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. --Prov 3:5-6, NIV
You're on Your Way ¡X But to Where?
So, you've made it into your college or university--praise God! By now, you probably realize that one of your top priorities for the coming four years is to earn your degree. There's no doubt about that--you have to make it to graduation. The working world is increasingly calling for those with higher degrees, and you know that without one you'll have a very difficult time finding a job that will provide you with a comfortable lifestyle. But what kind of career will you prepare yourself for?
This is often a very difficult question for young people to answer, as there are so many careers and so many avenues to success that we can take. With so many choices, though, come plenty of issues to consider when deciding on a career path. These issues include knowing your potential financial needs; understanding your skills, abilities, and talents; considering the commitments involved in a particular career; and obtaining a sense of personal fulfillment through the one you choose. To complicate matters even more, some young adults also need to keep in mind the wishes of their parents. And on top of all this, we need to seek God's will for our lives. We need to know what He has planned for us, so we can be sure that we're on the right course, according to His will.
So just how do we go about deciding which career and life path to take? Would you believe me if I told you that it almost doesn't matter what you do, as long as you do it with God? Would you believe that all it really takes to be successful is to have the Lord on your side?
Creating a Vision for Your Life
According to the Bible, the precious word of God, we don't need to stress ourselves out about where we're heading in life. We just need to set our eyes on God, and trust Him to make us successful in His own way. And just how do I know this? Well, from personal experiences, but, more important, I know it because this message is taught again and again throughout the Old and New Testaments of the Bible. Wise King Solomon, in the book of Proverbs, tells us: "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" (Prov 3:5-6, NIV). In these verses Solomon so simply gives us the key to success through God: first, trust; then, look to God; and finally, walk onward with Him.
Trust the Lord with All Your Heart
When we put all of our trust in God, we don't need to worry-we know that He is in control, so we are able to relax and have a strong sense of peace inside. Those who don't trust in God, though, spend much of their lives worrying about whether they chose the right major, whether they've made the right career moves, and whether they will be a success or a failure. But this tendency to worry is so unnecessary, according to the Bible. Jesus tells us in Matthew 6:30-34:
Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not worry, saying, "What shall we eat?" or "What shall we drink?" or "What shall we wear?" For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.
We have to trust our Lord Jesus Christ completely, even when we feel that nothing could possibly help us through our situation in life. We have to know that He is our Almighty and All-loving Father, and He is always ready and willing to carry us through whatever comes our way.
Acknowledge God in Everything
King Solomon tells us that we should acknowledge God in all that we do, and Jesus tells us the same thing when he says, "But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you." True success is the continuing ability to lose yourself to Jesus, and to offer all your hopes and wishes, as well as your entire being, to His purpose. It is not measured by the amount of money you have in your investment account, or by the value of your home, or by the status you've achieved in your career. True success comes from a heart and a life devoted to loving our Lord Jesus Christ and loving and serving those around us.
Set a Goal for Your Life. In order to become successful, we have to set goals for our lives, and these goals must include the Lord. They must acknowledge Him and must be developed through the word of God. Proverbs 15:21 tells us, "Folly delights a man who lacks judgment, but a man of understanding keeps a straight course" (NIV). How do we keep that straight course? It all depends on whom we turn to as our guide.
What does God want you to be? What special talents and abilities has He given you that you can use to benefit others? Do you have the ability to provide emotional comfort to others? Do you have special writing talents? Are you an eloquent speaker? Do you have a heart to teach and lead children? Do you have any other special talents that can spiritually or emotionally benefit others? If so, then use your talents as best you can.
If there is a career out there that will make the most of your God-given talents, then consider working toward that career. You will find that the positive emotional and spiritual returns from a career based on helping other people will vastly outperform the positive financial returns offered by most business-minded careers.
But whether you choose a career based on helping others or one based in the business world, you are called to seek God's kingdom first in your life. Keep in mind Paul's words in 1 Corinthians 12:27-30:
Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually. And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Are all workers of miracles? Do all have gifts of healings? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret?
Not every Christian is called to become a teacher, a minister, or a social worker. Many Christians are very talented and successful business professionals who have found a way to bring Christ into the business world. And many Christian business professionals have made Christian service a first priority in their lives, finding ways to serve God both inside and outside the workplace. These individuals are able to bring their personal offerings into the church through their gifts of administration, financial management, public-speaking talents, and so much more.
Christians who spend their lives utilizing their God-given talents for the benefit of others understand that they were created to contribute to the loving plan of God. They know that they are here on this earth to tell others about the God who loves them and longs to bring them home. This should be the goal of your life as well. So whether you choose a life of public service or a life of business, just keep in mind the lesson that King Solomon learned and wants us to learn: "Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and your plans will succeed" (Prov 16:3, NIV).
