Think of the superheroes you loved growing up. Who were your favorites? I know that when I was a kid my favorites were easily Spider-Man and Batman. These days the kids probably prefer the Avengers.
I promise that I’m going somewhere with this.
First, let’s take a look at the origin stories of some of these characters:
Steve Rogers, US Army soldier during the Second World-War agrees to become a SuperSoldier to fight the Axis powers and becomes Captain America.
Peter-Parker is bitten by a radioactive spider and becomes Spiderman to fight crime in New York City.
Bruce Wayne sees his parents murdered before him as a child and trains himself to fight injustice in Gotham City as Batman.
Kal El/ Clark Kent is the last surviving member of the Kryptonian race whose planet was destroyed right as he was sent away to Earth, who under the Earth’s yellow sun is given incredible powers that he uses to protect his new home planet.
Notice that these character’s lives take a ginormous plot twist, whether it be the murder of their parents, the death of their planet and arrival on another world, a random endowment of superpowers by a chance spider bite, or even World War 2, and afterwards they are beloved by audiences for choosing throughout their lives to use their capabilities to direct the events around them towards positive, just, and peaceable ends, or as we like to say, “saving the world.”
Well, let me get a bit closer the point of bringing up superheroes as I draw a comparison from them to just one of many Biblical characters whose story I could use as a metaphor: Joseph.
Probably somewhere in his late teens, Joseph, son of Jacob, whose sons will later found the 12 tribes of Israel, was seized and sold into slavery in Egypt by his brothers who were jealous of their father’s favoritism for him. Then, God helps him become successful in his servanthood and he is promoted upwards through his master’s household to the role of steward until his masters’ wife attempts to seduce him, only for Joseph to repetitively reject her out of respect to his master and to God. In response, she falsely accuses him of trying to rape her, resulting in Joseph landing in prison. There, God helps Joseph find favor in the eyes of the prison warden, and Joseph is promoted upwards through the prison until he is in charge of its upkeep. There, God helps Joseph decipher the meanings of his cellmate’s dreams to them (this is not the first time God gave him use of this power), and one of them, a cupbearer, is later released and enters the service of Pharaoh.
Pharaoh later has dreams that trouble him that his sorcerers are unable to decipher, and the cupbearer remembers Joseph’s ability to decipher dreams. Pharaoh calls forth Joseph and again the power of God lets Joseph decipher dreams, foretelling imminent abundant harvest followed by devastating famine in the land. Pharaoh has Joseph given tremendous power and station as his own second-incommand with the task of mobilizing Egypt to raise and store crops for the coming hunger, and God uses Joseph to save Egypt and the surrounding countries, along with the family of Jacob, from famine. Joseph is able to forgive his brothers, and the family of Jacob moves to Egypt and for several centuries there, grows into the nation of Israel that God would intend to use as a nation of priests to show His light and love to the whole world.
Surely Joseph had no idea where his life was headed the morning he woke up before he was captured and sold off by his brothers, this being his life’s huge plot twist, nor did he know God would guide his life and supernaturally empower him to place him in political position to save the entire region from famine, and to save the sons of Jacob who would become the nation of God’s beloved people.
Now, I do not draw a connection between Joseph and superheroes just for the fun of it (though I admit this has been fun). Did you know that God has missions that He wants each of us to have a part in? Did you know that God gives each of us, each of His children, abilities and gifts to accomplish tasks that he has for us here on Earth? Take a look at 1 Corinthians 12:7-11
Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and He distributes them to each one, just as He determines.
Keep in mind the phrases “for the common good” and “to each one, just as He determines.”
However, like that trope of the plot twist in a superhero’s origin story, God might reveal your mission to you in an abrupt way, and (this is where things get a bit tense) that mission may disrupt the plan that you had for your life.
What if He reveals to you that the trajectory of life He has in mind for you is totally different from the life you had in mind for the next thirty years? What if it turns out that He wants to bless you, gift you, with abilities (as He surely does) to accomplish a mission that will take you places far from where you planned to be, doing things far from what you thought you would, with totally different company than the company you expected? What if using your God-given abilities to embark upon your God-assigned journey calls you out of convenience, or wealth, or status, or predictability, or even safety, and possibly into challenge, pain, or even tragedies?
Would you go through that Open Door?
I am sorry for how confrontational that may seem. I myself doubt that I would answer ‘yes’ to that last question anywhere near as often as I should. But there is reason why we should trust God’s invitation through that Open Door, why we should trust that He will bless us like He did Joseph, and empower us like He did Joseph, and that reason is found (amongst other places) in John 3:16-17:
For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.
As well as in Matthew 28:16-20:
Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
You see, the mission God has for each of us to take our own unique parts in is one to save the world. “The Common Good” refers to the good of the whole world, and for helping His Children carry out the mission of saving the world, God has responsibilities, abilities and gifts to give “to each one, just as He determines.” What is God calling you to do? What abilities do you have to do God’s work in? What people, what places, what needs, can you shine God’s love into?
Joseph’s life was turned completely upside down, but God said from the moment Joseph’s life took that turn into the unknown “surely I am with you always” and was with him every step of the way, and gave him all he needed towards the purpose of saving the world. God holds the door open to do the same with your life.
Will you follow?