I wish God would just give me the map for my life that showed exactly what decisions to make and where I was going to end up. I would probably say, “Thanks for the map! See you in heaven!” Then I would proceed through all the checkpoints in my own self-effort. The problem is that I would trust the map more than the One who gave me the map. But God has more for me in life than a map. He wants to be in relationship with me, for me know to him and be known by him. He wants my heart more than he wants my feet. He wants my faith-effort, not my self-effort.
The Apostle Paul’s purpose came from a personal encounter with Jesus Christ. The same is true for us. Our purpose grows out of a personal relationship and encounter with Jesus Christ. When I was sixteen and coming out of depression, I had one of those personal encounters with Christ. One where I knew I had to make a choice about what I was going to choose to believe. I had another personal encounter and revival with Jesus when I went through a discipleship program at the age of thirty. Both encounters gave me a renewed sense of purpose and a fresh vision for what God had for my life. I didn’t go into those times seeking purpose and a plan for my life. Honestly I was simply seeking to know him more.
Paul was on the way to Damascus to find Christians and kill them because he believed that was the right thing to do. But when Paul got closer to Damascus, a bright light from heaven blinded him and he heard a voice say, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” (Acts 9:5 ESV) The ironic thing is that Saul was persecuting the Christians in an effort to please God. The problem was that he knew a lot about God, but he did not know God. So when God came to him, he did not recognize him. He was so busy trying to do the right thing that he missed who God really was. His actions were based on a wrong belief about who God was and what God wanted.
More than seeking purpose or seeking God’s will, the first thing we must seek is to know him. Often we point to Jeremiah 29:11 when we are talking about finding God’s will. But one of my favorite verses that we often overlook comes after that. This is what the passage says: “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for wholeness and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me. When you seek me with all your heart, I will be found by you, declares the Lord.” (Jeremiah 29:11-14 ESV)
Every journey begins with one step. Often the journey begins with a step toward him. Even if you don’t have the big picture map of where you are going, do you know what the next step is that God is asking you to take? Maybe it’s a consistent time in the Word, a Bible study or finding a new church to attend. Maybe it’s to rest and take a break from all your self-effort, to stop all of your doing and listen. Often we overlook this step because it doesn’t answer the urgent question we have about God’s will in our lives. Seeking God sounds too simple or we don’t believe it would really work. But the truth is he wants your heart because when he has your heart and you know his voice, then he can take your feet anywhere he needs them to go. God wants us to depend on him, not just for the big picture, but for every step, every breath, along the way. Will you trust him for the next step?