It’s Okay to be Free

dreamsI’m haunted by the tears of a missionary who couldn’t say what he wanted. This young man had served God for eight years as a missionary in South America. He was frustrated and felt God might be leading him to another place. He didn’t know what to do.

I asked him, “What do YOU want?”

“Well, I just want to do what God wants me to do… and it’s so hard to figure out God’s will.”

“But what do YOU want to do?” I asked again.

“Well, wherever God wants me to…”

This time I interrupted him. He needed a shock. “Forget about what God wants you to do. What do YOU want? What does YOUR HEART want?”

He looked at me like I was an alien from Jupiter’s moons. Then he burst into tears. He covered his face with his hands, and couldn’t speak.

I put my arm around him. I understood him. Like him, I’d been reared with a Christianized message of “ego annihilation.” What I wanted just had to be wrong; only what God wanted was right. There was a radical disconnect between the two. The fact that I wanted something made it bad. And so another life is sent down a miserable path of NEEDLESS self-denial by torture device called legalism. [PS: I am a pastor, a husband, and a father. I understand the necessity of proper self-denial. I live it every day. However, self-denial per se is not a virtue: finding and living truth is.]

It’s okay to know what you want. It’s okay to give voice to that which will make you happy. Speak truth to yourself. That doesn’t mean you need to PURSUE those things at this moment; my beach house in Hawaii is going to have to wait. But at least be in touch with those wants. Give them voice. Know them.

I hereby give you freedom to know what you want and to want what you want. It’s okay to be free.

The essence of freedom is wanting what you want.

And Christ has made you free (John 8:36). Call it volition. Call it free will. But God wired you this way. He made you the captain of your ship and promised to be with you wherever you might sail. Your heart’s deepest desires, when you are tight with God, become a reliable guide to his will for your life.

Yes they do. God made you free. Like a dad watching his kid ride a bike for the first time, he celebrates every hesitant movement in any direction. Love God and do what you want, as much as it a) maintains integrity, b) falls within biblical parameters, c) concurs with your spouse’s desires, and d) keeps you paying your bills.

joyLast year, Margi and I met with a pastor friend. He was struggling in his current position. He wondered what was next. Margi asked, “What would make YOU happy?” He reacted viscerally. “That’s not the right question. That’s absolutely not the right question.” He shook his head and looked into the distance. He couldn’t even entertain the thought that his happiness might help him discern God’s will. My heart ached for him and his young family.

Hasn’t God given you dominion (Gen 1:26, 28)? Hasn’t he promised the desires of your heart (Psalm 37:4)? If you are a person of truth who loves his Word, hasn’t he promised that “whatever you do will prosper” (Psalm 1:3)?

Salvation was your personal Independence Day.

Under the influence of Christ, and with a view to his glory, DO WHAT YOU WANT. Follow your heart. God will go with you. He won’t abandon you. He will bless the work of your hands. Paul said that those who have Christ “REIGN IN LIFE” (Romans 5:17). He has put a crown on your head. You are royalty. Believe. Christianity is not swapping slavery to sin for slavery to God. You’re not a slave, you’re a free-born child of God. Take the helm  chart a course, and go!

Don’t be such a stranger to your heart that you can’t even say what makes you happy.

The genius and beauty of the USA is a Declaration of Independence that honors “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” as inalienable and God-given rights and a Constitution that surrounds those rights with walls of protection from the force of government. I am grateful for the liberties of this nation, and for the people who have fought to defend them. I love my country and worry about its direction.

But I am most concerned for the church — the people of God. With pure hearts and sincere devotion to Christ, let us be free. Don’t let legalism dominate you. Don’t let your own flesh usurp the throne of your heart. With Christ beside you, pilot the ship of your life to great adventure and joy. Know what you want. Know what will make you happy, even if you might not lay hold of it right now. Even if proper self-denial puts those things on hold. Trust God, and do what you want, even if you’re just taking baby steps.

Let freedom ring in our hearts as well as in earth’s last bastion of liberty, the United States of America.

Please no partisan political comments today. Thank you. As always, sharing is appreciated. 

13 thoughts on “It’s Okay to be Free

  1. Love the post, Bill. Can you explain how this fits? “But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.” (Romans 6:22)

  2. Preach that to your kids at NCC. God’s will isn’t that dot on the head of a pin. Amen and Amen. That was paralyzing for me. And books like “God’s will for your life” never really helped, just made it worse.

  3. Great words Bill. We can miss the very heart of God, by making our own heart a stranger.

  4. So awesome! I have had similar conversations with people. It’s great to see you put this out there.

    A friend and I were once discussing her desire to move to a city where certain of her family members lived. There were no economic reasons NOT to move and certainly a lot of benefits, being so close to her family. “If it’s God’s will…” kept coming up. I kept asking, “Do YOU want to move to _____? Yes? Then do it! He will honor your decision.” It didn’t ever sink in that she had a choice.

    People need to hear this. Sharing!

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