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For years my heart has burned. I’ve wanted so badly to know what God wants me to do with my life.
Am I called to full-time ministry? Should I start another business? Do I work for someone else and minister in the workplace? Am I supposed to write? Speak? Be a missionary? Be a musician? Get my M. Div.?
But here’s the thing, I never found my purpose by asking any of those questions — no matter how fervently. What I’ve been looking for simply can’t be found where I’ve been looking.
You see, where I went wrong — and where most of us do — is that I started with the particular over the universal. With the details instead of the big picture.
I jumped straight into the idea of vocation because that’s where the world trains us to take our identity from. In the kingdom of man, who we are intrinsically springs from what we do.
So if I don’t have the right job, the one that God wants me to have, I’m missing it!
Have you ever felt this pressure?! It’s crazy. It’s made me sick to my stomach, terrified that peace and fulfillment will always elude me until I find the exact thing I’m destined for. And by thing I mean the right job or career path or whatever else you’d like to call it.
But in the kingdom of heaven, Paul reminds the Corinthians that this isn’t how it works.
From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. (2 Corinthians 5:16–17 ESV)
In Jesus, our identity has been fundamentally changed. But that’s too soft a phrase…
We’re not simply changed, we’ve been recreated — and for all eternity at that.
We don’t look in the mirror and judge ourselves with the world’s eyes. Just like we don’t walk around Walmart judging other people according to the flesh (full disclosure: I am sooooper guilty of doing this… But that’s a post for another day).
Consider another passage from Paul, this one written to the Ephesians.
And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ (Ephesians 4:11–12 ESV)
The matrix I’ve always tried to find my purpose and identity in is “The List” there in verse 11.
I’ve spent hours taking spiritual gifts inventories, DISC tests, Strengths Finder 2.0, the Enneagram, and loads of other, “This is what you should be doing with your life or you’ll never be happy” sorts of tests.
So naturally, I latch on to lists of God-ordained jobs like Judas to his coin purse. He makes some to be:
- Shepherds (also translated as pastors)
There are other lists, too. But when you read this one don’t you instantly start to think, “Now which one am I? Which one has God made me to be?”
But do you want to know the truth? Each one of those callings actually shares a singular purpose.
It’s right at the beginning of verse 12, but we usually miss it because it’s so easy to cheese out on lists.
Apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds/pastors, and teachers all labor to the same end: to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.
This simple, 3rd-grade-reading-level realization has changed everything for me.
Not because I no longer care about the specific way in which God’s called me to serve (I really, really do). But because I’m not in a break-neck rush to get into the perfect “job” any longer. Because that’s not what it’s all about.
It’s not first about the office we hold, it’s about the mission we’re on. Each member of the body has the same purpose, to build the Church.
If we continue with our passage into verses 15 and 16 we read:
Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. (Ephesians 4:16–16 ESV)
Ours is first to speak the truth in love, to become increasingly like Jesus, and to edify our brothers and sisters to do the same.
This is the purpose of every single spiritual gift God gives his Church.
So no matter what your specific calling is, it will be for this universal purpose: to know God and make him known.
To discover God’s will and purpose for your life start with these questions before any of the others. Right now, this very moment, do you:
- Live to know God and make him known?
- Live to edify your brothers and sisters in Christ?
- Live to share the Gospel with the people God’s placed in your life?
Are you pursuing these things with everything you have?
If you’re not, here’s the truth. You’ll never be fulfilled. You’ll never find that sweet spot where you know you’re doing exactly what you were made for. Because if you’re not seeking to know God and make him known, then you’re simply not doing his will in the first place.
This is what I’ve finally come to learn: I must start with God’s mission before I look to myself, where I fit, and how I can be significant.
If your life is not about God’s glory today, you’ll never find fulfillment tomorrow.
Begin by loving Jesus with everything you have, and loving your neighbor as yourself, and the fruit of these will blossom into a life of purpose, fulfillment, living smack-dab in the middle of God’s will.