I don’t have much use for success gurus, but one idea from Tony Robbins that I heard years ago stuck with me. When asked the secret of change, he talks about taking “massive action.” We often don’t achieve our dreams, he claims, because we’re too half-hearted and timid about pursuing them.
We think about what we’d like to do endlessly, but never act in a bold way to make things happen, and so the inner resistance we feel keeps us from really living to our full potential. Take “massive action,” and things will start to change.
Now, I have no interest in owning a yacht, driving a Ferrari, or buying a vacation home in Palm Beach. But I do think there is truth in the principle of taking faith-filled, bold, and radical action, especially when it comes to being used by God.
The Trap of Endless Discernment
In my travels and conversations, I have encountered too many young men full of potential who are doing essentially nothing with their lives. They are physically capable, intelligent, and possess deep devotion to Christ and His Church. They love Jesus and want to serve Him, and the best years of their lives are in front of them. And yet, they are deeply afraid of doing anything. They graduate from college and years go by, but they come no closer to discerning God’s will.
Sometimes they think about seminary, but they get nervous and shrink back. Maybe they consider getting married, but they can’t work up the courage to ask a girl out. Even if they do express interest in a young woman, they sometimes date for years, without coming any closer to the real commitment of marriage.
One day, after years of drifting aimlessly and endlessly “discerning” an unknown future, these young men wake up and realize that some of the best years of their lives have passed them by. They wonder why God hasn’t revealed His will to them yet. They throw up their hands in confusion, pray a few more novenas in the hopes of a flash of illumination, and maybe move back into mom and dad’s basement. They have been effectively neutralized and are useless in the service of God.
How God’s Will (Actually) Works
The mistake these young men make is that they expect God to drop a five year plan in their laps, or perhaps speak to them from a blinding cloud telling them exactly what to do next. But the vast majority of the time, it doesn’t work that way. Even a cursory glance at the great men and women of the Bible and the great heroes and saints of Church reveals that God’s will is more often than not discerned through one means alone: action.
Just do something and things will become clearer. Action clarifies things. Not sure if you’re called to the priesthood? Visit a seminary and perhaps even enroll. If you aren’t called, and you’re truly seeking God’s will, He will make it plain in due time that that is not your vocation.
Do you desire to get married? Find a virtuous, attractive girl and ask her out. If you’re praying and truly seeking God’s will, He will make it plain in due time if she isn’t right for you, or if marriage isn’t your vocation.
Act in faith, and your faith will be rewarded. Jesus made the path plain: Ask and you will receive, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened to you. But whatever you do, don’t piously fold your hands and pray a few more discernment prayers, hoping God will email you a detailed plan for your life. He won’t.
You Cannot Fail, You Can Only Gain Experience
Look, life is filled with dead ends and course corrections. It’s rather like a maze. Sometimes we don’t know it’s the wrong turn until we see the dead end in front of us. We prayerfully move in one direction, and God makes it plain that it isn’t the right way. It’s easy to think these missteps are mistakes, but it isn’t true. There are no mistakes when you live and act in faith—you will only gain experience and grow in wisdom.
Yet, too often we are consumed by fear and it keeps us from acting. We want desperately to know what’s around the next corner so we can control the outcome. But that’s not how faith works. Read Hebrews chapter 11. Every one of the great heroes of faith in this chapter had no idea what God was up to or where He was leading them, and yet they were used and remembered exactly for the reason that they stepped out in faith anyway.
God is no sadistic monster. He sees our hearts and our desire to please Him. If we are prayerfully seeking His will, he will never leave us disappointed. For every step forward we take in faith, God takes three steps more to meet us. If we are prayerfully seeking His will, He will give us the desires of our hearts (see Psalm 37:4 and Matt. 6:33). But we must act, or our full potential will always remain just that—unrealized potential.
Openness, Trust, and Action
Don’t let the spirit of anxiety keep you bound and paralyzed. Don’t let the voice of doubt and second-guessing gnaw at you until you throw up your hands in confusion and despair. Don’t be like the unwise steward in the parable who, driven by fear, buried his talent and was reprimanded by his master (Luke 19:11-27).
Don’t know what God wants you to do in life? Take massive, supernatural, faith-filled action. Put another way: Just do something.
No, I’m not recommending rashness (though rashness is far better than inaction). Get advice and, based on the best information available to you, choose a course and act on it. Step out in faith and trust, knowing that you are cared for. But remain open to God’s will. Hold the steering-wheel of your life loosely and be open to course corrections.
You can pray and talk about wanting God’s will all day, but until you act, it’s just empty talk. Faith is a verb. Be strong and courageous. Take massive action in faith, and God will never let you down.