Summary: Purpose is a pretty big idea. When we talk about “understanding your purpose in life,” the subject can seem kind of insurmountable.
Purpose is a pretty big idea. When we talk about “understanding your purpose in life,” the subject can seem kind of insurmountable.
A while back, I was involved in a Christian outreach project with the Jewish community. They weren’t sure if they trusted my intentions, so they invited me to meet with the local Jewish Federation. A rabbi who was concerned that the “outreach” was a veiled attempt to proselytize Jews wanted to corner me with a question that might reveal any hidden agenda on my part. He asked, “What do Christians believe will happen at the end of time?”
Hmmm…. I had to scratch my head for a second on that one. “Well,” I answered. “It depends on who you ask. There are probably as many answers to that question among Christians as there are among Jews. The bottom line is that you’re Jews and we’re Christians. You’re waiting for the Messiah to come; we’re waiting for Him to come back. Fortunately, our project isn’t focused on the end of time, and frankly, we have our hands full trying to get everyone to agree on what will happen next Tuesday.”
I don’t know if my answer satisfied him or confused him. Either way, it got me through the meeting. They agreed to work with us and the project was a success.
“What is going to happen at the end of time?” is a pretty big question. I figure that if I can successfully traverse the few days between now and next Tuesday, I’m that much closer to finding out what happens at the end of time; whether it’s the end of time in general or just mine personally.
Taking on a subject like, “What’s my purpose in life?” is kind of like taking on, “What’s going to happen at the end of time.” They’re both pretty big ideas. It’s a whole lot easier to ask, “What’s my purpose today?” and “What’s going to happen next Tuesday?”
I wrote earlier that God and I had made a deal about how I could follow His lead without getting lost. He would point me in the right direction and give me something to do each day. He didn’t tell me exactly how everything would work out “at the end of time” or even what I’d be doing six months from now. Just which direction I should be pointed in and what I was supposed to do that day.
He’s been faithful about keeping up His end of the bargain. I know which direction I’m supposed to be pointed in. Whenever I veer off course He always gives me a little correctional bump. The bumps aren’t even that hard; I guess that’s His mercy showing.
He’s saved me from a lot of heartache and wasted time through those little bumps. Looking back, I shudder when I imagine where my off-course path would have taken me. Thankfully, the correctional bump usually nudges me back on course before I’ve made too much of a mess of things.
It’s the same way with what I’m supposed to do. Each day I know exactly what I need to do and each day’s task is plenty. There’s a pattern too. What I do today will be necessary for what He wants me to do tomorrow. Tomorrow’s tasks will prepare me for the next day, and so on.
I don’t think I’m on this plan because God changes His mind each day about what I’m to do with my life or that He wants to keep His options open. As a matter of fact, the Bible says just the opposite. God knew us before we were born. His purpose for you and me individually was included in the master plan of the universe. Even better, according to Paul’s letter to the Romans, God actively participates in guiding our daily activities according to the plan.
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).
I think the reason He doesn’t give me the whole plan in one shot is that it wouldn’t do me any good. He knows that my knowing exactly how my life will turn out, what day I’ll die or what day Jesus will come back, won’t help me get my job done today. It’s my limitation, not His. I couldn’t handle it. It’s too much information and knowing it would only add distraction to the task at hand.
Elaine and I have a motorhome. Whenever we can, we use it for travel and lodging instead of flying or driving a car and staying in hotels. We’ve flown a lot and stayed in a lot of hotel rooms in the past. We choose the motorhome.
Before a trip I’ll use a computer program to make a detailed plan of our route, with turn by turn instructions, pre-planned stops, estimated times of arrival, road construction warnings, places to buy fuel; everything planned out in detail from the time we leave the house, to our final destination and back to the house again. When I print out the plan and the detailed maps it usually takes up about six or seven pages. I staple them together and viola! I have our entire trip, down to the last detail. I can skip ahead and find out exactly what time we’re supposed to arrive at each destination, how much fuel we’ll use, and if there’s going to be road construction in Cincinnati. I pack the plan in my briefcase with the rest of my stuff and we’re off!