It seems to me that there is a lot of talk among christians today about finding your destiny. I have heard many people talking about the need to pursue our destiny with resoluteness to realize all that God has for us. Many are consumed with the notion that all our experiences are working in our favor to bring us into our destiny. I am not totally sure, but it seems to me that people are talking about an ideal of what our life is going to be at some point in the future. When we get there we will realize our God-given destiny. Often times this is communicated in terms of your dreams or desires for your life. These dreams and desires are meant to be pursued with great passion and the realization of these things in our lives is our destiny.
I was surprised recently when I decided to search out what the bible has to say about destiny. A quick word search in almost any popular translation reveals that the word destiny only appears in one verse. Isaiah 65:11 says: “But you who forsake the LORD, who forget My holy mountain, who set a table for Fortune, and who fill cups with mixed wine for Destiny, I will destine you for the sword, and all of you will bow down to the slaughter.”
This sole reference to destiny in the bible speaks directly to those who have forsaken the Lord by refusing to seek Him and turning to their own table of Fortune and drinking from the cup of Destiny. The most accurate understanding of this word destiny is that it refers to an ancient pagan god called Meni. Meni was a god of Good Luck, possibly the Pleiades, found in ancient astrology. The ancients were believed to worship the constellations in hope of securing some good fortune for their futures. Thus, their destiny was wrapped up in the stars!
Furthermore, the dictionary defines destiny as “the events that will necessarily happen to a particular person or thing in the future; the hidden power believed to control what will happen in the future, i.e. fate.”
If this is the true notion of destiny, then why are so many christians talking about this idea as though it were so close to God’s heart for His children? I believe the answer to this question is twofold:
1. We do not understand the biblical notion of purpose.
2. We are self-centered and actually believe that God’s purpose is about us.
The bible makes numerous references to the purpose of God. Job says of God, “I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted” (Job 42:1). Jesus beseeches the Father to save Him from His time of suffering, but ultimately confirms “for this purpose I came to this hour” (John 12:27). Peter and John say in Acts 4 that many were gathered in Jerusalem to do harm to Jesus, including “Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose predestined to occur” (Acts 4:27-28). In other words, they saw that those who wanted to do harm to Jesus did so according to the purpose of God. Paul says in Acts 20:27 that he “did not shrink from declaring to you the whole purpose of God.” God’s purpose was even directed toward the pagan ruler Pharaoh (see Romans 9:17).
The idea of purpose is nowhere more clear than in the book of Ephesians where Paul declares that we have “obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will” (Eph. 1:11). He goes on to say in chapter 3 that he preached the unfathomable riches of Christ so that the manifold wisdom of God might be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places. All this, Paul says, is in accordance with the eternal purpose which He carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord (Eph. 3:8-12). Paul expresses this notion of purpose even further in 2 Timothy 1:9 when he says, God “saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity.”
Other references speak clearly to God’s purpose for the life of the believer; they include sexual purity (1 Thess. 4:1-8), godliness (1 Tim. 4:7), prayer (1 Peter 4:7), and suffering (1 Peter 2:21).
The most important aspect of purpose is that it originates from God and is related directly to our identity in Jesus. It is not something that differs from person to person. It is something that has been predetermined by God in Jesus. He has made it this way so that we could all know beyond a shadow of a doubt what He wants for us in this life. He desires for us to walk in His purpose for us and He has made it very clear what His purpose is. His purpose is for us to be conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren (Rom. 8:28-29).
The wonderful truth about the purpose of God is that we can all enter into and pursue it at any time in our lives. We do not have to wait for certain events to happen in our lives to prepare us for our purpose. This may be true in the notion of destiny but it is a foreign concept in the purpose of God. The purpose of God for our lives is something altogether different from what we do. It is not a certain calling or vocation. It is not a specific place in life in which we find ourselves and all of the sudden life takes on special meaning because of the external circumstances. The purpose of God is all about who He wants us to be and us growing in that reality every day. The beauty about the purpose of God is that it never changes and it is not something we have to struggle to understand. It is simple yet profound. It is knowing Him more and experiencing His transforming power in our lives no matter what we may or may not ever achieve in this life by way of some external expression.
This leads us to consider the second answer to our question: we are self-centered and actually believe that God’s purpose is about us. If we are not careful, we can come to the place that we actually believe that God’s eternal purpose is about us and our personal destiny. Nothing could be farther from the truth and nothing can be more harmful to the life of a believer. Self-centeredness is the sure path to unfulfillment and dissatisfaction. If we spend our efforts and energy to pursue our future thinking that we will one day find ourselves in some place in life where we will experience our destiny, we are missing the point as children of God. Such an approach actually moves in contradiction to the purpose of God for our lives. I realize that I run the risk here of being misunderstood and possibly criticized for my ideas. However, we need to be reminded that the christian life is about losing our life so that His life can be manifested in and through us. God’s purpose for our lives does not consist of everything we could ever aspire to do or be in this world. We are called to lose everything so that we may gain Christ; and that includes our dreams, desires and anything else we would try to find our identity in. This is not a popular message in a world where self reigns supreme.
God’s purpose is meant to be walked out daily, without any thought of the future. Jesus expressly commanded us to give no thought for tomorrow. There is more than enough to give ourselves to in the pursuit of the purpose of God every day. Such a pursuit never proves in vain because it has Jesus as its goal. He never disappoints and He alone can fill the longings of our heart. The quest for the purpose of God in our lives is a never ending process because it has as its aim the eternal Son of God.
So, if by destiny one means the pursuit and realization of God’s ultimate and supreme purpose that He determined for us in Christ to share in His very life, then let us pursue our destinyabove all else. However, if we see that God’s purpose is something far different than our limited, self-centered pursuit for our destiny, let us turn from this way of thinking and find the joy and freedom that comes in abiding in Him.