By Tim Sullivan


What am I supposed to be doing with my life?

For most people, nothing opens the door to an out-and-out onslaught of self-doubt quite like this one question. What am I supposed to be doing with my life? Where do I go from here? Am I supposed to be doing something else? These questions absolutely vex most people, and I believe Christians in particular.

I doubt there is one of us who was not asked as a child, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" This is the substance of every child's daydreams and wonderings. Imagining the wondrous possibilities, spending hours playing "make-believe" and dreaming of great escapades and fantastic adventures is one of the great joys of youth.

As I recall, my first inkling of what I might like to be when I grew up was to be an astronaut like John Glenn. My father had built me a model of John Glenn's spacecraft "The Friendship 7", and John Glenn was my first hero. I filled my bedroom with picture books and magazines of the sun, moon and stars. But when my father, who was a soldier in the United States Army, was assigned a year of duty in Viet Nam, my imaginations turned to things military, and I fancied myself gunning down the enemy and hiding behind enemy lines the way I imagined it was for my father. By the time I entered the third grade, my heroes had changed a bit, and now I dreamt of being a Beatle.

All in all, it seems I spent the greater part of my life, not to mention my youth, trying to decide what I should do with my life. And one thing of which I'm sure, I am not alone. Trying to decide what you want to be when you grow up has been the passion for most of my generation. We even have an expression for when you are all grown up and you still don't know what you want to be. We call it having a "mid-life crisis."

This simple, child-like question, "What am I supposed to do with my life" is for the man who does not know God a riddle as insolvable as the Sphinx. It is absolutely impossible for a man, of himself, to know what direction his life should take.

Jeremiah 10:23:
O LORD, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps.

Jeremiah testified that, of a truth, no man can correctly make his own way. The way of man is not in himself. It is not in a man to direct his steps. And yet so many people, Christians included, consider this to be the principal quest of their life. What am I to do with my life? And since no man is capable of coming up with the correct answer on his own, a great number of people spend their days in quiet frustration. Even when they have achieved undeniable success in many of their life's endeavors, they are nagged by the aching suspicion that their accomplishments are, in the end, trivial. They find no real purpose or meaning in their life. They carry on bolstered by their belief that life is ultimately fair and everyone gets what they deserve. But when their eyes are opened to the undeniable injustices found here on earth, they don't know what to think:

Ecclesiastes 8:14:
There is a vanity which is done upon the earth; that there be just men, unto whom it happeneth according to the work of the wicked; again, there be wicked men, to whom it happeneth according to the work of the righteous: I said that this also is vanity.

There are people who think the greatest achievement in life would be a state of constant enjoyment. The pursuit of the next great pleasure becomes their singular goal. The heart-pounding excitement of a new adventure is like an addictive drug to them. Each fantastic adventure must be topped by another, and then another as they attempt to outrun the tedium of everyday life. But before long they find these pleasures harder and harder to come by, the excitement more and more fleeting, and soon even the plotting and planning brings a weariness to their soul. And they find that having fun is simply not enough.

Ecclesiastes 2:1:
I said in mine heart, Go to now, I will prove thee with mirth, therefore enjoy pleasure: and, behold, this also is vanity.

And on every corner of the earth, in every land where the sun rises and sets, you will find those who live for the pursuit of wealth. Oddly enough, some of the saddest people I've ever met were very well off financially. You see, those who have never had wealth find solace in the belief that their lives would forever change if they could only get their hands on some money. Those who already have money know that money buys very little of lasting value. They don't have the poor man's hope of a better life for the price of a lottery ticket. In fact, most of the wealthy people I've known can scarcely hide their fear that what they've got is not going to be enough.

Ecclesiastes 5:10:
He that loveth silver shall not be satisfied with silver; nor he that loveth abundance with increase: this is also vanity.

And so what is the conclusion of many a learned man when that man can finds no satisfaction in life?

Ecclesiastes 2:17:
Therefore I hated life; because the work that is wrought under the sun is grievous unto me: for all is vanity and vexation of spirit.

In a manner of speaking, the road to a fulfilled life starts on the road to Damascus. For it was on the road to Damascus that Saul the murderer met the Lord Jesus Christ, the Saviour.

Acts 9:1-6:
And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest,
2 And desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem.
3 And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven:
4 And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?
5 And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.
6 And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do.

