Are you intrigued by the idea of living purposefully, but find yourself content to sit on the sidelines instead? I think all of us deal with this from time to time, for various reasons. Perhaps you can identify with one or more of these.
1. We think claiming a specific purpose is prideful
Somehow we think that saying God has a purpose for my life which He has lovingly designed and created me for, is prideful. We don’t want others to think we’re tooting our own horn, or that we think we’re more special than anyone else. The truth is, each one of is special and unique. I love this verse in 2 Timothy, which tells us not only that God created us for a purpose, but that He gave it to us before He even created the universe! That means we didn’t “just happen” to be here. We were planned for a purpose, and designed for that purpose, by God Himself at the same time He was planning Abraham’s purpose, and Mary’s and Paul’s!
“He has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace, which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began.” (2 Timothy 1:9 HCSB)
We also have the examples of Jesus and the Apostle Paul who both clearly stated their purpose. I think that we can conclude that stating ours is not prideful or wrong; if it were, Jesus and Paul were also in the wrong for stating theirs, and we know that’s not true.
Jesus’ stated purpose: “I have come as a light into the world, so that everyone who believes in Me would not remain in darkness… I did not come to judge the world but to save the world.” (John 12:46, 47 HCSB)
Paul’s stated purpose: “God, who from my birth set me apart and called me by His grace, was pleased to reveal His Son in me, so that I could preach Him among the Gentiles.” (Galatians 1:15-16a HCSB)
2. Fear of what our purpose might be
This roadblock comes from a misunderstanding of who God is – why do we think He would create us for a purpose we would hate? On the contrary, because He has designed us for the purpose He has for us, we can be confident that God’s plan for us will bring us far more joy, contentment and fulfillment than any life we can imagine or plan for ourselves!
Many of us fear that part of God’s purpose for us includes being single for the rest of our lives. I urge you to look that fear straight in the face and ask yourself, “What is the worst thing that could happen if I never marry? Will that matter 100 years from now? If not, what will? Can I not trust my Creator to care for me, to provide all I need as He has promised, and to give me life of good for me?” Be ruthless in digging out and exposing all those false beliefs that are allowing a fear of singleness to hold you back from truly living.
The truth we can replace those lies with is this: God’s plan for us includes His companionship always, as well as His provision for all that we need. “You reveal the path of life to me; in Your presence is abundant joy; in Your right hand are eternal pleasures.” (Psalm 16:11 HCSB)
3. Envy of others’ and wishing our lives could be like theirs
It’s funny how we all want to be unique and special while at the same time doing everything we can to make our lives look like everyone else’s! We find comfort in being alike, most likely because we don’t have confidence in being ourselves. If I’m like everyone else, then I must be OK, right?
Unfortunately, no. If my life is just like someone else’s I am likely not living God’s unique purpose for me. Rather than trying to make our lives all look alike, we should seek out what makes us different from everyone else and not only live it but celebrate it. The part that makes us unique from others is our purpose.
When Jesus told Peter how he would die, Peter looked at John and asked Jesus, “Lord – what about him?”
Jesus’ answer made it clear that Peter shouldn’t compare God’s plan for him with God’s plan for John. Jesus told Peter, “’If I want him to remain until I come,’ Jesus answered, ‘what is that to you? As for you, follow Me.’” (John 20:21-22 HCSB)
Paul also addressed this tendency to compare our lives with others: “When they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding.” (2 Corinthains 10:12 ESV)
4. Concern about what others might think of us
And that leads us into the next roadblock to living our purpose, which is being a people-pleaser. We worry about what others will think if our lives are different from the “norm.” Rather than using our energy to follow God’s purpose for our lives, we spin our wheels trying to fit ourselves into a mold He didn’t make for us.
It’s difficult when others have expectations for us that don’t fit what God has for us. In many cases their expectations come from a genuine love for us in desiring to have the good things in life they have. But we limit ourselves by trying to fit into someone else’s vision for our lives. The only life that will be fulfilling for us is the one God has planned and purposed for us.
Peter said this in a little different context, but it’s something we should remind ourselves of often when fearing what others will think: “We must obey God rather than men.” (Acts 5:29)
5. Listening to our enemy who seeks to destroy our purpose
The final roadblock I’ve observed is one that encompasses all the rest. If Satan can’t have our souls, his next goal is to prevent us from fulfilling God’s purpose for us. He would love to make us totally ineffective in furthering God’s Kingdom, even if he can’t have us in his.
Jesus warned us about Satan’s tactics: “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10 NKJV)
That verse has both a warning and a promise. Satan would like to steal from us the fulfilling and abundant life God has for us. While that should sober us and keep us alert to his tactics, we can also find assurance in the fact that Jesus, who is far greater, has an abundant life in store for us, both now and for all eternity!
I’ll conclude with the exhortation Timothy gave to his readers, as an encouragement to you and to me to not let any of these roadblocks hinder all that God wants to do in and through us:
“Hold on to the pattern of sound teaching that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. Guard, through the Holy Spirit who lives in us, that good thing entrusted to you.” (2 Timothy 1:13-14 HCSB)
How about You?
Do you identify with any of these, or have in the past? The one I struggle with above the others is #4 — being a people pleaser. God in His graciousness is whittling away at that one in my life bit by bit. I’m definitely a work in progress! How about you? Share with us in the comments below.