[The following is from Columbia President Bryan Born’s chapel message – April 9, 2015.]
God’s calling on our lives – it’s an idea that comes up again and again. Many of you are looking ahead, wondering what to do this summer, or next year.
I hope to communicate two things.
1. You don’t need to stress out about the future. God has good things in store for you on the road ahead.
2. Give careful thought to your journey because the choices you make matter.
If you’re paying attention, you may feel that I just expressed a contradiction. First, I said relax about the future; and second I said pay close attention to your decisions.
In your life, you will be faced with multiple choices in the years ahead, and many times, the options before you will be equally good. I have experienced this often. And yet we agonize over these decisions because we’re afraid that we might make the wrong choice: Which job should I take? Which program of study? Where should I study? Am I doing what God is calling me to do? Which girl should I ask on a date?
Like many of you, I’ve tossed and turned at night wrestling with a decision, but I honestly don’t believe that’s what God wants. There’s a well-known verse in Proverbs: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.”
So, my first point – relax… trust God. The choices before us are important, but God will work his plans and purposes in our lives as we trust him. When we walk with God, the path is transformed into a road of righteousness – God makes our paths straight. It is right to take responsibility for our lives, decisions and actions, but don’t try to become god of your own life.
When I went to Bible School in the fall of 1981, I had it all figured out. I was going to Australia, but for some reason my visa didn’t come through. I thought it just wasn’t meant to. Two days before the start of the school year a friend of mine suggested I call a Bible school in Texas, and so I did. I was accepted – and my life was changed. I met Jesus for real for the first time, I was captivated by the biblical story, I connected with a group of friends who have stuck with me for life, and I began to gain a sense of calling into cross-cultural mission. God made my paths straight.
Am I suggesting that you should just sit back and let life happen to you, that you shouldn’t bother trying to find a job or that you should wait until the last minute to register for school? No, not at all. But I am encouraging you to trust God and not worry about every detail. He loves you and cares about you.
While in seminary, a group of friends and I asked one of our professors, “How do you best discern God’s will for your life?” He smiled and said two words, “In retrospect.” In other words, by looking backwards and seeing how God has guided in the past. He knows the way – he’s been faithful in the past; he’ll be faithful in the future.
So what about my second point? I said that you pay close attention to your decisions. Am I contradicting myself? No, you really should pay give careful thought to your choices because they do have consequences.
What I said earlier was not meant to say that decisions don’t matter – they do. The school you attend, the program you take, the friends you make, the person you marry, the job offer you accept – they will make all the difference. You can make bad decisions.
I want to draw your attention to another set of verses from Proverbs 4:25-27:
25 Let your eyes look straight ahead;
fix your gaze directly before you.
26 Give careful thought to the paths for your feet
and be steadfast in all your ways.
27 Do not turn to the right or the left;
keep your foot from evil.”
Here’s how I think it works when it comes to experiencing God’s calling in our lives. There are many paths before us – some of you may choose wonderfully smooth paths that lead to joy, love and contentment. Others may choose extremely challenging paths full of adventure and excitement, paths that will push you to the limit. On those paths, you may discover amazing gifts and talents that you never dreamed you had. For some, and I truly hope it will not be many of you, you will walk a path of pain. It may start out smoothly enough but life happens, and you may be forced to realize just how desperately you need God each and every moment.
When faced with a fork in the road, we try to look into the future as far as we possibly can, but we will never see everything that lies ahead. You plan your life, you make choices, and then stuff happens. But the kind of person you are on the path you choose – your character, your attitudes, the way you treat people, the way you love and laugh and cry, that’s what really matters.
Whatever path you take, trusting God to guide, protect, transform, strengthen and, perhaps even to carry, us along the way is what will make all the difference.
Always remember that ultimately the way we are to go is not a roadmap, but a Person.
So keep your eyes fixed on Jesus. Keep listening to the One who said, “I am the way, the truth and the life,” and he will make your paths straight.