Some years in a men's core group i was participating in, I asked the university students and young professionals what they thought were valid goals in life? A lively discussion ensued.
In their idealism most non-Christians (early in their lives) do not anticipate divorce, ill-health, bad news, loss of jobs, problems in the economy, or disasters that are in reality part and parcel of real life for most of us. In practice few people reach their goals in life, or feel empty when they do. Often the highly motivated achievers pay a big price in terms of family happiness or personal joy and peace. ("It's lonely at the top," sort of thing). or do so by paying a big price in other areas of life.
Underlying the non-Christian's world-view is usually a search for success, happiness and pleasure based on what the world-system values highly---money, success, power, prestige. Each generation has its own ideologies and dreams, these constitute the "spirit of the age," or zeitgeist,. This spirit is opposed to God and ignores God's goals and ultimate purposes for mankind and the earth.
Do not love the world or the things in the world. If any one loves the world, love for the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life, is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world passes away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides for ever." (I John 2:15-17)
For it will be as when a man going on a
journey called his servants and entrusted to them his property;
to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one,
to each according to his ability. Then he went away. He who had
received the five talents went at once and traded with them;
and he made five talents more. So also, he who had the two talents
made two talents more. But he who had received the one talent
went and dug in the ground and hid his master's money. Now after
a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts
with them. And he who had received the five talents came forward,
bringing five talents more, saying, 'Master, you delivered to
me five talents; here I have made five talents more.' His master
said to him, `Well done, good and faithful servant; you have
been faithful over a little, I will set you over much; enter
into the joy of your master.' And he also who had the two talents
came forward, saying, 'Master, you delivered to me two talents;
here I have made two talents more.' His master said to him, `Well
done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over
a little, I will set you over much; enter into the joy of your
master.' He also who had received the one talent came forward,
saying, 'Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you
did not sow, and gathering where you did not winnow; so I was
afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you
have what is yours.' But his master answered him, 'You wicked
and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sowed,
and gather where I have not winnowed? Then you ought to have
invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should
have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent
from him, and give it to him who has the ten talents. For to
every one who has will more be given, and he will have abundance;
but from him who has not, even what he has will be taken away.
And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness; there
men will weep and gnash their teeth.' (Mt. 25:15-30)
Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain
of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but
if it dies, it bears much fruit. He who loves his life loses
it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for
eternal life. If any one serves me, he must follow me; and where
I am, there shall my servant be also; if any one serves me, the
Father will honor him. (John 12:24-26)
"You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trodden under foot by men. "You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hid. Nor do men light a lamp and put it under a bushel, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven." (Matthew 5:13-16)
"But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumph, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things? For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God's word; but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ." (2 Corinthians 2:14-16)
"... be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places." (Ephesians 6:10-12)
Christians should ordinarily find some sort of job to support themselves:
Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is living in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us; we were not idle when we were with you, we did not eat any one's bread without paying, but with toil and labor we worked night and day, that we might not burden any of you. It was not because we have not that right, but to give you in our conduct an example to imitate. For even when we were with you, we gave you this command: If any one will not work, let him not eat. For we hear that some of you are living in idleness, mere busybodies, not doing any work. Now such persons we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work in quietness and to earn their own living. Brethren, do not be weary in well-doing. If any one refuses to obey what we say in this letter, note that man, and have nothing to do with him, that he may be ashamed. Do not look on him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother. (2 Thessalonians 3)
Jesus worked in his father's carpenter shop in Nazareth until it was time for him to commence his three-year ministry. He recruited ordinary fishermen who fished from time to time to pay their own way. The Apostle Paul made tents in his spare time so as to support his ministry, and so on. Surprisingly, nowhere in the New Testament is there any special emphasis placed on one's particular vocation or "career path!" Apparently what counts is the quality of one's walk with God and one's ministry to others. The Bible does allow missionaries, evangelists, teachers and leaders in the church to be supported by others so that they may devote full time to their ministry. (See 1 Cor. 9:1-19, 1 Tim. 5:17,18). God's will for our lives is not career, marriage, and happiness, but wholeness. (1 Thessalonians 4:3) This life is a training-ground---a preparation for eternity. We are developing our capacity for God now and proving our eternal usefulness to Him, to one degree or another, by our daily choices and our faithfulness in this present life. (2 Tim. 2:20ff)
