Episode 1. The Roadblock Between You and Your Destiny
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At some point we get this sense that there’s some destiny out there for us – something we’re missing out on. And yet for many people there’s a roadblock – a big one – between them, and …
In this electronic age in which we live, identity theft is the big new crime. If someone can steal your identity … well … they can own everything you own, but what if you and I aren’t really sure of our identity in the first place? What if you and I woke up one day and simply didn’t know who we were? Then what would we have?
Lost Without a Passport
I remember once a few years back being at the airport in Christchurch, New Zealand. My international flight from Australia was late in getting in, and I had to race to make a last domestic connection that night to my final destination – Wellington, New Zealand’s capital. And in the rush, I left my passport lying in one of those luggage trolleys at the international terminal – something I didn’t realise until I was checking in on the domestic flight at the next terminal. Oh, panic attack! Can you imagine losing your passport while you’re overseas? No passport, no identity. Now what? How could I tell people that it was me? I couldn’t leave the country; I couldn’t stay there … It turns out that our identity is very important.
I’ve never forgotten that, and in a very real sense, the same is true in life. We need to know the answer to that all-important question: Who am I? Other people need to know who we are. It’s so basic; it’s so fundamental, and yet so many people don’t have a deep sense of who they really are. It’s a problem deep-down, and it’s not something we talk about much, but it’s there, and as I talk to people, I think it goes something like this.
Often we live life day to day without really thinking. We just go along and do the things we’ve always been doing: We go to work or we go to school or we look after the children, whatever it is, but bubbling away deep inside somewhere is a sense of: What’s this all about? Why am I doing this? What’s the point?
The reality is this. We just have one life to live here on earth. It’s not a dress rehearsal. We can’t hit the rewind button and play it over again. When today’s gone, it’s gone; that’s it, and every year, every week, every day, every moment that you and I have lived up to this point is gone. We can never get it back. The only thing left in our time here on earth is the time between right now and when we breathe our last breath. It’s a sobering thought, and at the same time, most people have some sort of sense of destiny.
Whether or not they believe in Jesus or some god even, they believe in things that are meant to be. How often have you heard someone say: ‘Well, it was just meant to be’, or: ‘If it’s meant to be, it’ll happen’? Whether it’s karma or whether it’s ‘que sera sera’, whatever will be will be, we all have some sense of a future and a destiny to be fulfilled. It’s as though there’s some intelligent design or destiny that we just can’t quite put our fingers on.
I believe that that’s there because in each one of us, God has made us in His image – each one of us, and when we look at the time we have left in the context of some sort of sense of destiny, a profound question of life emerges. Am I being the ‘me’ that I was actually meant to be? Am I living the destiny that I’m supposed to be living? They’re huge questions. It’s not about having things; it’s more about being.
The turning-point of my life was when I was reading a book, and the author asked this question. He said: ‘Do you want to be, or do you want to have?’ and I realised very clearly that I was one of those people who wanted to have, and having things is not being. Having is about the next car; the next sound system; the next pair of shoes, but being is a profound sense of joy and contentment; being really happy with who we are and what we’re doing, and how we’re living, and enjoying the relationships that we’re having. When I realised that, it was so incredibly unsettling for me because I tried to do stuff my way, and it was turning out to be empty.
Let me ask you something. As you contemplate the remaining time you have left here on planet earth, when you ask yourself the question: Am I being the ‘me’ I was meant to be? Am I living out the destiny that I was meant to live, what’s the answer? Yes, or no? If your answer’s ‘yes’, then you’re talking about some profound sense of joy and peace and contentment – the sort of stuff I was talking about just before, but if the answer’s ‘no’, then probably there’s this nagging sense that you’re missing out on something. Is this all there is? Surely there has to be something more than this.
You know, in my experience, most people (by far the majority) are in the ‘no’ category. They have a sense that there should be – that there is – some destiny for their lives, but they also have a nagging suspicion that they’re not really living it out. That’s why we’re kicking off a brand new series of programmes over these coming few weeks called ‘Discover Your Destiny’ – to … I don’t know … help us unscramble that, and maybe get a solid foundation of life sorted out in our hearts, get our lives on track, to live them out to the full so that when we’re on death’s doorstep, we can look back at our lives with a deep sense of satisfaction, and say to ourselves: ‘You know what? I’ve lived it to the full. I became the ‘me’ I was meant to be, and now I’m ready for my eternity with God’.
