And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. -Romans 8:28-29
Yesterday, I had a couple conversations where the idea of “God’s purpose” “God’s will” and “God’s calling” on our lives got brought up. In the first conversation, the person I was talking to was struggling with what God’s purpose is for her life. She was feeling like others around her seem so clear about their “calling” or at least “pursuing some specific purpose.” In the second conversation, the friend I was talking to was struggling with this whole concept of whether God really has a “specific calling” on people’s lives.
I believe there is an easy answer to that question.
In addition, I believe it’s something that believers in Jesus desperately need to refocus on, even by those of us convinced God does have a “specific calling” on our lives. I also believe the lack of clarity and priority of this answer is at the heart of what is especially wrong with the American Church today.
But before I get to that answer, let me explain (albeit somewhat generally) what I mean by the statement “what is wrong with especially the American Church.” In the US, Christians have become focused and obsessed with “issues” “political stances” “opinions” “preferences” and “doctrinal systems.” But the “issues” “stances” and “systems” that we seem to so deeply and emotionally (dare I say obsessively, even idolatrous) focus on and become divided over; are often not the issues the church in other parts of the world are divided over or make the “issue” like we do.
This is not to say I am against causes, doctrine or taking a stand on issues. I just believe we often take on a cause but lose sight of Christ. We exalt a certain doctrinal position over the person of Christ. And we take a stand on issues but fail to be Christ-like in the process.
I believe this happens because we make championing these things the “purpose” of our lives. But God has one purpose for my life and yours and every other Christian in every generation and every generation to come, until Christ comes back and we are perfected. It is a singular purpose that is the same for every one of us.
It is found in the verse this blog article began with. Verse twenty-eight of Romans chapter eight states clearly that God works for the good of those who love and have been called according to his purpose. What is “his purpose?” The next verse explains, though with some heavy hitting theological terms! But it simply boils down to this: God’s purpose for my life and yours is that in knowing Jesus, we become like Jesus.
That’s it. It’s as simple (and for the rest of our lives as challenging) as that.
What does God want for my life and yours? What is His calling on my life and yours? What is His purpose and will for my life and yours?
It’s that we know and become like Jesus.
No more. No less.
Think about it this way. What is the primary focus and emphasize in all the New Testament epistles? Is it on finding God’s specific and unique calling in each of our individual lives? Is it about finding the perfect church? Is it about the right political beliefs? Is it about finding the exact “special task” God has for our lives? Is it about finding a “cause we care about?”
If God’s purpose for my life or yours is merely a specific “calling” such as being a teacher, pastor, missionary or whatever, then what happens during the times you are not functioning in that role or that role or task comes to an end? Does that mean you have no purpose for the rest of your life? And what about in eternity?
Don’t get me wrong, I do believe God calls and leads people to certain roles or tasks. I believe as Scripture teaches, He gives His people grace and gifts of the Holy Spirit to serve in specific ways. I believe He raises up leaders and anoints people to perform certain things. I believe there are causes we should get involved with and care about.
But none of those things or tasks are God’s purpose for my life or yours!
In fact, we can do all kinds of “activity” for Jesus and yet not be like Jesus or become more like Jesus. And when we get more focused on issues, stances, positions, and systems over our Savior and being like Him, we can entirely miss it.
So, think about this: isn’t the New Testament primarily, if not almost exclusively, focused on who Jesus is, who we are in Christ, and therefore how we are to live, act and be like Jesus? Is it not about us reflecting His nature and character to a corrupt and lost world that they might see a difference in our lives and come to know Him too?
And what is it the world really needs?
It’s easy for us to rail against it. It is easy for us to complain about it. But what really draws people to Jesus and results in life-transformation?
Is it our stances or Savior? Is it us judging and condemning the world or reflecting the character of God, showing the love of Jesus in action and sharing the Good News of salvation in Jesus Christ while we are in this world?
What does the world need more than anything else?
I would submit to you it is simply this: God’s people becoming and being like Jesus. For us to not only witness…but be his witnesses. Be his ambassadors. Be his hands and feet. Be his representatives. Be the light and salt of the world.
Be. Like. Jesus.
Imagine if we started focusing on that every day. Imagine if we made that the purpose of every situation and question we asked in every situation: how can this mold me and make me to be more like Jesus? How can I reflect his nature and character in this situation?
Do you realize, no matter what people might do to you, no matter what circumstances you might be going through, no matter what trials or suffering or hardships you might face, you and I have opportunity to grow in Christ-likeness?
In other words, if this was our focus, nothing can rob us of fulfilling God’s purpose for our lives no matter the situation!
In every situation, if we just lived as Jesus did, with an attitude of serving rather than looking to be served; an attitude of loving God and loving others; an attitude of simply going around and doing good wherever there was need, and we had opportunity; wouldn’t the world be a much better place? Wouldn’t that way of life and character attract others to Him?
It was Gandhi after all who famously said, ‘I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.
What a sad statement about us all to one degree or another! Granted, this side of heaven we will all fall short, but we should never use that as an excuse, because this side of heaven God is laser focused on one thing in each of our lives: us knowing and thereby becoming like Jesus.
This is his primary concern. This is his purpose for our lives as believers while here in this world. In God’s Sovereignty, He has predestined and orchestrated the course and events and circumstances of our lives for this means and end goal in mind.
Everything that happens in your life is for this purpose to be fulfilled and everything that happens offers you this opportunity to know something of Jesus and become more like him!
Therefore, I believe we miss the mark and fail to show the world the beauty of Jesus, by exalting issues, opinions, stances and systems about our Savior.
I believe we become frustrated, confused, even disillusioned when life doesn’t turn out as we might expect or hope or think it should…because we become focused on a different purpose and agenda than God’s single purpose and agenda for our lives.
I also believe looking for some “specific calling” or “specific purpose” can become an excuse for not living and serving like Jesus did and becoming more like him. As I said to one person who was struggling with God’s “purpose” for their life, why don’t you just look every day for opportunity to be like Jesus? Serve someone in need. Show hospitality. Be generous. Be gracious. Be forgiving. Love God. Love people. It may well be that as you do that, God will open some specific doors to serve Him in some specific ways, but in the meantime, just stay focused on being like Jesus! The result or end goal is not some special task, calling or role; but being more like Jesus.
I know I need this reminder in my own life. In fact, it might even be harder for those of us in “full-time ministry” because it is very easy for me to be way more caught up in what I am doing than who I am becoming. It is easy to focus on tasks over character. It is easier to become complacent in being like Jesus when you feel like you are doing “God’s work.” And it is easier to exalt “ministry” than Christ-likeness.
But God is more concerned not merely about what we do, but whose we are, who we are becoming and who we are reflecting to this world. God’s purpose for our lives is that we know and become like Jesus. And every moment of every day, every situation of life, has the potential to fulfill that purpose.