Purpose

(I wrote this during Lent in 2009. Even more true today)

For a while I thought I was depressed.  Life changed drastically for me when I lost my job.  In part, I think the trauma was due to the to the fact that I found my identity in what I did.  The challenges of the work gave me purpose.  I felt vital and alive.  Losing my job meant I lost my sense of purpose.

I used to teach groups of people how to write their mission statements.  We didn’t start with that.  We would back up and talk about finding their passion in life and for life.  When it came to putting that passion into a working purpose or mission statement, I would teach to the difference between a goal (short term) and a mission statement (life- long driving force).  A mission or purpose statement is something you can see devoting your whole life to.  It is true now and will be true in twenty, thirty, even fifty years.

Reflecting on this, I wasn’t really depressed.  I was just adrift and going nowhere because I had taken my eyes off the map.  I thought that without the job I wouldn’t be able to follow my purpose and mission.  I forgot that the job wasn’t the only vehicle to get me where I needed to be.  I forgot that the whether I’m teaching or cleaning toilets, it is the purpose or mission God has for my life that matters and he will provide me with the opportunities I need.  I forgot that it is God who gifts me and directs me to use those gifts.  

I was reading about John the Baptist in Mark’s gospel.  I don’t think there are many who would sign up for John’s job—especially if they knew how it was going to end for him.  Yet, even in the briefest of ministries, John paved the way by preparing the people for the emergence of Jesus’ life-changing ministry.

It reminds me of relief pitchers in baseball.  They will never pitch a whole game.  That’s not their job.  It’s not why they were hired.  Some of those guys will only throw a few pitches and the next thing we see is the coach headed to the mound.  Those couple of precisely placed pitches are what the reliever gets paid the big bucks for.  It’s their purpose.  

Now, dust off your imagination and try to picture this: your favorite baseball team has made the playoffs!  They did this not just on their bats, but because of their pitching.  But now that they’ve made it to the biggest games, the team’s relievers and closers have decided they want more playing time and have threatened to not play at all if they don’t get the opportunity to pitch a whole game.  How crazy is that?  How dare they hold the game hostage for their whims?

The apostle Paul, in his discussion of gifts, makes this statement: But our bodies have many parts, and God has put each part just where he wants it (1 Corinthians 12:18, NLT).  Right there with the assurance that we all have a part, we’re told that we are placed right where He wants us. 

That’s why we really need to bloom right where we’re planted!

Prayerfully ponder: How’s the soil where you are? Are you focused on how you want to use your perceived talents? Are you more concerned with what you want than what God needs from you? Are you discouraged because you feel like you’re riding the pine and you can’t understand why God is wasting your abilities? Are you aware of what God’s doing around you so that when the time is right (God’s specialty) you’ll be ready to pitch your inning?

Pressing On

For several years now, I have taken time and given much thought to a theme or driving principle for the year. I begin the process in the fall, September or October. When I decide I contact Premier Designs and have a bracelet engraved with the word. Then I wear the bracelet all year as a reminder. Two years ago my word was “persevere.” Last year I chose “Go further!” And for 2021, my word is “makarioi.” Makarioi is the Greek word used in the Beatitudes, often translated happy or blessed.

Makarioi. It means so much more to me.

A couple years back, I did a sermon series on the Beatitudes and I discovered that the word Jesus used was much richer than what seemed to be the typical, superficial translation—especially when translated happy. The word has more to do with thriving or flourishing.

Think about it for minute. There’s nothing happy about being dependent, or mourning, meek, or persecuted. Jesus wasn’t advocating living in misery. The perspective he offered related to the way we face the circumstances of life. Will we choose to recognize how blessed we are in spite of what is being thrown at us, dragging us down, discouraging us…You get the idea.

Will we choose to strive, to thrive, to flourish?

Here I will have to echo Paul’s words: not that I have already obtained all this, but I press on (Philippians 3:12-14).

Until then, I’ll wear the bracelet and keep pressing on.

Rebuilding with Nehemiah, Chapter 4, Day 5

Friday: What to do with the Whiners
Text: 12 The Jews who lived near the enemy came and told us again and again, “They will come from all directions and attack us!”[e] 13 So I placed armed guards behind the lowest parts of the wall in the exposed areas. I stationed the people to stand guard by families, armed with swords, spears, and bows.
14 Then as I looked over the situation, I called together the nobles and the rest of the people and said to them, “Don’t be afraid of the enemy! Remember the Lord, who is great and glorious, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your homes!” (Nehemiah 4:12-14, NLT)

SP Neh 4 frustration wall

They were surrounded. The situation looked and felt grim. And I’m imagining there were many who were feeling hopeless.

So Nehemiah recruited more people to protect the vulnerable spots. And then he called them to remember.

“Remember the great and glorious God who has called you to this task, who has protected you and provided everything you need.”

“And remember why you are doing this. This is no mere exercise in futility. We’re not looking to win a beautification award. No, we are building this wall to protect ourselves and make a better life for our wives and children.”

SP Neh 4 Remember stone

We read the stories in the Old Testament where the people were called to remember what God had done. They rehearsed and reminded themselves regularly. Then when they found themselves in a difficult situation the truth was not a far off concept, but one upon which they could depend.

The same holds true for the writers of the New Testament. Paul was clear on this with the Philippian believers. “It’s no hardship for me to write of these things again,” he told them. He knew the power of remembering what God has done and what he promises to do.

Perhaps you know what it’s like to feel surrounded and hopeless. Remember God. Remember he has called you to the task. Remember he promises to not just give you life, but joy.

WP Neh dev 4-5 thrive