If I never hear another sermon on “Divine Destiny” it’ll be too soon!
Prepared For Destiny, Destiny By Choice, Five Destiny Killers, Three Steps to Obtaining Your Destiny, Fight For Your Destiny…
Too many Christians spend too much time, too much energy, and too much money trying to discover their destiny. They’re more rapt to find their destiny than intent on knowing God and doing his will. The former is abstract, the latter practical.
It’s not so much a theological objection to a Calvinistic view of a fixed future that I’m talking about here. I have some serious objections to that system of theological reflection, but we could debate that another day.
Aside from the ostentatious sound of the word “Destiny!”, I have a problem with how it is commonly framed in super-faith sermons. You know the kind, the ones preached to rally the troops dosed with spiritual meth: “You have an awesome destiny, one with of plenty and power and productivity! Live into your destiny!”
I get it. Really I do. We all need a sense of divinely ordained future; nevertheless “destiny” just doesn’t do it for me. Not only is it too glitzy for my taste, it’s not exactly biblical, at least not in the sense that it’s typically employed by mega-crowd preachers, the sort that Thomas Merton calls, “Preachers of sunshine and uplift!”
If you search the term on your Bible App you might want to brace yourself for some disappointment. It isn’t used the way the guy in the $10,000 suit uses it. I’m not trying to be a downer here, but I think it’s as important to know what God hasn’t prescribed as it is to know what he has.
“Destiny” appears in the NIV Bible ten times, and in no case does it refer to the spectacular future you hear about in Discover Your Destiny conferences. Each time it speaks of the destiny of the disobedient, the “destination” for those who jump on and stay on the wrong flight!
“Such is the destiny of all who forget God…
“Death is the destiny of everyone…
“Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame.”
Not exactly the pre-game pep-talk you’d expect from Sunday’s sermon on destiny-finding.
The most disturbing selection among them is from Isaiah’s rebuke to his people:
“But as for you who forsake the LORD and forget my holy mountain, who spread a table for Fortune and fill bowls of mixed wine for Destiny, I will destine you for the sword, and all of you will fall in the slaughter!” (Isaiah 65:11)
Some other versions say:
“You have prepared feasts to honor the god of Fate and have offered mixed wine to the god of Destiny…
“You offer to the gods of luck and fate…
“You have prepared a table for the god of good fortune and offered cups full of spiced wine to the goddess of destiny.”
Apparently in those days, destiny had its own god and goddess!
Though it doesn’t include the term itself, the go-to verse for destiny preachers is Jeremiah 29:11 (“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”)
I know of no verse in the Bible more quoted and more often misused than this one, but I’ll leave you to read my posts on it if you want to take the time.
Okay, if destiny-seeking doesn’t connote a biblical value, what’s the alternative?
I’m partial to terms like “calling” and “purpose.” While they might not be as glamorous as destiny, it’s my opinion that they convey something more in keeping with God’s way and his Word. Of the dozens, if not hundreds of passages on this topic, I call your attention to just one. It comes to us as an excerpt in one of Paul’s prayers for his friends in Thessalonica:
We constantly pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may fulfill every good purpose of yours and every act prompted by your faith. (2 Thessalonians 1:11)
Allow me to highlight three pieces that stand out to me.
May God make you worthy of his calling…
There’s a general calling to salvation and a personal calling to service. To be “worthy” of either can only be attributed to grace! God’s grace is more than sufficient to forgive our unworthiness and transform us into worthy vessels into whom, and through whom, he pours his love.
“Calling” is a pregnant word, which brings to mind a God who appeals to us, calls out to us––sometimes shouting, sometimes whispering. He invites us into what he’s up to. Could there be anything loftier than being welcomed into God’s grand plan?
“Destiny,” with all its glamour, has the ring of a theoretical path on which God places us and from there we go it alone! Truth is, he’s “calling” us to himself and into an adventure that we experience with him!
By his power may he fulfill every good purpose of yours…
I’m partial to the word “purpose.” It conveys one of the first things I experienced after getting born again. I realized almost immediately that I was here on purpose. There’s a reason I am on the planet. Not only did I feel clean, but clean for something!
God made me on purpose, saved me on purpose, and calls me into the purposes he conjured in eternity. I still wake up most mornings looking to tap into that grand purpose and how I can live on purpose today.
I would’ve expected Paul to say “every good purpose of God’s,” but he doesn’t. He refers to “every good purpose of yours.” It’s not “our purpose” in the sense that we get to make it up and God will fulfill it. He’s saying that there’s a fellowship with God that is so intimate and our devotion to him so complete that his purpose becomes ours. When our hearts beat in sync with his heart his purpose for us migrates into our souls and becomes literally ours!
You can call it divine “destiny” if you want, but divinely inserted purpose makes more sense to me.
One last thing…
And every act prompted by your faith.
Faith prompts action. The way God leads us to do something is to insert faith in our hearts for it. When I am wondering if God is asking me to join him in some activity I assess whether or not I can see myself, by faith, doing it. It’s faith that “prompts” me to take some particular action. I’m not looking for my destiny, but identifying the faith necessary to do the thing I’m called to do today!
To my mind, Paul’s prayer reflects a process quite different than some airy notion of “living into your destiny.” Granted, destiny has more pizzazz, but for my money, it communicates something at which you arrive and leaves the Spirit out of the equation and removes the day-to-day adventure of walking closely with him in faith.
So rather than spinning your wheels trying to reach your destiny, I encourage you to accept God’s invitation into his purpose for you. Sidle up so near him that you can hear his whisper and the pounding of his heart. If you’ll let your heart begin to beat in sync with his you’ll know how he wants you to live and what he wants you to do.
Then do it!