Sometimes I get distracted in my service to God. He placed me in some clearly-defined ministries during this phase in my life, but I negotiate plenty of competing priorities and distractions. Many times, the ministries take second place.
I lead 2 Bible study groups, I’m a faith blogger, and I write Bible study guides for small groups. My primary spiritual gift is teaching and these ministries make up the road God paved for me.
Besides the typical daily distractions, even other ministries could steer me away from the path God laid out for me. I can do other things that He may not have reserved for me. I could teach in other ways, like helping out in Sunday School. Or, in lieu of direct teaching, I could support leaders of a variety of care ministries. I could also join the choir and participate in church musicals. I’d really enjoy that.
I can do these other things in self-sacrifice for God and people, but they may not be what God wants me to do. They would be parenthetical – the “other ministries” in my life résumé.
So, I say no to those ministries.
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Paul knew how to say no and to focus on the special request God made to him. He went “all-in” for the gospel, and he was successful because he had clarity and focus on his mission.
Paul was “set apart for the gospel of God” (Romans 1:1). His mission was to preach the good news of Jesus to Jews, Gentiles, and kings (Acts 9:15). But when Jesus commissioned Paul, He didn’t tell Him His plan for his life. He needed to take steps of faith before God revealed it to him.
In the same way, we probably won’t hear God’s plan for our lives by waiting for a sign, and we won’t get it just by reading the Bible. That may sound blasphemous, but what we really need to do is serve God in faith, knowing that He will lead us into the ministries He designed for us. We get the road map while we’re traveling down the road. We know whether to turn or to go straight as we approach the intersection.
Of course, if you’ve traveled the road for a while, you probably know things get cloudy. The crossroads come and go, sometimes at breakneck speed, and sometimes they come when we’d rather just pull over and rest. Opportunities come that may or may not lead us further along God’s path for us.
You may not know God’s plan for your life. That’s okay. Keep reading, but also read about discerning God’s call in my two posts on Why I Write.
Knowing God’s Specific Plan for Our Lives
How God uses coincidence to deliver His specific message to us
Knowing God Will Bless Our Work
Assurance that we can trust God to make His plans prosper
God’s mission became clear to Paul after he took some steps of faith, and he owned the road God paved for him. Here are a couple of lessons we can learn from Paul’s example of owning God’s plan for his life.
When we are on God’s mission, it is essential to maintain clarity and focus.
It’s easy to get distracted or sidetracked. It can happen in a moment. Even godly pursuits can distract us. When we endeavor to carry out God’s plan for our lives, it helps to clarify our tasks and focus our efforts.
Paul refined his craft. He not only knew he was to be a missionary, but he was also very clear and intentional with his message (Romans 1:1-6, 1:14-16, 3:20-31, and 7:7-13). He was so clear on the details that he could demonstrate the relationship between the gospel and the law of Moses, a serious bone of contention with the religious leaders.
But there were things that could’ve distracted Paul. He had a deep desire to minister to the Christians in Rome. He also knew he would be in life-threatening situations, but here’s what he said about that:
I am ready not only to be bound,
but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” Acts 21:13b
He was focused on his mission to preach the gospel at the expense of enjoying fellowship with Christians in Rome (Romans 1:11-14), at the expense of his civil freedom, at the expense of his physical comfort and well-being (Acts 9:16), and at the expense of his own life. That’s how critical his mission was to him (Romans 1:16).
But when we encounter difficulties or sheer exhaustion, we may just want to stop. There are plenty of activities we’d rather enjoy. We should take breaks sometimes, but service also has a way of energizing us to continue. It energized Paul.
Related from Romans:
When we are on God’s mission, it is more natural to press on than it is to pursue our own delights.
Paul longed to visit the Romans, but he was too busy doing God’s work. The reality that some people had not yet heard the gospel compelled Paul to forego his own wishes and reach the people God placed immediately in his path (Romans 15:22-23).
Paul pressed on (Philippians 3:12-14). He didn’t look back. He worked hard. He took bigger steps with great yearning to fill the void in every heart with the gospel. He did this not with super-human fortitude. He did it in weakness. He was able to press on and endure extreme difficulty because when he was weak in his humanness, he was strong in God’s power, capability, and sufficiency (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).
Paul wrote that those who are mature in their faith should imitate him. He urged us to think of ourselves as people on God’s mission, and to follow the example of those who serve Him the way Paul did (Philippians 3:15-17).
What are those next steps God wants us to take?
Let’s walk those steps in faith, hone our craft, and continue on our roads, even when they get uncomfortable – maybe dangerous, at times.
Share about your next steps in the comments. I’d love to hear about what God is asking you to do, and I’d be happy to pray for you.
Learn more about how God dwells in us here.
Now to him who is able to establish you in accordance with my gospel…
to the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ! Amen” Romans 16:25-27
Stephen met Jesus as His Savior in the 80s and served God in various capacities ever since. In 2017, he published his first Bible study series for small groups and began blogging about practical Christian living. Stephen currently leads a Bible study at his workplace and another in a home setting. He believes the study of God’s Word should be a priority for every person who trusts Jesus as Savior, and spiritual growth is utterly dependent on it. So, God’s Word is central to everything he writes. Stephen and his wife have three sons and live in California. You can read more at Stephen De La Vega.