ought to do something about that”? Whatever it is, that should give you insight into the mission God planned for you. My wife, Kay, calls it being seriously disturbed. It bothers you so much that it moves you to action.
Esther’s servant tells her that her uncle, Mordecai, is publicly mourning because of Haman’s plot and the king’s decree to kill all the Jews (chapter 4). When she hears what Mordecai is doing, it deeply disturbs her. She probably thinks that a lot of people will die unless she does something.
Does anything disturb you, or is your life so insulated that nothing makes you say, “Somebody ought to do something about that”? Saddleback Church became the leading church in America in the fight against hiv/aids because Kay read an article in Newsweek that said 14 million children had been orphaned by hiv/aids— and it seriously disturbed her. And she’s not alone. In our church there are more than 300 ministries started by people in our congregation who saw a problem, a need, a hurt, or an injustice, and decided to do something about it.
Isaiah 58:6–11 gives ten amazing promises to those who act on injustice. God promises that his favor will shine on you, your wounds will be healed, he will always be with you, he will save you and protect you, he will answer your prayers, he will turn darkness to light. He will guide you, satisfy you with good things, and keep you strong and well.
All of those promises are built on being generous with people less fortunate because God wants us to learn generosity. Make a list of the needs you see that disturb you. Then pray and ask God to show you ways you can use your gifts to make a difference.
Perhaps you have come to royal dignity for just such a time as this. —Esther 4:14
To fulfill your mission, you must take the time to understand God’s call in your life. God doesn’t recruit you without a calling. God calls everybody to use the gifts and the passions that they have, but not everyone engages their mission. The only way you’re going to hear is if you listen. You’ve got be quiet, you’ve got to get alone and spend time with God.
When Mordecai sends Esther word that the Jews are going to be annihilated, he essentially says, “Don’t think that you can just ignore this disturbing trend. Yeah, I know it’s been tough, but this is your destiny. God put you here. It’s no accident that you are a Jewish girl and now the queen of Persia” (4:13–14).
It’s important to read on and see Esther’s response to Mordecai: “Go, gather all the Jews to be found … and hold a fast on my behalf, and neither eat or drink for three days. … I and my maids will also fast as you do. After that I will go to the king, though it is against the law” (4:15).
Esther knows confronting the king is likely to mean certain death. She’s going to have to use her gifts of beauty, brains, and personality to persuade him. But before she goes to see him, she sets aside three days to fast and pray before God.
When you are seeking God’s call on your life, you need to follow Esther’s example. First get all the support you can. Esther had Mordecai and the Jews pray for her. You need to get your small group to support you in prayer. If you don’t have a small group, now is the time to find one.
And second, you need extended time alone with God. I want to encourage you to schedule a retreat with God. Whether it’s overnight, a weekend, or longer, you won’t hear God’s call in your life if you don’t get alone with him.
Freedom to Choose
The final thing you need to do to is to make a faith commitment. It’s not enough just to talk about your calling and set some goals. You need to decide to go for it. Esther knew that going to the king was risky and that it could lead to her death. She was afraid to go, but she knew it was the right thing to do. And she said, “If I perish, I perish” (Esther 4:16).
That’s a faith commitment. Until you know what you are willing to die for, you are not ready to live; you just exist. But when you understand your destiny, and you know what God has called you to do, you’re willing to go for it. You’re willing to abandon everything. Knowing what God has called you to do and making the faith commitment to do it means setting goals. The best way I can put it is this: You can only manage what you measure.
This is an important principle of life. If you don’t have specific goals that can be measured, your goal will just be a pipe dream. You won’t be any better; you won’t be any different from how you are today. But you don’t just set any goals; you set your goals with faith. Why? Because Jesus said, “According to your faith let it be done to you” (Matthew 9:29b).
The next ten years of your life could be the most important of your life. God placed you here and now for such a time as this.
This article © 2011 by Rick Warren. All rights reserved. Used by permission.