Who Needs A Life of Purpose?

[To listen to a reading of this article, click here.]

Ten years ago, I was on a plane heading for New York to give a presentation. The man next to me was a professor of public speaking at a major university.

Somewhat sheepishly, I asked for advice, “What is the key to great public speaking?”

After some preliminary comments, he said this: “At the beginning of World War II, when Winston Churchill became Prime Minister of England, he said, ‘I felt as though my whole life had prepared me for this moment.’”

“Sam,” he continued, “the best public speakers feel as though their entire lives have prepared them for this moment.”

His words pierced me more deeply than had any other past comment or deliberate insult.

I was devastated. I didn’t feel prepared for anything of significance.

Why?

My soul longs—and I believe every soul longs—for a purpose, for a deep meaning, to know that we matter. We long for something transcendent.

Yet I believe most of us fritter our lives away with little dreams. We eagerly await our next vacation or our next car. We squander our money—or our dreams—on the next new iPhone or matching shoes and purse.

We numb our hearts with nonsense.

I know I had. At the time of this airplane conversation, I was an executive at a software company. My disposable income allowed me ski trips out west and a large addition to my house. But it didn’t satisfy, and this conversation bared my soul naked to the inconsequential elements of a frivolous life.

Yes, I was a believer. I did believe Christ had died for me; I did pray; I did give money to the poor; I did serve. But somehow I wasn’t living the life designed for me. There was something in the universe I longed for but didn’t have.

The greatest sin

A short while after my devastating airplane conversation, I read a quote by Dorothy Sayers,

In hell it is called Discouragement and Despair; the sin that believes in nothing, cares for nothing, seeks to know nothing, interferes with nothing, enjoys nothing, hates nothing, finds purpose in nothing, lives for nothing, and remains alive merely because there is nothing for which it will die.

The quote did nothing to quiet my soul. I was haunted by the phrase, “[it] remains alive merely because there is nothing for which it will die.”

Yet this haunting awakened something. An inner compelling began to drive me. I wanted to live for something, even if I had to die for it.

The image of God

Early in scripture, God says, “Let us make man in our image after our likeness (Gen 1:26); and then—as if to reinforce through repetition—the next verse continues, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him.”

God is all glorious. The word “glory” means weightiness, significance, splendor, and matter. To be made in God’s image means we matter; that we were designed for lives of significance, glory and nobility.

And destiny

When God put Adam and Eve in the garden, he made them comrades in creation. He gave them a garden to nurture and a world to manage. In essence, God said to Adam and Eve, “I’ve brought you into creation at just the right moment, to use your creativity and skills to nurture life and order to the creation I made.”

Likewise, God gives us purpose and destiny. He brought us into the world for this moment. It is no accident that he made us male or female, that we live in the twenty-first century (instead of the seventeenth), that we live in our cities with our families and gifts and talents.

He brought us here—and now—for a purpose. The world has needs that only we can supply. There is something only we can do.

Comradeship

Oswald Chambers said,

It cannot be stated definitely what the call of God is to, because His call is to be in comradeship with Himself for His own purposes, and the test is to believe that God knows what He is after.

For some unfathomable reason, God has chosen to work through us. He could have done everything without us; instead he ennobles us to work with him, in comradeship with him, to bring his life and light to the world.

For some unfathomable reason, God calls us his friends, to share in his purpose, to be partners and comrades in an ultimate mission.

That is why we are here; and the test is to believe God knows what he is after.

Sam

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10 Responses to Who Needs A Life of Purpose?

  1. Elizabeth says:

    Thanks Sam. struggling with this right now, especially the “nothing’ness” so it’s timely for me. blessings E.

    • Hi Elizabeth,

      The good news-and for me it is really good news–is that God really has prepared you for right now, this moment. And he uses this moment to prepare us for the next.

      We don’t always feel it, we are often (usually?) unaware, but it is true never-the-less.

      Thanks,

      Sam

  2. Rachelle says:

    It’s great to feel you’ve been prepared for significance. But I wonder if it’s really necessary. Mordecai certainly felt that about Esther, but the evidence seems to indicate she didn’t necessarily feel that way about herself, at least not to start with. It seems she stood courageously because Mordecai saw what was happening and how God was involved, and he encouraged her. God does prepare us for what’s ahead, but does that mean we will always feel prepared?

    • Hi Rachelle,

      You are so perceptive!!!!

      Yes, I think we are often (usually?) unaware of the preparation; we don’t “feel” it. But it is true anyway.

      Esther didn’t know it, but God prepared her to save her nation; Joseph didn’t know it, but God prepared him to save his people; David didn’t know it, but God prepared him to fight the giant.

      God has made us glorious, and he has been preparing us our whole lives for this moment; and he uses this moment to prepare us for the next.

      We don’t see it, but we can believe it. We don’t see it, and we often need our friends (or uncle) to reveal it.

      Thanks,

      Sam

  3. nickgronow says:

    This one Sam hits home for me. Thanks for sharing your story. It reverberates on my heart quite a bit.

    • Hi Nick,

      Great to hear from you.

      I think we all need to be reminded; God has made us something glorious, and he has allowed us to bring our lives to the world–to the world that desperately needs who we are.

      Sam

  4. Jim says:

    Sam,

    i am struck by several things. purpose, comradeship trust in unseen purposes. Mostly though I must examine the motives of my heart and weigh the things God asks me to BE in preparation for his purposes. At first glance it seems easier to do something if God clearly asks. Yet for me, things done in consideration of God’s heart instead of my own occasionally hard heart helps me to walk forward trusting the purpose is sanctioned by Him. Does this make sense?

    • Hi Jim,

      Yes, what you say makes sense.

      Let me offer one more perspective. God’s preparation of us involves more than skills. His preparation involves the total essence of who he made us to be. It involves personality, heart, passions, gender, history, spiritual and natural gifts, and loads more.

      He made us unique, and uniquely qualified to bring ourselves; not just bring this talent or that talent; he wants us to bring ourselves–our entire being.

      And we can do that everywhere we go: on the phone, over coffee, in a meeting, at a movie, with friends, with family, with clients, with our children, and with brothers and sisters.

      Very often we think of bringing one thing (hospitality, skill with a spreadsheet, gift of encouragement)–yes, let’s bring those things too. But let’s bring our whole selves.

      What is needed is US, not just a talent someone can use.

      And the only way we can bring US is to trust that God has been preparing you for this moment; that God has been preparing you your whole life…for this moment.

      And then we can rest.

      Thanks,

      Sam

      • nickgronow says:

        Wow! I love this flow of thinking, and where it is going. Just this morning I was hearing God say that he accepts and loves me just the way I am, and that there is no secret pattern or way of living that gets us to the place where we think sometimes we need to be. For me, it always feels like a destination I have not arrived at yet, but in truth, there is no destination. What we can do or accomplish is of little value to God in comparison to what offer in terms of who we are. I really like the “our whole self” way of thinking. Thanks!

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