Government was instituted by God in society to preserve law and order and to demonstrate justice. This is clear from Romans, Chapter 13:
Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore he who resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of him who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God's servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain; he is the servant of God to execute his wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be subject, not only to avoid God's wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For the same reason you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. (v1-6)
Leaders are put in public office, and removed from office, by God, in fact He is the judge of all men:
"There is none holy like the LORD, there is none besides thee; there is no rock like our God. Talk no more so very proudly, let not arrogance come from your mouth; for the LORD is a God of knowledge, and by him actions are weighed. The bows of the mighty are broken, but the feeble gird on strength. Those who were full have hired themselves out for bread, but those who were hungry have ceased to hunger. The barren has borne seven, but she who has many children is forlorn. The LORD kills and brings to life; he brings down to Sheol and raises up. The LORD makes poor and makes rich; he brings low, he also exalts. He raises up the poor from the dust; he lifts the needy from the ash heap, to make them sit with princes and inherit a seat of honor. For the pillars of the earth are the LORD'S, and on them he has set the world. "He will guard the feet of his faithful ones; but the wicked shall be cut off in darkness; for not by might shall a man prevail. The adversaries of the LORD shall be broken to pieces; against them he will thunder in heaven. The LORD will judge the ends of the earth; he will give strength to his king, and exalt the power of his anointed." (1 Samuel 2:2-9)
Even the form of government we live under, whether monarchy, dictatorship, socialistic, communistic, or democratic in a particular nation is determined by God. According to Daniel (2:36ff), our Democratic form of government is the weakest and least effective form of government. God's ultimate form of government will be a monarchy, with Jesus Christ ruling visibly and openly as King of kings. In a Democracy, the electorate does have freedom to work for government reform, to run for office and to seek justice in the courts. All Christians are admonished to prayer for leaders in government, at all levels. Even so prayer for leaders in government (whether or not they are good or evil, corrupt or honest), has the purpose of increasing God's restraint of human evil and maintaining a climate where the gospel can be shared and men may be saved:
First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all men, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life, godly and respectful in every way. This is good, and it is acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (1 Timothy 2:1-4)
The responsibility or raising children properly "in the fear and admonition of the Lord" is given to parents and should not be abdicated to either the church or the state. Christians of course should be concerned about the quality of education the next generation receives from all sources. It is legitimate for individual Christians to be vitally concerned with these matters.
You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trodden under foot by men. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hid. Nor do men light a lamp and put it under a bushel, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 5:13-16)
Notice that God is not reforming society, ushering in world peace, taking over the government and making things better in society! (Neither is mankind evolving and improving in any way on the social plane!) God is the sovereign ruler over all the nations, so He is very much in charge of all the details of history. The notion of human progress is an illusion. Human beings are not basically good and deserving of anything from God. The fact that God is full of mercy, longsuffering and great compassion is the only reason anyone is saved at all, and live is bearable from day to day in an evil world system.
Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for God is at work in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. (Philippians 2:12-16)
The opposition at Thessaloniki claim that this trio of Paul, Silas, and Timothy visiting Macedonia had “turned the world upside down” — is quite amazing considering no email, no telephones, poor postal service, no newspapers, no cars, no airplanes back then. (Acts 17:6)
Some years ago, (1964) a younger person at PBC asked Ray “what is the will of God for my life?” Ray said he knew only three main references about this in the NT. The will of God was not, he said, a road map which, if we followed it, would lead us to success in this life and the next.
1. “This is the will of God, your sanctification“ (your wholeness)...that you should abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you should know how to possess his own vessel (exercise self control) in sanctification and honor, not in passion of lust, like the Gentiles who do not know God;that no one should take advantage of and defraud his brother in this matter, because the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also forewarned you and testified. For God did not call us to uncleanness, but in holiness...” (1 Thessalonians 4:3-7) 2. “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)
3. “I beg you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your intelligent service [your intelligent purpose] proving [or demonstrating] what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” (Romans 12:1-2)
Reference: "Finding the Will of God" by Ray Stedman.
I remember well teaching a group of PBC Career men. I asked them what they each saw as God’s wonderful plan for their lives? This was back in 1993. Their initial response, the above article, was amazing.