Do you ever feel like your family is wandering aimlessly? Most families actually do. They just go from event to event and crisis to crisis, because they have no clear direction. They’re living day by day, reacting to what each day brings, without any idea of whether that “new” day and “new” thing is going to get them anywhere nearer where they are supposed to be.
The root problem here is that most families don’t know where they are going. Oh, they may have some goals for parts of their lives – things like buying a house, putting the kids through school, probably some desire for a promotion at work and a dream of retirement somewhere way down the road. But that’s not purpose. It’s not vision. It’s really not much more than survival.
“If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.”
– Benjamin Franklin
Think about this: there are a lot of people who live lives that are not a whole lot more purposeful than animals. They get up in the morning, eat, get dressed and go to work. At the end of the work day, they return home, eat again and watch some mindless television programs until it’s time to go to bed. Next day, repeat, repeat, repeat. Every day is repetitive except for the weekends, when they go shopping, clean the house, wash the clothes and try to fit in a bit of recreation.
Now I ask you… where is there purpose in any of that? Where is vision?
About the only vision someone like that might have is where they’re going for next year’s vacation. If they’re thinking big, they might be thinking about a new home, car, camper or boat. But that’s about it. The only difference between their lives and that of an animal is a bit of sophistication. Not direction.
Please don’t take this wrong, I’m not trying to put these people down. I’m trying to get a bit of perspective. For I believe that each and every one of us was created with purpose in mind. God has that purpose for us and He has a vision that He wants to impart to us, but few of us know what it is.
If we don’t know what our purpose is, how can we possibly fulfill it? If we have no vision, how will we know when we’ve reached the goal? For that matter, how will we even know where we are going?
Oh, there are things the Bible tells us all, which are God’s will for our lives. Things about getting saved, being sanctified and allowing His Holy Spirit to remake us into the image of Christ. Those are all part of God’s general vision for us all. But that’s not what I’m talking about; I’m talking about specific vision, specific purpose. How does each of us, individually, fit into God’s master plan?
A Quick Clarification of Terms
Before going any farther, it would probably be a good idea for me to define a few of the terms I’m using. Some people confuse them or use them interchangeably. So I want to make sure that we’re talking the same language.
- Vision – Vision always comes from God. It’s Him showing us what He sees, from His perspective. So it’s where He wants us to end up, without showing us every detail of how to get there. The vision God gives you will always fit within your purpose.
- Purpose – Purpose is about what you or your family was created to do. It doesn’t necessarily refer to a particular ministry or ministry project, but is more general in nature. It’s about the kind of people you are created to serve and bless.
- Direction – Where you are going on your next step. Just the next step. God doesn’t show you the whole path, just one step at a time. Once you take it, He’ll decide when to show you the one after that.
- Goals – Goals are things we create, giving ourselves something to reach for and achieve. While there is nothing wrong with that, they should not be substituted for God’s vision. In fact, if we are smart we will set goals that align with God’s vision for our lives.
- Plan – This is something else that we create, rather than God. It’s the steps we are expecting to take, in order to reach a goal that we set.
It Starts With Who You Are
Discerning God’s plans and purpose for ourselves and our families is probably one of the hardest things there is for any of us to do. But God doesn’t want it to be that way. He has a specific vision for each family and has created us with that in mind. It is up to us dads, as the heads of our homes, to find it.
So where do we begin? How about with recognizing who we are?
Whatever God has called you and your family to do, He has created you and your family for that specific purpose. This means He has created you with specific personality traits and abilities. He’s not going to make someone a total introvert, if He intends for you to be a street evangelist. Rather, He will make sure that you enjoy talking with people and sharing Christ with them.
When we are trying to find vision and purpose, it helps to take stock in who we are and who our family members are as well. Somehow, whatever vision God has for us has to fit with everyone in the family, not just you. While you might take the lead, everyone will be part of it.
