Purpose—And Why Christian Men Don’t Always Live Theirs

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Another day selling widgets to people who don't need them?At a small group meeting this weekend, we watched a video on bettering one’s marriage. One of the comments the speaker made concerned finding one’s purpose in God, and that this purpose comes from no one else.

And this bothers me. Not because it’s not true, but because one of the most common discussions I have with other Christian men concerns their nearly universal sense of purposelessness. In fact, I would say that at least 70 percent of the Christian men I know have this nagging feeling that they’re not doing what they are supposed to be doing. And this usually means in their careers, in their walk with the Lord, or in both.

I brought this issue up in the discussion that f0llowed the video, and the general response was that men who felt that way were not close enough to God or else they wouldn’t feel that way. God doesn’t leave people twisting in the wind, they say.

Sadly, I think that’s the common perception. But I think there’s a deeper issue here.

Many of the Christian men who struggle with their sense of purpose do so not because they haven’t already caught a vision from God, but because they have. The problem there is they have no sense of how to make that vision a reality, especially when confronted with a common set of dilemmas. Ask a Christian man who struggles with purpose what he suspects the problem might be, and I believe he’ll give you one of these five answers:

1. His wife doesn’t support his vision

“Hon, I think we ought to sell our 5,000 square foot home, move out of the gated community, and buy a tiny brownstone apartment in a poor neighborhood downtown so we can minister to the underprivileged.”

In a lot of households, such a proclamation would exemplify the phrase went over like a lead balloon. In a few, it might also spell divorce.

I think a lot of men who catch a real vision from God see it die on the vine right here. If the wife doesn’t agree, that’s the end of it. Better to keep her happy and stay in the megachurch with all the best people rather than risk her cutting you off—and some of you know what I mean.

While this may not be true for all men, it’s true for enough. It may even be true for you, but you’ve been afraid to tell anyone.

It’s a sensitive issue, isn’t it? Lots of possible damage if handled poorly.

But then, consider Job and his wife. What would have happened if he had listened to her rather than sticking with what he knew was the right thing to do? (For all their talk of men being prophets, priests, and kings, Evangelicals seem to go mute when Mrs. Prophet/Priest/King objects to her hubby’s vision for the household.)

Still, most men aren’t as righteous as old Job or as steeped in their convictions. So the vision goes on hold. And with it comes that nagging sense of purpose gone missing, a relentless ticking clock, and more frustration than some men can bear.

2. Following the vision may mean a non-traditional upbringing for his children—one that may be generally disapproved of

You have to have your kids in private piano lessons, select sports teams, Chinese language tutoring, and on and on so the little darlings can make it into an Ivy League school right? Isn’t that what Focus on the Family teaches?

What to do then when God gives you a vision that may take you and your wife to the jungles of Africa while your kids stay behind in boarding school?

Ooh, boarding school. How 19th century.

People chosen by God to do a special work used to do that, though. And their kids grew up to be normal and happy in about the same proportions as kids today whose parents would kill to get them into Harvard, ministry be damned.

I read a story of a family that packed up their eight kids into a car and traveled around the country singing in churches or wherever people would have them. No RV, not even a sense of where they would sleep for the night or where the money would come from, they counted on God to provide food, clothing, and shelter.

That would get you tarred and feathered in some churches. You’d be called every lousy parent name in the book, and then some names people would coin just to spite you in particular. Some withered prunes might even call the government down on your head and accuse you of child abuse. Bad, dad!

Somewhere, someone’s sharpening the knives for a man who discusses that kind of greater vision. And rather than risk being publicly eviscerated, that man backs down, and his sense of purpose goes kaput for the sake of the “perfect” Evangelical nuclear family, no matter what Luke 18:29-30 says.

3. His church, the one he’s been a part of since forever, disapproves

A man sits in front of church leaders and pitches his vision…

MAN: “I’d like to start a church ministry to the local gay community.”

LEADER #1: (Nervously) “Doing what?”

MAN: “Evangelism and outreach. We could begin by inviting some from that community to our church functions, like the next father/s0n baseball game.”

LEADER #2: (Also nervously) “But that’s next month. And it will expose our kids to a sinful lifestyle.”

MAN: “Gay men have sons, don’t they?”

LEADER #3: (About to wet himself) “Yeah, sometimes, I guess. Still, I’m not sure our people are ready for that kind of…uh…”

LEADER #2: (Claiming to be wise) “At this point, I think we need to table this measure for our next leadership meeting and discuss it privately.”

MAN: “Does that mean I should come back then?”

LEADER #3: “No, the leadership team will talk it over privately and we’ll let you know.”

A couple years later, that man is still waiting.

It happens, folks. It may have happened to you. I know it’s happened to me.

4. He’s hit with “If you’re providing for your family, spending time with the wife and kids, attending church weekly, and involving yourself in a church-sponsored ministry activity once in a while, why would you possibly feel a lack of purpose? That’s the dream Christian life right there.”

Well, it’s the dream Christian life according to some folks. Not all would agree. In fact, in a lot of ways, it doesn’t vary much from the “self-serving” life of the average pagan, except that instead of church, Mr. Average Pagan is in the Kiwanis Club (which in some cases may be as involved in helping others as the local church).

