Thinking (Questioning) Outloud

Do we all have a specific “destiny” predetermined by God?
Is the question even valid? Does God give me life and actually let me have free choice as to what might life will be about?
What about the Jeremiah call? Is that the only way we can know God’s will for our lives by a specific call that is often interpreted as “destiny”?
What are your thoughts or questions on what is often called referred to as “destiny”?

11 Replies to “Thinking (Questioning) Outloud”

  1. Rose, I love this line of thought and have thought much about this recently especially as I watched all six episodes of Star Wars with the family (we gave them to my husband for Father’s Day.) In the early episodes, Anakin is considered “the chosen one” to bring balance to the force, yet he chose to align himself with The Dark Side. It was his “destiny” to bring balance to the force and that destiny was interpreted as him living a good life on the good side. In the later episodes, the Emperor advises Luke that it is his destiny to join The Dark Side, yet Luke resists and the evil Emperor is defeated by Anakin (who thus fulfills his destiny.) In this example, one could conclude that it was Anakin’s destiny to join The Dark Side and kill, steal, and destroy.

    Obviously, the Star Wars episodes are not based on a Biblical world view, but the principle of destiny and free will are evident in the story line as they are in many cultural myths over the centuries.

    Now, in response to your questions:

    Do we all have a specific “destiny” predetermined by God?
    I believe God has general intentions for our lives, but not necessarily specific, predetermined “this is the only choice” paths that we must walk in order to fulfill some sort of destiny.

    Is the question even valid? Does God give me life and actually let me have free choice as to what might life will be about?
    I think this is a very valid question that is asked by many people. I like how Todd Hunter refers to Christians as cooperative friends of God. God, being all knowing, etc., has a different perspective than we do but doesn’t give us all the answers or make us into robotic, non-thinking, always obedient servants. He no longer calls us servant, but friend. And as cooperative friends with the God of all creation, I do want to know what God’s intentions are for the world and want to cooperate with those plans. But, God has created us in the image of God with the ability to contribute to the work being done.

    I’m not sure which Jeremiah call you are referring to and would like clarification.

    I used to think of God’s will as much more specific than I do today – praying and asking God which direction I should turn at a traffic light in the midst of heavy traffic since God knows EVERYTHING. While I am inclined to believe that God does answer such prayers, I do not put this in the category of “destiny.”

    This is an interesting topic and I hope others engage in this dialogue. Perhaps it would be helpful to define what we mean by “destiny”.

  2. Elizabeth,
    Thanks for the response. The Jeremiah call:

    The word of the LORD came to me, saying,

    “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
    before you were born I set you apart;
    I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”

    Many use this passage and others like it to teach that God has a specific purpose, predetermined for your life. I find many people confused by this teaching. They are waiting for some great “call” so they can figure out what the purpose of God is for their life. In Pentecostal and Charismatic circles there is a lot of teaching like this and I have heard it taught as “destiny” i.e. “You need to live into your destiny. God has a destiny that was determined before the very foundation of the world and you need to walk in it”

    I understand on one hand, but I believe it is more like you said above. If followers of Jesus were taught that the will of God for their lives is to be cooperative friends of Jesus for the sake of the world and they were truly living that way, it seems God’s will for their lives would be happening.

    I wonder if others understand what is meant by “destiny” in the prophetic/charismatic teaching traditions?

  3. I don’t have any scripture to hang this idea on, but I think we all have a very specific, predetermined destiny – to love God and to love each other. No matter how hard I try, I just can’t see how it works out that if I turn let as opposed to right, take a job at Microsoft as opposed to Google, marry Erika as opposed to (the very fictitious) Jill – that somehow that was destined.

    The Jeremiah call… here comes a theory. Maybe what is written as God’s voice spoken to Jeremiah would be better understood as Jeremiah’s response to God’s action in his life. That’s to say, “God, looking back in my life, it sure feels like I was always intended to be a prophet. With a little imagination, I could even see you calling me out right from the womb. That’s how strong these gifts and desires in me are.”

    Did I just lose my job?