Acknowledge God's Will through Those around You. Part of seeking God's help in making decisions in life involves listening to the spiritual people around you. This may mean listening to the advice of your parents, the brothers and sisters in church, or maybe the pastor serving your church. While they may not know exactly what career you should choose, they will probably be able to provide you with some guidance through their own experiences in and knowledge of the various careers out there today. More important, they know you and your talents, and they really love and care for you.
Proverbs 15:22 tells us, "Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisors they succeed" (NIV). So when making decisions, remember to listen to the advice of the godly people in your life. After searching your heart and God's word, as well as listening to those caring and spiritual people in your life, you are very likely to find yourself on a path directed by God.
Walk Onward with Him
So at this point you've put your trust in God, and you've searched His will. The next step is simply to walk onward with God. This is where you let our Lord make the path straight for you. Remember Proverbs 3:6: "And He will make your paths straight." Notice that this verse doesn't say, "And He will take you to the right paths." Instead, it says that regardless of what path you've chosen in life, as long as you've put God first and you've chosen with a humble and trusting heart, He will straighten out the path for you.
This idea reminds me of a contemporary Christian song, performed by a brother-and-sister group called "The Martins." The key phrase of this song is that God's will can never lead you where His grace can't keep you. That's something we always have to remember as we make important decisions in life, and that's exactly why we don't need to worry.
Serving God Regardless of Where You Are In Life
The most important thing to remember is that we must serve God no matter where we are in our careers. God has given all of us various gifts and talents that we need to use to lead others to Jesus Christ.
For example, in my own teaching career I can easily use my God-given abilities to benefit others--public service and outreach is simply the nature of teaching. For as long as I can remember, I was called to this career. My grandfather served God through the private kindergarten he built, and my mother always told me stories about the students she taught at his school.
Although I knew that I would probably not make a lot of money as a teacher, I knew that I could not resist this calling. So now, after nearly ten years of teaching elementary-aged children, I can truly say that I have received so much from God through all that I've been able to do and learn in my career. And I've never really struggled financially¡Xthings just kind of fall into place. Maybe that's because God has worked to straighten my path a little for me.
Still, public-service careers aren't the only avenues to serving God, so don't think that you absolutely have to lay aside all hopes of succeeding in the business or technological sectors. The world needs a careful balance of careers in order to sustain itself, so understand that almost all careers have some merit. I'll give you an example of two guys I know named Steve, who have each found ways to serve God in their careers.
The first Steve is a very talented individual who seems to be able to learn from and adjust to almost anything. Having joined a hugely respected nationwide company, he has his share of difficulties to face at work. But he faces these difficulties with his eyes on his heavenly prize. He knows what matters most in life, and he tries his best to put God above his career in business. He teaches, he writes, he encourages, and he laughs--all for the glory of God.
The second Steve is my older brother. I never truly realized what a loving and tender heart he had until I was able to witness him working in the wholesale business that my family once owned. I watched him go out of his way to try to help out some of our financially struggling clients, who were local business owners. I saw the expressions on his face as he listened to their stories of hardship, and I saw the true compassion he had for them. There was one time when I saw my brother leave the room crying after he had interviewed a potential employee whose appearance was upsettingly disfigured and whose life was full of tremendous emotional and financial struggles. Although this person had very little work experience and was not a very socially well-adjusted individual, my brother and my parents hired him on the spot.
My brother used his position in business to help out a needy person, and my parents used this opportunity to witness the love of God to this person. These two stories illustrate what God wants most from us, as told in Micah 6:8: "He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justly, To love mercy, And to walk humbly with your God?" In whatever you do in life, remember these words of goodness, mercy, and humility through Christ.
God Is All You Need
So now you know that to find the road to success you need to follow God. Once you place the things of God first and foremost in your life, you won't need to worry about what career you choose. He will provide you with success throughout your lifetime. Genesis 39:21-23 affirms this by reminding us:
But the LORD was with Joseph and showed him mercy, and He gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison. And the keeper of the prison committed to Joseph's hand all the prisoners who were in the prison; whatever they did there, it was his doing. The keeper of the prison did not look into anything that was under Joseph's authority, because the LORD was with him; and whatever he did, the LORD made it prosper.
The Lord was with Joseph, and that was all he needed to be successful. Our Lord Jesus Christ is all you need as well, so walk onward with complete trust and obedience to Him. Enjoy your studies, and use your time in college to glorify God in all that you do. Learn, laugh, teach, pray, listen, love others, and follow God. Cherish the wisdom that you'll gain through your years in school, and more important, cherish the wisdom that you'll gain with your eyes set on Christ. "Wisdom is good with an inheritance, And profitable to those who see the sun. For wisdom is a defense as money is a defense, But the excellence of knowledge is that wisdom gives life to those who have it" (Ecc 7:11-12).
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