Some men dream bigger. They’re thinking outside the church box. And like the proverbial square peg, others are trying to jam them into a cultural Christian round hole.

Isn’t it odd that Evangelicals laud men like Hudson Taylor, Jim Elliot, and Eric Liddell, then turn around and repeat the words above to other men? What would have happened to those heroes of the faith had they heeded the words above and exchanged their vision for one of average suburban Christianity?

5. He pursued a vision once before—and failed

Does a genuine vision from God ever fail?

That’s a question some are not willing to deal with honestly. Do God-honoring churches fail? Do Christian companies go out of business? Do Christian marriages end up in divorce? Does the long-prayed-for child born to the long-childless couple get sick and die? Does the pastor who loves Christ with his whole being ever get lynched by the very congregation everyone agreed he was called to serve?

Nothing crushes an earnest Christian man more than to step out in faith and get steamrolled by a sin-filled world. And too often, in the aftermath of that failure, people won’t let him forget that the thing he longed to do for God more than anything somehow didn’t turn out. In many cases, the pain is amplified because others spiritualize the reasons for that failure and use the sanctified explanation against him, which only makes his reluctance to follow a new vision even more paralyzing.

I’ve known a lot of good, God-fearing men who have been stymied by one or more of the five items listed above. These are not stupid, lazy, cowardly, weak-faithed men. They’re just finding that the very people or situations that are supposed to be most helpful to them are actually not. Those men may very well have a genuine vision that will lead to the ultimate purpose of God in their lives, yet they fear they may never get there, finding themselves stuck in a gray place with no easy answers.

If that’s you, please drop me a line. I want to pray for you. I can’t promise a solution to your situation, but I can pray. God may indeed step in and clear that pathway so you can finally walk in your God-given vision.

My word to you is Don’t give up. I know the pressure on you is enormous. You have so many people to satisfy, well-meaning Christian people who may not understand your vision. Please, don’t give up.

God can make a way where there is no way. It may mean laying down more than you are willing to sacrifice at this time, but God can mold you and take you to that place of ultimate sacrifice.

God is good. And He’s given you a vision. Trust Him for the fulfillment.

47 thoughts on “Purpose—And Why Christian Men Don’t Always Live Theirs

  1. Peter P

    I can relate to all of the five answers that you gave.

    My own personal spin on #1 though is not that My wife would respond in that way but that I allow the father of lies to convince me against all evidence that she will respond in that way. This effectively makes me afraid to approach her with such things despite the fact that she would most likely be supportive.

    On the other hand, maybe I’m just afraid she’ll say yes….

    • Peter,

      I can see your point. I’m sure some men ARE afraid to even approach their wives, believing that she will either put a kabosh on the vision OR that she’ll actually approve—and then what?

      I also think that this is a problem men need to deal with. I’ve talked with a lot of Christian men who feel that their wives are more spiritual than they are (whether that belief is true or not), and this makes them sort of the the poor second choice when it comes to a source of direction for the household. She’s more attuned, therefore we do what she thinks is right. I think this is a combination of the modern depiction of the oafish, dull-witted father that popular culture hammers us with and a genuine malaise that a lot of Christian men feel. Their very dissatisfaction with the status quo makes it feel as if something is wrong with them instead of the world being wrong. But it’s not them. The world IS wrong.

      • Peter P

        I agree Dan, I’m guilty of the whole ‘you hear better than me from God’ thing.

        In my personal life I know that it is because I am afraid to lead – because I’m afraid to be wrong and it to be all my ‘fault’.

        For me personally it just comes down to not needing to find purpose in my life but to BE the person God has called me to be.

        Great blog post yet again Dan.

      • Brian

        Interesting point. Using generalizations, I think this is because of the femanization of the gospel and christian community. Or the demasculation of men. Which ever suits.

        But this vaccuum gives rise to the Driscols of the world. I believe you had a previous post that tried to get at the differences in men and women in their involvement in church, community or the gospel life.

        There are two people groups the mainstream church is not designed to handle — mature determined rugged men and introverts.

        • Brian,

          I think you may have gone a bit too general on your two groups of men the church doesn’t handle well.

          Some churches handle rugged men just fine, but don’t have a clue what to do with the intellectuals. (“You’d rather discuss the writings of Bill Buckley than go hunt bear with a pointy stick? What the heck is wrong with you?”) And some churches suffer the opposite problem. I know; I’ve been in both kinds of churches.

          Some churches do well with the strong, silent types, while merely putting up with more passionate, emotional men. And vice versa.

          Some churches appeal to the working class man, while others support the captains of industry.

          Pick a type of guy and you’ll find churches that either meet his needs or don’t understand them at all.

          I love my church, but it’s largely comprised of a blue-collar, sports-loving, compete-to-the-death group of men. If you’re that kind of guy, you’re set. If you’re not (and I’m definitely not), there’s a bit of a perplexed response as to what to do with you. (“So, you like to go birdwatching? Really? Do you ever shoot ’em?”) On the other hand, I was once part of a Presbyterian church where being the kind of guy who read Augustine in Latin or Greek was to be part of the in-crowd. If you were the physical type and lacked a grad school degree, you were a cro magnon.

          In other words, it all depends.

