DAY 40 Living with Purpose Many are the plans in a man's heart, but it is the Lord's purpose that prevails. Proverbs 19:21 (NIV) For David ... served the purpose of God in his own generation. Acts 13:36 (NASB) Living on purpose is the only way to really live. Everything else is just existing. Most people struggle with three basic issues in life. The first is identity: "Who am I?" The second is importance: "Do I matter?" The third is impact: "What is my place in life?" The answers to all three questions are found in God's five purposes for you. In the Upper Room, as Jesus was concluding his last day of ministry with his disciples, he washed their feet as an example and said, "Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them." Once you know what God wants you to do, the blessing comes in actually doing it. As the come to the end of our forty-day journey together, now that you know God's purposes for your life, you will be blessed if you do them! This probably means you will have to stop doing some other things. There are many "good" things you can do with your life, but God's purposes are the five essentials you must do. Unfortunately, it's easy to get distracted and forget what is most important. It's easy to drift away from what matters most and slowly get off course. To prevent this, you should develop a purpose statement for your life and then review it regularly. WHAT IS A LIFE PURPOSE STATEMENT? It's a statement that summarizes God's purposes for your life. In your own words you affirm your commitment to God's five purposes for your life. A purpose statement is not a list of goals. Goals are temporary; purposes are eternal. The Bible says, "His plans endure forever; his purposes last eternally." It's a statement that points the direction of your life. Writing down your purposes on paper will force you to think specifically about the path of your life. The Bible says, "Know where you are headed, and you will stay on solid ground." A life purpose statement not only spells out what you intend to do with your time, life, and money, but also implies what you aren't going to do. Proverbs says, "An intelligent person aims at wise action, but a fool starts off in many directions." It's a statement that defines "success" for you. It states what you believe is important, not what the world says is important. It clarifies your values. Paul said, "I want you to understand what really matters.' It's a statement that clarifies your roles. You will have different roles at different stages in life, but your purposes will never change. They are greater than any role you will have. It's a statement that expresses your shape. It reflects the unique ways God made you to serve him. Take your time writing out your life purpose statement. Don't try to complete it in a single setting, and don't aim for perfection in your first draft; just write down your thoughts as fast as they come to you. It is always easier to edit than to create. Here are five questions you should consider as you prepare your statement: LIFE'S FIVE GREATEST QUESTIONS What will be the center of my life? This is the question of worship. Who are you going to live for? What are you going to build your life around? You can center your life around your career, your family, a sport or hobby, money, having fun, or many other activities. These are all good things, but they don't belong at the center of your life. None is strong enough to hold you together when life starts breaking apart. You need an unshakable center. King Asa told the people of Judah to "center their lives in God.' Actually, whatever is at the center of your life is your god. When you committed your life to Christ, he moved into the center, but you must keep him there through worship. Paul says, "I pray that Christ will be more and more at home in your hearts." How do you know when God is at the center of your life? When God's at the center, you worship. When he's not, you worry. Worry is the warning light that God has been shoved to the sideline. The moment you put him back at the center, you will have peace again. The Bible says, "A sense of God's wholeness ... will come and settle you down. It's wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life." What will be the character of my life? This is the question of discipleship. What kind of person will you be? God is far more interested in what you are than what you do. Remember, you will take your character into eternity, but not your career. Make a list of the character qualities you want to work on and develop in your life. You might begin with the fruit of the Spirit or the Beatitudes. Peter said, "Don't lose a minute in building on what you've been given, complementing your basic faith with good character, spiritual understanding, alert discipline, passionate patience, reverent wonder, warm friendliness, and generous love." Don't get discouraged and give up when you stumble. It takes a lifetime to build Christ-like character. Paul told Timothy, "Keep a firm grasp on both your character and your teaching. Don't be diverted. Just keep at it." What will be the contribution of my life? This is the question of service. What will be your ministry in the Body of Christ? Knowing your combination of spiritual gifts, heart, abilities, personality, and experiences (SHAPE), what would be your best role in the family of God? How can you make a difference? Is there a specific group in the Body that I am shaped to serve? Paul pointed out two wonderful benefits when you fulfill your ministry: "This service you perform not only meets the needs of God's people, but also produces an outpouring of gratitude to God." While you are shaped to serve others, even Jesus didn't meet the needs of everyone while on earth. You have to choose whom you can best help, based on your shape. You need to ask, "Who do I have a desire to help most?" Jesus said, "I commissioned you to go out and to bear fruit, fruit that will last." Each of us bears different fruit. What will be the communication of my life? This is the question of your mission to unbelievers. Your mission statement is a part of your life purpose statement. It should include your commitment to share your testimony and the Good News with others. You should also list the life lessons and godly passions you feel God has given you to share with the world. As you grow in Christ, God may give you a special target group of people to focus on reaching. Be sure to add this to your statement. If you are a parent, part of your mission is to raise your children to know Christ, to help them understand his purposes for their lives, and to send them out on their mission in the world. You might include Joshua's statement in yours: "As for me and my family, we will serve