The starting-point of all that is an understanding of who we’re meant to be. It’s knowing where we come from and who we are, and what a tragedy it is for so many people who live their lives without knowing those things about themselves; without having a sense of what their lives are all about; without having, in effect, a really good handle on who they are – their identity.
We live in a world that wants to tell us who we should be. We live in a world shaped by commerce and sales targets and advertising, that tells us: ‘You’re this, and if you’re not, you’re not successful, and if you’re not successful, if you buy this, then you will be, and then you’ll be happy. Then you’ll have a sense of who you are, and where you’re going’. Hey, I lived out that life for a good many years. I mean, I lived it out par excellence, and so successful was it that it drove me to the point of suicide.
God’s take is completely different. God tells us that we’re made in His image – you and I. He tells us that not only did He make us who we are, but He also made every day of our lives to fit with who we are. More about that a little bit later, but right now, all I’m really trying to do is put my finger on the problem; that nagging thing that just doesn’t seem to want to go away; that sense that so many of us have that we’re missing out on something – something that we just can’t quite explain.
Surely there must be more to life than this, this drudgery. Surely there has to be something that sets my heart on fire; that inspires me; that lets me be the me I was meant to be; that lets me live out the destiny for my life. Do you really know who you are, who you were made to be, what you’re meant to be doing, or is your life a bit like a cork bobbing around in an ocean, completely at the mercy of the elements – sunny one day, stormy the next, but just drifting – kind of drifting?
The Perennial Pollution Problem
I don’t know if you’ve ever noticed this, but living an average, normal, everyday life creates dirt. I mean, just eating and drinking and living – the most basic things – create waste: Carbon dioxide we all breathe out with every breath (and of course if we didn’t get rid of it, it would poison us), perspiration, and we excrete waste. If we kept all of those things inside us, you know, they’d kill us in a pretty short time. On a global scale, we call this pollution; it’s a perennial problem. It’s just the way it is. For so many years, I have to tell you, I listened to these Christians talking about this word sin, thinking: ‘Oh, go on, get a life. I don’t need this guilt trip. I don’t need to go to confession or to be absolved or any of that stuff. I mean, I’m basically ok. I haven’t killed anyone; I haven’t robbed a bank … Please just leave me alone’.
The notion of sin had no place in my reckoning. ‘This is a dog-eat-dog world, and hey, there’s plenty of dog to go around. I will tread on whoever I want to; I will do whatever I want to, as long as I don’t break the law. I’m right, Jack’. That was kind of my attitude because, in today’s psyche, hey, anything goes, but this anything-goes thing doesn’t always work so well because it’s all about me, and for you it’s all about you; and when I spend on me, me, me, that’s great, but real satisfaction comes when we give of ourselves, of who we are and what we have.
It’s not until we give sacrificially to someone in need that we really get satisfaction in life, and that’s where we really discover who we are and what life is all about. For many, many years I kidded myself that I was ok, but it didn’t work. Just living my life created waste and mess and dirt and pollution, and here’s the rub: When we live the I-am-the-centre-of-the-universe, me-me-me philosophy, we want everything to flow in, and that stuff includes the waste and the mess and the dirt, and it stays inside with everything flowing in, and ultimately it poisons our system. It ruins our lives. Do you get it?
The word ‘sin’, as it’s used in the Bible, literally means to miss the mark. Like an archer aiming at a target, his aim doesn’t have to be off by much for him to miss the target altogether. That’s the idea of sin. It’s missing the mark or, as we might say these days, missing the point. Can you imagine getting to the end of your life, on your deathbed, looking back and thinking to yourself: ‘You know, the way I lived my life, I didn’t love people the way I should have loved them. I didn’t serve people the way I should have served them. I didn’t make the difference that I could have made. I haven’t left behind a lasting legacy of good at all. You know something? I think my life missed the mark. I think I missed the whole point’.