          Ideally, those kinds of distinctions wouldn’t exist, but I have yet to be a part of a church that really understood all kinds of men. Such a church may exist, but if so, it’s a rarity.

    • Another Struggling

      Dan,
      Thanks for such a thought provoking blog. I may be another casualty. Ever since I was saved I dreamed of bible college/ seminary. In college it was my Dad who stopped me and christians who counseled me to submit. Then, after 5 years in the military, it was the pastor of the church plant we were in, whose support I lost because I didn’t follow his plan of “apprenticeship” and decided to go to seminary instead, even blaming my wife. By the time we got to seminary, we were so banged up I lost faith in God’s ability to heal my family and went back into the military 2 years later. 9 years, 7 zip codes and three kids later you describe me to a T: ” nagging feeling that they’re not doing what they are supposed to be doing. And this usually means in their careers, in their walk with the Lord, or in both” I spoke to my wife, she really sympathizes and thinks maybe in the future. She has a point, my military career is highly demanding and has really put a strain on our marriage and family. Thanks for the prayers

      Another Struggling

  2. J

    I identify very much with your #1, and even with the examples you have there. My wife is “happy” (not really, she’s often depressed) to be a consumer of religious goods and services and to complain about how our smallish church isn’t exciting enough and doesn’t have enough programs.

    Over the last decade or so, through people like N. T. Wright, Dallas Willard, Shane Claiborne, Richard Foster, Alan Hirsch, and Michael Frost, my vision of what the gospel is and what it means to follow Christ has been greatly expanded. My heart yearns to live in ways that cause people to “see [our] good deeds, and praise [our] Father in heaven.” I have my fears about what following Jesus that way would mean, but I could have the courage to face those fears if I had support from my wife.

    I have tried to coax her along, but she doesn’t want to even hear about these things. The gospel she knows is restricted to: “Accept Jesus into your heart, live as comfortable and safe a life as you can, and try to avoid gross sins until it’s time for heaven.” Where I try to encourage our kids to think big about following Jesus and making a difference for the Kingdom, my wife literally tells them (she did this just yesterday), “Don’t listen to him, he’s trying to make you all weird like he is.”

    I have shared this with only a few people. Your prayers are appreciated.

    • J,

      I prayed that God would give you and your wife a joint vision that would greatly expand your idea of what genuine Christian ministry is all about.

      The definition of the “gospel” that your wife has bought into is sadly what most people have accepted as the genuine article. It is safe and non-demanding. And its practitioners don’t take kindly to “instigators” who question its validity.

      Reacting to that safe “gospel” has set many men’s teeth on edge. They know it’s a weak mimic of the real thing, but they can’t find a way out of it because so much of American Christian culture upholds that watered-down version as the genuine article. It’s why a lot of men are struggling. They want the real thing, but no one around them wants them to pursue it for fear that the pursuit will spoil the perfect little kingdom.

  3. It’s amazing what happens when you pray with your wife. Not grace at meals, or even family devotions with the kids sitting in, but when you say to your beloved sister in Christ, “Hon, what would you like me to be praying for in your life? How can i be praying for you, specifically? I’d love to do that for you.”

    And then holding her hands and putting a down payment on that prayer on the spot, making sure to check in with her, and doing that over time with discipline and consistency.

    It’s amazing what happens.

    • Jeff,

      No doubt.

      But even then, the cultural pull is hard. Security is at the top of many women’s needs, and traipsing around the world in uncertain places following a man’s vision for ministry is often too much for some women. I think that’s one reason why a lot of the greatest ministers of the gospel left their wives at home when embarking on dangerous ministries. Today’s women may be more intrepid than those of the past, but I think this is still an issue.

      • Brian

        1 Cor. 7:32 I would like you to be free from concern. An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord’s affairs—how he can please the Lord. 33 But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world—how he can please his wife— 34 and his interests are divided.

  4. Thank you for mentioning ministry to the gay community. Your depiction of the reaction to such a suggestion is spot on.

    And then again, some churches do consider themselves engaged in “ministry” when they viciously and vacuously (sans a hermeneutically sound understanding) condemn gays and lesbians, without first presenting the gospel effectively and lovingly.

    There are very few ministries today which focus on winning the gay community to Christ.

    Witnessing to gays and lesbians.

    Rick Brentlinger
    Gay Evangelical Christian

      • Helping “gay men get out of the lifestyle” seems to be the catch22 where ministry to the gay community is concerned.

        The theological underpinnings of Focus on the Family, the Fred Phelps hate ministry AND ministries which endeavor to get “gay men out of the lifestyle” are share a common mis-interpretation of the clobber passages.

        Getting “gay men out of the lifestyle” ministries seem to assume that all gay men are unhappy, that all gay men are promiscuous, that all gay men are unsaved and that salvation will, presto-chango, make all gay men hetersexual.

        It just ain’t so.

        Lots of saved gay men live celibate lives, not because they believe gay marriage is wrong but because they believe sexual relationships outside a committed relationship are wrong.

        Change “ministries” which help people deal with drug and alcohol addiction or sexual addiction are fine but spiritual “ministries” which profess to help gay men “leave the lifestyle” are more in agreement theologically with Fred Phelps than with what scripture, rightly divided, actually says.

