Not an easy word to deal with by any means.
What is destiny? Do we have one? If so is it definitive and set in stone? Can it change?
The dictionary definition is: “The events that will necessarily happen to a particular person or thing in the future.” or “The hidden power believed to control what will happen in the future.”
Just what does the concept of destiny have to do with us as believers and followers of Christ and why is it important?
As a missionary serving in Guatemala for 16 years, I’ve come to realize that a proper understanding of destiny is fundamental to the work we are doing. But how do we get there?
Over the years I’ve come to realize that it comes from an understanding of something deeper and extremely personal.
It comes from an understanding of just who I am.
I am a son of God.
I am adopted by God.
I am chosen.
I am someone who God has had compassion and shown mercy on.
I am someone that belongs to God and am his possession.
I am holy.
I am chosen by God and a royal priesthood.
I am someone whom understands his identity.
And that is the key.
You see, the question of your identity, "Who are you?"—leads directly to the question, "What are you here for?”
Your identity leads to your destiny.
So how do we get this identity?
When we read the Bible, the answer is obvious. We get our identity from God. In fact our identity is our relationship to God. We are chosen by GOD. We are possessed by GOD. We are set apart as holy by GOD. We are invested as royal priests by GOD. We are children of GOD.
Peter says this in a summary statement at the end of 2 Peter 2. He refers to God like this: "Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light." The light we live in is the light of our being chosen and possessed and holy and priestly. And the way we got there is that God called us. He called us out of darkness into this marvelous light.
God gave us the identity we have, but what does that identity lead to?
Our identity leads directly to our destiny!
Peter is very specific when he tells us the precise reason for our existence.
The second half of verse 9 tells us that we exist for this reason: "that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light." This is the full-time destiny of a royal priest—to make the glories of the king known.
In my case, as I look back on my life, I see it all so clearly now.
I had to discover my identity before I could fulfill my destiny.
Understanding my identity led me to embrace my destiny which led me to serve in an orphanage in Guatemala. What I thought was going to be three months turned into 16 years of my life as a professional missionary when I felt a conviction in my heart to serve the broken.
For our first years in Guatemala we worked serving 12 girls in a small orphanage. Nothing more. During that time God began to give me a greater understanding For our first years in Guatemala we worked serving 12 girls in a small orphanage. Nothing more. During that time God began to give me a greater understanding of what it meant to serve them and serve them well.
You see there is something special about serving orphans that helps us better understand the heart of God, and our own identity.
Ephesians 1: tells us “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.”
When we understand our former identity as orphans, and our current identity as adopted sons of God, then, and only then, can we understand the destiny that we are meant to fulfill as sons of God.
It means that whatever hardships and trials we have faced in life no longer defines us. Being a son of God defines us.
I truly believe that having Biblical perspective of identity is an indispensable part of being in ministry.
With time those girls we served at a small orphanage were moved to a bigger one with 50 kids where we expanded our programs to include vocational training, youth groups and discipleship.
As we began to dig deeper into the reality of who these kids were, where they came from and what it meant to serve them well, we began to realize that 80 percent of the children in the orphanage weren’t actually orphans.
They had families, but had been placed there for their protection. Many had been abused and neglected, sometimes in horrible ways, sometimes by their own families, and the government’s solution was to put them in an institution.
Realizing this made us reconsider everything that we were doing. It caused us to seek God desperately about how we were serving and to consider if there was a better way to help these kids than an orphanage.
We thought, what if we could serve these children in their communities, help them and their parents to understand what their identity was, through a proper understanding of the Gospel? Perhaps we could keep more children at home with their families instead of seeing them placed in institutions.
God led us to one of the infamous “red zones” of Guatemala that are filled with violence and crime and from where many children in orphanages come from.
I started teaching Bible classes a few times a week in a small school, just focusing on building relationships with the children and their families.
In 2016 we started an afternoon program teaching Bible classes and computer skills. 65 children signed up for classes twice a week and the parents were thrilled to have someone there pouring into their kids.
In 2017 we added more kids and expanded the program to three times a week. Local Guatemalans started to hear about the work we were doing and got involved. Our local church started serving with us at our center and we added programming and coding classes.
At the beginning of 2018 we moved to a bigger facility, hired a second teacher and expanded our program to three hours a day, three times a week.
Children come in for an hour of Bible classes, and hour of computer classes, and an hour of help with homework and we are seeing an amazing change in the lives of these kids as they discover their gifts and talents and find their true identity.
Through ministering to the children, we now have the opportunity to minister to the parents. We have started a women’s group with the mothers and they are learning about God every week.
They are learning to know God, to understand what His plan is for their life, what their job is as a parent and most importantly, what their identity is in Christ. All so that they can discover and embrace their destiny.
At the beginning of this year along with expanding to a bigger facility, a fellow missionary asked us to take over running the two ministry centers that she had started and we are working to implement our community center model in both of them.
So we went from 65 kids two years ago, to 100 last year, to 300 this year.
And as I look back over the journey of my short 36 years of life, one thing seems to become increasingly clear. The better I understand who I am, not who I was, because it is not my past that defines me, but who I am today as a son of God, the better I understand what my destiny is as a servant of God, and the better able I am to fulfill that destiny as a missionary.