Focusing on Your Purpose

Power Words.Purpose

What on earth are you doing for heaven’s sake?

It’s a great question. It’s a question that is flooded with purpose. Why are we here? Who am I? Where am I going? The deepest life’s questions often are rooted to this idea of purpose.

And it’s why we must deal with it.

You see, I don’t believe in accidents. I don’t believe that we’re some random product of societal evolution. I don’t believe that we exist simply to take up space and suck air. Everything we do matters. Every choice I make matters. Every thought I think matters. Every attitude matters. Every accomplishment, honor or reward matters. With God at the center, everything has a purpose.

Now you might not fully believe that idea, and that’s okay.

But like Rick Warren explains in his insightful TedTalk on “purpose in life,” our world view is what frames all we think, feel and do. We all look at life through a lens. My lens simply starts and end with God and my Christianity informs my ideas and insights, my attitudes and beliefs, and ultimately my choices, mission, methods and behavior.

Now I’ll be the first to confess there are times when I still struggle, even doubt. For years, even decades, I held fast to a false theological idea that I was “God’s great cosmic joke.” It was “stinking thinking” on my part, but it was easy to blame God for my misfortune, my failings, my bad luck and poor circumstances. I felt that God needed a punching bag and I was it. Essentially, I framed God as aloof, absent and apathetic. He might be interested in other people and He might bless me occasionally, but overall God preferred to mess with me (if for no other reason than to get a laugh).

Of course, I no longer believe that lie. I know that I matter to God. I also know that all I think, say, feel and do matters. I have PURPOSE. I exist for a reason. I’m not good for nothing, I’m good for something and Someone.

And I believe you are too.

According to Genesis 1:27, human beings are created in the “image of God.” Think about that idea of “in the” for a moment! It’s easy to overlook those two little words. We are not just a reflection (a mirrored image) but a replication (a modeled image) of God. So whatever you think God is, so are we. That means we possess the Divine capacity to create, bless, reveal, instruct, empower, change, encourage, communicate, forgive and redeem. We’re not just intelligent apes or highly-evolved bundles of flesh and bone. Human beings are something unique, distinct and valuable.

And if you believe God does nothing accidentally, chaotically or randomly, then everything has its true purpose. Misfortune happens but God’s Peace will carry you through (perhaps to teach us persistence). Failure happens, but God’s Grace will help you stand again (perhaps to teach us humility). Bad luck and poor circumstances happen but God’s Strength and Wisdom will lead you beyond them (perhaps to teach us to trust). Fundamentally, God is GOoD. You can’t spell “good” without “God” in it.

God doesn’t make mistakes. He doesn’t create junk. God created YOU for a purpose. He designed YOU for a special role, task, plan or work. For me, my life purpose is to inspire people through my writing and workshops. Every time I speak or teach, I feel God’s Presence and sense His Smile. God is using me to serve the Church and while this work (and my life) is largely unknown, even insignificant, in light of the many greater ministries and people that do similar work, I’m okay. I’ve learned to be content. I’ve learned to trust. I’ve learned my role and my place.

And if God decides to work a miracle and make what I do into something greater, that’s okay too. I’m willing to go wherever He leads and train wherever He desires.

When you find your purpose everything else falls into place.

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Oh Lord, It’s Hard To Be Humble

HumilityHumility is a spiritual issue. When we are humble we display the heart of Jesus. And when we become humble givers, we change the world.

Oh Lord, it’s hard to be humble, when you’re perfect in every way. I can’t wait to look in the mirror, ‘cuz I get better looking each day.

Remember that old Mac Davis song? It’s a good one.

We’ve got a lot of things in short supply these days. Clean drinking water in Africa and other third world countries. Teenagers who can’t voice complete sentences. Great television shows like “This Is Us.” Cleveland Brown football victories.

And humility. From our sports heroes to our President, there’s not much of it.

On every team, faculty or staff, in every classroom, home or group, there are three types of people: givers, takers and “matchers.” Some people give of their time, talent and treasure. Some people have no problem wasting time, shucking talent or stealing treasure. But most people are “matchers” in that we live suspended between the two and “match” what works best for us. We’re pragmatists at heart.

Nevertheless, it’s the givers who move an organization, church, school or business forward. Givers are inspirational. Givers spark creativity, motivation and joy. Givers leave a mark and carve a legacy.

At the center of being a “giver” is humility.

Humility is the underlying force that guides individuals who selflessly serve, who sacrifice their time, abilities and financial resources. It’s a simple recognition that others matter first and foremost. Now, that doesn’t mean you have to degrade or devalue yourself. C.S. Lewis is right: “Humility isn’t thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.” Too many times we think humility means we have to be last or least, and that’s not always the case.

Recently, I ordered lunch at a local Chick Fil A. When the meal arrived I realized that they had incorrectly taken my order (I wanted grilled chicken nuggets and got fried nuggets instead). I gently returned the box of nuggets back to my young server and she informed me they couldn’t take them back. She then brought me another box of grilled nuggets (and a card for a free Chick entree on my next visit). I wasn’t expecting that blessing! But here I was with an extra box of nuggets. Consequently, I looked around for someone to whom I could give the extra entree but saw no one. Everyone had ordered and was happy. And then, practically on cue, a scruffy old man came into the restaurant wanting directions. I learned he was new to town and was turned around. He wasn’t there to eat but when I caught his eye I motioned him to my table.

“Would you like my box of grilled chicken nuggets?” I asked the old man, “I’ve got an extra box.”

His grizzled face, deep with wrinkles, broadened into a smile and said enthusiastically “yes!” He was clearly hungry and my gift was an unexpected blessing. I gave him the box and some Chick-Fil-A sauce. He thanked me profusely and disappeared down the street. It felt good to give, even if it was out of my abundance.

It’s so easy for me to be a giver when I’m flush with nuggets. It’s easy to drop extra in the offering plate when my bank account is full. It’s easy to give my time when I’ve got it and my talent when there’s some reward or affirmation. How about you?

The problem is it’s far more difficult to be a giver out of my poverty. I’ve been dirt poor in my life at times. A few years ago it was so bad I had to resort to a local food bank for food. It was “humiliating” to me, but I never stopped giving. I even supported a missionary with a regular donation. It was in my poverty, humbled by life’s circumstances, that I learned how to receive. Trust me, it takes most of us a great amount of humility to accept the help of others. No one wants to be a “taker” and yet too many of us are “takers” these days. Our government assistance programs are brimming with scammers, hustlers and other thieves. You see, there’s a fine line between being a “giver” who needs a hand up and a “taker” who is always looking for the hand out.

All I know is Jesus was right: it’s far more blessed to give than to receive.

It’s a pretty cool way to live (if you fully trust God to provide and protect). So I’m learning to change that old Mac Davis song and retool it with new lyrics: Oh Lord, it’s easy to humble when You, the Giver of all Good Gifts, are Perfect in every way.

Stay blessed. Stay hungry. Stay humble.

And watch the blessings fall. Even if it’s just a box of fried chicken nuggets.