“Show me your ways, O Lord, teach me your paths;” (Psalm 25:4)
One of my favorite movie scenes comes from “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.” It’s where Indy discovers the cave where the Holy Grail is supposed to be, but he’s separated from the chamber holding the Grail by impassable abyss. His guide book pictures a knight walking across the chasm, apparently in thin air, with the instructions, “only in a leap from the lion’s head will he prove his worth.” According to the guide book he’s on “the path of God”; but there’s no â€˜path’; just a drop into the dark abyss.
Indy realizes that the guide book is referring to a â€˜leap of faith’. Indy closes his eyes, grits his teeth and steps out in â€˜faith’. Instead of plunging headlong into the chasm, his first step falls onto a path, invisible from the edge of the precipice. That was the trick – the step of faith – he couldn’t see the path until he took the first step.
The Holy Grail thing in the movie was a bunch of hooey, but that scene stuck with me as an illustration of my faith walk. It’s about taking the next step – that’s what the guidebook says. Sometimes I can’t see the path from where I’m standing. For all I know I could be stepping off into an abyss. But I’ve got to take the step anyway – on faith. Each step I take reinforces to me that He’s laid out a path for me to follow, whether I can see it all or not.
When I talk each person having his or her own unique purpose, planned in the mind of God before the creation of the world, the question inevitably arises: “How do I start?” The answer requires a different kind of thinking than we’re used to.
We talked about success last week, and how true success isn’t anything at all like what TV and movies and advertisers and the world’s merchants have taught us to believe it is. Their definition of success uses words like money, fame, comfort, prosperity, honor, and luxury. The definition of true success, we learned, is much simpler: “doing what you were created to do.”
By the way, that’s also the definition of â€˜fulfilling your purpose’. Fulfilling = doing. Your purpose = what you were created to do. Fulfilling + your purpose = doing + what you were created to do. Pretty basic when you break it down.
Everything else is by-product or a distraction.
The first thing we’ve got to do is get away from the idea that achieving and fulfilling has to do with getting stuff – whether that means money, houses, cars, boats or the accolades, acceptance and praise of others.
Remember success and purpose are about doing what you were made to do – that’s it. Doing what you were made to do may get you stuff like money, houses, cars, boats, and the accolades, acceptance and praise of others. But it may not.
All that stuff will either show up or it won’t. It’s secondary. It’s not the measure of your success or your purpose.
Let’s get practical for a moment. Living in a house where the electricity, heat and a/c works beats living in a mud hut. Having a car that goes from point A to point B without any major catastrophes beats keeping a roll of duct tape in the glove box because you know you’re going to need it at least once before you reach your destination.
Stuff is nice. It makes your life easier. The world grinning at you feels good; it beats people throwing bricks at you. The point is that even though all the stuff and regard that makes your life comfortable is nice, it’s not the point.
Doing what you were made to do is the point. Making your life about stuff isn’t your purpose in life; it’s a cheap sell-out and it’ll cost you big in eternity.
So how do we go about doing what we were made to do?
Like Indiana Jones, we can’t always see the path until we take the first step. Your purpose in life doesn’t arrive in the mail as a full blown game plan. It comes in steps. All you’re required to do is take the step that’s in front of you.
Elaine and I had dinner this week with a guy who told us about a path that God had laid out for him. Curt took the first step, not knowing if he’d fall into an abyss or find solid footing. All he knew was that he had to take the step.
Curt was pretty active in his men’s group at church. By â€˜active’ I mean he attended meetings where they read some scripture, drank some coffee and participated in a general bull session about the ups and downs of being a Christian man. It wasn’t bad. It beat watching TV; but it wasn’t enough. Curt felt a call he describes as “GO – LIVE – DO”. He didn’t know what to go-live-do, but the call was there.
As Curt was going through his men’s group â€˜go-live-do’ angst, two scripture passages came to him like clues from Indiana Jones’ guide book.
“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” (Galatians 6:9-10)
“Give proper recognition to those widows who are really in need.” (1 Timothy 5:3).
Funny how clues from the guide book show up just when the time comes to make that next step. I call them Post-it notes from God. They’re little messages from Him that I’m going down the right path.
Curt was ready and the step showed up. A lady in his church was called to be a missionary. She knew the call was legitimate because she and her husband had been missionaries before. Things would be different this time though – her husband wouldn’t be with her. She was a widow. But the call was there and she knew she had to answer it.
She needed to sell her home. The proceeds would pay off her debt and she wasn’t allowed to go to the mission field with debt hanging over her head back here at home. She called a realtor to list the house for sale … she called a lot of realtors. There was a problem. In the years her husband had been gone few of the â€˜husband’ chores around the house got done. Regular maintenance fell by the wayside and little problems around the house became bigger problems. The house in its current condition was un-sellable. The realtors refused to even list it.
Curt took the step. He showed up at her house to assess the situation and get to work. Then he brought a friend. Then he told the guys at church. Some of them came out to help. A few months have gone by and the house is responding to their attention. It’ll be ready to sell before long and the lady from church will be able to take her next step, onto the mission field. The weekend projects have developed into kind of a thing – Curt calls it Widows’ Work.
There’s no money, no comfort, no luxury in this project – not for Curt anyway. The accolades and praise from others has been a little sparse too. While Curt was working on the widow’s house his church split; a new pastor came on board who considers â€˜Widows Work’ a distraction from his game plan. And half of Curt’s original men’s group refuses to show up at the house if they think the other half is going to be there. Not exactly the accepted definition of success.
Is Widows’ Work really God’s purpose for Curt’s life? Oh yeah.
Is it all of God’s purpose for Curt’s life? Oh no.
It’s just a colored thread that’s being woven into the tapestry of Curt’s life. The thread being woven into Curt’s life today – that’s a part of God’s purpose. Every thread woven into that picture during the course of Curt’s life – that’s a part of God’s purpose. There will come a day when Curt is allowed to view the finished work from the other side of the weave – that’s a part of God’s purpose too.
But there’s something much greater. The threads woven into the tapestry of Curt’s life are just a part of a much larger work – one that will include yours and mine and those who have gone before us and those who shall come after. And there will come, at the end of this present age, a day when we all will view the great tapestry that is God’s purpose in men.
Step after step, thread upon thread God’s purpose is being worked out in our lives. We’re not allowed to see the big picture just now. But we are allowed to see the next step. That next step – that’s what purpose is about.
Until next week, may God bless each step.