Who are you living for?

Life lessons from the belly of a fish.

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(Credit: Getty Images)

What is it that we live for on this earth? Our legacy? Our families? Our passions and dreams? As I near adulthood I question what it is that I live for. Or who.

As my journey of self-discovery continues, I find that, in living for myself, I carry the burden of being imperfect on my own. Living for myself I remain self-indulgent, acting in the ways of a Pharisee. Living for myself I realise that it is impossible to do God’s work when I am constantly looking in the mirror for guidance and not above.

Living for humanity accomplishes ordinary dreams and hopes that shrivel to nothing. Living for the world I see myself caving into conformity and not reaching the full potential God created in me. Living for the world goes against Christ’s mission for humanity in paving the way towards Him.

1 Peter 2:9 says, “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”

When you live for yourself you remain in darkness, sucked into selfishness and lost in a direction without Christ. But when you exist solely for God you step into the light and allow God to shine through you.

The Old Testament has a character named Jonah who represents so many of our individual fears and doubts about being called by God and serving a greater purpose.

Jonah ran away from God’s call, physically and emotionally, and right into a storm that nearly ended his and others’ lives. When Jonah acknowledged his avoidance of God he ended up in the belly of a great fish that, unbeknown to him, had been provided by God.

Jonah’s wrestle with God was based on what Jonah was feeling. He didn’t want to preach, he didn’t want to give up his life. What Jonah didn’t realise is that his refusal to God was also a refusal to thousands of hearts who didn’t know God. Jonah chapter 2 (verses 5 and 7) conveys the inner struggle Jonah faced at living for himself in selfishness and being held captive to the earth. “The engulfing waters threatened me, the deep surrounded me; seaweed was wrapped around my head. . . . When my life was ebbing away.”

The metaphorical language of this passage has relevance in today’s time: being lost in the everyday problems of life; the big issues that ruin families and friendships; and the hardships of life that continually throw individuals into despondency.

The waters in ancient Near Eastern culture represent chaos and the abode of the enemies of God (thanks Dad for this insight).

Jonah was lost fighting a spiritual battle within himself to give into God’s desires for his life. The seas of chaos surrounded him just as temptation surrounds us now. As Jonah jumped into the sea of chaos, the fish sent by God protected him, shielding him from the enemy and death. The natural elements, the devil and Jonah’s own stubborn heart could not stop God from saving his child. When Jonah ran away from God he entered a season of darkness and withheld people from receiving the good news of God.

Being called to serve God is putting away your own desires and putting first the kingdom of Heaven. Because when you work for Christ, you’re not only leading hearts to Him but strengthening God’s mission.

"What Jonah didn’t realise is that his refusal to God was also a refusal to thousands of hearts who didn’t know God."

Jonah 2:6 says, “To the roots of the mountains I sank down; the earth beneath barred me in forever. But you, Lord my God, brought my life up from the pit.”

At Jonah’s weakest hours, when the earth held him securely, it was God who brought him out of the darkness, out of his pit and into the light. God has a habit of shining through when we least expect it and granting a breakthrough even when we think we are at breaking point.

Jonah chapter 2 (verses 2 and 9) shows God’s faithfulness and deliverance of Jonah: “In my distress I called to the Lord, and he answered me. From deep in the realm of the dead I called for help, and you listened to my cry. Salvation comes from the Lord.”

In a sea of depression, self-doubt and worry, God saved Jonah, never leaving him. From the beginning to the final verse, God was with Jonah, as He will be with us from the beginning to the end. God’s faithfulness to Jonah is a testimony that failing to deliver is not an option for God.

If God never fails why are we so afraid to trust Him? Why are we so hesitant to sacrifice ourselves for God?

God’s calling on Jonah’s life was for Him, but in it Jonah found his purpose. As 1 Peter 2:9 says, we are God’s chosen people. Jonah was God’s chosen prophet to proclaim the Word, and each of us is specifically chosen to listen to God’s calling and live a life for Him.

But what did Jonah sacrifice to live a life for Christ? Giving up what you love, what you live for, your status or a bigger income is the struggle and reality for individuals today. The sacrifice is, in fact, when we run away from God, not willing to give up and surrender what the earth offers. The sacrifice is the hardest part for us, but it is what God does so willingly. How easy was it for God to give up His only Son for an imperfect world that didn’t even want Him? I’m not a parent so I don’t fully understand this—then again even a human parent cannot comprehend this. What I do know is that God’s sacrificial love unburdened us from the price of sin and gave us the gift of eternal life.

Living for God will not only change how you impact others, but how you love. Romans 5:8 shares how all of humanity has sinned and yet Jesus gave His life for us. Jesus humbled Himself, being obedient to the point of death, sacrificing His living breath for our sins. When we live for ourselves, for others or for a passion, we forget the blessings we’ve received from God’s grace and love for us.

As I think about living for God, I recognise that life will be much sweeter because with Him I am not alone. I recognise that through Him my life will not be superficial, but abundant with an overflowing fountain of blessings.

I know that I am joining a kingdom where the mission is better than any other superhero story, because salvation is the happy ending. When God calls, what will be your answer? Will you live for yourself and settle for an ordinary life? Or will you live for God and serve a greater purpose?


Charé De Waal is a year 12 student and vice captain at Avondale School, New South Wales.