Sticking to My Knitting
“The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor.” (I Corinthians 3:8)
This letter, â€˜Purpose Weekly,’ is about uncovering and living out the purpose God has intended for our lives.Â Each of us has a purpose, a reason for his or her existence.
It may appear that lately we’ve drifted a little from the purpose for â€˜Purpose Weekly’. That’s understandable. Uncovering and living out our purpose is a lot bigger than a ten point checklist or a forty day program. We’re pretty complex beings, we live in a complex world and everybody’s got an opinion.
Another possible reason for the drift is that I tend to look at problems holistically. That means I tend to focus on everything instead of something. My wife is aware of my holistic problem; she knows better than to ask what I’m thinking because she’s had twenty-six years of weird answers. That’s what you get when you focus on everything.
Of course you can’t focus on everything. It’s an oxymoron, the words contradict each other. â€˜Focus’ and â€˜everything’ don’t go together. Like â€˜shotgun’ and â€˜pinpoint’; they just don’t belong in the same sentence. It’s more accurate to say that I focus on lots of things for very short periods of time. Wacky, I know.
So what’s my point?
What you believe about God, what you believe about yourself, where you work, how you treat your spouse and kids, how your spouse and kids treat you, wishing you had a spouse and kids, wishing you didn’t; everything that happens to you and everything that doesn’t affects how you recognize and understand your purpose in life. That’s why it seems like â€˜Purpose Weekly’ is all over the place. I see purpose in everything because everything has purpose.
But here’s the trap I don’t want either of us to fall into. We can see purpose in everything because everything that exists exists on purpose; because the One who spoke everything into existence in the first place did it on purpose. He’s the author of the purpose in everything.
There’s purpose in everything because of the Purpose of One thing. Boiled down, there’s a Single Purpose and it’s acted out in creation. It’s acted out in you and me.
If you’re thinking that kind of talk sounds a little â€˜New Age’ and that I’m drifting again, let me back it up with scripture.
“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.” (Romans 8:28)
“In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will …” (Ephesians 1:11)
So we get the idea that all of creation, you and me included, is part of a single Purpose. In this sense I don’t have my purpose and you don’t have your purpose; we have His Purpose. So do the rocks and trees. If you think that’s heavy, stick around for what comes next.
“His intent was that now, through the church (that’s you and me), the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Ephesians 3:11)
This macro-purpose, His Purpose, we all share through our life in Christ, is to make known the “manifold wisdom of God … to the rulers and authorities in heavenly realms.” He’s not talking about Bush or Obama or McCain or the president of France. He’s talking about the “rulers and authorities in heavenly realms.”
Let that sink in a second.
Our purpose isn’t ours, it’s His. Our purpose isn’t to create a comfortable existence for ourselves here on earth or to enjoy the admiration of our peers or to leave a big inheritance for our kids (sorry kids). It’s to make known the “manifold wisdom of God … to the rulers and authorities in heavenly realms.”
This is a lot bigger than us. How do we go about something like that?
Look closer at Ephesians 3:11. It says that God has already accomplished His Purpose (my purpose, your purpose, the rocks and trees purpose), “in Christ Jesus our Lord.” God’s eternal purpose for man has already been accomplished in Christ. The foundation has been laid, the house has been built, the door has been opened; our job is to walk through that door and become a part of the building project.
Exactly how each of us accomplishes that lies in our micro purpose. We act out God’s macro purpose for all of us by fulfilling His micro purpose for each of us.
“Macro,/micro, all/each; can we not just break all of this down and make it simple? Just tell me what I’m supposed to do next.”
God’s Purpose (macro) applies to all of us. Man was created for a purpose; our existence on this planet isn’t a biological accident. When God created the universe, He did it intentionally. That means He had a plan and purpose in mind before he spoke matter into being. He had a plan and purpose in mind for man before He spoke that first word of creation. When I say man I mean all humankind, from Adam to the last baby child born before this present age comes to an end. He has the same purpose for all men, all humankind.
So how do we act out God’s Purpose â€˜for all mankind’? Back in 1640 (The King James Bible was published in 1611) church leaders in Scotland and England got together to answer the question, “What is the chief end of man?” Their answer? “To glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.”
How exactly does one â€˜glorify God and enjoy Him forever’? Jesus cleared that one up for us. “â€˜… Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: â€˜Love your neighbor as yourself.'” (Matthew 22:37-39)
Those are the macro instructions. Same set of instructions for all of us. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart … soul … and … mind.” That’s how mankind fulfills God’s Purpose.
“Love God. Love your neighbor.” That sounds simple.
It’s not something really hard like “Hit a little ball into a hole the size of a Dixie cup with a metal stick from 200 yards.”
Or “Roast an eighteen pound turkey, bake three casseroles, two pies, twenty-four rolls, congeal a fruit salad, gather twelve people from four cites across 3,000 miles and have it all sitting at the same table at the same time with each element at its perfect temperature, consistency and disposition.”
Compared to some things we’re asked to pull off, loving God with everything we’ve got and loving our neighbors as ourselves sounds fairly straightforward. I can’t, for the life of me, figure out how we keep screwing it up.
What about fulfilling my micro-purpose? The thing I’m supposed to do with my life? Here’s my answer: “Do what you were made for.”
“Do what I was made for?” “Can you tell me what that is?” Yeah, kinda … not really … I mean, I can’t … but you can … it’s already inside of you, you already know what to do next … sometimes you just don’t know you know; but you always know what you’re supposed to do next. That’s the next step in fulfilling your micro purpose.
Most of the time you’re just given the next step. Some people can see their whole life, their whole purpose, laid out in front of them. Most of us can just see the next step.
But here’s some encouragement. The real work has already been completed in Christ. You know the macro-purpose instructions; love God with all you’ve got and love your neighbor as yourself. You can start on that right away.
And you know what you’re supposed to be doing with the rest of your life (your micro-purpose). Well, maybe not the rest of your life; but you know the next step. Take that step; the one after that will come into view when you do.
“For no man can lay a foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward.” (I Corinthians 3:11-14)
You’ll know you’ve fulfilled your purpose when you’ve built something that will stand the fire test. Don’t worry to much about where to start; the foundation has already been laid. â€˜Purpose Weekly’ will be here to help you with the blue prints; that’s its purpose.