God makes a plan for our lives, so how do we know if we’re successfully following that plan or not?
Most people have heard of Hermann Göring, Hitler’s right-hand man, commander of the Luftwaffe and heir-apparent to the Nazi empire. Far fewer people have heard of Hermann’s brother, Albert Göring.
Albert was more than happy to take advantage of his brother’s fame in Germany, although not in the way most might anticipate. He once drove up to a concentration camp and demanded that his truck be filled with prisoners to work at his company. Once the guards discovered who he was — more importantly, who his brother was — they loaded up his truck without question. Albert drove all of these prisoners to a remote place and gave them instructions on how to escape over the border. On another occasion, he spotted a group of Jewish women being forced to scrub the streets; he grabbed a broom and joined them. As soon as the Nazi officials nearby recognized him, the women were allowed to leave. Albert also was semi-notorious for forging his brother’s signatures on the paperwork for Jews trying to escape the country.
After WWII concluded, however, Albert was arrested. Because his brother was such a high-profile Nazi and personal friend of Hitler’s, the Allies simply could not believe that Albert wasn’t also part of the atrocities. He was held in prison in Nurnberg for almost two years before the testimonies from people he’d saved convinced the judges of his innocence.
Albert’s life in post-war Germany did not improve, however. He was now a pariah because of his familial connection to Hermann and the Nazi high command that had brought so much grief to the common German people.
He died alone and very ill, a week after marrying his housekeeper simply so she would receive his government pension and be cared for after he passed. At the base of his grave outside of Munich is this inscription which characterized his life: “Wir sind nicht von denen die da weichen sondern von denen die da glauben” or “We are not among those who yield, but among those who believe.”
The Strong Man’s Life
One of the potentially worst road trip moments is realizing you took the wrong turn about fifty miles ago. With the advent of smartphones and maps that can recalculate your route within seconds, missing the right offramp is less of a problem than it used to be; but sometimes there’s just no fixing the fact that turning around won’t be easy and then you still have to backtrack for miles.
One of the most troubling questions about life we can ask ourselves is “What does God want me to do with myself? Did I miss my opportunity to take the right path?” We would all like to ensure somehow that we always make the right choice at the correct moment or, at the very least, have our riskier decisions pay out nicely. The more likely these decisions are to affect years or even decades of our lives, the more crucial it feels to ‘get it right.’
So how do we tell if we’re taking the right route? If we feel like we already missed our destiny, is it possible to regain lost ground?
In the sermon “Fulfilling Your Destiny”, David Wilkerson discussed what the indicators are of a life that is fulfilling God’s plan for it. He focused on the life of Samson first. “Angels announced his birth. In fact, angels gave the mother and the father detailed instructions on how to raise this young man,” he explained. “Folks, for 20 years, he walked more or less in his destiny. He judged Israel, and he had a major successes. He brought a measure of hope….but his heart was black with sin. You find him running after wicked women. He was after a harlot, and then he went down with a wicked woman called Delilah and flirted with danger.
“What a sad, sad picture of a man who was called to be a deliverer, and he began to degenerate…. He should have been a vessel of honor. It should have been that we pick up this book and read about the life of Samson, and it should have been a story of strength after strength and growing in the power and anointing of God’s spirit. It should have been one victory after another for this man and for Israel.
“Instead, you find him ending up in a harness like an ox, grinding in a mill. His eyes had been gouged out…. On his dying day, people said he won a great victory. No, because he said his whole desire was personal revenge. He said not one word about avenging the glory of God or his name. He said, ‘God give me strength once more that I may offense my eyes.’ He had no touch of God. He died in that deception. He missed his destiny.”
Samson’s story is a sobering illustration of how we can be gifted by God and given instructions on how to pursue his will for our lives but still make choices to indulge sin that end up taking us far afield from our divine calling.
The Chief End of Man
The unfortunate side effect of looking at Samson’s life is to assume that suffering, disasters and even an unfortunate death are the hallmarks of a failure to follow God’s destiny. What then do we make of Paul’s life which also included all of these markers? He was persecuted by the Jewish religious leaders, attacked by mobs, stoned, chased out of temples and cities, whipped, thrown in jail, arrested multiple times, criticized by some of the churches he’d helped found, sent to Rome to stand trial and eventually executed like a common criminal.
This was the same man who boldly stated, “Not that I…am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us” (Philippians 3:12,17, ESV).
Not only is his life held up as an example to model ourselves after in scripture, but he was confident that it was right to do so despite freely acknowledging his failures. His own conversion testimony was one of thinking he was on the right path only to be derailed by Jesus himself in epic fashion on the road to Damascus. To further muddy the waters, despite his exhaustive knowledge of Jewish religion and scripture, Paul was specifically sent to evangelize people who had no background in either.
So if our God-given destiny doesn’t mean we’re guaranteed success or that we will necessarily be operating out of obvious areas of strength to the seemingly most logical audience, how are we supposed to recognize our calling?
Reflecting on this very question, David Wilkerson told the congregation at Times Square Church, “My destiny was not to come here and buy this theater. My destiny wasn't to establish institutions and Bible schools.” He noted. “You say, ‘Well, wait a minute, Brother Dave. You mean your destiny was not to raise up a drug ministry around the world, Teen Challenge?... You mean to tell me you came here to New York City, and God used you to help raise up at church in Times Square, but that's not your destiny?’
“No. It's not my destiny.” David added, “You see, one of these days, all those buildings that God has allowed us to build are going to decay and going to be gone. Not one stone is going to be left upon another. All these incorporated institutions, all that paper is going to be gone. There won't be any records. It's all going to fade, and when I stand on the judgment day, I'm not going to be able to take any of those institutions or buildings or incorporated papers with me.”
He then pointed to the famous biblical mandate, “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8). A life’s documented accomplishments mean far less to God than a heart that constantly seeks to please him, however that looks for each individual.
Thousands of years later, the Westminster Shorter Catechism echoed this in its first question and answer: “What is the chief end of man? Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.”
Two Important Questions
Did Albert Göring fulfill a God-given destiny? To any person inspecting his life, he certainly seemed to get much closer to it than his brother did. However, we must ask, ‘Did he work to save those Jewish prisoners out of a reverence and fear for the God they worshipped? Did he seek to honor the image of God planted in every person by fighting to save lives, no matter what it cost him?’
Without knowing Albert’s heart, it’s impossible to say. Despite his sacrifices and heroic actions, he may have been no closer to his divine calling than his notorious brother.
While outward signs can be a good indicator of where a person’s heart is — fruit of their heart, so to speak — achievements are not a perfect barometer of how well a person is submitting themselves to God’s will for their lives. A person may suffer in unimaginable ways to be obedient to God’s call, or they may suffer incredibly in order to protect a sin that seems more painful to let go than to keep.
The best test of whether we’re following God’s calling is to ask ourselves, “Am I seeking to glorify God with my life? Am I making choices that honor him and lead me to walk humbly before him?”
Your answer to those questions will tell you more than all of your accomplishments.