Among the questions a pastor gets asked on Twitter: “How do I know what God’s purpose is for my life?” Great Question. Hard to answer in 140 characters or less. I gave it my best shot in three tweets. Now, I’ll expand that to three posts.
In post 1, I said that Knowing God’s specific purpose for your life starts with knowing God’s general purpose for humanity.
In post 2, I showed you how God’s purpose for your life arises from the gifts God has given you and the heart God has shaped in you.
Now we come to the last part of this exploration: God’s purpose for you is inextricably tied to the providence of your time and place.
We are all situated in the early 21st century. We stand on the shoulders of giants who have gone before. Think of it, there are so many problems we dont have to solve:
- We don’t have to figure out how to invent a flying machine
- We don’t have to struggle to communicate with people on the other side of the world
- We don’t have to develop a vaccine for Tetanus, Measles, or Polio
And so many other things we don’t have to do. None of these things fall under your purpose – they’ve already been done.
But that raises the question – what problems are there out there? What are the problems that our era faces? And which of these problems breaks your heart? Which of these problems keeps you up at night? Which of these problems intersects with your gifts?
Therein lies a root of calling. Your purpose in life can be discerned in the problems that preoccupy your best energies. These problems are a product of our time and the communities in which we move. The problems of an urban citizen of Shanghai will be very different from the challenges faced by a farmer in Iowa. Though we live in a globally connected world, place still matters.
What are the challenges in your community? How are your gifts suited to meet those needs?
Finally your position shapes the purpose to which you’re called. You live in a particular time and place, and you have particular roles in life that you’ve accepted: family relationships , employment relationships, volunteer relationships. In taking these roles, you accept these as part of your calling/ your purpose. While you’re swinging for the fences, chasing your aspirations and dreams, don’t neglect the fact that these relationships can be some of the most significant and meaningful impact you can have.
These considerations: our time, our place, our community, our relationships – they are all a part of how God has providentially placed us in a particular moment in history. We’ve been given all these things as the background to our own personal drama. And our drama is a part of a much larger, magnificent story. Rather than hungering to have someone else’s time or place, the challenge of finding purpose is to embrace our time and place – to make it our own. And to meet head on the challenges placed before us.
Stephen Covey talks about the concept of the circle of concern and the circle of influence. He suggests that there is a very large circle of things that we’re concerned about, but a much smaller circle of things that we can actually influence. If we focus on the things we can influence, we will have much greater impact. But if we focus our minds on the things that concern us, but which we can’t influence, then we waste our energies. That, ultimately, is what this third principle is about. What have we been providentially empowered to impact? That gives us a great picture of our purpose.
I hope this has been helpful. If so, please share with your friends. And be sure to sign up for my newsletter – you’ll get a regular dose of inspiration and encouragement in your inbox.