In this devotional, Epic staff Regina Chan shares some reflections on thinking about one’s future, and taking proactive steps to grow in true biblical wisdom and cultural awareness. She also addresses some of the unique challenges of American and Asian cultures, and offers suggestions for how to begin to navigate them. Consider using this resource with anyone who is wrestling with what to do next in their lives.
There is one body and one Spirit — just as you were called to one hope when you were called —one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
– Ephesians 4:4-7, 11-16
I love this passage because it describes how the body of Christ – Christians everywhere – should function together. It’s a key passage to reflect on as you consider your future. Verses 4-12 describe how our one true God works through a myriad of gifts expressed through his children, each of them his unique image-bearers. Each of us has our own specific mix of strengths, weaknesses, personality traits, and life experiences, and there is a place for each of us to live and serve as a member of the body of Christ.
Looking ahead, there are so many ways to live your life wholly for God. In the midst of this incredible variety and the endless possibilities, how do you know where you belong?
Let me emphasize again that God made each of us with a unique set of gifts and traits. However, the reality in this is that we have difficulty serving God and others if we don’t know how he’s wired us. It’s like operating a piece of unfamiliar machinery without going through the instruction manual first.
Each of us, from the youngest to the oldest, is on this journey of learning more about ourselves and growing up into maturity. How you choose to steward your life will be enriched as you see and understand more of how God has made you and where you are in your journey right now. Your leaders, mentors, and friends can help you in your process as you consider what combination of gifts, or “grace,” have “been apportioned” specifically to you so you can help expand the kingdom through specific “work of service.”
Now, in trying to sort out what you should do in the future, we often talk about discerning God’s will or calling for our lives. Sometimes I wish God would simply email me a set of directions, or spell it out for me on a giant billboard. Indeed, he does communicate his calling or will to some people and cultures through signs and dreams. But God more often tends to guide and direct us through life as we exercise wisdom.
There are moral decisions, and there are decisions of wisdom: both matter to God. Unless you’re truly considering an unethical career or lifestyle, the decisions you’re facing when it comes to life after graduation are mostly going to be matters of wisdom. In fact, a lot of life’s decisions, big and small, are wisdom decisions.
Remember that wisdom, is never exercised in a vacuum: true wisdom involves God and other people as an integral part of the process.
James tells us in his letter, chapter 1:
If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.
Here, James tells us how we can progressively grow out of our immaturity, or what Paul calls “infancy” in verse 14 of our original passage. We need God’s wisdom to keep us grounded in his ways so that we won’t be “tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching.” Wisdom is what we need to be asking God for as we face the future, no matter what stage of life we’re in. We can be confident and believe that God will indeed give us his wisdom when we seek it earnestly, because we know God’s character and word to be good, true, and reliable.
Additionally, we need to consider some of the cultural influences on our decision-making process. Asian American bicultural-ness can create some tension in how we view our options.
For example, everything American in and around us tells us we’d be fools to simply follow the crowd and do what everyone else is doing – whether working your way up the corporate ladder, going to graduate school, or serving as an intern or staff person with Epic. There can be a healthy sense of independence here, but there can also be rebellion for rebellion’s sake, which is thoughtless and short-sighted.
On the flip side, sometimes our Asian side will sense that a particular decision will disrupt the harmony of a group we belong to – whether that’s our families, our friends, or our Christian communities. If this decision will bring their disapproval upon us, or if it takes us out of a fun and comfortable community situation, it’s not very appealing.
Like the American perspective, there’s good and bad here as well: it’s wise to value community, but it’s unwise to go along with a group’s desires simply to maintain harmony. It’s also foolish to simply let things happen to you – to actively choose to do nothing or take the path of least resistance.
In the midst of this tension between the Asian and the American ways of doing things, how do you avoid the pitfalls of both cultures and discern what God is leading you to do? How do we exercise biblical wisdom and cultural awareness as we seek God’s direction for our futures?
Here’s a proposal. This doesn’t answer the question directly, but will help set us on the right track. My proposal is: the question we should be thinking about isn’t “What is God’s will for me?” or “What is God calling me to do?” but “What is the best next step for me at this point in my life?”
Sounds selfish? Sounds un-Asian? Sure. But you won’t get far serving others and serving God unless you continue to grapple with and increase your understanding of who God has made you to be.
One last word: remember that Christianity and ministry are not spiritual self-improvement programs. Yes, there certainly are major aspects of growth involved, but the ultimate point is for Christ to be glorified and God to be made known to all people. A big part of your responsibility in this is to live and act boldly out of your understanding of how God made you. This is where wisdom and cultural awareness comes in. Remember that Christ became a fool on the cross for you – he was spat upon and mocked, and willingly allowed people to torture, revile, and humiliate him. He became a fool so that you and I can receive God’s wisdom. Are you living out of that wisdom today? Let’s make that our foundation for our future and for our lives.
- The devotional states that “true wisdom involves God and other people as an integral part of the process.” Who are your mentors and leaders and peers, who can help you to discern your unique gifts within the body of Christ?
- However, it is a step of growing up from infancy into adulthood, to take responsibility for asking God for wisdom and believing He will provide it. What are some barriers for you, that prevent you from asking or believing God for this? What do you wrestle with in this area?
- The devotional lists some American and Asian cultural influences on decision-making, such as conformity and nonconformity, or passivity. As you consider your future, what are some cultural pressures that might influence you? Share these with others, and pray for one another.