I will be the first to admit that I am guilty of spending most of my life asking the wrong question. I could blame it on the culture of our education system, Christian reading material, incorrect theological doctrine, personality questionnaires, or every single person who approached me as a kid and asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up.
But I’m not going to do that. Because I think it’s time to own up to the fact that like many others, I have asked the wrong question. I have misplaced my focus and pinned myself on the center of the sphere of life and mistakenly believed that the world I inhabit revolves around me.
So before I go any further, let’s pretend for a minute that our dreams, aspirations, plans, hopes, and desires don’t carry any weight. Let’s imagine taking all of those things and tossing them into a great abyss, with no promise of ever getting them back. Sounds a bit dramatic, I know. But just for the sake of starting with a clean slate…let’s do that.
When I graduated from college, I felt a little bit lost and purposeless. So I bought a bunch of books that were supposed to help me find my strengths. I charted my strengths, wrote down brief descriptions, read some practical examples of what I could do to find purpose while utilizing my gifts. And it felt like such an empty endeavor.
It was then that I realized that I can never search within myself to find satisfaction or confidence or purpose. The best part of me – the only part of me that is good – is God. The only reason I have any purpose at all is because I was designed by God, for His glory.
But as I stumbled through the self-help section of a local Christian bookstore, that truth was a bit easy to miss.
So back to the part where our own plans don’t matter and where the quest for “purpose” isn’t as difficult at it seems…
I’ve been reading a book by an incredible man named David Platt. And this is what he says in Radical (p. 159-160):
I find it interesting that one of the most common questions asked today among Christians is “What is God’s will for my life?” or “How do I find God’s will for my life?” Many Christians have almost assumed the attitude that they would obey God if he would just show them what he wanted them to do.
In the middle of a Christian culture asking, “How do I find God’s will for my life?” I bring good news. His will is not lost.
The will of God is for you and me to give our lives urgently and recklessly to making the gospel and the glory of God known among all peoples, particularly those who have never even heard of Jesus. The question, therefore, is not “Can we find God’s will?” The question is “Will we obey God’s will?”
Did that smack you across the face as hard as it smacked me?
Think about it. We say we love God, we’re doing ministry for God, we’re shining as lights in the darkness for God. But how many times do we make our “ministry” or our career or our “calling” our god and then just slap the name of God on it to affirm that we have purpose beyond ourselves?
How many times have I asked God that question – “What is your will for my life?”
God makes His will clear in His Word. He issues our purpose, a command to be obeyed, for all of those found in Christ:
“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.”
I’m not sure why, but somewhere along the lines, we made this an “option” of following Jesus. And in doing so, we missed out on our purpose.
In going to Africa, I realize that it will be a fun, exciting, difficult, stretching, painful, and joyful experience. And one thing that God keeps reminding me is that my purpose for existing is not so I could go to Africa. My purpose for existing is to MAKE HIS NAME KNOWN. To speak truth into hearts that are wickedly deceived, to bring light into dark areas of the world. And the awesome thing is, we can do this wherever God calls us to be.
I do believe that God very much meant for us to go to ALL NATIONS, just as He said. But I also believe that we can be serving our purpose by making God known and teaching and discipling others in His truths wherever we are.
It’s time to abandon our question of “purpose,” though. Because we already have the answer. Maybe you aren’t in ministry and don’t see yourself doing full-time ministry ever. And that is okay. But your purpose remains the same: go, tell others about Christ, disciple them in the Word, obey what God has commanded us in the Word.
This is easier said than done, I understand. I anticipate a difficult experience in Africa in part because I am afraid there are many dreams and desires I want to hold onto. But I think those can come into play in all of this.
Remember that imaginary abyss where you tossed your dreams and desires? God gives us gifts, talents, and dreams for a reason. It is just hard to discern which desires are from Him and which were put there by the world.
My challenge to you – and to me – is to offer up each piece of that and ask God how it fits in with our primary purpose for existing. God’s will for our lives will always be to glorify Him and make Him known. But that will look different for each of us. And our gifts, talents, dreams, and desires will fit into that differently.
Lord, may we be people who desire to fulfill the Great Commission – may we be people who desire to live URGENTLY and RECKLESSLY to make the Gospel known to all people. Remove the selfishness that is associated with our questions of purpose and reveal to us your ways, which are so much higher than ours. Give us eyes to see the people in front of us so we might see them and love them and meet their needs. And Lord, teach us how our dreams fit into your great purpose of furthering your glory all over the earth. Amen.