On the road to Damascus, Saul the Christian asked his Lord the one question that leads to a man finding his purpose and direction in life.

Acts 9:6a:
… Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?

In these few words of Holy Scripture are found the answer to the two great questions of every man's heart:

Who am I?

What am I to do?

And in this one verse of Scripture, we find the secret to a fulfilled ministry.

* * * * *

Now, in order to understand what it means "by the grace of God I am what I am", then you must first understand what it is not:

It is not an excuse.

You probably know the type; maybe you've even seen him staring back at you in the mirror. "This is just me. This is the way I am, take it or leave it. What you see is what you get. Don't expect me to change; I am what I am. Why can't you love me for who I am and not for what you want me to be?" And so on and so forth, ad nauseam. Sound familiar?

But this verse is saying something completely different, something much more significant, than "I am what I am." Paul said, "BY THE GRACE OF GOD I am what I am." What is it you are by the grace of God?

First of all, the Grace of God has nothing to do with the fact that you are a sinner. That curse came with the disobedience of Adam in the Garden. But by the grace of God, we Christians are all saved sinners:

Titus 2:11:
[It is] the grace of God that bringeth salvation…

Paul knew who and what he was before and after his salvation:

1 Timothy 1:15:
This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.

Paul knew that he was a sinner. He was a sinner before he was saved, and he was a saved sinner after he was saved. Notice that Paul didn't say, "Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I was chief." He says, "of whom I AM chief." There is nothing about salvation that improves the works of the flesh.

Isaiah 64:6a:
But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags...

Galatians 5:19-21:
Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness,
20 Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies,
21 Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.

There is no difference in the flesh of the saved and the unsaved man. Remember that Galatians 5:19-21 lists the works of the flesh, period. Salvation has nothing to do with the flesh. The new birth is entirely a work of the Spirit.

John 3:6:
That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.

If salvation had anything to do with the flesh, then Paul could not, after he was saved, say:

Romans 7:18a:
For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing....

And if the flesh had anything to do with salvation, then Jesus could not say "The flesh profiteth nothing":

John 6:63a:
It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing....

The flesh and the Spirit are contrary one to the other; they work against each other.

Galatians 5:17:
For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.

In the flesh there is no pleasing God.

Romans 8:8:
So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.

That is why we can have no confidence in the flesh:

Philippians 3:3:
For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.

This is why we are to know no man - not Christ himself, and not even ourselves - after the flesh:

2 Corinthians 5:16:
Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more.

The Christian who concedes that "by the grace of God, I am what I am" recognizes that he was crucified with Christ. He died and was buried in Christ. And he was raised a new creature in Christ.

Galatians 2:20:
I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.

2 Corinthians 5:17a:
Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature....

And with that, he recognizes that through the Spirit, he is to mortify the deeds of the flesh.

Romans 8:13:
For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.


By the grace of God I am what I am. And one thing I am is free from sin.

Galatians 5:1:
Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.

I was once led to believe that the "yoke of bondage" was the Old Testament Law. But, if Jesus Christ said in John 8:32: "Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free," then how in heaven's name can the Old Testament, which is truth, be called bondage? The Old Testament directed every man to salvation in the name of Jesus Christ!

Psalm 19:7a:
The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul...

In actuality, the yoke of bondage is sin.

Romans 6:16-18, 20:
Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?
17 But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you.
18 Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness.

20 For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness.

Like a waiter in a fine restaurant, you catered to sin. Sin said, "I want this, this and this." and you gave him service with a smile.

Romans 6:21-23:
What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death.
22 But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.
23 For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Our liberty in Christ is not our license to sin.

Galatians 5:13:
For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.

The Apostle Peter put this truth into wonderful, and holy, perspective.

1 Peter 2:16:
As free, and not using your liberty for a cloke of maliciousness, but as the servants of God.

1 Thessalonians 5:22 tells us that we are to "abstain from all [that is, even the] APPEARANCE of evil."

Their minds twisted by doctrines of devils, men have endeavored to interpret God's Grace as a doctrine of wanton permissiveness. This is far from the truth. Truly this is the lesson of Grace:

Titus 2:11-13:
For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men,
12 Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world;
13 Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ;

We look for that blessed hope, not only with the joy of knowing we will forevermore be with the Lord, but also with awareness that one day we will stand before the Lord to give account of ourselves at the Judgment Seat of Christ.

