The Best Advice I've Ever Been Given (and how different it is from the stuff we normally hear)

When I was a senior in college, getting ready to graduate and realizing I had to make a decision about finding something to do that would give me an income, I was a bit intimidated by the choices in front of me. Thankfully I spent a lot of time that year with one of my heroes, Stu. In the midst of trying to sort through the decisions about my future, Stu gave me the best advice anyone has ever given me: "Make sure you're in God's will today, and you won't miss being in it tomorrow." It's simple and powerful, because none of us knows what our lives will be like five years from now, but I'd be willing to bet that everyone reading this has a pretty good idea of how they could shape today in a way that gives glory to God in the midst of their everyday life. When I have stuck to Stu's advice, my experience has been that I progressively am becoming more the kind of person that I want to be while also coming closer and closer to the kinds of work that are most fulfilling to me and through which I can make the greatest contributions to my family and the work of God's kingdom in our world.

But there is quite a contrast between Stu's advice and advice I've often been given in the first decade of being in ministry.

This other kind of advice is always well-intended and has probably served the person giving it to me at some point in their lives. Let me be clear that I don't think this advice/set of questions is bad in any way, but I'm just trying to point out a difference. It usually comes out something like this:

  • What are your goals for your career?
  • Where do you see yourself in 5 years? 10 years?
  • What is your ideal job?
All good questions. Nothing inherently wrong with any of them. The problem is what they raise in me: a desire to set my future for myself, focusing on pursuit of some idea that may not have been well-discerned, to the neglect of the way I need to shape my life today in order to become the kind of person I want to be when I come to my deathbed.
When I have followed the line of advice behind these questions, I have been led down paths that have largely ended up unfulfilling. I have pursued, received, then backed out of professional credentials. I have gotten myself over-committed to processes because of the benefit I thought they would bring me regarding those questions in the future, to the neglect of what is was doing to my life today.
I don't mean this to say that planning for the future is bad in any way. That's often a part of what's included in following Stu's advice and making sure we're in God's will today. But the question is one of focus and trust, as Jesus talked about in Matthew 6:25-34.
So, what is a way that you can make sure that your day today is shaped as God wants it to be?