        Rick Brentlinger

        • Rick,

          I wrote the following on this issue based on created order and not Scripture. While some would contend that Scripture can be misinterpreted, created order cannot be: “Sex and the Created Order

          Homosexuality does not reflect the created order of God, which is a reflection of God Himself. On earth, the full reflection of God’s image is the three-fold cord bound within a man and woman joined in marriage who are filled with God’s Spirit. All other images are pretenders and reflect a broken and false image. And false images are idols.

          So we will have to part company on condoning homosexuality.

          I fully believe that the American Church failed to love homosexuals and continues to do so. I think what the Church has done in singling out homosexuals for increased scorn is wrong. However, that failing cannot excuse sin. By every stretch of the imagination it’s a tortured reading of Scripture to say that it condones homosexual practice. All mentions of homosexuality in the Scriptures are cast in a negative light. When its negative in the created order and negative in the Scriptures, its an enormous stretch to spin it into a positive.

          That said, homosexuality is but one of many sins. One of the worst is pride, and it’s no stretch to say that many people who consider themselves Christians are filled to the bursting point with that particular sin. As I said in the post listed above, active practitioners of sin need to repent and turn away from their sin, no matter what it is.

          That’s where I stand. And standing on that position doesn’t negate the fact that I think people in the Church have done a lousy job dealing with real men and women who are living the gay lifestyle. I hate to hear it when homosexuals are turned into boogeymen by frightened Christians who have never once broken bread with someone who is a homosexual.

          We tend to forget this verse:

          Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
          —1 Corinthians 6:9-11

          That’s where many of us came from. That we are there no longer is solely by Christ alone. So it is a crime against Him if we forget where we came from and show no compassion to those who are still mired in those sins.

          • I sense in you a compassionate heart coupled with a lack of information about what scripture actually says, in context.

            That “homosexuality does not reflect the created order of God” is a personal opinion, not a scriptural precept.

            Complementarianism, “Christian” or otherwise, is a Platonic concept, not a Biblical doctrine.

            Concerning your proposition that “All mentions of homosexuality in the Scriptures are cast in a negative light” the fact is, each scripture alleged to mention homosexuality in a negative light is dealing with same sex activity in worship of the fertility goddess (Ashtoreth), not homosexuality in general.

            We dare not cast aside basic hermeneutic practice when we discuss homosexuality. Wresting verses from their historical context and then labeling them as negative toward homosexuality is not honest or hermeneutically sound.

            Thank you for quoting I Cor 6:9. Are you aware that there is absolutely no evidence from ancient times that the word arsenokoites in that verse was ever used to mean homosexual?

            arsenokoites is only found 76 times in extant Greek literature and never in any of those uses does it mean homosexual.

            Rick Brentlinger

          • David R.

            I think what gets lost in the “hierarchy of sins” is that God views anything we do with our bodies for selfish or self-centered reasons to be sinful. Our bodies are not our own, and whatever we do because “I want it” is sin.

            So I need to look at my desires and wants, whatever they are, and then look at my relationship with God and decide what is more important: A moment (or lifetime) of pleasure, or eternity with Him?

            Gay, over-eating, abortion, relationships, murder, speeding, football games, alcoholism, porn addiction, meth, March Madness, coke, pepsi, chocolate. It’s all the same…Me First, God when I can fit Him in. The sin doesn’t start when we bite the apple, but when we decide for ourselves what is good or bad for us.

          • David-

            While I agree with the spirit of your comment (that we should live holy lives), I believe what we regard as sin must have a basis in scripture rightly divided, for being regarded as sin.

            I wonder why your list included “gay” but did not include pagan heterosexual activity like Mardi Gras in New Orleans. The mindset of so many Christians is to condemn everyone whose orientation is gay or lesbian yet that is as foolish and off-base as condemning everyone who is heterosexual (based on the sinful activity of a few).

            For example, scripture records several heterosexual rapes yet we do not conclude that all heterosexual intimate partnerships are wrong based on a few Bible passages about rape.

            Just so, scripture depicts the men of Sodom attempting to rape angels and scripture forbids same sex activity in the context of worshiping Ashtoreth the Canaanite fertility goddess, Lev 18:22 & 20:13.

            Yet it is wrong to conclude based on Bible verses about attempted rape and pagan idolatry, that all homosexual intimate partnerships are wrong.

            When we affirm committed, faithful, non-cultic same sex partnerships, we are not affirming attempted rape or pagan worship of the Canaanite fertility goddess or prostitution or drunkenness.

            Heterosexuals engage in abominable public sexual activity during Mardi Gras in New Orleans yet no one assumes that affirming heterosexuality implies affirmation of sinful celebration of Mardi Gras.

            Affirming committed, faithful, non-cultic same sex partnerships in no way implies that we are affirming any sin prohibited in scripture, rightly divided.

            Rick Brentlinger

            • Rick,

              You had said that you did not understand my argument against homosexuality based on created order, so I’ll unpack it.

              I said that that the union of a Holy-Spirit-filled man and woman together in marriage reflects the image of God on Earth. It shares the same kind of image that God has as a trinitarian being. He created them male and female and He communed with them. That creation reflects the image and nature of God.

              God is a being of life. All life proceeds from Him. He is the source of all creation. Life springs from Him. This life is reflected on Earth in the union of a man and woman whose relationship is bound together by the Holy Spirit. That union is God’s intent.

