What They Won’t Tell You in Freshman Seminar

My first week of high school, I was required to sit through an intense and motivating lecture entitled “Freshman Seminar.” Our school guidance counselor informed us that because we were now in high school, it was time to clearly map out our life’s plan, decide what college we wanted to go to, choose our
career path, and spend all our spare time cultivating our unique strengths and talents.

I began to feel stressed just listening to him talk. He made it clear that if we didn’t get our life direction figured out and start aggressively pursuing our dreams, we would never amount to anything. I went home that night, armed with a huge pile of college brochures that had been passed out at the end of the lecture, and attempted to lay out my plan for the future.

In a world so preoccupied with “finding our true destiny,” it’s easy to become consumed with personal fulfillment and self-discovery.

The problem was I just wasn’t sure what my destiny was supposed to be. I had an interest in music, but I wasn’t sure if that was supposed to be my long-term focus. Over the next couple of years, I took many personality tests and career quizzes trying to pinpoint all of my unique gifts, strengths, and desires, so that in case my music dreams fell through, there would be an exciting “Plan B” waiting in the wings. The cultural influences around me led me to believe that if I wasn’t actively chasing after an impressive career or fulfilling a personal dream, then I was somehow wasting my life. I felt a constant pressure to “become the person I was meant to be”—but I could never quite figure out what that meant.

It wasn’t until I completely surrendered my life to Jesus Christ and laid all my hopes and dreams at His feet that I finally discovered my life’s true purpose. The day that I knelt in my bedroom and genuinely laid everything on the altar—giving Jesus control over my entire life and future—was the day I understood who I really was and what my life was meant to be all about. I realized that I wasn’t meant to build my life around the pursuit of my own desires. Rather, I was created to build my life around Him.

In a world so preoccupied with “finding our true destiny,” it’s easy to become consumed with personal fulfillment and self-discovery. Questions such as “How am I unique?” and “What kind of life will most satisfy me?” often become the focal point of our daily choices and life decisions.

But God prescribes a completely different pattern for finding our life’s purpose and discovering true fulfillment. The apostle Paul “reached his full potential” according to human standards. But it did not bring him happiness or help him discover his destiny. Rather, he chose to count all of his personal achievements as “rubbish” and to suffer the loss of everything he had worked for and dreamed of so many years. Why?

His answer was “that I may gain Christ, and be found in him” (Phil. 3:8–9). And “that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death” (Phil. 3:10).

There is no greater fulfillment or purpose we can find than knowing our King and being shaped into His likeness

There is no greater fulfillment or purpose we can find than knowing our King and being shaped into His likeness. This is the Christian’s true destiny. All personal pursuits and achievements pale in light of this great privilege.

Have you been looking to the wrong sources (i.e. personal dreams, ambitions, desires) to guide your decisions and define your life’s purpose? Here are two ways to begin embracing a Christ-centered destiny instead.

1. Yield your uniqueness to Christ.

God has given each of us unique desires, talents, abilities, and personalities, but He gives us these gifts so that we can surrender them back to Him. Only then can they be used for His glory. We often cling tightly to our individuality, believing that unless we are doing something that specifically caters to our specific personality and talents, we are wasting our potential and being robbed of the opportunity to “be all that we can be.” In fact, we often think that it is our God-given right, maybe even our duty, to pursue a path that will maximize our unique strengths.

But God’s ways are very different from ours. Jesus’ “unique strengths” were not maximized during His earthly ministry. Instead of coming to earth as a King arrayed in heavenly glory, He came as a lowly baby in a manger. Instead of being surrounded by royal fanfare, He lived as a simple carpenter. And instead
of being treated as the Lord of heaven and earth, He chose to take the position of a humble servant and wash the dusty feet of those who were not worthy to unloose the strap of His sandal.

In all of this, He left us an example that we should follow in His steps (1 Peter 2:21). He willingly chose to lay down His right to applause and esteem and chose instead to make Himself “of no reputation” (Phil 2:7). And this is the very attitude He has called us to embrace.

Certainly, God may choose to utilize our unique personality or talents in order to build His kingdom. But it is important to realize that He will only do so when we have completely surrendered those things to Him. Very often, He asks us to go through a season where our personal talents are hidden, unnoticed, unrecognized, and unappreciated, so that we can learn to be all about His glory instead of our own.

Think of Paul spending three years hidden in Arabia and Moses tucked away on the backside of the desert for forty years. Both men had a profound calling upon their lives. But before they could truly be useful for God’s purposes, they had to lay down every ounce of personal confidence and ambition.

Ask God to show you any areas in which you have been clinging to your “right” to be noticed for your unique strengths, talents, or personality. Are you willing to lay those things down and “take the lowest place” as Jesus did? Remember, Jesus said that “unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone” (John 12:24). Only when it dies will it be able to produce lasting fruit.

2. Ask the right question.

One of the enemy’s sneakiest tactics is to get us distracted with self-analysis. The question “Who am I?” is one of the top concerns on our minds. We take elaborate personality tests, go to career counselors, cultivate special hobbies, build up our personal Pinterest boards, and imbibe self-help books in an effort to discover and express who we are.

But we have become preoccupied with the wrong question.

Only when our identity becomes wrapped up in Jesus Christ and not in ourselves can we become the set apart women He has called to be.

As daughters of the King, we are no longer to concern ourselves with who we are. Instead, our focus should be centered around a completely different question—who is He? When we know who Jesus is and we understand what it means to be found in Him, the question “Who am I?” is automatically solved.

He is the vine, we are the branches—and without Him, our lives will amount to nothing (John 15:5).

Only when our identity becomes wrapped up in Jesus Christ and not in ourselves can we become the set apart women He has called to be.

The Christian life can be explained only in terms of Jesus Christ, and if your life as a Christian can still be explained in terms of you—your personality, your willpower, your gift, your talent, your money, your courage, your scholarship, your dedication, your sacrifice, or your anything—then although you may have the Christian life, you are not yet living it.*

So if you have been seeking your identity in anything outside of Jesus Christ, ask Him for the grace to shift your focus. Fix your gaze upon Him, find your strength in Him, and build your life around Him. If you truly know who He is, you will understand who you are.

Are you searching for your destiny? God has a tremendous purpose for your life—one that is profoundly simple. The old hymn says it well: “Trust and obey, for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.”

When we come to Him with a heart of true surrender, lay our dreams at His feet and declare, “Do with me what You will!” we will find our ultimate purpose . . . in Him.

*Don’t you just love this quote from The Mystery of Godliness written by Ian Thomas? Me, too!

About Author

Leslie Ludy is a bestselling author and speaker with a passion for helping women become set-apart for Christ. She and her husband Eric have published nineteen books with well over a million copies in print and translations in over a dozen languages, including When God Writes Your Love Story, Authentic Beauty, Set Apart Femininity, and her newest book, Set Apart Motherhood. Eric and Leslie live in Windsor, Colorado with their four precious kiddos.

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