January 8, 2013
“Created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”—Ephesians 2:10
“Created in Christ Jesus” means every child of God is a new creation of Christ Jesus. “Unto good works” means every such child of God is created anew in Christ Jesus for a life of service. “Which God hath before ordained” means God has laid the plan for this life of service in Christ Jesus, ages before we came into existence. “That we should walk in them.” “Walk” is a practical word. That means God’s great purpose of service for His children is not a mere fancy but a practical reality, to be known and lived out in our present workaday life. Therefore, all through this great text runs the one supreme thought that God has a plan for every life in Christ Jesus.
What a wondrous truth is this, yet how reasonable a one! Shall the architect draw the plans for his stately palace? Shall the artist sketch the outlines of his masterpiece? Shall the shipbuilder lay down the lines for his colossal ship? Yet shall God have no plan for the soul which He brings into being and puts “in Christ Jesus”? Surely He has. Yea, for every cloud that floats across the summer sky; for every blade of grass that points its tiny spear heavenward; for every dewdrop that gleams in the morning sun; for every beam of light that shoots across the limitless space from sun to earth, God has a purpose and a plan. How much more, then, for you who are His own, in Christ Jesus, does God have a perfect, prepared life plan. And not only so, but God has a plan for your life which no other man can fulfill.
“In all the ages of the ages there never has been and never will be a man or woman just like me. I am unique. I have no double.” That is true. No two leaves, no two jewels, no two stars, no two lives alike. Every life is a fresh thought from God to the world. No man in all the world can do your work as well as you. And if you do not find and enter into God’s purpose for your life, there will be something missing from the glory that would otherwise have been there. Every jewel gleams with its own radiance. Every flower distils its own fragrance. Every Christian has his own particular bit of Christ’s radiance and Christ’s fragrance which God would pass through him to others.
Has God given you a particular personality? He has also created a particular circle of individuals who can be reached and touched by that personality as by none other in the wide world. Then He shapes and orders your life so as to bring you into contact with that very circle. Just a hair’s breadth of shift in the focus of the telescope, and some man sees a vision of beauty which before had been all confused and befogged. So, too, just that grain of individual and personal variation in your life from every other man’s and someone sees Jesus Christ with a clearness and beauty he would discern nowhere else.
What a privilege to have one’s own Christ-indwelt personality, however humble! What a joy to know that God will use it, as He uses no other for certain individuals susceptible to it as to no other! In you there is just a bit of change in the angle of the jewel—and, lo, some man sees the light! In you there is just a trifle of variation in the mingling of the spices—and, behold, someone becomes conscious of the fragrance of Christ.
Among the curiosities of a little fishing village on the Great Lakes where we were summering was a pair of captive eagles. They had been captured when but two weeks old and confined in a large roomlike cage. Year after year the eaglets grew, until they were magnificent specimens of their kind, stretching six feet from tip to tip of wings. One summer when we came back for our usual vacation, the eagles were missing. Inquiring of the owner as to their disappearance, this story came to us.
The owner had left the village for a prolonged fishing trip out in the lake. While he was absent, some mischievous boys opened the door of the cage and gave the great birds their liberty. At once they endeavoured to escape. But kept in captivity from their earliest eaglet days, they had never learned to fly. They seemed to realize that God had meant them to be more than mere earthlings. After all these weary years the instinct for the sky and the heavens still smoldered in their hearts. And most desperately did they strive to exercise it. They floundered about upon the village green. They struggled, fell, and beat their wings in piteous efforts to rise into the airy freedom of their God-appointed destiny. But all in vain.
One of them, essaying to fly across a small stream, fell helpless into the water and had to be rescued from drowning. The other, after a succession of desperate and humiliating failures, managed to attain to the lowermost limb of a nearby tree. Thence he was shot to death by the hand of a cruel boy. His mate soon shared the same hapless fate. And the simple tragedy of their hampered lives came to an end.
Often since has come to us the tragic lesson of the imprisoned eagles. God had designed for these kingly birds a noble inheritance of freedom. It was theirs to pierce in royal flights the very eye of the midday sun. It was theirs to nest in lofty crags where never foot of man had trod. It was theirs to break with unwearying pinion the storms and tempests of mid-heaven. A princely heritage indeed was theirs. But the cruelty of man had hopelessly shut them out from it. And instead of the limitless liberty planned for them had come captivity, helplessness, humiliation and death. Even these birds of the air missed God’s great plan for their lives. Much more may the sons of men.
Is not this the very thing of which Paul speaks when he says, “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure”?1 What are these inner voices which, if we heed not, cease? What are these visions which, if we follow not, fade? What are these yearnings to be all for Christ which, if we embody not in action, die? What are they but the living God working in us to will and to do the life work which He has planned for us from all eternity? And it is this which you are called upon to “work out.” Work it out in love. Work it out in daily, faithful ministry. Work it out as God works in you.
But more than that—you may miss it. You may fall short of God’s perfect plan for your life. Therefore, work it out with fear and trembling! That blessed life of witnessing, service and fruit bearing which God has planned for you in Christ Jesus from all eternity—work it out with trembling. Trembling—lest the god of this world blind you to the vision of service which God is ever holding before you. Trembling—lest the voices of worldly pleasure and ambition dull and deafen your ears to the one voice which is ever whispering—“Follow thou me: follow thou me.”
Every day men talk of “choosing” a calling. But is not the phrase a sheer misnomer? For how can a man “choose” a “calling”? If a man is called, he does not choose. It is the one who calls who does the choosing. “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bear fruit,” says our Lord.2 Men act as though God threw down before them an assortment of plans from which they might choose what pleases them, even as a shopkeeper tosses out a dozen skeins of silk to a lady buyer from which she might select that which strikes her fancy. But it is not true. It is God’s to choose. It is ours to simply ascertain and obey. For next in its eternal moment to the salvation of the soul is the guidance of the life of a child of God. And God claims both as His supreme prerogative. The man who trusts God with one, but wrests from Him the other, is making a fatal mistake. Would we were taught this ere our unskilled hand had time to mar the plan! In default of such teaching, let us confess with humble hearts the mistakes we have made here, in the frailty of our mere human judgment.
Are you standing in that trying place where men are pressing you to “choose” a calling? Are you about to cast the die of a self-chosen life work? Do not cast it. Do not try to choose. Does not the text say we are “created in Christ Jesus unto good works”?3 If the plan is in Christ, how will you find it unless you go to Christ? Therefore go to God simply, trustfully, prayerfully, and ask Him to show you what He has chosen for you from all eternity. And as you walk in the daily light which He sheds upon your path, He will surely lead you into His appointed life plan. So shall you be saved the sorrow, disappointment, and failure which follow in the wake of him who “chooses” his own path, and, all too late, comes to himself to find out that it pays to trust God in this great concern of his life, even as in all others.
Originally published in Life Talks: A Series of Bible Talks on the Christian Life, 1911. Published on Anchor January 2013. Read by Simon Peterson.
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