Can you even begin to imagine what a tragedy that would be? We’re chatting this week about discovering who we are meant to be – our identity, and laying hold of what our life was always meant to accomplish – our destiny, and we can’t do that if we miss the mark; if we miss the whole point. We just can’t. You can’t, and I can’t. See, God has a plan for us. I’m reading now from Psalm 139:13:
“God, You created my innermost being. You knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I’m fearfully and wonderfully made. Your works are wonderful, I know that full well because my frame wasn’t hidden from You when I was being made in that secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, Your eyes saw my unformed substance, and all the days ordained for me were written in Your book before even one of them came to be.”
It seems to me that we can either cooperate with God’s plan or we can run hard against it, and whatever we may want to call it, whatever word we may want to use for doing the wrong thing – for running against God’s plan, whether it’s the word ‘sin’ or something else, you and I know when we’re swimming against the tide. You and I know when we’re into things that are selfish and angry and dishonest and just plain wrong. Come on; we know, and if that’s the way we want to live our lives, then the last thing we’re going to be doing is cooperating with God’s plan.
The last thing we’re going to be doing is discovering our destiny; all those days that were written down in God’s book before any of them as yet existed. The last thing we’re going to be doing is being the person we were made to be, and living the life God made us to live. Does it make sense to you? I mean, does it seem like a wise way of spending your life, this one precious life that you’ve been given to live?
The reason we’re talking about this today is that the last thing I want for you, and honestly, the last thing God wants for any of us, is to waste our lives; to miss out on our destinies; to live as square pegs in round holes, and this thing sin, the wrong things in our life – that’s what robs us of our identity and it robs us of our destiny, and I can’t say it any plainer than this: That’s just about the dumbest thing that we can do with our lives, you and I. The problem is that you and I are very good at rationalising away our sin, at justifying it, at defending the indefensible.
I was just talking to a couple of smokers the other day, some builders working outside the front of my house. I used to smoke heavily, and as I talked to them about their smoking, you know what their response was? ‘Oh, look, yeah. We know it’s wrong. We know it’s stupid, but hey, we just can’t stop’. See, we get addicted to this stuff. We get addicted to this poison in our systems. We know it’s wrong; we just can’t stop, so we rationalise it. We brush it off. We resign ourselves to it, as though it doesn’t matter. And when others challenge us about it, when others confront us with the consequences of our sin, we say: ‘Come on mate. Get off the grass. It’s none of your business what I do with my life’.
Well, I guess it’s not, but if you and I want to live a life that God intended us to live, if you and I want to be the person that God intended us to be, if you and I want to fulfil the destiny that God has for us, we need to deal with this. Listen to me: We need to deal with the sin. When we come face to face with Jesus Christ, we know in our heart of hearts the things that are wrong.
There’s a woman you can read about in John’s gospel chapter 8 if you have a Bible, caught in adultery and they dragged her out to stone her in front of Jesus, and they were just going to trap Jesus (now there was a legal issue, which we won’t go into now), and Jesus said: ‘Look. If any of you is without sin, let him be the first one to cast the stone’. You know what happened? Those who heard began to drift away – the older ones first, until the only people left were Jesus and the woman. When we look Jesus in the face, we know the stuff that’s wrong in our lives. The question is, how do we fix that?
I Find Myself With a Dilemma
I remember how hard it was for me to give up smoking. What did it for me was when I was with someone when they died of lung cancer. I watched them breathe their last breath, and when I walked out of that hospital-room just over thirty years ago now, I threw my packet of cigarettes in the bin and I haven’t smoked since that day. It wasn’t easy. It was a day by day proposition – a craving by craving proposition. Letting go of that habit actually took years, and there are still times today thirty years on when I feel like a smoke, but I figure I can do it for just one more day. Giving up bad things can be really, really hard.
Before the break, we chatted about this me, me, me, anything-goes model. The problem is, for anyone who’s ever tried it, you end up facing a dilemma. On the one hand you know It’s not working. I mean, I did it for much of my life. I’m a very intelligent person; I’m also short so there’s no pride in that; I just happen to be a bright person, and I had everything going for me; and you looked on the outside and everything was going well, but it wasn’t working on the inside, and we know this stuff (me-me-me) doesn’t work.