I traveled in the ministry for a number of years, taking my family on the road in a motorhome to share the Word of God. We were able to do this, in part, because my family loves to travel and see new things. At the time, we were homeschooling our children, so they were able to study on the road. Since I had raised my children with the understanding that God had a ministry for them, they were prepared to share God’s Word with other children. Many times while I was preaching, my kids were taking over the Children’s Church and teaching the kids.
Each member of the family “fit” in with that ministry. That alone is not enough to say that we were supposed to be on the road, preaching the Word of God, but had we not been a good fit it would have been a good indicator that we weren’t supposed to do it. God will always take us beyond our comfort zone, stretching us, but He won’t take us in the opposite direction of who He created us to be.
If you want to discover more about who you are and how God has created you, SpiritualGiftsTest.com has some excellent resources to help. Their personality test is a great tool to see how your gifts and personality fit together. Very interesting! (FYI: Jeff Carver, the founder of Dad.co, is also the founder of SpiritualGiftsTest.com which is awesome!)
Hear From God
At some point, you’ve got to hear from God and allow Him to show you His vision and purpose for your family. That means asking Him and waiting for an answer. He will answer, but probably not in the way you expect or at the time you expect. To hear His answer, you’ll have to get quiet.
Elijah the prophet had a time when he needed to hear from God. He was running for his life, afraid of the Queen Jezebel. He ran off into the wilderness, where he hid in a cave. There, in the quiet and solitude, God spoke to him.
Then He (God) said, “Go out, and stand on the mountain before the LORD.” And behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake; 12 and after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice. 13 So it was, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle (prayer shawl) and went out and stood in the entrance of the cave. Suddenly a voice dame to him, and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
1 Kings 19:11-13 NKJV (annotations mine)
In this passage, there were three obvious “signs,” which we could interpret as being from God. Yet the Scriptures make it eminently clear that they were not from Him. It wasn’t until after those three fake signs, when things got quiet, that God spoke to the prophet.
This is much like what happens with us. We are all looking for a sign, when God is waiting for us to get quiet enough to hear His voice. He won’t yell at us. He won’t try to outshout the world. He speaks with a still, small voice; one that it’s easy to miss, unless you get in a quiet place, where you can hear it and not be distracted by everything else in life.
Elijah understood this. Granted, he was a prophet, so he was used to hearing from God. But we can glean from his example. He waited for that quiet time before coming out of the cave and when he did come out, he came out prepared to hear from God. That’s the significance of covering his face with his prayer shawl (mantle).
You don’t have to have a prayer shawl to hear from God, but you do have to seek a quiet time in which you can hear His voice. Don’t expect it to be obvious. Rather, wait for that soft voice, which speaks directly to your heart. Test it against Scripture. That’s how you’ll know it is Him. He’ll just drop something in your heart and you will know it is true.
There are those who will always counsel to wait for confirmation of a “word” that you have received from God. The problem is, God will give us a vision which seems as foolishness to others, even other believers. So you may not be able to get your confirmation in that way. Rather, you’ll need to get it from God Himself.
As someone who has almost 30 years in the ministry, let me lay a little wisdom on you here. There are many people who are afraid to step out when they receive what they think is a vision from God. They’re so afraid of doing the wrong thing, that they don’t do anything. That’s obviously not very effective.
I’ve learned that it’s better to do something, than to do nothing. I’m not talking about selling your house and moving to India to preach there, just because you think you heard from God. I’m talking about taking some steps along the path that you think God wants you to tread. Start making some preparations. For instance, in learning how to be a cross-cultural missionary, study the language and study the Bible. If that’s God’s plan for your family, you will need to prepare before you go.
If you do that, with the attitude that you are seeking to do God’s will, one of two things will happen. The first is that you will receive some sort of confirmation either through the wisdom of other believers or through circumstances that bring you something that you need. The other possibility is that God will gently show you that you’re wrong and what path you should be on. He won’t chastise you for your mistake, but rather, give you further direction.
You know, it’s much easier to steer a moving car, than one that’s parked. Likewise, it’s much easier to steer a family which is moving down the wrong road onto the right one, than it is to turn the family which won’t move because they are fearful of making a mistake.
You choose which works best for you, and trust God in everything.