the LORD." Of course, our lives must support and validate the message we communicate. Before most unbelievers accept the Bible as credible they want to know that we are credible. That is why the Bible says. `Be sure that you live in a way that brings honor to the Good News of Christ." What will be the community of my life? This is the question of fellowship. How will you demonstrate your commitment to other believers and connection to the family of God? Where will you practice the "one another" commands with other Christians? To which church family will you be joined as a functioning member? The more you mature, the more you will love the Body of Christ and want to sacrifice for it. The Bible says, "Christ loved the church and gave his life for it." You should include an expression of your love for God's church in your statement. As you consider your answers to these questions, include any Scriptures that speak to you about each of these purposes. There are many in this book. It may take you weeks or months to craft your life purpose statement just the way you want it. Pray, think about it, talk with close friends, and reflect on Scripture. You may go through several rewrites before you get to your final form. Even then, you will probably make minor changes as time goes by and God gives you more insight into your own shape. If you would like to see some examples from other people, just email me (see appendix 2). In addition to writing a detailed life purpose statement, it is also helpful to have a shorter statement or slogan that summarizes the five purposes for your life in a way that's memorable and inspires you. Then you can remind yourself daily. Solomon advised, "It will be good to keep these things in mind so that you are ready to repeat them." Here are a few examples: * "My life purpose is to worship Christ with my heart, serve him with my shape, fellowship with his family, grow like him in character, and fulfill his mission in the world so he receives glory." * "My life purpose is to be a member of Christ's family, a model of his character, a minister of his grace, a messenger of his word, and a magnifier of his glory." * "My life purpose is to love Christ, grow in Christ, share Christ, and serve Christ through his church, and to lead my family and others to do the same. * "My life purpose is to make a great commitment to the Great Commandment and the Great Commission." * "My goal is Christlikeness; my family is the church; my ministry is___________; my mission is__________; my motive is the glory of God." You may wonder, "What about God's will for my job or marriage or where I'm supposed to live or go to school?" Honestly, these are secondary issues in your life, and there may be multiple possibilities that would all be in God's will for you. What matters most is that you fulfill God's eternal purposes regardless of where you live or work or whom you marry. Those decisions should support your purposes. The Bible says, "Many are the plans in a man's heart, but it is the LORD'S purpose that prevails." Focus on God's purposes for your life, not your plans, since that's what will last forever. I once heard the suggestion that you develop your life purpose statement based on what you would like other people to say about you at your funeral. Imagine your perfect eulogy, then build your statement on that. Frankly, that's a bad plan. At the end of your life it isn't going to matter atall what other people say about you. The only thing that will matter is what God says about you. The Bible says, "Our purpose is to please God, not people." One day God will review your answers to these life questions. Did you put Jesus at the center of your life? Did you develop his character? Did you devote your life to serving others? Did you communicate his message and fulfill his mission? Did you love and participate in his family? These are the only issues that will count. As Paul said, "Our goal is to measure up to God's plan for us." GOD WANTS TO USE YOU About thirty years ago, I noticed a little phrase in Acts 13:36 that forever altered the direction of my life. It was only seven words but, like the stamp of a searing hot branding iron, my life was permanently marked by these words: "David served God's purpose in his generation." Now I understood why God called David "a man after my own heart." David dedicated his life to fulfilling God's purposes on earth. There is no greater epitaph than that statement! Imagine it chiseled on your tombstone: That you served God's purpose in your generation. My prayer is that people will be able to say that about me when I die. It is also my prayer that people will say it about you, too. That is why I wrote this book for you. This phrase is the ultimate definition of a life well lived. You do the eternal and timeless (God's purpose) in a contemporary and timely way (in your generation). That is what the purpose-driven life is all about. Neither past nor future generations can serve God's purpose in this generation. Only we can. Like Esther, God created you `for such a time as this." God is still looking for people to use. The Bible says, "The eyes of the LORD search the whole earth in order to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him." Will you be a person God can use for his purposes? Will you serve God's purpose in your generation? Paul lived a purpose-driven life. He said, "I run straight to the goal with purpose in every step." His only reason for living was to fulfill the purposes God had for him. He said, "For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain." Paul was not afraid of either living or dying. Either way, he would fulfill God's purposes. He couldn't lose! One day history will come to a close, but eternity will go on forever. William Carey said, "The future is as bright as the promises of God." When fulfilling your purposes seems tough, don't give in to discouragement. Remember your reward, which will last forever. The Bible says, "For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all." Imagine what it is going to be like one day, with all of us standing before the throne of God presenting our lives in deep gratitude and praise to Christ. Together we will say, "Worthy, Oh Master! Yes, our God! Take the glory! the honor! the power! You created it all; It was created because you wanted it!" We will praise him for his plan and live for his purposes forever! DAY FORTY THINKING ABOUT MY PURPOSE Point to Ponder: Living with purpose is the only way to really live. Verse to Remember: "for David ... served the purpose of God in his own generation." Acts 13:36 (NASB) Question to Consider: When will I take the time to write down my answers to life's five great questions? When will I put my purpose on paper?