destiny trap: the confusion, hurt, and betrayal that arises in the heart of a believer, usually one new to the faith, when they realize that though the progression of their individual success pre-Jesus seemed both incontrovertible and destined, the progression of their success in Christ is measured by an entirely different standard.
Let’s unpack this.
It’s senior year. You’re a standout running back at a Big 10 university well on your way to the NFL, enjoying the many luxuries that come with the hard work—women, status, admiration, and money. Or perhaps you’re a musician, an electronic DJ on the rise booking more and more shows in major cities, and one of your favorite artists just retweeted your latest record. Or maybe you’re just a normal person with a plan, a carefully crafted career path you’ve been working towards since high school—a doctor, perhaps; or maybe an electrician.
And then you get saved.
Wow. This message of Jesus that’s captured you’re heart is radically different from anything you’ve ever heard. It is completely upside down from the way you understand the world to work.
Seek first the kingdom? Greater love has no one than this?
But He’s hooked you. You’re willing to give up every sin, every passion, every everything to know Jesus more and be like Him, to tell others the Good News so they can experience true love for themselves. In fact, you’ve done the math and decided that the only logical thing you can do is to spend the rest of your life bringing others into an encounter with the True Love that set you free.
So you pray, and God answers. He gives you vision for a ministry or a church. He places a specific people group on your heart that needs to know him. Maybe it’s college athletes, or the coked out party girls that used to come to every concert. Maybe it’s Zimbabwe, but you’ve seen it: You were preaching the gospel and hundreds were getting saved, thousands. You’re best friend had a dream, God highlighted the verses, and that’s all the confirmation you need. You get online and begin shopping for plane tickets.
Beautiful are the feet that spread good news.
But let’s say you’re plugged into a local church, a thriving community of believers led by solid spiritual parents. And let’s say, in a random act of humility, you run your plans by one of these mentors—the person discipling you, perhaps. I’m moving to Africa, you say. God told me.
This person loves you. They have been guiding and encouraging you in your new faith over the past few months in a spirit of gentleness and freedom. He was the one that called out your gift of prophecy. It was her that taught you how to pray for the sick. So of course your heart drops when they look you in the eye and utter the three most hurtful words a twenty-something would-be world-changer can hear:
You’re not ready.
A destiny trap happens in that in-between place, where you’ve already sacrificed your entire life for the kingdom of God and are left unsure as to why He has yet to bring about the visions and ministries to which He’s called you. After all, you didn’t drop out of med school to work some dead end job for the rest of your life; you did it because you trust God and He told you that He has something better. So where is it?
Before we jump into a discussion of how to respond these types of situations, let’s outline some brief assumptions to get us all on the same page.
1. You don’t always hear correctly from God. Paul says that we know in part and see in part, but then we will fully know. While the charismatic Christian can have confidence in God’s prophetic utterances when they are matched with other significant factors like a lifestyle of submission to spiritual authority, non-contradiction of scripture, and confirmation from community, the fact is, sometimes we still miss it.
2. It doesn’t always look how you thought it would. His ways are higher than our ways. Similarly to point one, you may accurately discern what God is showing you, but misinterpret it. Perhaps that ‘stage’ was a book, or your prayer life, or something your spiritual children would accomplish that you’d receive fruit from—which brings us to our next point.
3. You must get rid of your notions of time. God is eternal. A day is like a thousand years to Him and a thousand years is like a day. It might look like you’ve missed your boat, but God can open up doors you didn’t even know existed overnight. When He determines the time is right, all you’ll have to do is walk through it.
4. ‘You’ might mean ‘your children.’ God is generational, identifying Himself throughout much of the bible as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The promise of God in your life might not happen till you’re fifty, or eighty, or until your great-great-granddaughter steps into your prayers on her twenty-first birthday. Either way, the word of God does not come back void and He has proved Himself faithful—even if you only get to view it from heaven.
That being said, what you will often come to find in these ‘carpenter shop’ situations is that God hasn’t put you on the bench; He has promoted you into His process of character development. As a master craftsman, He is determined to take His time with you so that you will be able to stand under the weight of the calling at the proper time. He desires to bless you with good things and influence, but not more than He desires to protect you from what you can’t handle. That’s why—if you want to do things the ‘God-way’—it is crucial that you submit to the process of character development.
How many times have you heard or read something similar to the following?
Mega-church ministry collapses after pastor admits to affair. Formerly Christian pop star performs naked at award show. The divorce rate in the church is higher than that of non-believers.
God being love and love demanding freedom, He might just let you start that church in your hometown three months after you get saved, if you want. And since one of the ways God interacts with us is through our faith and expectation, good things could still happen. But would you feel safe riding passenger in a NASCAR race with someone who has only just finished driver’s ed?
I know that seems extreme, but it’s true. As a new believer, you have no idea what it takes to steward God’s church, to love beyond love, to bear the weight of souls. And while even the most seasoned elder is but a broken vessel in God’s hands, if the church is functioning according to the scriptures then he has proven himself worthy to steward much by how well he stewarded little. There is a proverb that says: “Wealth gained quickly will dwindle, but he who gathers little by little will increase it.” I don’t think it’s only talking about money.
But maybe this is basic. Maybe you understand that God has a process designed not only for your benefit, but to benefit all those you will eventually steward—or at least believe it when your pastor says He does. What then do you do with your disappointment, when the “temporary season” becomes routine and indefinite, when you feel let down, like you made the wrong choice choosing God, like maybe it was better back in Egypt?
