I, once again, spoke with someone this past week who felt their life was without purpose. They felt as though they were living life day-to-day just waiting for all it to be over. They did nothing for anyone and didn’t really feel all that important to anyone either.
Naturally, this brought up a topic about Godliness or, probably more the case, the lack thereof. I explained what the Bible had taught us.
Jeremiah 1:5 – “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”
- Do you believe in God? – “I guess so.”
- Do you pray? – “No. I just don’t think He listens.”
- Have you ever tried? – “Yeah, a few times.”
- Did you listen? – “What do you mean?”
How can we ever expect to believe we have a purpose when we don’t believe in the One who created us… for His good… to serve His purpose?
Sadly, I still get this from some who do believe. They pray regularly, but I just don’t think they’re listening. God’s answer to us is never blatantly obvious or comes to us through the US Postal Service.
We need to trust in God. Believe He hears our prayers and… understand we ALL have a purpose!
Waking up feeling purposeless is incredibly frustrating. You look around and see your friends and coworkers living passionate, engaged, meaningful lives. They have deep relationships, rewarding jobs and a sense of direction that compels them to hop out of bed each morning with a spring in their step.
You know that God has something good in store for you. You don’t believe he intends you to live a life of painful drudgery in which each day is a total drag. After all, the Bible is chock full of passages about joy. While this certainly doesn’t mean that every single day is a parade and circus, it does mean that an overall sense of gladness should permeate your life.
Psalm 63:7 – “Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings.”
How can you get to that place? Where, instead of wandering aimlessly through life, you’re actually singing for joy (or just making a joyful noise if you’re not the singing type)?
In this message today, we’re going to first talk about some key signs that you may not be living in the fullness of God’s purpose for you. Then we’ll give some key suggestions for how to begin living a meaningful, enthusiastic, joyful life.
Not Living God’s Purpose
Before we delve into this point, we need to make at least one caveat. In one sense, you are always living in God’s purpose. God is God and He works all things, including your life, according to his purposes. Nothing can happen without God ordaining it.
Psalm 57:2 – “I cry out to God Most High, to God, who vindicates me.”
This is key in understanding God’s purpose for your life. God has numbered your days and will fulfill every purpose He has for you.
However, our choices and actions also really matter. In some ways, this is a mystery we can’t fully understand, but that doesn’t mean it’s not true. We can choose to do things that will bring us more joy and give us more of a sense of purpose. That’s where we’re headed in this message this morning. We want to help you identify those choices you can make to bring more excitement and God-given purpose into your life.
- Blatantly Living in Sin
Let’s start with the obvious here. If you’re blatantly disobeying the Bible, you’re not living in God’s purpose and you will certainly experience a sense of aimlessness in your life. This one is pretty straightforward so we don’t need to spend too much time here.
- Lacking Joy and Excitement
If you wake up every day filled with apathy or dread or total boredom, you’re probably not doing what you were meant to do. God has created you uniquely, has really good things planned for you and one of the fruits of the Spirit is joy!
Galatians 5:22 – “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness.”
Sure, there will be difficult things you encounter that require patience and persistence, but overall you should have a sense of joy and excitement that fills your days, your work and your relationships.
In his book “Desiring God,” American author John Stephen Piper says:
“The pursuit of joy in God is not optional. It is not an ‘extra’ that a person might grow into after he comes to faith.”
- Not Much Fulfillment
If you go about your days experiencing little fulfillment, you may be wandering from your God-given purpose. Fulfillment comes from doing rewarding, meaningful, purposeful things. From a job that taps into your skills and passions. From a relationship that involves giving and receiving. From hobbies that are invigorating instead of mind-numbing. Yes, you’ll have to do certain things that are boring and unfulfilling, but if you’re entire life is gray, you probably need a change.
- Work so You Don’t Have To
You know the feeling of pointless work. You go to the office, clock in, do your job, then go home and collapse in front of the television. You work for the weekends and for retirement. All true joy you experience comes from things outside of work. From hobbies or friends or side jobs.
Ecclesiastes 8:15 – “So I commend the enjoyment of life, because there is nothing better for a person under the sun than to eat and drink and be glad. Then joy will accompany them in their toil all the days of the life God has given them under the sun.”
