Thursday, November 7, 2013

Struggling With Purpose

In 2002, Pastor Rick Warren published "A Purpose Driven Life."  The book obviously struck a chord with the Christian community (and likely with some non-Christians as well) as over 30,000,000 copies of the book were apparently sold in the first five years after its publication alone.

I have to admit that the book had a small part to play in the chain of events that brought  me to my current pursuit -- or predicament if you would rather.  Our church, like many others I am sure, took part in a spiritual campaign also created by Saddleback Church called "Forty Days of Purpose."  Like the book itself, the purpose of the campaign was to help people answer a critical question in their lives, namely: "What on earth am I here for?"

I was a bit distracted with the press of life during the period of time our church was on the "Forty Days of Purpose" journey.  So, it perhaps should have been no surprise that at the end of the forty days I had gained no greater clarity about my purpose in life than I had before the journey started.  At the same time, it did cause me to begin a discipline that continues in my life to this day -- which is regular prayer about God's will for me.

Ultimately, those prayers led me to step out in faith and become more active in our church, and before I knew it I was on staff as our Executive Pastor.  In other words, I guess you can say that Rick Warren, a man I have never met, played a small part in ruining my life!

In recent months I have had occasion to reflect on my experience with "A Purpose Driven Life," and I have to say that I am not sure I am a fan of the book anymore.  Don't get me wrong.  There is a reason that the book has been so incredibly successful.  People need to find and understand their purpose in life.

Actually, I am not sure that my issue is with the book so much as it is with the odd preoccupation that we have as Christians sometimes with finding our purpose.  I spent months or maybe even years looking for my purpose before I got an answer.  In fact, there are times now when I wonder about God's "ultimate" purpose for my life.  At times I question whether God really wants me to be a pastor.  At times I question whether He really wants me to be at Heartland Church.  And, to be honest, I have come to the conclusion that most of the time I spend dwelling on those questions is a complete waste of emotional energy and time.

In Matthew 6, Jesus tells us not to worry about tomorrow essentially because it is pointless to do so.  Today has enough problems of its own!

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

I think I have decided that wringing our hands about God's purpose for our lives is sort of the same thing.  The truth is that God's purpose for my life awaits me every single day from the very moment my feet hit the floor in the morning until I fall asleep at night.  The truth is that most often the problem is not discovering God's purpose for our lives -- IT IS BEING OBEDIENT and thereby fulfilling that purpose.

God's purpose is found in our willingness to stop and help someone in distress.  It is found in taking the time to speak a word of encouragement to a co-worker who is having a difficult day.  It is found in taking the time to visit the man in prison, to feed the man who is hungry, and to cloth the man who needs a coat so he can make it through a cold winter.

God's purpose is found in our willingness to share the good news of Jesus and what He did on the cross with someone who desperately needs to know Him. 

I guess I have decided that God has made His purpose for each of us unmistakable.

Now all has been heard;

    here is the conclusion of the matter:
Fear God and keep his commandments,
    for this is the duty of all mankind.
For God will bring every deed into judgment,
    including every hidden thing,
    whether it is good or evil.

                                            Ecclesiastes, 12:13-14

36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

                                                          Matthew 22:36-40



kathryn jankiewicz said...

He "ruined your life." That is funny!!! I think it is so interesting that people say their purpose is to "build a skyscraper" or to "be a mom" or whatever their job is. So do you not a have a pupose anymore when the skyscraper is built or your kids don't need you like when they were litte or your retire? I think our purpose has to be focused on eternity and that our callings are supportive of that purpose. Assignments come and go as seasons change but if your identity is not in those fleeting assignments you will remain focused on the most important thing - seeing His purpose accomplished in establishing the Kingdom on the earth. Thanks for sharing your heart. Glad you are our pastor!!!

john crews said...

Great insight Kathryn. You are so right. Blessings!

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