The best piece of advice I can give you is to look at Jesus.
Jesus had more promises made to and about Him—aka the entire bible!—than any other person in history; yet being fully human, in his humility He set the standard for submission to the process by spending thirty years inside his father’s carpenter shop before God gave Him the green light to begin his ministry. How many lepers did He see during this time? How many widows being stoned for adultery?
And what did He walk away from to fulfill this plan of His Father’s you might ask? What did He have going for Him before becoming a helpless babe in a dirty manger?
How about all the privileges of being God?
While things are a little different now that Jesus has made the Kingdom accessible to all who are born-again through His act on the cross—i.e., even a new believer can heal the sick—there is still much to be gained from how He walked through His time in the process. The following list draws from Christ’s life to provide examples that may help us circumvent the ‘destiny trap’ mentality when approaching the disappointment in our hearts during our own carpenter shop experiences.
Jesus only did what He saw the Father doing because He trusted that God’s intentions towards Him were good.
Jeremiah 29:11 teaches that, “God knows the plans He has for you,” and that they are “plans for good and not evil.” In order to have faith for such a promise, you must take every thought captive that speaks against the goodness of God, no matter how big or how small it may seem. That does not mean that we never have doubts or hard times, but it does mean that we make every effort to return to the truth of His faithfulness.
Some practical ways to do this are recounting personal and public testimonies of His goodness, memorizing scriptural truths, and setting your mind on the things to come in the ultimate fulfillment of heaven; but perhaps most importantly—and most realistically—you can pour out all of your doubts and fears and angers and frustrations in worship and prayer and shouting and after its all out in the open say, “Not my will, but Yours be done.” Even Jesus endured the cross for the joy set before Him.
Jesus had opportunities to receive the promise early outside of God’s will, but chose not to.
I once heard someone say that if the devil can’t slow you down, he’ll speed you up. That’s because the most tempting things are often the ones that we know we’ll get eventually, but have to wait for. The most classic example might be ‘no cookies before dinner.’ You know you’ll be able to eat some for dessert, but that sugary, chocolaty goodness calls out to you against your parents’ wishes right now.
Again, the devil took Him to a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to Him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written…”
The devil tried to give Jesus something that already belonged to Him—even though He didn’t physically possess it in that moment because of the part of the process He was in—and Jesus rightly rejected him. But very rarely will Satan come to you with such obvious sin. Most likely he will hide himself behind ‘open doors’ that nobody you are spiritually submitted to thinks are right yet, or ‘urgent opportunities’ that might contradict what God previously showed you about your current season.
When this happens, it is imperative that you make decisions both prayerfully and connected to spiritual leadership. Don’t just take the first thing that comes your way because you are sick of being where God has you; in the same way Jesus said, “The poor you will have with you always,” there will always be opportunities to minister in this lifetime.
Jesus measured His success by sonship, not by how quickly or how much He got done.
One of the most important revelations talked about in Culture of the Few is that before Jesus performed any miracles, before he ever spoke to the thousands on the mountainside or cleared out any temples, God said, “This is my beloved son, with whom I am well pleased.” His identity was wrapped entirely in the Father’s love for Him, and that love required no prior achievement. It wasn’t earned, and it cannot be lost. So why do we get so anxious when we feel like we’re ‘falling behind?’
Twenty-something would-be world-changers suffer from this fear more than any other people group on the planet, especially if they’ve come to Jesus out of lifestyles of worldly success. It’s our culture. But you must remember that the kingdom of God is upside down, backwards, opposite; the first shall be last and the last shall be first; the greatest among you must be the servant of all. God uses the process of the carpenter shop to weed out every shred of your identity that is placed in your own actions, to give you a foundation of operating from His love and not for it.
That’s the true measure of success—am I walking in God’s love regardless of the situation? Am I responding from a sense of security in His goodness and love towards me instead of fear, anxiety and anger? These are the keys to promotion.
The ‘greater things’ will be added to you—it is inevitable as God transforms you more into the image of His Son—so take all the time in the world to develop that relationship, that foundation, that irrevocable knowledge that “I am a son [or daughter] of God.” Let it flood it you. While submitting to the process of God before stepping onto a platform of great influence does take longer than seizing the first opportunity that presents itself, it is much harder to revert to a place of sonship once you’ve built your entire ministry—or life—around what you can do for God.
So now we’re back at the beginning. Your pastor has just looked you in the eyes and said the words: You’re not ready. What do you do?
I hope this article has helped you gain a new perspective on you’re current season. I hope it has exposed some tactics the enemy will try to use to manipulate you, and that it has highlighted some of the ways in which God works through the carpenter shop towards your good. You have been born at an incredible time, in which the decisions that our generation makes will drastically alter the course of world history in ways previously unimaginable.
I believe God wants to use to shape it, to make this planet the best possible place it can be through your passions, dreams, and abilities. But I also believe that God wants you to know that He loves you more than what you can do for Him, and that if He tucks you away for a season or two its only because He wants you to get to know Him better. Knowing Him is what changes you into the right man or woman for the job.
So whatever you gave up, whatever you sacrificed in order to be here, know that it was worth it. If you trust Him, God will guide you to the best possible outcome with the greatest possible impact—even if doesn’t look like what you thought it would. He is faithful to the end, and He will finish what He started.
David Wade writes fiction, nonfiction, and hip hop from his dining room table in Grove City, PA. He currently lives with his wife, Candise, and studies English Writing at the University of Pittsburgh. For occasional information, follow him on Twitter @davidwadetv