~ Agathos Church is a non-denominational Christian Church in Columbus, Ohio. This blog post is an adapted excerpt from a sermon by Peter DeWitt. You can hear the whole sermon, What is our purpose? (part 5), by clicking here.
Why it is important to know our purpose
A purpose is “what you were made for.” A designer of a product would communicate the purpose for their product in the owner’s manual. Similarly, God shares our purpose with us in the owner’s manual He gave us – the Bible. Being in the Word of God will help us understand our purpose as God’s creation. Artists across the world design their art in a very purposeful way. They sculpt their creations with great specificity and then show their art in galleries and place an artist statement next to their art to clarify the reason for the art. God’s creative process supersedes the specificity and care of any artist; He is incredibly purposeful in how He has made us!
Knowing our purpose is essential to life going well! If a hammer chose on its own accord to be a window-washing tool, that hammer may be apt to think it was poorly designed! Not so . . . the hammer was perfectly designed for driving nail, but not well suited to working with glass! Had the hammer operated according to its purpose, it would have found the joy in driving nails and the perfection of its design. Similarly, if you want to thrive in life (and not just survive), you need to know your purpose!
God is calling you according to His purpose! (Romans 8:28) We all want to know our calling in life. God’s calling for you is in accordance with His purposes for you! When you understand your purpose, you will be able to explore your calling.
Blessed to be a Blessing
You have to be glorified by Him (God) in order to glorify Him! No parent is glorified by a struggling child, but a thriving child brings honor to his/her parents. “Grandchildren are the crown of the aged” . . . if they are great! Children bring glory to their parents by being glorious themselves. It is no different with God. When we “arise and shine,” God gets the glory.
Religion tries to reverse this principle. Religion tries to make the process of walking according to our purpose more like: “take the part where you are glorified out of the equation and turn God into a cruel task-master in your thinking.” We think that self-debasing ministry is somehow holy ministry, but all that will really happen is that we will burn out, be bitter, complain, moan, and be nasty to be around. Look at the Pharisees. Look at the older son in Luke 15: “Father, I’ve done EVERYTHING!” The Father corrected his thinking: “Son, all that I have is yours . . .”
Most of us do not have a correct view of God as it relates to how He is as our leader. Look at Ps. 23:1 “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.” The very first verse of the most popular psalm in the world is “God is my leader, I shall not want.” In other words, “God is my leader, so life is really good!” That single verse destroys religious thinking. Now let’s look at verse 2: “He makes me to lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside still waters, He restores my soul.” God is ministering to you! God restores the soul of His servant! Finally, let’s look at verse 3: “He guides me in paths of righteousness for His Name’s sake.” God wants to lead us in paths of righteousness for the fame of His Name – so that others can know His goodness. BUT, look what He does (verse 2) before He leads you for His reputation (verse 3): “He makes you to lie down in green pastures, He leads you beside still waters, He restores your soul.” God ministers TO you more than He ministers THROUGH you. You might try to minister through you more than He has ministered to you, but He’s not (doing that). You minister with the comfort with which you have been comforted. God is not trying to extract something from you He has not put in you. He will multiply your efforts in ministry (think 5 loaves feeding 5,000), but He is not trying to pull something out of you He has not deposited in you!
We tend to be timid about “working for God” because we almost anticipate that God is going to “use us” in order to glorify Him. Nevertheless, that line of thinking is illogical at best. First, if God’s Will for the world is to reconcile the world to Himself (to love them), then it would stand to reason He would really want to take care of those who are working to love the world on His behalf. He himself even said “don’t muzzle the ox while it is treading grain.” God is not under-serving His servants! Secondly, if God’s will is to bless the world, why would he operate counter to His will with His own servants? He would have to be schizophrenic in His thinking in order to withhold blessing from His servants whom He has commissioned to minster blessing to the people of the world. It simply is categorically and grossly illogical to think that God would withhold His blessings from those who are serving Him. This is an important point to make because many believers are actually withholding their “ultimate yes” from God (not in terms of salvation, but in terms of ministering on His behalf – in terms of seeking first His kingdom) because they are consciously or sub-conciously believing that serving God is a major sacrifice – a business proposition from which they will come out bruised, beaten, and taken advantage of. NOT SO! You cannot outdo God in generosity. He wants His servants blessed. It is His nature to bless and to love. You can’t lose by serving God! The Lord is your leader, you shall not want!
The life of God expressed differently
There is a specificity to your calling in God! You have a specific role to play in His purposes! As members of the body of Christ, we are all called to the same purpose in general terms but we are all called to express that purpose differently. The expression of the purposes of God in our lives will look different for different members of the body of Christ.
Here’s an analogy: DNA is the genetic blueprint for your cells. It is estimated that there are 37 trillion cells in the average human body – far more cells in one body than their are individual people in this world. And inside of each of those cells is your entire genetic blueprint – all of your DNA. Every cell that has ever been in your body has had that same set of DNA (from when you were first conceived until now, all of your cells have had the same genetic blueprint inside of them). The average human cell has about 6 feet of DNA on the inside of it – and on that length of DNA there are about 3 billion pieces of instruction for your cells called nitrogenous bases. But think about it . . . if you have the same DNA in the cells that make up your nose as you do in the cells that make up your eyes as you do in the cells that make up your ears, how is it that you have a nose that is separate from your eyes that are separate from your ears? If all the cells in your body have the same DNA, how is it that so many of the cells are so different? All the cells in your body have the same DNA, but many of your cells express that DNA very differently. Certain aspects of your DNA are only expressed in certain cells . . . and certain other aspects of your DNA are only expressed in other certain cells. Were it not that way, the cells on your arm would be a “nose, ear, eye.”