              And it’s God intent because it perfectly reflects His creativity and life.

              A heterosexual union produces life. Children, the continuing of the generations, are the result. This is the created order at work. That created order reflects the nature of who God is.

              A homosexual union is barren. No life springs from it. It is a lifeless union that ends in death for it is a dead end for the generations. For this reason, it cannot and does not reflect the nature of God or his character.

              What does not reflect the nature of God is not from Him, for all things that are from Him reflect who He is. What is not of God is sin. Those things that do not reflect the nature or character of God are set against Him. They are the basis of idolatry. In this way, homosexuality is a form of idolatry.

              Heterosexuality reflects the nature of God’s creative power and His life. It is God’s way of expressing sexuality that He endorses. Therefore, at its root, it is good because God proclaimed it so in the Garden. And He did so because heterosexuality reflects His intent, His nature, and His character. That it, like all other things, can become corrupted by sinful men does not in any way lessen the reality of its inherent approval by God. God can redeem broken heterosexuality because its root is in Him.

              Homosexuality does not reflect the nature of God’s creative power and His life. It is dead and barren. God, therefore, cannot endorse it and does not, which is why homosexuality is always portrayed negatively in Scripture. Because it is barren and devoid of the life and character of God, homosexuality has no good in it and can never have any. At it’s root, it is a corruption. Therefore, it cannot ever be redeemed by God because it has no root in Him. It is irredeemable and must fall under God’s judgment.

              This is the argument from created order. It is the very thing in Romans 1 that Paul says that men ignored when they turned from heterosexual relations to homosexual. That argument was made plain by God through the created order, yet men rejected it. The Bible itself says that the argument against is plain, even without the need for Scripture to expound on it. The evidence from the created order is enough to settle the argument once and for all.

              Created order also explains the passage I quoted previously:

              Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
              —1 Corinthians 6:9-11

              Adultery, stealing, greed, swindling, promiscuity—none of those things are part of the character of God. Whatever is not in the nature or the character of God can be included in that list. Lying, pridefulness, rebellion, murder, and many other actions not found in God’s nature can be included in Paul’s list here, and are by implication. And that includes homosexuality, no matter how you want to parse the Greek source.

              The nature of the born-again believer is that of God. That nature will reflect His character and nature. Christians are the mirrors of the Almighty when they are truly found in Him. Everything that is not of God’s character and nature must be destroyed at the cross and replaced by the New Man, who reflects the perfect nature and character of God. This explains the “And such were some of you.” It is the replacing of that fallen, broken nature with God’s perfect one.

              “And such were some of you” holds out hope for all us for change. It is why I endorse change. Anyone can change and be conformed to the image of God. Even someone in bondage to the lifeless, dead thing that is homosexuality.

              I love you, Rick. I really do. I’ve talked with men who are where you are. Change IS possible. If it were not so, then homosexuality is the one sin that Christ was unable to atone for. And I don’t believe that my Lord is incapable of overcoming sin, no matter how entrenched it might be.

              If you wish to talk further, please feel free to drop me an email at the address in the sidebar.

              Peace.

          • George

            I would propose that we not be more condemning of a sin/separation-practice in others that we ourselves do not share that we are condemning of those sins/separation-practices that we ourselves do exhibit.

            If we are going to reject from fellowship those who practice gay sex, then we ought first to exclude from fellowship those who practice self-indulgence.

            If anyone needs any scriptural references providing for this position, I would be happy to oblige. But if anyone has references that argue against it, I’d love to know of those.

  5. Anonymous

    Dan,
    Why didn’t you discuss women here? Everything you posted can be applied to females as well. Why can’t you do a blogpost sharing about women’s hearts regarding purpose? Are you assuming that women do not have desires, hopes and dreams?

    -Anonymous

    • Anonymous,

      I didn’t mention women because the issue is so lopsidedly one that men talk about. I’ve never heard a woman bring this topic up—ever. Most women seem to have a more stable sense of purpose than most men do.

      Perceptions are also different. We allow women more leeway in our culture to pursue a vision, often because we assume they’ll have a man to fall back on when the “real work” has to be done. Men, on the other hand, are expected to be dads and breadwinners, period. That even extends to single men. We’ll indulge a single man a decade or so of pursuing “frivolous” things after college, but such a man starts bearing scorn once he reaches his mid-30s and shows no intention of going the way of all other men. In fact, even ministry-related work starts being deemed frivolous in such men if they show no sign of buckling down and getting involved in “real” work. That’s not an issue women face.

  6. David R.

    This is a good list.

    I was surprised to see the resistance of the wife as item number one, but I can see how that would happen. The wife is often the anchor of the home, for good or ill. I know that’s how it works in my home…And I’m often all too happy that it does. My wife provides me the easy out that I need. It’s not fair to her, because as the leader, I should be helping her over her fears and insecurities, not giving in to them.

    Number two is a particularly painful one, as it involves resistance from the very source that is supposed to encourage. Christians have perfected the concept of “rabbit-holing” or jumping from one safe place to another. But we shouldn’t have a spirit of timidity, even with our kids. Read “Just Off Chicken Street” by Floyd McClung sometime.