2 Corinthians 5:10:
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.


In understanding "by the grace of God, I am what I am," one thing I am is redeemed. I am a purchased possession of God. I was bought with a price.

Ephesians 1:13-14:
In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise,
14 Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.

We were redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, by the precious blood of Jesus Christ.

1 Peter 1:18-19:
Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers;
19 But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot:

Colossians 1:12-14:
Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light:
13 Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son:
14 In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins:

But once I was delivered from the power of darkness, my body and my spirit did not belong to me, but to God, who bought me.

1 Corinthians 6:20:
For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's.

1 Corinthians 7:23:
Ye are bought with a price; be not ye the servants of men.

1 Corinthians 6:19:
What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?

There is no indication anywhere in the Bible that after we were purchased by God, he then signed the ownership papers over to us. People like to say "It's MY life!" But they are wrong. The Bible clearly says, "ye are not your own." We belong to God, who gave us to Jesus Christ. That is why he is our Lord.

John 17:11b-12:
...Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are.
12 While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name: those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the scripture might be fulfilled.

Jesus Christ is our Lord. We are under his authority, obligated to seek and carry out his commands. Until we are ready to accept this truth, we will always find ourselves in the unsavory position of the man that repliest against God.

Romans 9:20:
Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus?

Isaiah 40:13-14:
Who hath directed the Spirit of the LORD, or being his counseller hath taught him?
14 With whom took he counsel, and who instructed him, and taught him in the path of judgment, and taught him knowledge, and shewed to him the way of understanding?

This is a matter the Roman Centurion understood.

Luke 7:8:
For I also am a man set under authority, having under me soldiers, and I say unto one, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it.


Like the Roman Centurion, we too are soldiers, Soldiers of the Cross, Soldiers of Zion. This too is by the Grace of God.

2 Timothy 2:3:
Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.

As soldiers, we have a duty to seek and obey our Lord's commands, that we may found pleasing of him.

2 Timothy 2:4:
No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier.

With this new life in Christ comes tremendous responsibility.

Luke 12:48b:
...For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.

And certainly much has been committed to us, as the Word of God testifies.

2 Corinthians 5:19:
To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.

2 Timothy 2:2:
And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.


As we endeavor to carry out the work God has given us to do, we must remember that our ministry is a supernatural ministry. By the grace of God, you are who you are. Not only are you a saved sinner, not only are you a purchased possession, but you are a man with a duty to serve, and a specific ministry to carry out. For each member of the Church is given his own individualized ministry, distinct and distinguished, and he has been given the spiritual gifts by which he will be able to carry out that ministry.

Ephesians 4:7-8:
But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ.
8 Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.

We are ministers OF God's grace BY his grace.

1 Peter 4:10:
As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.

Ministers of Christ do not fashion themselves into ministers. They are made ministers.

Ephesians 3:7:
Whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of his power.

Some people confuse a ministry with an organization. But no organization can truly be called a ministry. A ministry is something given by God to his called out ones. It is called a "gift ministry" because not only is it a gift from God, but it can only be fulfilled by the operation of spiritual gifts.

2 Corinthians 10:3-4:
For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh:
4 (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;)

Ephesians 6:10-13:
Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.
11 Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.
12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
13 Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

As we read in Philippians, we are to have no confidence in the flesh. Our confidence is to be in God.

2 Corinthians 4:7:
But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.

vv. 4-5:
And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power:
5 That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.

Of what sort is this power?

Matthew 10:1:
And when he had called unto him his twelve disciples, he gave them power against unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease.

Our Gospel is that of Salvation and the Power of God in the wonderful name of Jesus.

1 Thessalonians 1:5a:
For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost....

Yes, we are each given a ministry to fulfill. But this is not a matter of "Fatalism". I've heard the argument, and maybe you have too, that we cannot help but fulfill our destiny, since God knows our ending even before we begin. But "Foreknowledge" is not "Fatalism". The very fact that there are some men in the Bible who are credited with fulfilling their ministry leads to the undeniable conclusion that it is quite possible for others to leave their ministry unfinished.

John the Baptist fulfilled his course.

Acts 13:25a:
…John fulfilled his course....

The Lord Jesus Christ did likewise.

John 17:4b:
…I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do.

The Apostle Paul understood that it up to him to fulfill his ministry.

1 Corinthians 9:27:
But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.

And this great man of faith finished his course.

