Your Best Purpose Now?


Who are you? Do you believe you were created for a purpose or was it all just chance? This week on Let My People Think, Ravi Zacharias looks at how we were created for significance and what our purpose really is…

Ravi Zacharias is one of the few contemporary radio preachers I still listen to, primarily by podcast. We need more like him.

Work and life in a cubicleStill, in my listening to his two-part series recently rerun, I feel even philosopher/ apologist Zacharias seems ill-equipped to explain purpose amid our societal/cultural norms. The “how to live out that purpose practically” eludes even him. (Perhaps it’s because the talk was from 1992. I wonder how Zacharaias might speak about purpose in a more digital age.)

Purpose in life is an issue that I think bubbles under the surface of everyone’s thoughts, yet it is a question the contemporary Church in America fumbles.

Here’s what I see:

  • By reflex, many Christians will state their purpose in life is to glorify God in everything they do, but then they wonder why it is that what they do seems so insignificant and self-serving.
  • Many Christians struggle to make any sense of their own mission within the Church when they compare it against their actual day-to-day living.
  • Many Christians have been taught that God has a perfect purpose for their lives, what He created them to do that comprises part of “the abundant life,” yet this purpose eludes them, which means the abundant life does also.
  • That disconnect causes many to reason that if the life they have now reflects God’s purposes for them perfectly, it casts doubt on how faithful God has been to bring them into that promised life of fulfilling purpose. This leads to much of our modern angst in the Church.

Let’s be honest here. It’s hard to believe that assembling widgets on a factory line, going home exhausted after 10 hours, rushing perpetually here to there, and always having some expectation on you that you can’t fulfill is in any way reflecting the love of God for you through meaningful purpose.

Nothing saddens me more than to hear Christian leaders not only concede to this kind of industrial-revolution-inspired life but actually laud it. Doing so renders terms such as underemployed meaningless. I believe depression is rampant for the very reason that people are not finding any purpose to their lives. They labor, they consume, and then they die, having contributed little to the world.

How is it that the Church here concedes to that kind of drudge life and often holds it in high regard? Why are Christian thinkers and leaders not FIGHTING against the thinking, the systems, that create purposelessness?

Strangely, instead of working to change the way the system works, all we can do is point out that it’s broken. Then we teach some anemic coping mechanisms that we hope will work, at least until the next Sunday, when we will offer different, “better” ones. But we deceive ourselves, because men and women cannot keep adding tricks to deal with a purposelessness that shouldn’t exist in the first place.

Does a person doused in gasoline and set ablaze want to receive either spiritual or secular suggestions on how to cope with being on fire? No, they need the flames extinguished, folllowed by emergency medical care. Yet most people are being burned by expectations and sociocultural conceptions of what their purpose should be. Who is calling out and saying that this experiment has failed? Shouldn’t that be the Church? Shouldn’t we be actively extinguishing false ways of living that create purposelessness and tending to the needs of those burned by the system?

The Church today in the West seems incapable of taking on systems of any kind. We simply are not up for that battle. But we should be. Instead, we tend to settle and make peace. Perhaps we, as a whole, have forgotten our purpose.

Can we at least start small? Just as each person in a church has God-given spiritual gifts that church leaders should be partnering to identify, I believe that each of us has not only a general purpose in life but a specific one. We used to name that a “calling.” If a person’s spiritual gifts are given by God to encourage and strengthn the Body, is not that person’s calling in line with those gifts? And is not the Holy Spirit able to help others to help us discover what God would have for us post-conversion?

I believe life in 2015 needs an infusion of purpose. If God has a wonderful plan for our lives, are we really living that way? Or are we lost at sea, hoping to crash on the shore of some future island oasis that seems so very far away?

4 thoughts on “Your Best Purpose Now?

  1. bobp

    ” assembling widgets on a factory line, going home exhausted after 10 hours, “

    What an apt description. I go home angry at dog eat dog, vulgar discussions of vulgar tv shows, movies and the pathetic culture and news.

    Then I click on some Christian news website and see more examples of culture free-fall , along-with failed or flip-flopping Christian leaders- do I have to get into that without hijacking the original blog post?

    My woes and lamentations are my outcomes, not my purposes.

    “The Church today in the West seems incapable of taking on systems of any kind. “

    Which church? Lump all churches together, then how does one determine the good church from a rudderless church? The Bible should be read to accommodate the Christian walk, not to examine if the church has abandoned its original purpose.

    There are too many similarities between the churches that drift with the tide of culture, be it embrace of sin, or some pop school of thought. Lack of purpose leads to both scenarios.

    • Bobp,

      I agree. What is required to rise above all that mire is most definitely superhuman. If anything, it is harder for those people who recognize how hard it actually is.

      I don’t believe the Church will go off-mission if it takes on systems or elements of those systems. I continue to go back to how the Church in the West responded to the shift toward city-based workplaces. The YMCA and various workplace reforms or support groups were created to meet the needs of youth moving to the cities to work. Those undoubtedly had a positive effect.

      However, I just don’t see that same level of engagement today. If anything, there seems to be a resignation that nothing can be done. For instance, why does the Church say nothing about how work is creeping into every part of life? We have no concept of rest anymore, and it is harming people mentally, physically, emotionally, relationally, and spiritually. Instead, I see the Church tacitly endorsing this creep and trying to spin it positively.

      I don’t want to think that Church leaders are silent because more work supposedly leads to more income, which leads to larger tithes, which leads to more human “success” for the Church in the eyes of the world and the eyes of covetous “leaders” in less “successful” churches, but you have to wonder.

  2. Why should our feeling of purposelessness surprise us? We already know that Jesus left us with a prayer for unity (Jn 17:23) which, when fulfilled, would cause everyone to know that the Creator of the universe revealed Himself through Jesus, and that they were loved by Him. Jesus then left us with a command to make disciples…everywhere. If we are Christians, but that isn’t our focus in life, why would we be surprised if we feel purposeless?

    The answer is simple: start ordering our lives in such a way that we can use our resources of time, treasure, and talents to live as Jesus taught. If we are followers of Jesus, then we should do what He says…right? For most of us, it is as simple as stopping our pursuit of the American Dream. (OK, I know it is amazingly complicated to change course in life, but it can be done…even at age 50.) When we stop trying to have everything our culture says we need, we then will have the resources necessary to impact the world around us…just like Jesus did.

    • Good points, Ray. When we are off-mission, there should be a sense of purposelessness.

      That said, I think the systemic nature of this purposelessness is not only not apparent to most people, it’s not always apparent to the Church. If anything, I continue to be perplexed at why so much of the Church in the West endorses behavior or theological constructs that only multiply the purposelessness. Instead, it should be questioning such and offering practical responses that real people can actually enact.

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