    Three hurts because it is so true. Our church “Leaders” often got there by championing safe causes. Jesus isn’t safe.

    Number four seems to define American Christianity, doesn’t it? Somehow the American Dream got wound up in the Christian walk, and we’ve become useless as a result. If ever Wormwood’s advise was listened to, it is here. We’ve gotten just a little off-course, but that’s enough.

    Number 5. Somehow we’ve become believers in the idea that with God at our side, we will never fail. For one thing, we have no idea what failure looks like, and for another, so what? That’s what grace is for…

    …Like I follow my own advice…

    • David,

      There’s no order of importance in the list. And I’m sure there are more than five items too. I’ve just seen these five again and again.

      As to wives, I think many men have become so fearful of disappointing their wives that they never attempt the difficult. Some end up pushing that vision down so far deep inside that their wives never even hear of it. No-fault divorce is partly to blame for that, but so is the rise of feminism and the insane mantra that men are somehow just irresponsible creatures who need tending. The rise of the moronic father in the media is sufficient proof of this. I mean, can someone tell me a sitcom from the last twenty years where mom is a dingbat and dad has all the right answers? Hah! It’s always the other way around.

      Thanks for the insights.

  7. Dan,

    I wish we lived closer to each other because I’d love to hang out with you over a cup of coffee and talk about such things.

    This post is me. In the past two years, I’ve struggled and wrestled with God to find my purpose. I know until now, I’ve not been living it. I suppose I’m speaking here in terms of what I do for a living. I’m content with my family life and blessed beyond measure there. But when it comes to the work of my hands…well…I’ve grown exceedingly frustrated with the hole I’ve dug for myself because I’ve never went after my dreams, for a myriad of reasons.

    My wife is supportive of whatever I choose to do, but I’ve not tested this at any great length. If I may side track on this portion…a while back I heard Mark Gungor talking about the roles of husband and wife and how the Bible never says that the husband is the spiritual leader of the household. He compared the roles of the kings and prophets in the Bible. The kings loved their prophets because God spoke to the prophets and then prophets then told the king what God said. It was a relationship that worked. He described how there is even the false prophet and the anti-Christ. The theme runs throughout the Bible. How many of us married men have seen God speaking to our wives and then we don’t listen, we pay dearly for it? Just some thoughts.

    I started my blog in January because I felt–for the first time in…well…maybe ever–the leading of the Holy Spirit. I believe God gave me a dream that was yet future. I don’t know where God will take me on this path, but I don’t to give up. I want to blog/write, teach, speak, etc. That’s what I enjoy doing. That’s when I feel most alive. Is it going to pay the bills right now? No. But I know that I’m on the path to something because it’s really been a struggle and there have been many roadblocks that I’ve had to push through. I must be doing something right because I can sense that the enemy has tried to thwart the plan.

    If I may ask, I’d covet prayers to continue to do God’s will. I would ask that God direct my paths and give me the strength, courage and faith to continue what He wants me to do. God told Abram to leave Ur but didn’t tell him where he was going. I don’t expect God to do that for me either.

  8. Young single guy

    The first reason is probably what concerns me the most about getting married (speaking as a young single guy). It’s tough to swim against the stream (see reason #2, #3, and #4) and I would imagine it’s nearly impossible w/o the support of your spouse.

    Is this an unspoken thing that many married brothers deal with but never talk openly about?

    I’m sure there are also cases where a wife has a vision, but the husband holds her back.

    • J

      I don’t know how many married men struggle with this and never say so. I certainly have never had anyone mention it to me, and as I said above, I have revealed it to only 2 or 3 people (not counting the present company).

      I’m sure you are right that there are cases where the wife’s vision is held back by her husband. I am hesitant to guess which is more prevalent.

  9. JFN

    Dan, everyone of the reasons you offer are very valid, and through my years in the ministry have witnessed what happens when any one of the ‘reasons’ derails the call upon a person’s life. I have a dear friend who is called to be a minister of the Gospel. He has all the gifts and graces needed for pastoral ministry, and so many people around him can attest to seeing the gifts. Meanwhile, any hint of such a step away from his present occupation, and under the radar involvement in his local family of faith, unleashes a major storm in his marriage and home life.

    Having been there myself at one time, I think we are being put to the same test as Jesus offers the people who desire to follow him in Matt 8. This part of the test determines if we are willing to put Him first and be about the ministry or business of giving life to others, or if we are still focused on the things deemed important in this life, thereby clinging to our excuses. Some of us have been fortunate that God does wait on us to get with the program.

    Personally I left a career in business that was quite lucrative and when I finally resisted the voices of wife, family and the ‘common sense’ of remaining where I was — I found peace! An unbelievable peace!

    I think part of the problem, is that we do not share our stories of what life is like now as opposed to the past. Many times I even find myself falling into the trap of comparing earnings with the past, hours, etc. To someone on the verge of making a decision to step out, it would be discouraging to say the least.

    Thank you Dan, for another illuminating discussion.

  10. TruthBeTold

    Hi Dan,

    It all comes down to the system that does not allow men (or women for that matter) be led by the Holy Spirit.

    Honestly, it grieves me to read all the comments that have been written…truly grieves me….and makes me hate the harlot system that much more. For she castigates men and tortures women….I can’t stand her.

