Purpose. Calling. Mission. These words get thrown around and we don’t always know what they mean or how to differentiate between them.
When God created us He designed us for a unique purpose – one that is different from anyone else who has ever lived or ever will live. It is part of who we are – who He created us to be. It is something we can fulfill no matter our age or physical ability. As long as we have breath in these earthly bodies, we can be living our purpose. I’ve observed that when people know their life purpose and consciously live it, they experience freedom, fulfillment, and contentment. And that feelings of loneliness, defeat, and discouragement make only fleeting appearances, and usually only when one loses sight of their God-given purpose.
So what, then, is a Calling?
While our purpose has more to do with who we are, our calling or mission has more to do with what we do. Our purpose is lifelong and doesn’t change, from the time we take our first breath until we take our last. A calling or mission is God’s assignment for a specific period of time or to a certain group of people.
Lately, as I’ve written about before, I’ve become aware through reading Barry Danylak’s excellent book, Redeeming Singleness, that single Christians have a unique testimony to give the world: that a relationship with Jesus is all-sufficient and all-satisfying.
After reading Redeeming Singleness, I knew this intellectually and it excited me. But I didn’t actually own it until one night I woke with a jolt and a feeling of aloneness overwhelming me. I hadn’t felt that in a long time. Immediately I asked the Lord, “Why this feeling now, and why DID You choose singleness for me when I would have enjoyed the companionship of marriage?”
Immediately He replied, “So you could demonstrate to others that I am all-sufficient. That I am enough.” His presence was so real, and the feeling of aloneness disappeared. I was satisfied with His answer, and soon fell contentedly back to sleep.
Sometime soon after I wrote this in my journal:
My calling in singleness is to give witness that a relationship with Jesus is all-sufficient and all-satisfying and provides immeasurably more than all I can ask or imagine!
In reality, this is God’s calling to every Christian, single and married alike. Expecting anyone or anything else to provide what we need, rather than God alone, is idolatry. God alone is our Provider. Sometimes – in fact, often – He uses another person as His instrument to meet our needs. But our needs being fulfilled isn’t dependent on the person God is using as His instrument, but rather on God Himself. If that person would disappear for whatever reason, God is still our Provider and will provide our needs by some other means.
But while all Christians are called to rely on God alone, single Christians have an especially effective testimony when they demonstrate that Jesus truly is all-sufficient in the absence of what most of the world considers to be a necessity for a satisfying life: a romantic or sexual relationship. When Christians remain celibate without a spouse or family and live joyful and purposeful lives sold out to Jesus, they give witness that Jesus is truly is all-sufficient and all-satisfying. Those who have lost spouses by death or divorce have incredibly powerful testimonies to Jesus’ all-sufficiency when they continue joyfully onward with the life purpose God has given them.
This doesn’t mean they shouldn’t grieve, or that never-married singles shouldn’t grieve over what never was. Grief is a God-given process for healing and it’s important we walk through it when we lose someone or something significant to us, including dreams that never come true.
Does Jesus Being All-sufficient Mean We Don’t Need People?
I know this can be a bit confusing, because we do need people! We don’t need marriage, but we do need relationships with others. After all, God said in Genesis 2:18 that it’s not good for man to be alone. At the time Adam had a face-to-face relationship with God, so he truly was experiencing God’s all-sufficiency, but God said he also needed other humans. Some think God meant it wasn’t good for Adam to not have a spouse, and if that were true for Adam in a perfect relationship with God, it’s true for all the rest of us, too.
But that’s not what God said. Adam was the only human being on the planet at the time. He needed another human to converse with and relate to in ways he couldn’t with the other creatures God had already created.