Now on the other hand, we want with all our hearts sometimes to believe in God – to have a relationship with Him that’s awesome and amazing and fulfilling and exciting and tender and wonderful, but we know there are some things in life that He wants us to give up. It’s like there’s a roadblock between us and our destiny with God. With me it was ego; it was a huge thing. I’d speak at conferences all round the world in the IT industry, and I was frankly full of myself and I had an ego the size of a small planet, but I read the bit in the Bible that says God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. Gulp. Looks like He wants me to do something with my pride, so there’s a crunch time for me. Hey, there always is.
There’s always one or two things, often that’s all there is, that we really need to give up; and they’re inevitably things that are so important to us that we want to hang on to them for dear life, or should |I say for grim death (because they’re bad for us and they’re poisoning our lives). When you have a strong pride that dominates who you are, you can’t have close relationships. Pride is also worrying about how other people see you, so you never have any peace. Life is always a competition to be the best; it’s one-upmanship, but I knew I had to give this up, and it’s like giving up smoking.
There are two parts: the first part is that deep-down decision of throwing the packet of cigarettes into the bin. You see, you can’t be double-minded about this. You can’t have your cake and eat it too. You can’t be a smoker and a non-smoker at the same time, can you?
So what is it with you; what’s the sin? I hope you don’t mind me using that word, but it’ll do. We have a sense of what it means. What’s the sin that’s robbing you of your identity – the sin that’s robbing you of your destiny, and is it really worth it? Maybe it’s anger or maybe you’re cheating on your spouse or being dishonest at work or being selfish. Perhaps you like playing politics; undermining people behind their backs; playing the game just so you can win, not for the good of others. We don’t have enough time in the day to go through them all, but there’s always something, isn’t there?
And here’s what I know because I learned it the hard way: That something is going to rob you of your destiny – the amazing future God has planned for you. Friend, that’s a tragedy. Can I ask you to think right now what’s the one thing, the one sin, that’s robbing you of your destiny? Just think. Know it in your mind. Just look at it; turn it over and over; that one thing – your something. Now let me ask you two questions about it. Firstly, are you proud of it, or do you hide it? The chances are you hide it. That’s what we inevitably do when we know that we’re doing something wrong, and secondly, of what benefit is it to you? The very same question that the apostle Paul asks in the New Testament. Romans 6:21:
“So, what advantage did you then get from the things of which you are now ashamed? The end of those things is death.”
The key to letting that one thing go, your something – your sin, is realising that it’s not good for you. It’s not good for those around you, it’s not good for the people you love, and it’s robbing you of your destiny. Remember you can’t be a non-smoker and a smoker at the same time. You can’t have your cake and eat it as well. You can’t hang on to sin and fulfil your destiny. You just can’t.
Deciding to make the change is something only you can do. I can encourage you, but you have to make the choice. Some people want God on their own terms. ‘Well, you know, you know, um, I’m living with my girlfriend or I’m living with my boyfriend and that’s just the way things are these days, and if God wants me, He has to accept that because that’s the way I am’.
You know, we want to remake God in our image to suit our consumer lifestyle. I’m sorry, but that’s not the way it works because our identity, our true identity, is in God Himself. Genesis Chapter 1. God said: ‘Let us make man in our own image, in our own likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and the livestock – over everything’, so God created us in His own image; in the image of God He created us, male and female He created us.
Letting go of sin is hard, but when we live through that – every craving; every urge; every disappointment – just to honour Him, to be true to our identity, He blesses us because the sin robs us of life, and when we finally put Him at the top of the heap with all our hearts – with every fibre of our being, then doors open. Being true to our identity opens the door to our destiny.
When we put our trust in Jesus alone, we’re embarking on a journey that’s not going to be easy – a journey that’s going to have trials and temptations and some days we’ll make mistakes and we’ll fail, and you’ll have to get up again and brush yourself off and keep on going for Him, but you know something? When we commit to that journey, and we understand that we have to work through the issues in our lives failure by failure, craving by craving, temptation by temptation, day by day, week by week, month by month, all of a sudden what happens (and this is what I experience; this is what so many others experience) … When we go through that, after months and years, you look back and think: ‘You know something? I’m the person that God meant me to be! That’s the direction I’ve headed in; that’s where my life’s going; that’s how He’s using me; that’s how people are starting to see me … I’m actually living my destiny’. Are you being the person God meant you to be? Have you made Jesus Christ the Lord of your life?