I came across a blog entry this week that gives a four step process to finding your purpose in life. The author says that is takes about 20 minutes to accomplish. Its method was basically to clear away the clutter of thoughts in your brain until you found the thing that resonated deeply. This approach did not consult any outside sources for help. It just asks you to look within yourself.
Although this approach may be helpful to some people, it has a fundamental flaw. Let me illustrate it with this story. A master martial artist asked Bruce Lee to teach him everything Bruce knew about martial arts. Bruce held up two cups, both filled with liquid. “The first cup,” said Bruce, “represents all of your knowledge about martial arts. The second cup represents all of my knowledge about martial arts. If you want to fill your cup with my knowledge, you must first empty your cup of your knowledge.”
If we want to find our purpose in life, we must consult our Master, Jesus Christ. He is the one who designed us and who knows how we best operate. He alone knows our purpose. And the great thing about knowing our purpose in life is that we don’t have to wonder or worry about it. Jesus has showed us through His Word exactly what that is.
Here’s what the scripture says. “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Colossians 3:17) Instead of focusing on a job or a position or an activity or a role, the apostle Paul says anything you do should be done for the glory of God so that Jesus Christ will be praised. Instead of worrying about what to do or where to go, we should instead concentrate on living according to the purpose that he has laid out in His Word. If we seek first His Kingdom, then He will put everything into place for us. Our purpose is to live on purpose for Christ. It means lining up our daily living with his Kingdom plan. How do I live on purpose for Christ?
Set your heart on things above
“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.” (Colossians 3:1)
Our hearts, scripture says, are deceitful. (Jeremiah 17:9) They deceives us into believing that something other than God’s will and plan for our lives is going to be the best thing. When get our heart set on something, and then it is very difficult to let go. The best approach is to guard our heart from desires that seek to come between us and the Lord. In order to do that we have to believe that God’s best is THE best for me. We must believe that God’s hopes and dreams are far greater than any hopes and dreams that I have which are different than His.
The word that we have translated as “set your heart” more literally means “to seek diligently, earnestly” even “tenaciously.” When you really, really want something other even important things don’t seem to matter. If you have your heart set on getting an iphone or a cat or a five guys burger or a boat or an A on a test or a house or whatever it may be, getting something else is a letdown. It’s so easy to set our hearts on stuff, and when that happens, they become our primary focus.
Getting things is not necessarily good or bad, but we must remember the Lord’s instructions in Matthew 6:33. “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” The word Jesus used “seek” and the word that Paul used are the exact same one. So the Lord’s will for us is to earnestly, diligently, tenaciously seek before everything else the things of His Kingdom which are the things above.
Why should we set our heart on those things? Because we have been raised with Jesus. Since Jesus was resurrected from the dead, as those who belong to him through faith, we have also been changed by the power of his resurrection. We are seated above in heavenly places. Our life is in Jesus.
True life does not come from the things that are seen but from the One who is unseen. It does not come from the accumulation of stuff or the accomplishments of life. It is a gift from above. Life originates from God. Death is the end result of everything that does not come from Him. The Bible says that the heart is the wellspring of life. If our heart is set on things above, then the life that comes flowing out of us will have its origin in Christ, who is the author and source of real life.
Milton Hershey founded the famous chocolate company which we all know and love. Every year Hershey produces over a billion pounds of chocolate which is sold in over 90 countries around the world. We recently visited Hershey and were very pleased to learn more about its founder. Even though Milton Hershey made billions of dollars selling chocolate, he considered his greatest legacy to be the boarding school he and his wife founded for orphaned boys. Since he and his wife could not have children, they looked for a way to share their love of children. Instead of allowing bitterness to take control of their lives, they gave of themselves for others.
Today the K-12 school houses about 2,000 students, half boys and half girls. Most of them have no parents, but some are from difficult home situations. Students have come from all 50 states. Before he died Milton Hershey expressed the hope that one day a student who graduated from the school would lead the company he founded. As of today this has happened six times.
It was evident as we heard about the school and Milton Hershey’s life that he was a man of deep faith in Christ. His heart was set on how to help those who were in the greatest need. It reminds me of the heart of the Lord who often turned his attention to the poor, the outcast, the rejected and the lost. Milton Hershey is a great example of someone who set his heart on the things above, on the things that moved God’s heart. How do I live on purpose for Christ? I set my heart on things above.
Put to death your desires from below
“You must put to death, then, the earthly desires at work in you, such as sexual immorality, indecency, lust, evil passions, and greed (for greed is a form of idolatry).” (Colossians 3:5)
Jesus pointed out that the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. (Mark 14:38) We have a daily struggle and that is to put the desires that are not pleasing to God to death. Because of our weaknesses, we have to be smart. How do we kill off the desires from below? Give them no oxygen to breath. We do this by removing ourselves from systematic temptations.
Temptations come at us from different directions, but we can help ourselves by recognizing the situations that are recurring problems for us. If our weakness is food, we will do ourselves a great favor by removing ourselves from all you can eat opportunities. If our weakness is gossip or using bad language, we should take remove ourselves from others who gossip or swear. If our weakness is inappropriate content on the internet, we should put boundaries into place which keep us from going where we shouldn’t. If we have a weakness with spending, we should cut up our credit cards and pay cash.