In Redeeming Singleness, Danylak writes:
Paul is not affirming [in 1 Corinthians 7] that it is good to be alone but only that, in appropriate circumstances, it is good not to marry. Conversely, when Genesis 2: 18 affirms that it is not good to live alone, marriage is given as a provision. But this does not imply that marriage was designed to be the sole provision for one’s aloneness. We recall that Jesus was a single man but not a man alone, one devoid of family and relationships. Although Paul may have had some extended time of solitude immediately after his conversion, he, like Jesus, was a man immersed in new family relationships. We are struck by how many different companions, partners, co-laborers, and underlings are mentioned from the period of his Gentile ministry. His use of family language is robust as he addresses those in his church constantly as “brothers” (Rom. 1:13; 1 Cor. 3:1; Gal. 4:12; Phil. 1:12; 1 Thess. 1:4), and “sisters” (Philem. 2), “children” (Gal. 4:19; 1 Cor. 4:14), “legitimate sons” (1 Tim. 1:2; Titus 1:4), and “kinsmen” (Rom. 16:7)…. Though Paul did not have his own wife and family, he experienced profound familial intimacy within the spiritual family of God in which he had utterly invested himself. 
Danylak goes on to explain the difference between these intimate relationships and the intimacy of marriage:
As men free to invest all their time and energy in advancing the kingdom of God, neither Paul nor Jesus lived a life alone. This is not to suggest that the relationships that come through the new family of God are a substitute for a spouse, a way to fill the relational gap of not having a spouse and family. There is something unique in God’s joining man and wife in “one flesh” that is never replicated in other types of human relationships. In remaining single, one sacrifices such physical intimacy.
But intimacy has other dimensions, beyond the physical. A bond of spiritual unity as brothers and sisters in Christ can emerge through a oneness of mind in corporate prayer and worship, a shared eternal hope, and a common mission of proclaiming the gospel and making disciples that also powerfully transcends human day-to-day experience. The freedom and flexibility of the single life will often open access to levels and opportunities of spiritual intimacy with other believers that those who are married do not have available in the same way and to the same degree.
This, I believe, is part of the “immeasurably more” part of the singles’ calling (to give witness that a relationship with Jesus is all-sufficient and all-satisfying and provides immeasurably more than all I can ask or imagine). It is in reference to Ephesians 3:20-21 that says,
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
Of course it means so much more, too! “Immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine” means it’s not definable, predictable, or measurable. After all, the Sovereign God is our Provider, who has the resources of the universe and beyond at His disposal to provide all that we need – in abundance!
How to Experience the All-sufficiency of Jesus
You may be wondering, “This all sounds wonderful, but I’m not feeling it. How do I make it a reality in my life?”
I totally get that! We often understand things in our heads, but can’t feel them in our hearts. Faith, after all, is not knowing things intellectually but experiencing them.
The key to experiencing the all-sufficiency of Jesus is simple, but it may be one of the most difficult things ever: full surrender to God – your will, your plans, your desires given in exchange for His. We can’t experience Jesus to be all-satisfying until we relinquish our goals and dreams in exchange for His for us. The incredible thing is, no matter how wonderful we think our goals and dreams are, His goals and dreams for us are incredibly more wonderful – immeasurably more, in fact!
Oswald Chambers says it this way in My Utmost for His Highest:
‘If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself.’ The surrender here is of my self to Jesus, my self with His rest at the heart of it. ‘If you would be My disciple, give up your right to yourself to Me.’ Then the remainder of the life is nothing but the manifestation of this surrender. When once the surrender has taken place we never need ‘suppose’ anything. We do not need to care what our circumstances are, Jesus is amply sufficient.
Amply sufficient. Can you give witness that Jesus is amply sufficient and more? That He is all-satisfying? If you haven’t yet experienced this abundant life in Jesus, take a look at what you might be holding back. Are you hanging onto a specific dream or goal? Perhaps one you’ve had since childhood? I know I was! The abundant life is found in relinquishing those dreams and saying, “God, I don’t know what You have planned for me, but I KNOW that it is good, and that it is ‘immeasurably more than all I could ever ask or imagine!’”
 Danylak, Barry. Redeeming Singleness (Foreword by John Piper): How the Storyline of Scripture Affirms the Single Life (pp. 201-202). Crossway. Kindle Edition.
 Danylak, Barry. Redeeming Singleness (Foreword by John Piper): How the Storyline of Scripture Affirms the Single Life (pp. 201-202). Crossway. Kindle Edition.(pp. 202-203). Crossway. Kindle Edition.
 Chambers, Oswald. My Utmost for His Highest, Classic Edition (Kindle Locations 4142-4145). Discovery House. Kindle Edition.