  4. Jim,
    I just wrote a response to this and it disappeared because my fingers hit the wrong combination of keys…ugh!

    So quickly I agree with you that we are all “called” to love God and others and that specific decisions are neither right or wrong (as in the will of God) I think of Parker Palmers’ book, Let your Life Speak.

    On Jeremiah, I have to think about that. I know (and have read biographies) of people that really heard a specific all from God to pursue a certain life…what do you think about that?

  5. I’m trying to use very specific, detail oriented language here – and, that is not my strong suit, so forgive me if I get sloppy.

    I will say: yes, definitely. Individuals definitely do hear a specific call from God – sometimes even audibly. However, I would say that is the exception instead of the rule. And, I would also say that is different from destiny. Example… I believe God called me into pastoral ministry. I also believe I was created with certain inherent gifts and temperaments that make me good at pastoral ministry. Erika would go as far as to say, “Jim was made for ministry.” So, everything in the equation of my life adds up to me pursuing pastoral ministry – but, that doesn’t make it my destiny. It just makes the most sense.

    I’m thinking out loud here, but… I think I could have gone into ministry 5 years ago, 5 years from now, or never – and still have been in God’s will for my life. If God is a god of redemption, of “second chances”, I am wondering if it makes sense to talk about destiny and predetermined paths. Maybe, that language goes against the nature of God… what think ye?

  6. correction: the above precludes teleology and the greater purpose of creation et al. I’m talking about specific paths in individual lives.

  7. Good thoughts Jim.
    I too have a problem with the ‘destiny’ language but haven’t been able to capture exactly why.
    I absolutely agree about God’s will – I think if Todd’s talk last weekend on “alignment” = partnering with God in his Kingdom.

  8. Jim,
    I am reading a good book on Mission. “The Mission of God” by Christopher Wright.
    pg 513 states: “So when Luke moves on to his second volume ot the story of the Gentile mission, ‘the mission to the nations in Acts is thus the continuation and fulfillment of Jesus’ own divinely appointed destiny.'”

    Did Jesus have a divinely appointed “destiny”? If he did, do others?

  9. OK, so with the whole idea of God speaking specifically to a person, I agree that this happens, but I don’t necessarily think his intention for us ever over-rules our cooperation. For instance, when I was young in my faith I thought God was calling me to be a missionary to China. I signed up for a summer program to learn the language through a para-church organization and proceeded to send out letters to raise support. I did not get enough support to go, so I started to doubt God’s call and questioned whether I heard Him accurately. When we only view life through the lens of destiny and pre-destination, I think we tend to set ourselves up for disappointment and I also think it leads to a more passive view of life with God.

    I once read a quote from and Elisabeth Elliot book about loneliness where she interviewed an older single woman who was a missionary in China and asked her if she believed God called her to be single, or had given her the “gift of singleness.” I will never forget the response, she replied that she did not believe God had called her to be single, but rather that God had called a few men to come and be her husband but they did not respond to the call.

    Jim, you ask whether Jesus had a divinely appointed “destiny” and I believe Jesus did and so do we, and Jesus was an excellent example of showing us how to be cooperative friends with God. He willingly chose to do the will of the Father, as we see at the end of John 12, “For I did not speak on My own initiative, but the Father Himself who sent Me has given Me a commandment as to what to say and what to speak. I know that His commandment is eternal life; therefore the things I speak, I speak just as the Father has told Me.”

    I think our appointed destinies are more general than specific at times, and at other times, God does give us specific leadings, instructions, directions, etc. But if we fail to listen, or follow at some point, there is always a second chance. The beauty of Jesus was that Jesus always listened and always followed. My desire is to be ever more attentive and responsive to God in every situation so when God does give me a specific word, I will not be distracted or unwilling to follow.

  10. I had some spare time and checked out your blog, Rose. I read Tony Compollo’s book “Carpe Diem”. He asks “How long have you lived?” He meant when have you felt fully alive? When have you experienced life and said to your self “this is what I am here for?” I wonder if this is not a window to the soul and hint of our “destiny”. Jesus said “I have come to give you life and that more abundantly.” So, maybe we are living out our destiny when we feel “fully alive.” ellie

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *