Between my own college experience, and the time I now spend with college students, I have had a lot of conversations around the idea of God’s purpose for our lives. It’s a fair question: “What does God want me to do?” Now, I am going to go out on a limb here and guess that most people ask this question with the hope that God has something great in mind for them. No one asks this question hoping to hear God say, “Well, glad you asked, Timmy! I have a life of utter insignificance planned for you in rural Texas!” No. I have no doubt that God has called us all to greatness. Granted, God’s idea of greatness is fundamentally different than our own (see Mark 10: 35-44). However, it is possible to do great things in this world by living into God’s vision of greatness. Take Mother Theresa for example. Or Jesus. Nevertheless, my point is that when we ask God what he wants us to do, I think we are really asking God to give us something great to do. I think we are really asking, “Hey, God, can I matter? Please?”
Now, while I believe it is good and important to ask God what he would have you do in this life, and I think it’s important for people to want to do great things, I don’t think that is all it takes. There is another part of this equation. In order to be great, and to matter, we have to be willing to accept that greatness, at least in God’s terms, is going to require sacrifice—especially of ourselves, which sucks because that’s the hardest kind of sacrifice. So while I imagine God is pleased when we ask him to make us matter, I also imagine him responding to our question of “Can I matter?” with the question of “Do you want to matter?” Naturally, this question confuses us because that is exactly what we just asked for. Imagine going to a restaurant and ordering a cheeseburger, and then the person working says “Do you really want a cheeseburger?” Yes. That is why I just asked you to give me one.
Why would God respond to us like this?
Well, my guess is for two reasons: One, because to be great in his kingdom requires a sacrifice of ourselves, which I have already said is the hardest sacrifice for us to make. And, two, because my guess is that when you look back at our lives and consider all of the things we have done, it’s probably hard to imagine that we actually want our choices to affect the lives of other people. Greatness by definition means important and influential. To be great means that your choices and actions have consequences, not just for yourself but for the people around you. The greater you are, the more you affect those around you. Consider the President of the U.S. He wields great power. So much, in fact, that a decision he makes in Washington D.C. directly affects our lives here in Seattle. That’s a pretty big reach.
Maybe you are reading this and thinking, “Yes, I want that. I want to make decisions that affect those around me.” Well, good news, you already have that power. Yup, you heard me. Your decisions affect the people around you already. No one makes decisions in a vacuum. Think about that. Does it make you wonder if some of the choices you have been making lately are the best for you and the people you love? I remember when I went through my partying phase in college and my mom would tell me she wished I wouldn’t drink alcohol like I did. I would just smile and tell her not to worry. Now I consider all of the accidents I have heard about lately involving alcohol, some of which have led to people dying, and I can’t help but wonder how many times something could have gone wrong for me when I was drunk.
One characteristic of our generation that is both very prominent and very annoying to me is the way we both crave significance, and trivialize our decisions. If we want God to eventually put us in positions where our decisions make a significant impact in this world, I suggest we start treating the decisions we make today as though they are just as important. It’s a type of stewardship. Just like managing your money well when you have very little of it will help you develop good habits for when you actually have money, I think making good decisions now, when your impact is limited, will set us up to be greater, Godlier decision makers in the future.