    I wish all of you would leave the system and follow the Lamb whereever he leads you to go. It is that simple. It is not complicated. You honor people like Jim Elliot…people who went and followed the call that God had on their lives….and praise the Lord that they did obey and deny self and leave all to fullfill that call and yes I honor them too…..I also want to honor those that hear the Father’s call to just BE….to be the polished arrows that sit in His quiver until He see’s fit for them to be brought out and used for His glory….it may be that He enjoys just looking at them, and enjoying that they have arrived to such a place of contentment IN HIM. Is not this what Jesus said is the ‘better part’…to sit at His feet…to just BE.

    I left the system several years ago and it feels so good to know that I am free. Free to be led by His Spirit, to fellowship with the Body, just plain FREEDOM.

    To all my brothers who have been hurt by the harlot system, I want to tell you that I hurt for you. Every member is precious in the GLORIOUS BODY of Christ, every member. You have only one Head and that BE JESUS…choose to hear Him, choose to follow Him and what He desires for your life and how He wants you to use your talents. We have only ONE TEACHER remember??…and that is the HOLY SPIRIT so if your ‘pastor’ has a problem with that then your pastor is the problem. For you are the one that will have to give an account for you own life…your ‘pastor’ will have another account to answer for.

    Dan may the Lord bless you and your family.

    TruthBeTold

    • TruthBeTold,

      Can you share your story in more depth? What exactly were you doing before? What was your calling? How, exactly, did you extricate yourself from “the system” and move into your calling?

      • TruthBeTold

        Hi Dan,

        Thank you for asking for me to share my story in more depth. It is my joy and honor to do so.

        I was not raised in a christian home but gave my life to the Lord at 17 yrs. of age after my only sibling died unexpectedly of an aneurism. My brother was a believer and had written a prayer in a journal (rather prophetically) that if he ever died he would want his family to know that he was in heaven and that we (his family) would become christians.

        I write all of that to share that my experience in seeking the Lord was like a Damascus road experience….for I did seek Him and I FOUND HIM and it was all so new and wonderful for me….SO REAL. God is real.

        It was after giving my life to the Lord that I spent alot of time alone with the Lord…and this is when He was training my hearing to hear Him. This is how He desires it to be with all of us…for Him to be our teacher alone.

        Many well meaning christians came to invite me to ‘church’….and so I went. I started off going to the southern baptist church that operated the private school I attended. I did learn alot but found that I was still missing ‘something’….that something was the infilling of the Holy Spirit. This then put me on a search for wanting more of God and I visited many other churches/denominations….lutheran (in college), charismatic catholic, methodist, pentecostal, and eventually the Vineyard. It was during this time that I was baptized in the Holy Spirit….and this happened once again all by myself….just in my bedroom….when the glorious infilling occured. The Vineyard years is where I learned more about the Holy Spirit and alot of other ‘crazy stuff’. 🙂

        I soon tired of the roaring, jumping, ect. of the charismania and once again just wanted to KNOW HIM…and so the search continued….of wanting fellowship with His body….His pure body….for I found that there was always just a few within each denomination that I visited that I felt a true kindred with.

        These precious remnant that I fellowshipped with in different denominations were truly HIS…OF HIM…and with so many like them they were usually in the background….had a deep walk….were never really allowed to bring forth the gifts that were in them.

        You ask what is my calling? My calling is RESTORATION….and that calling is unfolding daily. The root of the word ‘restore’ means to confront….and this makes sense b/c in order for one to be restored first the faulty foundation has to be confronted and uprooted so that the solid foundation can be laid. The solid rock is Christ. The faulty foundation is that of the ‘church system’….this is a system that was founded on the traditions of man and the carnal mind with its reasonings. Nowhere in scripture do you see the church in the form that it is in today. Nowhere.

        There are many man-made doctrines that are nowhere found in the scriptures….and as I have grown in my walk with the Lord the narrower the road has become and the narrower the fellowship… b/c many within christendom do not share my beliefs…and that is ok…..b/c I am free to understand that what Christ has started He is the one that will COMPLETE….and all I am required to do is be faithful with what I have been given.

        I believe there has been a trumpet that has blown in the heavenlies…the trumpet ‘message’ of “Come out of her my people’….and that many within Christendom are hearing this message within their spirits. This is why there has been a slow moving exodus out of the church system. The system is based on man. The system is the Harlot. The system is the counterfit.

        You ask…”How, exactly, did you extricate yourself from “the system and move into your calling?” It was very simple for me….I left. I left the system for I was tired of it. I was tired for many reasons. Just getting the family ready for church is an ordeal to say the least. The WHOLE ‘church thing’ is ridiculous….really think about it…..sitting in pews, taking up offerings, listening to a preacher on a stage, the choir singing, the worship band playing, taking communion with the little wafer crackers and grape juice…(that in itself is just one example of how ridiculous ‘church’ is …of taking the glorious understanding of communion which is all of us eating of the BREAD OF LIFE found within one another, sharing THE CHRIST that is within and the gifts that are given to each of us so that the body is supplied with every need that it might have…..all of which is supposed to be understood spiritually within and the ‘church’ then makes it into a literal wafer cracker and juice that people now take and are robbed of the understanding of what true communion is .) That is confusion. That is Babylon. That is the man-made church system. That is why I left.