And so it is with the body of Christ. As believers, we all have the life of God on the inside of us – the Spirit of Christ Himself living in us! And we are called to express that life of God through us, but the way it is going to express through us is going to be different in the same way that not all of your DNA is going to express itself in every cell of your body!
“If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where would be the smelling? But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased. And if they were all one member, where would the body be?” (1 Cor. 12:17-19) God is pleased with how He made you! God is pleased with you being set among the members of the body in order for you to be part of the whole body! We need to know who we are in Christ! And part of knowing who we are in Christ is knowing that we are a new creation, that all things have been made new, that we are spirit soul and body and that our spirit is perfect! BUT the other part of knowing who you are in Christ is knowing how you’ve been made to express that life of God that’s on the inside of you! You need to know how it is that God wants to express Himself through you! The are so many facets of God’s magnificence and beauty, and you are called to reflect one of the facets of God!
Comparison can sabotage your destiny
Yet, we often compare. We see people that are successful and we sub-conciously try to emulate the particulars of their success, but God does not want you to be someone else . . . He wants you to be a very successful version of yourself! Success is not measured by results, it is measured by process. Walking faithfully in our God-given purpose and calling is what makes us a success – not some metric we use to try to compare some aspect of our life to some one else. Paul said: “For we dare not class ourselves or compare ourselves with those who commend themselves. But they, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.” (2 Cor. 10:12)
Here’s an analogy: A cacti will thrive in the desert, but die in Ohio. Conversely a maple tree will thrive in Ohio, but die in the desert. The key to thriving is stepping into your God-given purpose. Your God-given purpose will always be in-line with the 4 purposes of man on this earth (knowing and enjoying God, glorifying God and being glorified by Him, and loving others), but it will have some specificity as it relates to your expression of it. Neverthless, we tend to be like a maple tree, looking at cacti and thinking “the water conserving capabilities of the cacti are so amazing – I’m a maple tree, but I want to be a cactus!” Yet, at the same time, the cacti may be looking at the maple tree thinking “that tree’s display of fall colors is beautiful – I’m a cactus, but I want to be a maple tree!” But you have to be careful you don’t sabotage your destiny by comparison!
Finding your Niche
The cactus thrives in its niche. The maple tree thrives in its niche. God’s design is perfect. Look at creation! For instance, redwood trees (Sequoia sempervirens) are able to grow in areas with frequent forest fires. These trees are made of wood (of course) yet they don’t burn. Think about it – that’s amazing! Equally amazing are Grimpoteuthis octopi. These amazing marine animals can live at 23,000 ft. deep in the sea! The water pressure at that depth is almost incomprehensible. Yet, God designed that octopus to be able to live at 23,000 feet under the sea – and He therefore designed its flesh to not get crushed by that pressure. When you operate in the niche God has made you for, you will discover how incredibly perfectly you were made!
God has designed you perfectly for the calling that He has for you! We need to trust that He has designed us perfectly. We can all probably remember, as a child, thinking something like “I just know I was made for something great.” God has put callings (and giftings to be able to carry out those callings) on your heart! And He wants you to know that you’ve been made for something great. Now, don’t turn that into the world’s thing of comparison. He has made you for this perfect little niche!
There are uncharted territories in the expression of the Kingdom on this earth with your name on them! If you think in comparison terms, you will never get to the territories God has pre-prepared for you because He is not looking for you to settle in someone else’s territory. He has a specific niche for you. He has pre-preared your territory for you and you for it! You have to go exploring with Him to find it out! You learn the principles of what His general purposes are, you seek Him first, and you ask the Holy Spirit from the place of relationship “show me, Holy Spirit, what you look like through me.” “Lord, position me for the coming 5 years. Position me for the coming 10 years. I don’t want to fail to walk into the territories that you’ve prepared for me! God, show me. Lead me into it Holy Spirit.”
James said “I will show you my faith by my works.” So, if you want to add a little work to the above prayer, CREATE SPACE. This may seem counter-intuitive, but if you are asking the Holy Spirit to show you how to walk into something, what you are actually asking Him to do is to change you – because you are not there yet! If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got. You are perfectly prepared to be where you are at right now – you got yourself here!
Often our comfort comes from knowing the “product” of our lives, whereas the Holy Spirit wants to bring us to a place where the comfort comes from knowing the process with Him! If you learn to make decisions based on the peace of the Lord, His peace surpasses understanding! So, after crying out to God “show me how,” you show God that you are available by making some space. You make some extra space in your schedule, in your finances – perhaps in another way that He will show you how to make space. You say “God, I am going to make some space for whatever you are going to show me, because you are going to show me HOW since I just asked you to show me HOW.” And, after you have created that space for Him, be supple to His lead.
Do that with the Holy Spirit and watch what starts to come about! It is a process – the comfort is in being led by the peace of the Lord. The comfort is not in knowing “that’s the product I am supposed to be and now I am there.” The comfort is in being led by the peace of the Lord. It’s a progressive process. The further you go, the more you know.