This is the audio recording of the first reading of week eight of Start, entitled We All Have a Purpose.
“I used to think you had to be special for God to use you, but now I know you simply need to say yes.”
Many of us remember a time in our lives when we had to answer the question, “What will I do when I grow up?” For some, we found our answer easily, while others might still be figuring it out. One reason this feels like such an important question is because of the drive in all of us to discover our unique contribution to the world. This need for purpose is one of the defining characteristics of human beings. While horses and lizards don’t wonder about the purpose of their existence, people are different. Humans crave purpose and can suffer serious psychological difficulties when we don’t have it.
Determining what unique gifts and talents we have to offer the world is a worthy endeavor. However, we must be careful not to fall into the trap of believing there is one single purpose we must discover if our lives are to have any meaning. We must also remember that Jesus gave all of us an overarching, unified purpose. Just before He ascended into heaven, Jesus told His disciples, “Go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you” (Matthew 28:19-20, NLT).
In this passage, known as the Great Commission, Jesus clearly states we are all called to go and make disciples. This is the unifying mission and purpose of every Jesus follower. How we live out this purpose will vary widely from person to person, but the purpose remains. This shapes every aspect of our families, work, neighborhoods, and schools. The ways we live out this purpose is as diverse as humanity itself, but the purpose remains.
Much ink has been spilled parsing out the nuances of Jesus’ Great Commission, but at its core, the command is simple: As we go about our lives, we are called to actively share Jesus in word and action. Jesus showed us what God is like, and we are called to that same task. If we see this calling as a duty, we have either misunderstood it, or we have tried to fulfill it in a way that is not in line with our gifting and personality. It’s actually meant to be energizing and soul-satisfying. We were made to find our primary purpose not in climbing the corporate ladder, checking off a to-do list, or living up to society’s definitions of success. We are called to find our purpose as we participate in the work of the Kingdom. One beautiful element of understanding this purpose, is that it’s not a vague goal to pursue, but rather it’s a lifestyle to live.
When we share about Jesus with others, we are not just operating alone. We are joining with other believers throughout time and space who have participated in the Great Commission. We are also operating with a shared promise. Jesus says, “And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).
When we partner with Jesus, we have the privilege of seeing others’ eternities changed, and we are transformed along the way. As we think about our role in Jesus’ mission, it can be helpful to think about it as less of something we do, and more as a demonstration of who we belong to. We belong to Jesus, and He’s about glorifying God and making disciples, so that’s what we’re about. We submit our time, heart, finances, and schedules to be available to love others and we look for opportunities to share Jesus with them. Our participation in the mission of Jesus is part of who we are. It’s a privilege and responsibility that brings life, purpose, and vitality to everything we do.
As American culture becomes more post-Christian, we will have more opportunities to demonstrate the distinctiveness of a Christ-centered life. In a culture where over 50% of people under the age of 30 have never experienced living in a home with two parents, we can invite people into our homes to experience redeemed family units. In a culture suffering from an epidemic of friendlessness, we can invite others to experience the joy and grace of Christian community. In a culture that is glued to technology, we can show the relational nature of our God by slowing down to listen deeply and have genuine face-to-face conversations. In a culture where people are demonized and ostracized if they disagree, we can show our ability to sacrificially love others who see the world differently than we do.
Our world is starving for grace, faithfulness, kindness, and reconciliation, and the call to follow Jesus is a call to live out those types of Kingdom values. We must remember that we have been called to a beautiful mission and we have the ability to influence those God’s places in our lives. As representatives of Jesus who have received His love and grace, we can pass that love and grace on to others. In Acts 1, Jesus called His followers His witnesses, and that’s exactly who we are. We have the power of the Holy Spirit working in us, and He is the One who empowers us to live out that identity.
A witness is someone who sees and tells others what they have seen. In His interactions with the woman at the well (John 4:4-42), Jesus Himself is a witness to the woman He meets. He is clearly tired and looking for rest, and yet when He meets this Samaritan woman, He invites her into a conversation. He knew this wasn’t a chance meeting. It was an opportunity to point a hurting person to the Father’s love. Contrast Jesus’ approach to the situation with that of His disciples, who were distracted and hungry. They were put off by the woman’s presence and they questioned the wisdom of Jesus spending time with her. While Jesus engages the woman and asks her questions, the disciples are walled off, skeptical, and protective. This is one small example of Jesus acting as a witness. Even though He’s tired and hungry, He takes the opportunity to talk to this woman about the Father. There are numerous other examples throughout the gospels of Jesus doing just that. Jesus regularly shows interest in others and invites them to be near Him. He modeled a beautiful posture we can emulate as His followers.
Are we attentive to the work of God in our midst? Do we expect Him to work? Do we share with others what He is teaching us? Are we aware of the His presence and the ways He is answering our prayers? These questions deserve our attention because God is working in our midst, He is teaching us, and He is answering our prayers.
We are God’s people, and His spirit is amongst us, working, guiding and drawing others into His saving love. Being recognized as a Jesus follower, understanding our role as His representative, and being open to witness are normal practices of the Christian life. As we follow Jesus and lean into the many opportunities that will come, our life becomes infused with spiritual purpose and deeper investment int God’s mission to seek and save the lost.
- Do you see yourself as someone with a lifelong God-given purpose? Why, or why not?
- When you think about talking and sharing about Jesus with others, what’s scary about that? What’s exciting?
- Knowing your skills, personality, and life experience, how might you uniquely share about Jesus with others?