Wednesday, January 20, 2010
If You Could Ask God One Question...
Some years ago I read about a survey in which people were prompted, “If you could ask God one question, what would it be?” The majority’s response, far outnumbering even the “Why-do-bad-things-happen-to-good-people?” question, was: “What is my purpose on this earth?”
That question haunted me.
Not because I was surprised by it. It seems that all of us, even the most successful or proud, have in some quiet moment wondered why we were created. Cast aside whatever things define our hustle-bustle lives – the station wagon with child car seat, the designer clothes, the electronic calendar, the architect’s drafting board, the dancing shoes – and we tend to find ourselves reduced to basic humanity. Imagine, if you will, God’s omniscient vision barreling through vast galaxies to seek tiny planet Earth, then swirling through countries and cities and millions of people to focus on you at your breakfast table. When we picture ourselves in such a way – like mere grains of sand on an ocean floor – the problems of our own little worlds suddenly seem insignificant. No wonder that at some point in our lives we tip our faces heavenward and wonder, “God, in all this, in a creation more immense than I can imagine, why did you make me? What part do I play?”
No, the survey response did not surprise me. However, it saddened me a great deal. For by the very nature of the prompt – “If you could ask God . . .” – respondents posed the question wistfully, as if they knew in reality they could never expect God to answer. But in fact, we can ask God what our purposes are on earth, and He will answer. For He, indeed, has a plan for each of us and wants more than anything for us to follow that plan.
Do you believe, as do most Americans, that God exists? If so, what kind of God do you believe in? One who flung the sun, moon and earth into their intricate orbs, then backed away from His creation – a God who lit it, then quit it? Or do you believe in a loving God who purposely fashioned the earth and every person ever born? If you’re not sure of your answer, ponder this: when you’re in trouble, what kind of God do you pray to?
God’s words to Jeremiah in calling the young man to be His prophet depict a loving God who is intimately connected to His creation: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you.” (Jeremiah 1:5). The same theme is echoed in Isaiah 44:2: “Thus says the Lord who made you and formed you from the womb, who will help you.” And again in Isaiah 44:24: “Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer, and the one who formed you from the womb, ‘I, the Lord, am the maker of all things, stretching out the heavens by Myself, and spreading out the earth all alone.’”
The Bible is full of stories about God’s specific plans for people. He called Abram (later renamed Abraham) to be the father of Israel, saying, “Go forth from your country . . . to the land which I will show you, and I will make you a great nation.” (Genesis 12:1.) Later, God called Moses to lead the oppressed Israelites out of Egypt. In addition to Jeremiah, He called Elijah, Elisha, Isaiah and many others as prophets. He called Mary to become the mother of Christ. When Jesus was on earth He called twelve specific men to be his disciples. As the early church was growing, God called Saul, hater and killer of Christians, to become a Christian himself and to write letters encouraging believers that later would become part of the New Testament. The list goes on and on.
“Ah,” you might say, “but these people were famous, special.” Famous, in that their callings were magnanimous and far-reaching? Yes. More special to God than you? No, for God has made it clear through the Bible that He spent equal time designing each person and his or her specific tasks. “For we are His workmanship,” the Apostle Paul wrote in Ephesians 2:10, “created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”
What a wonderful thing, to think that God created each of us just the way He wanted in order that we might best fulfill the plans He has set for us! Furthermore, God has assured us that when we ask Him to guide us, He will reveal those plans. “Call to Me, and I will answer you,” He says in Jeremiah 33:3, “and I will tell you great and mighty things, which you do not know.” Such a God sounds neither hard of hearing nor remote. Quite the opposite. Such a God sounds as though He’s virtually leaning out of Heaven, waiting for us to seek Him.
The message of the Bible is clear and full of hope. We need not flounder in our own weakness, merely wishing we could ask God to give His direction to our lives. The question should not be, “If you could ask God,” but rather, “When will you?”