2 Timothy 4:7:
I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith:

Sooner or later it hits you. It isn't a matter of whether or not you have a ministry. It is simply a matter of whether or not you are going to finish the work that God has given you to do. But along with the acceptance of your calling and commissioning comes the peace of knowing that the Lord will direct your steps.


Proverbs 16:9:
A man's heart deviseth his way: but the LORD directeth his steps.

Proverbs 3:5-6:
Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.
6 In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.

Psalm 119:105:
Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.


Because you know the Lord is directing your steps, you also know he is going before you in all things, that you are walking along a path he has prepared for you.

Deuteronomy 31:8a:
And the LORD, he it is that doth go before thee; he will be with thee, he will not fail thee, neither forsake thee....

Isaiah 45:2a:
I will go before thee, and make the crooked places straight....

Psalm 23:1-3:
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
3 He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.

Just as surely as the Lord will go before you, so also will the Blessing of the Lord, those prophesies spoken over you by a man of God operating the utterance gifts of the Spirit, go before you to prepare you for that which is to come.

1 Timothy 1:18:
This charge I commit unto thee, son Timothy, according to the prophecies which went before on thee, that thou by them mightest war a good warfare;


Mark 16:20:
And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following.


Exodus 14:14:
The LORD shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace.


In the Bible there are testimonies of many men and women of God who were led by the Lord in the paths of righteousness. At this point I want to look at two examples of Bible men who could also say "by the grace of God, I am what I am."

Jeremiah was a mighty man of God, but he didn't start out that way. Like many of us, he looked upon the weaknesses of his flesh and his own incapability and judged himself too inadequate to fulfill the Lord's calling. What he didn't see was the Lord's work in him.

Jeremiah's salvation and ministry were both gifts of God's grace.

Jeremiah 1:5-10:
Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee [this is his salvation], and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations [this is his ministry].
6 Then said I, Ah, Lord GOD! behold, I cannot speak: for I am a child.
7 But the LORD said unto me, Say not, I am a child: for thou shalt go to all that I shall send thee, and whatsoever I command thee thou shalt speak.
8 Be not afraid of their faces: for I am with thee to deliver thee, saith the LORD.
9 Then the LORD put forth his hand, and touched my mouth. And the LORD said unto me, Behold, I have put my words in thy mouth.
10 See, I have this day set thee over the nations and over the kingdoms, to root out, and to pull down, and to destroy, and to throw down, to build, and to plant.

Who was Jeremiah? Was he the child he saw himself to be? Or was he who God had made him to be? That Jeremiah fulfilled his ministry is living proof that he learned to trust in the Lord and to rely on the supernatural gifts that God had given him, rather than on his own natural abilities. By God's grace, he was able to fulfill his ministry.

Moses didn't crawl out from under a rock the day the Lord spoke to him. He had lived quite a full life already in Pharaoh's Egypt. And yet, on the day God commissioned him, Moses knew that should he rely his own abilities, he would be sorely unequipped to fulfill any duty for God. God had to convince Moses that it was by the grace of God that Moses was who he was.

Exodus 3:11-14:
And Moses said unto God, Who am I, that I should go unto Pharaoh, and that I should bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt?
12 And he said, Certainly I will be with thee; and this shall be a token unto thee, that I have sent thee: When thou hast brought forth the people out of Egypt, ye shall serve God upon this mountain.
13 And Moses said unto God, Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say to me, What is his name? what shall I say unto them?
14 And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.

Today, you and I may timidly ask "Who am I?" when it comes to carrying out our ministries. But we must learn, as Moses and other ministers of God also learned that because The Lord God Almighty has said "I AM THAT I AM", we can and must acknowledge "By the grace of God, I am what I am." Our salvation, our calling, our spiritual gifts and abilities are all on account of the great I AM.

And so, once again we return to Paul's words:

1 Corinthians 15:9-10:
For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.
10 But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.

Remember the writer of Ecclesiastes who looked all around and saw only vanity? He finally understood the meaning of life too.

Ecclesiastes 12:13:
Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.

Who are you and what are you doing here? What do you want to be when you grow up? When you realize you were chosen in him, that you were bought with a price and your life is not your own, you will be well on your way in discovering what the Lord Jesus has in mind for your life. God bless you in the fulfillment of your God-given gift ministry. It is an honor to stand with you in the battle.

1 Peter 4:10:
As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.



From the book, By the Grace of God, I Am What I Am by Rev. Tim Sullivan