Would you say that this kind of joy characterizes your life and work? If not, you may need to rethink where you’re headed.
- Feeling Stuck
If you desperately want a change but also feel totally stuck in your life, that’s almost certainly a sign that you’re not walking according to God’s purpose. Those who are stuck want to go in a particular direction but don’t know how to get there. So they spin their wheels, feeling endlessly frustrated but unsure of how to make the frustration end. Do you feel trapped?
- No Direction
If you don’t know God’s purpose for your life, you constantly feel a sense of aimlessness. You feel as though you’re wandering from thing to thing without any forward progress. Nothing excites you and you don’t have any specific goals you’re working toward. Unlike the Israelites, who wandered for 40 years yet still had a goal (the Promised Land), you don’t even have a goal in front of you.
Regain Your Purpose
In his classic book “The Lord of the Rings,” J.R.R. Tolkien wrote poem that included the line, “Not all who wander are lost.” The same applies to you. Even though you feel like you’re wandering without any true purpose, that doesn’t mean you’re lost. You can regain your sense of purpose and discover what God has for your life.
- Go to God In Prayer
Again, let’s start with the obvious. If you feel purposeless, ask God to give you wisdom and direction.
James 1:5 – “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”
That’s incredibly good news. God wants to give you a purpose. He wants to bestow divine wisdom on you. It’s not like God is holding out on you to make you miserable. He desires you to have a joyful, ambitious, purposeful life. Ask God for purpose and expect Him to give it to you.
- Dig Into God’s Word
The primary way God speaks to us is through the Bible. This means that one of the first things you should do in your search for God’s purpose is to start digging into scripture. Now, you won’t find any verses that tell you to become a dance instructor or painter, but you will begin to understand the heart of God.
Psalm 119:105 – “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.”
God’s word brings light to paths that otherwise seem dark. In the Bible you learn how to live wisely in God’s world, which is the first step toward finding your purpose.
- Determine Your Gifts and Strengths
God has given you very specific gifts and strengths. Maybe you’re a math whiz or a wise counselor.
- Maybe you have a mind for electronics or business.
- Maybe you’re great at organizing people and getting things done.
God’s purpose for you probably involves the things you’re already good at.
This is where education can be particularly valuable. Going to college or going back to college allows you to discover your gifts and then determine how you’re going to use them. It also connects you with people who want to help you find your purpose.
- Determine Your Passions
What is one thing you’re particularly passionate about? Really, this can be anything. Business, art, economics, alleviating poverty, whatever. If money wasn’t an issue, what would you love to do?
Determining your passions often helps you figure out what God has called you to do. It’s often said that God works at the intersection of our gifts and our passions. Where do your gifts meet your passions? That may be God’s purpose for you.
- Bring Others Into Your Life
Proverbs 11:14 – “For lack of guidance a nation falls, but victory is won through many advisers.”
In other words, one of the main ways God will help you find your purpose is through others.
A caveat needs to be made here. Your counselors should be people you trust. Whether this is your professors, parents or friends, it needs to be people who have your back and want the best for you. You want wise counselors to help you find God’s purpose for you.
- Take a Solitude Retreat
Sometimes it can be incredibly helpful to get away from it all and take some unhurried time to think, pray and journal. You don’t have to spend a week in the woods for this to be effective. Even just a day away from the hustle and grind can be hugely rewarding.
During these retreats, allow yourself to simply be still. To ponder. To ask God for direction and listen for His voice. This doesn’t need to be complicated and doesn’t require any elaborate rituals.
Hebrews 11:6 – “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”
God always rewards those who seek him. He’s not hiding in the dark, trying to keep his will hidden from you. He wants to guide you.
In the End, Trust God!
Trying to discover your life purpose can be a stressful, overwhelming thing. It can seem like such a big, confusing, frustrating subject. You want to move forward, but you’re not sure how. You want to find your purpose, but you feel like you’re aimlessly wandering.
But you can trust God to lead you where he wants you to go.
Psalm 23:2-3 – “He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.”
You may feel confused, but God doesn’t.
Go with God; be good to one another; always stay humble; always be kind… God Bless (Amen)
Special thanks to Mike Ward, Cornerstone University, 1/17/2017 for his contribution.