Have we compartmentalized “God’s will for us” so much that we exclude its true meaning? Are we so fixated on wanting to know specific divine plans for life that we become paralyzed by fear and crushed by self-induced stress? Is God’s purpose and plan for our lives the shell game we all too often make it out to be?
Bible Gateway interviewed Mike Donehey (@mikedonehey) about his book, Finding God’s Life for My Will: His Presence is the Plan (WaterBrook, 2019).
What are you communicating in the book’s title?
Mike Donehey: I’m flipping the age old question on its head: “What is God’s will for my life?” That question has paralyzed me over the years. It’s kept my friends locked in fear. I started searching the Scripture and noticed whenever you see the statement “this is God’s will for your life,” it’s always talking about the posture of our hearts. Joy, gratitude, things like that.
I realized, asking what’s God’s life for my will, is actually more in line with that idea. I don’t need a secret plan from God, I need him to come and change where my plans have gone wrong.
What do you mean when you write about “blackmailing God”?
Mike Donehey: I guess I mean, most of us don’t actually want God for himself. We want God to give us what we really want. So we try and do all the right things and pray all the right prayers and that way God will owe us. It’s nothing new. It’s the prodigal son story. Two brothers, both going about it different ways, but both wanting the same thing. They both want something other than the Father. The prodigal just runs hard after pleasure, while the older brother, in a sense, tries to blackmail the father. He says, “I’ve been slaving away for you, where’s my calf?!?” This is my struggle. I look like both brothers. Sometimes I run after things that are no good for me, and sometimes I look righteous, but really I’m trying to blackmail my way into happiness.
What is the “ministry of interruption”?
Mike Donehey: This is what Jesus did all the time. Take a look at the way he embraced people who we never would. And at times that were incredibly inconvenient. He’s on his way to heal Jairus’ daughter, and a bleeding woman is tugging on his robe. He’s orating in a house, and dudes are punching holes in the ceiling and lowering a paralytic through. And what does Jesus do when interrupted? He embraces it. He embraces them. He embraces us. As Mother Teresa said so beautifully, when she was serving the least she remembered she was serving Jesus. Even though, sometimes, Jesus wore distressing disguises. I think that’s my point. What looks like interruption to us, looked like life-giving opportunities to Jesus.
What warning do you have for a person who is focused on being a leader?
Mike Donehey: I have the same warning Paul had in 1 Corinthians 3 and 4. He straight up says, “Do not call us leaders, but servants.” Notice he didn’t add “servant-leaders.” Paul knew the term leader appeals to our ego. Servant, however, only appeals to the Spirit-shifted heart.
When Jesus called Peter to “lead” the church on the beach, he doesn’t say “Peter, lead my sheep.” He says “Then feed my sheep.” I wish worship leaders were called worship feeders.
There’s just too much appealing to our pride when we seek to be seen as “leaders.” I know that’s true because I haven’t seen many “servanthood” conferences or books flying off the shelves lately. But you throw a leadership conference? Everybody’s looking to be a big deal.
How should a person “embrace the cracks”?
Mike Donehey: Be vulnerable. Don’t hide your mistakes. Paul said he was going to “glory in his weakness.” That doesn’t mean you’re proud of your mistakes, but it does mean you’re willing to promote the grace of God above your reputation. Sadly, many people don’t think they “have what it takes” to follow Jesus, and I think some think so because high profile Christians are more worried about losing their influence than they are about being honest. In order to see Jesus as savior, we must be truly seen as sinners.
Why is “bad golf good for your heart”?
Mike Donehey: Ha ha. Golf taught me to love something I’m not good at it. That’s hard when you’re competitive and proud like I’ve been most of my life. But I came to this realization after a particularly terrible club-tossing kind of round of golf. God is less interested in me having a phenomenal score, and he’s way more interested in me playing bad golf well.
In other words, God isn’t terrified if we fail. We are. He knows failure is actually part of the process. So, playing bad golf has helped me walk through life a little lighter. There’s more grace than we know.
What is a favorite Bible passage of yours and why?
Mike Donehey: Oh man. Where do you even start? I suppose Psalm 16:2 — “I have no good thing apart from you.” Whew. I could chew on that the rest of my life.
What are your thoughts about Bible Gateway and the Bible Gateway App and Bible Audio App?
Mike Donehey: I love it. It’s astonishing how accessible the Scriptures are now. It won’t be long before every tongue, tribe, and nation will be able to have the Word at their fingertips. For me, I love being able to quickly interchange translations and get a fuller picture of what the text is saying.
Is there anything else you’d like to say?
Mike Donehey: I’d like to say: keep your hands open to change and your heart open to heavenly invasion.
Bio: Mike Donehey is the lead singer, songwriter, and guitarist for the Christian contemporary band Tenth Avenue North. Since 2000, he has been sharing the truth of the gospel in front of millions of people through song and speaking. He’s the author of Finding God’s Life for My Will: His Presence is the Plan and co-author of Losing Your Religion: Moving from Superficial Routine to Authentic Faith. Mike, his wife, Kelly, and their four daughters live in Nashville, Tennessee.
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