If someone were to ask you what your purpose is in life, how would you respond?
I frequently ask this question to people I meet. Their reply often has something to do with being a good spouse, parent, or provider. Sometimes, I get a response like “to get all I can out of life” or “to be successful.” Occasionally, I get one that’s based on being happy or living in peace.
But let’s think about these responses. For the person who says their purpose is to be a good spouse, parent, or provider, what happens if you don’t get the opportunity to be any of these things? Or, what if the role of spouse, parent, or provider is taken from you?
If your purpose is to get all you can out of life or to be successful, how do you measure your performance? How much success do you need to fulfill your purpose? Let’s face it; no matter how much you accomplish, there’s always more you can achieve.
That brings us to the person whose purpose is to be happy and to live in peace with others. Studies have shown that those who seek to always be happy are typically the most unhappy. This is primarily because their eyes are always on the next thing that will bring them happiness, causing them to overlook the current joy in their lives.
When it comes to living in peace, just ask any parent what it’s like to try to maintain peace among siblings. Or think about the conflict brought on by politics and social experiences. Sometimes the attempt to live in peace can be the most frustrating experience one will endure.
Two Purposes in Life
So how should we go about determining our purpose? We actually have two purposes in life: a universal purpose and an individual purpose. The universal purpose was revealed to us when Jesus answered a question regarding the greatest commandment. Jesus responded: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most important command. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands” (Matthew 22:36-40).
This command to love God and love others is at the center of God’s original purpose for humans. Jesus further expounds upon loving others when, on the night He was betrayed, He said: “I give you a new command: Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you are also to love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35).
And He later goes on to say: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 26:19-20).
These passages show we all have a universal purpose that is to love God, love others, and make disciples. The problem is we often get distracted with our day-to-day responsibilities and worries, and we don’t realize we are missing the bigger picture. Instead, we tend to use our God-given talents to pursue things that will not satisfy us. As we feel less fulfilled, we chase even harder after things we have been deceived into believing will make us happy. Things like power, money, and ease.
Finding Your Individual Purpose
We need to be intentional about living life with purpose. Using our God-given gifts is not about just finding out where we should serve in church. Don’t get me wrong; that’s important too. We must set our eyes, however, on the bigger picture.
In Matthew 25:14-30, Jesus tells a parable about three men who were given different amounts of money to invest while their employer went on a long journey. Two of the men invested wisely and received a return on their investment. The third hid his sum of money and did nothing with it. When the employer returned, he praised the first two and rewarded them with greater responsibility. He was not pleased, however, with the third man and took away the money he was given and gave it to the first man.
I challenge you to think about what God has entrusted to you in the form of talents and abilities and how you are using them. Think about how you can use your spiritual gifts throughout the day, not just in a church setting. This is how we determine our individual purpose.
Developing a Purpose Statement
One of the ways to help do this is to write out a purpose statement for yourself. There’s a formula often used in the business world to align an organization around a purpose or mission. It goes something like this:
What do we do?
Who are our customers?
What’s the result we want for them?
This same formula can be applied to your own purpose or mission statement.
What do I do?
Who do I do it for?
What is the expected result?
For example, my purpose statement is: “I teach those in search of purpose how to find and live out their purpose so they can live a fulfilled life.”
What do I do? I teach, using what I believe to be my God-given talent.
Who do I do it for? Those in search of purpose.
What is the expected result? That others will live a fulfilled life.
Notice this purpose statement travels with me regardless of my various roles (spouse, father, provider, etc.) or my occupation. I can live out this purpose as a technology leader, truck driver, or accountant. It’s about bringing my individual purpose with me throughout the day and living it out in a way that shows my love for God and others. This has opened doors and created several opportunities to make disciples of Christ.
Here are other examples of purpose statements from people I’ve mentored over the years:
- I equip others to solve problems so they can achieve their goals.
- I help people manage change so they can adapt to new things and experience growth.
- I execute on ideas that enable others to achieve objectives.
I encourage you to write out your purpose statement and put it somewhere you’ll be able to see it every day. Whenever you find yourself getting off track, remind yourself of your purpose and start thinking about how you can act on your statement in your current environment.
When it comes to purpose and making disciples, our focus needs to be on using our God-given gifts throughout our day in a way that shows our love for God and our love for others. If you do this, you will be on your way to living a fulfilled life.