The Search for Significance
Nebuchadnezzar had a nation of people bowing down to him in worship (Daniel 3:5). Solomon had a limitless list of women at his beck and call (1 Kings 11:3). The rich young ruler had every possession he could ever need and then some (Matthew 19:22). Zacchaeus had a fortune and lived better than the rest of his countrymen (Luke 19:2). And yet, all of these men were found wanting. All of them discovered in one way or another that in order to step into God’s purpose for them it meant sacrificing the things they had used to create their sense of significance. To find out what they were made for they needed to sacrifice the life they made.
What do these stories teach us about our purpose in life? First, if we are going to find out what we are supposed to do we need to first find out who we are, and this comes as a result of laying down the things we have used to earn approval in life (See Identity Blog). Second, living out our purpose in life is a reflection of what we believe to be true about God, ourselves, others, and this world. If it’s all random and none of it matters, then we will spend our lives figuring out ways to experience as much pleasure as possible. If God is mean and the world is hopeless we will spend our lives trying to protect ourselves from experiencing the hurt and sadness of those things. However, if God is good and the world is broken and in the process of being restored, we will center our lives on becoming a part of the restoration.
So first you have to ask yourself before you can find out what you are called to and made for in this world, “What do I believe about God, others, myself and the world?” Next, if you believe you are created, as the bible teaches, then you can begin to ask why you were created. “God, why did you make me?” is one of the simplest and most basic questions every human has at their core. The beauty is that God’s word teaches us not only that we were made beautifully and uniquely, distinctly human but not quite the same as any person that ever was or ever will be, (Psalm 139) but it also teaches that we are given a unique opportunity, to accept a call that has been placed on our lives in Jesus Christ.
2 Corinthians 5:18-20 explains that we were once broken and separated from God but we have been reconciled (restored relationship) back to him and because of this we are called to live out this message of reconciliation for the rest of our lives. In our greatest need, reconciliation, we found our greatest purpose, reconciling the world back to God. Rather than focusing on what we can accomplish in this world to gain significance, our worldview is reoriented so that we begin focusing on pointing the world to what God has accomplished in order to bring Him significance. This is the act that we call “glorifying God” and it is the glorious purpose we were made for.
If you’re wondering what this means, if you are asking the question, “why was I made?”, then you are on the right track. My question for you is, are you looking in the right place? Many men have spent their entire lives searching only to come up empty (Ecclesiastes 1:1-11). If you want to begin the journey of stepping into your purpose then start by admitting the truth about how you are made, a creature in desperate need for relationship with God, yourself and others. After you admit who you are, begin loving God, learning about Him, and living out the mission He has given you to share this message with others. It’s not easy, but its good, and the riches of this mission last for eternity.
Purpose: Steps 1,2,3
Purpose. This is something I have always longed for and run away from at the same time. I want to feel included, have meaning in the every day, and be successful, but at the same time I want seclusion, less responsibilities, and not be accountable to others. It is an inner battle between my introverted hermit soul and my outgoing servant’s heart.
Recently I was reminded of the purpose God has for my life. Growing up I always thought that purpose revolved around occupation and that success was based on financial standing. At times, this way of thinking continues to haunt me. During this month where Recovery is focusing on our Purpose and Identity in Christ, God used it to open my eyes to how quickly and easily I allow this old way of thinking to slip in and distract me from His true purpose for me.
It was a quiet evening after my husband and I had put our children to bed and out of boredom and curiosity, I pop open Facebook. I was struck off guard by someone’s post about their at home business (a current trend in our society that I have found myself indulging in either in purchases or membership) and was immediately triggered by it. God, why didn’t you bless me to have success in this area? Why when I had put in this kind of effort did every door that cracked opened feel like a slam in the face? Why can’t I stay at home enjoying my natural hermit tendencies by making a living through the unsocial world of social media? I stewed in this for some time and quickly recognized that I needed to open God’s word and focus my mind on Him.
Even as I prayed, I did not hear God answer. My husband reminded me that God has me where He wants me and blessed me by my current position, and yet my soul remained troubled. So I began applying recovery principles to my struggling mindset.
1. Lord, I am powerless over how I feel and my lack of “success.” My thinking has become unmanageable.
2. Lord, I know that you are greater that I am. That you gave me all that I have. Help me to be grateful and to see things through your eyes.
3. Lord, I surrender my feelings, thoughts, and actions around my work. May my life be glorifying to You, that others may see You through me. Soften my heart. Bless me with joy.
The next week, a mother of one of my students at school asked me if I had seen a Facebook message she had sent me the week before. I had not seen it and said that I would check it later that day. I hadn’t received a notification but when I went onto the site, there it was. As I opened it up and began reading her words, my heart began to fill with joy.
This unchurched family was seeking my opinion in a decision they were considering. They had chosen me not because I am successful and intelligent, filled with the answers to life decisions. Hardly! Rather, they were asking me simply because I am a mother who works at the school, who sometimes carries around a little pocket Bible, and who has a strangely joyful, loving, and trustworthy quality about me. Of course, I know that these qualities are not my own but the fruit of Christ living inside of me and my willingness to live dependent on Him. What joy it was to hear that others see Him, my Lord Jesus Christ, through me! And on those days when that little leather bound book is in my hand, those are the days when I need Him the most. The mornings where I got up on the wrong side of the bed and need an attitude adjustment. The mornings where my children are arguing and my voice becomes louder than their bickering. Those mornings where I am at my ugliness but know that I have been given a responsibility to love and minister to the students in my care. But also on those mornings, others are watching; others are seeking their own purpose in life; others are wondering what identity in Christ is truly about.
Each day I am living in His purpose and it is not defined by an occupation. It is not measured by financial success. It is simply living dependent on God. And with that dependency, it is doing what He has called me to do in each moment of each day, trusting in His better plan and greater purpose, and allowing His light to shine through me in this dark world. In a moment on Facebook, my thoughts went straight to my own definition of purpose. But in a completely separate moment on Facebook, God pulled me out of my own head and into His loving heart for the world, and He gave me a glimpse into His greater purpose. What a blessed moment to recognize that He is using me as a part of His redemptive mission! What fulfillment there is in living in God’s plan and purpose for my life! My mind set has once again been adjusted and contentment fills my soul as I go about each day living for Christ, doing the next right thing and trusting in Him.