I attended a Christian church service recently about discovering our purpose. We all should evaluate ourselves to define and live for the specific purpose for which we each uniquely exist, the pastor said. We all left focused on ourselves and our performance.
A week or so later our whole little family caught a bug and stayed home on Sunday. We tuned in to hear an Easter season special about Jesus. It described the time of Jesus’ life right before his crucifixion. The big takeaway idea? So many people are looking for purpose, and as Christians, our big purpose is serving people. “Wash their feet” as Jesus did the night before he died. We turned it off with the weight of trying to serve like Jesus on our shoulders.
About a week later, a news commentator said that in our current American society of relative peace and affluence, more people than ever are stressed and wondering what the purpose of their existence is…
Well, I had been taught that God does have specific, personal purposes for each of us to accomplish for His kingdom’s sake, and that to find and fulfill them we need to each listen to what He says in our hearts in prayer, analyze what we see around us for spiritual activity and discover what God is doing so we can be a part of it, listen for agreeing patterns in what other Christians say about those things, and look in Scripture not just for what is sinful versus God-honoring, but for personal, specific guidance for our everyday lives. The idea is, we need to do big things that only God can do through us because that is the way other people are drawn to God, not by ordinary things we perhaps could have done on our own.
But a friend I owe a debt of gratitude to greater than I can pay pointed toward the Bible, and it shattered this heavy load. The truth of Christianity brought all this tumbling down, and I experienced what Jesus meant when he said, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:29)
This, I found, is my, and our, much more simple, much more Christ-exalting Christian purpose!
1. Repent. Not just once. Always. Living in an attitude of repentance for and freedom from sin. God said be perfect, be holy, give more than is asked of me, love Him more than anything, love everyone else as much as myself, live for His glory and not mine, have righteousness that goes beyond doing right but thinking excellent, right, honorable, praiseworthy, pure thoughts and being motivated by what is good and perfect and holy, seeking first His kingdom. And I fall so short of that. Though I hate my sin that makes me not this, it isn’t heavy on me. Instead, I
2. Rejoice! Because the debt for all of our sin has been borne by Him. He is faithful to forgive us. We are covered in righteousness and forever washed clean by the shed blood of the perfect Jesus, crushed in our place for our failure. Nothing is left for our part but humble gratitude. Daily dependence on the gospel. No penance or offering is appropriate. What could we possibly add to His piercing punishment as payment for our iniquity? Is it in any measure insufficient? The dirty pennies I would offer the One who owns everything, who at great loss through the death of His one, only beloved son paid my debt are only offensive. I am set free again and again to live not looking at what is behind but pressing toward His calling for me. And for that, my ongoing, daily purpose and calling in life? I…
3. Rest. God will fulfill His every purpose. He promised He always does. (Isaiah 46:10) As evidence, every page of the Bible displays His sovereignty. No evil was ever able to stop His plan but only ever played right into His hand and was used by Him toward fulfilling His good purposes. (Ephesians 1:11) When He wanted people in a role He had for them, He put them there, without their seeking, begging, asking and hunting. Often, without their even knowing. When people wanted a different role than He had for them, He reproved them. But people were never the hero of the story anyway. He is.
He said He has created good works in advance for us, His redeemed, to walk in. (Ephesians 2:10) What power could we possibly have to thwart Him? We’re confident that God will finish what he is doing in us. (Philippians 1:6) If Pavlov knew his dogs, how much more does the omniscient God of all know and rule over precisely how every turn of each of our stories will unfurl? He created you with your personality, disposition and temperament and placed you in the home and environment, time and location He planned for you. (Acts 17:26, Ephesians 3:15) Everything you have, every opportunity, gift, talent, relationship, you have received from Him. (1 Corinthians 4:7)
Some are determined to load us down with the weight of a law that we must do if we are to fulfill all the purpose for His redeeming us, even if it is that we should believe Him more or have more faith. God’s hands are tied by us for our purpose and calling unless we muster up more faith and believe Him more. But the Bible says our faith is even a gift from Him. (Romans 12:3) It says what began in us by the Holy Spirit, we cannot finish and perfect by our efforts. (Galatians 3:3) We only slay the deeds of the flesh by the Spirit too. (Romans 8:13) Instead, I pray and trust Him for His grace to want to and power from Him to follow Him. (Philippians 2:13) And for wisdom. (James 1:5)
Instead of working to listen in prayer, which the Bible does not instruct us to do as a way to hear Him (https://www.gotquestions.org/listening-prayer.html), I can bring my requests to Him, know that He hears them, cares and responds and gives when we ask, and trust Him. Instead of reading the Bible looking for specific guidance beyond sin and common Christian instruction for clues for my personal current situation, I read the Bible for who God is and the amazing story of what He has done to redeem His people and rejoice in who He is and His power and grace and mercy. Instead of trying to figure out what He is doing, when He has told me plainly that His ways are not my ways, His thoughts are above mine, (Isaiah 55:8, Job 38-42) and Christ Himself claimed to know and do what God is doing only in His claim to BE God (John 5:16-30), I can trust that He is God and I am not. Though I don’t know what He is doing, He is good, and I can trust Him and rest.
I do whatever I find to do with all my might. He promises He will lead me. How else could he say if I do that it is the Lord Christ I am serving? (Colossians 3:23) He didn’t say only if He whispers to my heart and I uncover His spiritual activity and find a big, God-sized activity to do with all my might. He said whatever my hand finds to do.
I love the old hymns of Christians throughout the ages and their deep theology and doctrine. So good for the soul! I’ve been inspired to sing this one again these days:
He leadeth me! O blessed thought! O words with heavenly comfort fraught!
Whatever I do, wherever I be, still ’tis God’s hand that leadeth me!
He leadeth me, he leadeth me, by his own hand he leadeth me;
His faithful follower I would be, for by his hand he leadeth me.
People will not be coming to God because I am doing amazing, God-sized things that an ordinary person could not possibly do which there is no other way to explain but the power of God. If they are drawn to Him because of knowing me, it will be because of the hope I really do have – because He is merciful and gracious and they see and hear me rejoicing in that, because I am quick to forgive them for any grievance, so aware of my own need for God’s generous forgiveness, because I want to serve and love as I have have been served and loved by our Creator, and because He is strong and sovereign and good and trustworthy and they see me resting in that.
“In repentance and rest is your salvation. In quietness and trust is your strength.” Isaiah 30:15
“The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me.” Psalm 138:8