If only it were that simple. We find ourselves unable to remove ourselves from tempting situations or incapable of maintaining proper boundaries. We find that our flesh is too weak even to take ourselves out of the path of temptation. This is where we need to heed the words of John the Baptist and “produce fruit in keeping with repentance.” (Matthew 3:8) Repentance means to change our mind and our direction and fruit means results. Until we see results, we need to continue working at putting to death our sinful desires.
Some help in this. First understand that repentance is a good thing. It’s a good thing to turn away from those things that are harmful to you. It’s like taking a bath. It feels good to get rid of the junk in our hearts. Recognize that if you know Jesus, the Holy Spirit who lives inside of you is working on your heart. The Spirit is moving you to break off your connection with those harmful desires. He already knows all the chinks in your armor. He is well aware of the cracks in your foundation. He loves you and wants the best for you, and so the Spirit is already moving in your heart to turn away from selfish desires. He is trying to help you, and repentance is the first step.
Second, you need help and you have help to give. You don’t have to have it all together in order to help someone else, and don’t believe the lie that you can get it all together by yourself. We are in this fight against selfish desire together. We are teammates in the war against the flesh. Let’s fight together. As Benjamin Franklin famously said, “We must, indeed, all hang together or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately.” If you don’t reach out for help you are hanging yourself out to dry. How do I live on purpose for Christ? I put to death my desires from below.
Immerse yourself in heartfelt compassion
“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” (Colossians 3:12)
One of the best ways to practice compassion and just basic caring for people is to really listen to them. Make eye contact. Don’t answer the phone or figet with it. Be in the moment and ask questions to truly understand what exactly they are saying. Don’t listen for the opening in the conversation where you can say what you want to say. Listen with a genuine desire to know and understand them. Listen until you can feel what they feel.
Caring for people can become a challenge especially when the sickness doesn’t get better and the opportunity doesn’t happen as soon as you hoped it would or when the change in behavior does not seem like it will ever happen. Our compassion leaks, and we need to get it refilled. We get tired of forgiving when we realize that we will be right back in the same spot again offering forgiveness.
Here’s maybe some help. First, forgiveness is a requirement for every Christ-follower, but so is speaking the truth in love. Frank, honest and loving, compassionate conversations are difficult but necessary. Bearing with each other and forgiving whatever grievances we have against another, that’s what Paul says to do. However, sometimes the reason a problem continues is a communication issue. Sometimes we don’t say anything and keep hoping that the problem changes.
Second, before you have that frank, honest and loving, compassionate talk, wait a day. Just ask the Lord to give you the right words and the wisdom to share it well. Instead of attacking, ask for the compassion to say it this way, “I was hurt when you did this. You might not have known what you did, but I felt that it was important that you know how I feel.”
Remember that when your hurts are not healed, you have a hard time feeling compassion for anyone else. First, take the stick out of your paw, or eye (Matthew 7:5) or wherever it hurts, then your reactions won’t simply be because you are hurting. You will be able to feel the pain of others. How do I live on purpose for Christ? I immerse myself in heartfelt compassion.
Be content in every situation
“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace.” (Colossians 3:15)
The book of Revelation describes a sea of glass in front of the throne of God in heaven. (Revelation 4:6) In God’s presence there is no worry, anxiety or fear. There is great contentment because of the reality that God is in control. Those who know Jesus Christ are in him in heavenly places. In Christ we have access to perfect peace. We need to let that peace rule our hearts because otherwise there is a long line of people and evil spiritual beings who want to rule us instead.
How can actively enforce the rule of God’s peace in our daily lives? Thankful and grateful – these words should escape our lips multiple times every day. We should be exceedingly grateful for the revelation that we have in God’s Word and for the gift of the Holy Spirit who lives in us. If God’s words are life, then we should be pre-occupied with them. Make it your aim to talk about what you’re reading, studying, meditating on in the Word of God without someone else every stinking day. Always be grateful and thankful. The Bible gives us these powerful words to live by: “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18) How do I live on purpose for Christ? I am content in every situation.
Do everything in the name of Jesus
“And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Colossians 3:17)
Think about all the different areas of your life: your home, work, school, recreation, clubs, church. Ask yourself how well you are representing Jesus? Do you have room for improvement? If you have room for improvement then this is where you need to start in order to find your purpose. In order to find out what your purpose is in life you need to live on purpose for Christ in all areas of your life.
How do I live on purpose? Set your heart on things above. Stop dreaming about things that don’t matter for eternity. Lay down those things that drive you and make you want to sacrifice in order to get them. Lay them down before the Lord, and if He tells you to pick them back up then you can be confident that He has put that desire in your heart.
How do I live on purpose? Put to death those evil selfish desires. This may cost you friends, opportunities, even money. You don’t need the money it would bring you.
How do I live on purpose? Immerse yourself in heartfelt compassion. Start with those people that annoy you. Put yourself in their shoes. Listen to them. Learn about them. Pray for them.
How do I live on purpose? Be content with where you are, who you are, what you are doing, where you are going and how you are getting there. Kick out fear, anxiety, worry with thankfulness, gratitude, and praise of God.
How do I live on purpose? Whatever you do, do it for the glory and honor of God. This is why we were created. Finding our purpose in life is not primarily about what we do but that in whatever we do we live for the glory and honor of Jesus Christ.