stories and reflections of grace, growth and godliness

Searching for Significance

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In this world, significance is often about prominence, position and power. In short, it was the kind of significance that James and John were seeking from Jesus, that is, to be seen with Him in His glory, seated beside Him and to be served by others. Yet in the Kingdom of God, significance is ultimately about doing God’s will and invariably demands our servanthood, service and sacrifice.

Jesus’ servanthood, service and sacrifice were completely subversive! Why? Because of who He was – the Son of God! He could command even the wind and the waves (Mark 4:41). As the Lord, He could have legitimately demanded to be served! Yet He came not be served but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45).

While Jesus demonstrated servanthood, service and sacrifice as the Son of God, the key significance of all that He did was that He did them in obedience to the will of God the Father! This is true significance – when we serve God in humble servanthood and willing sacrifice, in total submission to His will.

What then is God’s will for me? In this enquiry, three perspectives have helped me over the years.

The first perspective is found in Henry Blackaby’s book, Experiencing God, where he insightfully wrote:[1]

“What is God’s will for my life?” is not the best question to ask. The better inquiry is: “What is God’s will?” Because people are naturally self-centred, we tend to view the whole world – even God’s activity – in terms of our own lives. Of course we want to know what we should do and how events will affect us. But that is actually an invested life-perspective. Once I know God’s will, then my life gains its proper perspective and I can adjust my life to Him and to His purposes.   

Blackaby was right. While the question “What is God’s will for my life?” may seem to be an earnest spiritual question to ask, it has a subtle “me-centredness” to it (especially if in the statement, the “G” in “God” was a font size 12 and the “m” in “my” was a font size 72!).

The second perspective was given by a Christian leader who shared that he was often saddened by how people would restlessly seek to know “God’s will for their lives”, but would casually neglect to learn and live out God’s already revealed, known will in the Bible. What is God’s already revealed, known will? Here are some examples. Husbands, are we loving our wives as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself up for her (Ephesians 5:25-28)? Do we honour our father and mother (Ephesians 6:1-3)? Fathers, do we provoke our children (Ephesians 6:4)? Church family, are we kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave us (Ephesians 4:32)? Do we love our neighbour as ourselves (Mark 12:31)? Do we flee from sexual immorality (1 Corinthians 6:18)? Do we do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with our God (Micah 6:8)? God’s commands are part of His revealed, known will. And God has given them to us for our good and blessing when we obey them (Deuteronomy 28:1-14).

The third perspective comes from understanding God’s clear will for us to become conformed to the image of His Son (Rom 8:29: 2 Cor 3:18; 1 John 3:2). As such, who I become is not determined by what happens to me but how I choose to respond to it. If I am growing to become more like Christ as a result of any particular situation, I can be sure that I am in God’s will!

In the early years of my life, I thought I was called to be a pastor. Yet the way in which subsequent circumstances unfolded, accompanied by the counsel I received then, pointed me instead to a different direction. Many times, I wrestled. At various times, this negatively affected me and stressed the relationships around me. Then one day God broke in and there was a breakthrough! A key way it came to me was through the reflections of Os Guiness in his book, The Call, where he wrote: [2]

Calling is the truth that God calls us to Himself so decisively that everything we are, everything we do, and everything we have is invested with a special devotion and dynamism lived out as a response to His summons and service.

I then realised that God’s calling for me was not first to a vocation. It was first a calling unto Himself. Do you know what happened when I heeded this primary call? Before God, I was convicted of my ugliness, restlessness, pridefulness and presumptuousness. I found myself unworthy to even think I could be a pastor (a bit of an Isaiah 6-type of experience). I learnt that I needed to die to myself. Hence I believe that Dietrich Bonhoeffer was spot on when he said succinctly, “When Christ calls a person, he bids him come and die.” [3]

How does one ascertain the will of God? I believe that a key approach is get our heart into the right posture. This was the personal practice of the 19th Century German Christian evangelist George Muller, whose first step was “to get my heart into such a state that it has no will of its own in regard to a given matter.[4] I highly recommend Muller’s six steps – wise, sound and practical – for our application to matters in our lives today (see Muller’s article “How I Ascertain the Will of God?” in the resources section, below).

Yet ascertaining God’s will is not a one-time question or decision. We must make “the conscious, wholehearted and intentional choice to radically realign our lives to God’s will on a daily basis” (Rev Barney Lau, IDMC Conference 2020, Whole Life Discipleship, Session 1).

Ultimately, God’s will, as it was for Christ, is for Christ’s disciples all about victory through the cross! The Lord Jesus Christ says to all of us without exception: “If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me” (Luke 9:23). However, as Rev Edmund Chan incisively pointed out:

We can talk about the cross, write about the cross, but we fail to take up the cross. … Many Christians are too self-centred to deny the self and too fearful to take up the cross! And so, instead of taking up the cross, we end up dragging it around! The cross becomes a burden. Discipleship is easier for the Christian who takes up the cross and is crucified on it. We struggle greatly with its weight and with its pain when we drag the cross around.

(IDMC Conference 2020, Whole Life Discipleship, Session 2)

What then is the bottom line in regard to God’s will? It is that seeking and living out God’s will is a daily, lifelong and whole-life journey – one that requires our continually and completely surrendering, a dying daily and a dying wholly to our own will, so that we may give in to and live unto God’s good, acceptable and perfect will (Romans 12:1-2)!

Written by Pastor Kirk Tan   

Do check out the recommended resources, below. We pray that they will be helpful to you in your search for significance in life.

SERMON

Searching for Significance from Somebody to Servant”, by Rev Dr Chua Chung Kai: https://sermonresources.cefc.org.sg/file/1585

SCRIPTURE

Mark 10:35-45

Mark 12:28-31

Ephesians 4:25-32

Ephesians 6:1-4

1 Corinthians 6:15-20

Micah 6:6-8

Deuteronomy 28:1-14

Romans 8:28-30

Luke 9:23-25

Romans 12:1-2

ARTICLE, BOOKS & IDMC CONFERENCE MATERIALS

George Mueller, “How I Ascertain the Will of God?”: https://www.georgemuller.org/devotional/how-i-ascertain-the-will-of-god

Henry T. Blackaby and Claude V. King, Experiencing God: Knowing and Doing the Will of God, Rev. & expanded. (Nashville, Tenn: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2008).

Os Guinness, The Call: Finding and Fulfilling the Central Purpose of Your Life (Nashville, Tenn: W Pub. Group, 2003).

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship, 1st Touchstone ed. (New York: Touchstone, 1995).

IDMC Conference 2020, Whole Life Discipleship, Sessions 1-7. (You can order a copy of the full set of videos at http://cefc.ch/idmc2020-preorder)

SONGS

All to Jesus I Surrender”, performed by Robin Mark: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SW8EA7DEQ2M

With All I Am”, by Hillsong Worship: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mUtJz7H_DCE


[1] Henry T. Blackaby and Claude V. King, Experiencing God: Knowing and Doing the Will of God, Rev. & expanded. (Nashville, Tenn: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2008), 31 (emphasis added).

[2] Os Guinness, The Call: Finding and Fulfilling the Central Purpose of Your Life (Nashville, Tenn: W Pub. Group, 2003), 4 (emphasis added).

[3] Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship, 1st Touchstone ed. (New York: Touchstone, 1995), 110 (emphasis added).

[4] George Mueller, “How I Ascertain the Will of God?”: https://www.georgemuller.org/devotional/how-i-ascertain-the-will-of-god (accessed 18 Sep 2020; emphasis added).