        I now stay home and REST….just as the word instructs us to do. I fellowship with my family. I fellowship with other believers as the Holy Spirit brings them into my life. I am led to minister to those that He quickens me to minister to. I don’t go and get approval from a pastor b/c I already have approval from MY HEAD. I move when the cloud moves.

        Much of what the ‘church’ does is based on self effort…and this will not be rewarded.

        My main ministry is to the Lord. I minister to Him. This is my heavenly calling.

        Be blessed Dan!

  11. Brian

    I think an interesting thing that needs to be looked at here is the actual “vision” and “purpose.”

    My concern here is that the natural interpretation of those terms in our christian culture today mean — seminary, missions and brick-n-mortar churches.

    One can be so gifted as a pastor (yet work as a mechanic), but that does not in any way mean he should pastor a church in the context of what we see today. It could mean he needs to feed the sheep that are around the garage.

    I think those 5 reasons could easily come about because of misinterpreting what one thinks their vision and purpose in life are.

    There are a couple of verses from Paul that talk about staying where you are once you get saved. Lets not also forget Zechariahs word of do not despise the day of small beginnings.

    I come at this conversation from the charismania point of view where EVERYONE has some great and grand vision to go to other countries and save gazillions (which would require quiting a job, toting a wife and kids around, selling property, raising money and on and on) and they’ve never even talked to their own neighbors.

    You wonder why people don’t support these types of things?

    In charismania I have seen people brag and brag about their purpose. Like having a stated purpose IS their purpose. Its what makes them feel special in the kingdom. Even though there is no intention of actually trying to see it fulfilled. Which is why I always heard the “if its God’s will” blow-off statement.

    Hey, you wanna know what your purpose is? Forget what you see at church and learn how to do this without a sign-up sheet. Love the lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind. And love your neighbor as yourself.

  12. J

    Hi Brian,

    You are probably right that many people might equate a “vision” or “purpose” which is being blocked with some kind of dramatic career change or grandiose undertaking for God.

    For me, it’s not at all that. The vision/purpose that is being blocked for me is the vision of living a life of service to others, of viewing our resources as being primarily entrusted to us for the purpose of blessing others instead of making ourselves more comfortable, of understanding the gospel as bigger and more risky than “getting to heaven when we die”, of loving our enemies, of loving our neighbors as much as we love ourselves, and of loving God with everything we are and have. As far as I understand the Scripture, this is at the core of the gospel of the kingdom of God.

    I am perfectly happy with that vision and purpose being expressed in small, unglamorous ways. But it isn’t possible to say yes to that gospel without saying no to what could be called the “Americanized middle-class suburban” gospel. This means spending time, energy, money, and other resources in ways that serve the gospel of Jesus and do not serve the AMCS gospel.

    And since the person I am committed before God to stay with until death parts us subscribes to the latter and opposes the former, what am I to do? I want (need?) more than her grudging acquiescence.

    • Brian

      I think you and I are in agreement. What you describe sounds just like the two great commandments from Jesus.

      There is probably a mix of issues out there and my vent probably hit several all in one.

  13. Vision Squelched

    Dan,
    I’d like to take you up on your offer of prayer. When I read your #1 above, I thought perhaps that the LORD had given you a word of knowledge concerning my situation. The house is large, the van is trendy, the TV’s and computers are top-notch, the pool is inviting, and I would give it all up to live in a mobile home and spend my days preaching the gospel and ministering to the needy. Thanks in advance for praying.

  14. Peter P

    Dan,

    I have printed this out so that my wife and I can discuss it and try to work together toward a place where I can find and live my purpose.

    Thank you.

  15. Pingback: Purpose « Rediscovering the Church
  16. connie

    I know a man who did what you are talking about-went overseas to be an itinerant missionary. He married a woman he met while there who was and is as passionate about God as he was. Together they traveled the world, preaching, evangelizing, and in the process having a fairly large family by modern standards. (Nothing like the Duggars here, mind you.)

    I met them when they moved back when their eldest was a teen. All of them were active in our church.
    Right now most of the kids are grown and very few of them are actively serving the Lord. Many have totally gone into materialism and living just like unbelievers. For privacy concerns I won’t be more detailed than that.

    I am not trying to discourage anyone’s dream or vision. I am saying that a dream or vision unbalanced by understanding the responsibility to one’s family winds up being a very poor witness. I know other families who have done great things for God on the mission field and also raised children who are out doing the same.

  17. Hello:

    I read your blog every now and then and I really like the way you write. This post about purpose absolutely blew my socks off! I don’t even know where to start! OK, I’ll just start with me.

    I got fired from my sales manager job of six months on Friday March 13. I was previously fired from my job of thirteen years back in dec. of 2007 (long story). I have three kids (15, 13, and 9) and one wife (age withheld per her request). I have a vision of serving God in pastoral ministry. I love preaching, I love people and I love the Word of God! I have been in the corporate world since 1996 and am ready to find my true purpose. I am asking the Lord to open the right doors and most of all, asking Him to help me not to miss it!

    There is so much more to this story than space to write it in. Just know that what you wrote spoke to me in a very strong and powerful way this morning!

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