Finding Purpose and Meaning in Life: God’s Perspective

Mick Turner

These days there is a near obsession on the part of people about discovering their purpose in life. All one has to do is take a trip to one of the big book store chains in order to verify this reality. Shelves are lined with books that have titles or sub-titles related to discovering and living one’s personal life mission or purpose.

Confusion over purpose and meaning in life is not limited to those people outside the church. Many Christians are also searching for purpose and meaning. Christian book titles also reflect this search and any workshop or seminar on people of faith finding their purpose is packed to the gills, often with a waiting list. The question that comes to my mind is: Why do so many people seem to be wandering through life without having a clear and defining purpose in life?

Answers to this question are complicated, especially when it comes to the Body of Christ. It is fairly easy to understand why many well-meaning persons outside the church are confused about ultimate meaning in life. After all, with the post-modern anthem that there is no ultimate truth, it should be apparent that logic would also dictate that there is no ultimate meaning. This is the unsightly afterbirth of our cultures preoccupation with existentialism, which stressed the ultimate lack of meaning as well as the absurdity of life.

But what gives with the church people?

I think there are myriad reasons why Christians also struggle with this dilemma along with everyone else. First of all, the focus of a large percentage of Christian preaching during the first 75 years of the century just ended was not on meaning or purpose, but instead, was on salvation and other worldly concerns. Many church leaders believed strongly in the fact that if folks got their ticket to heaven, that was all they needed. Little attention was paid to a person’s needs in this world and even less to higher order needs like a genuine sense of purpose in living. As the century wound toward a close, this focus began to change for the better, but in some quarters of Christianity, there is still a lot of ground to make up.

In light of this situation, here at LifeBrook we make it part of our mission to focus on assisting people in defining a personal mission in life and, beyond that, making positive, practical plans to pursue that purpose. Space here doesn’t allow for a full treatment of the subject; in fact, that would take an entire book and there are already plenty of those on the shelves. Still, let me offer a few guiding principles that we have found effective with both our coaching programs and our training sessions.

We encourage people in search of mission and purpose to consider, reflect on, and pray about the following realities.

God has a plan and a purpose for every believer

Your plan and purpose is unique to you and can only be realized by someone equipped with the spiritual gifts the Holy Spirit gifted you with.

You plan and purpose will be biblical in nature and will never contradict scriptural principles in any way.

No matter how bad you have messed up in the past, God can and will still use you.

In fact, God may use your past failures in creative ways that will enable you to be of great service in a particular area.

No one is born an accident in this world. Everyone is on this planet because God wanted them to be here. Accordingly, no one need wander adrift in life without a purpose and sense of mission. God planned for you to be here and has something important for you to accomplish.

Each day of your life provides experiences designed to help you grow and become better equipped to carry out your purpose.

In order to discover you mission, you need to understand God’s mission of restoration.

In order to discover your mission, you need to undergo a paradigm shift; you must stop seeing things from your perspective and begin to view things from God’s perspective.

Once you discover your mission, you have free choice to pursue it or decline it.

All of these are important factors in discovering and realizing success in terms of one’s mission in life, however, we don’t have space here to look at all of them. In light of this, let me just expand briefly on the last two points.

Let’s face a fundamental reality here. Most of us spend the majority of our time viewing life in general and our mission in living in particular through a somewhat self-absorbed perspective. We see things from our vantage point and treat whatever we see as if it is true reality. Unfortunately, our view of reality from a personal vantage point is both limited and tainted. It is limited because we are not omniscient and it is tainted because whatever we see is filtered through the matrix of our own limited knowledge. If we are to discover our God-given purpose, we must change our perspective; we have to start looking at things from God’s perspective.

In order to get a “God’s eye view” of meaning and purpose, we have to discover God’s purpose. We do this by looking to scripture to see the unfolding of God’s great story across the span of the ages. God’s story is one of creation, redemption, restoration, and return. Whatever our individual purpose might be, rest assured it will exist as a sub-story in God’s great story. Also, we should keep in mind that whatever our mission and purpose might be, it will be related somehow to the manifestation of God’s kingdom on earth.

Our two primary tools for discovering meaning, mission, and purpose are prayer and scripture. If we are indeed serious about discovering what it is God has planned for us to do, we have to discipline ourselves to spend time with him. He cannot, and will not, reveal his purpose to us if we are not even consecrated enough to seek him out and rest in his presence.

When we do discover his plans for us, we are faced with a choice. That choice is simple in terms of content: Do we accept his mission for us or do we reject it? Just as in salvation, God will not force a decision upon us. We can say yea or we can say nay. If we answer in the positive; if we say yes to God, we are in store for a grand adventure. We will continually be amazed at how God will arrange things so that we can succeed and even more amazed at how he will enable us to overcome obstacles that the world or the enemy places in our path. Will all of this require work on our part? Indeed it will my friend. Expect to work as hard as you ever have. Bringing whatever part of his kingdom he has entrusted to you into manifestation on earth will be no easy task.

However, you can bank on one eternal truth: If you do your part, God will do his.

(c) L.D. Turner 2014/All Rights Reserved

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Whatever Your Past, You Are Still A Needed Servant

Mick Turner

Josh is a brilliant man and is one of the most creative, visionary people I know. Possessing the uncanny ability to look at a problematic situation, size up its parameters, and come up with positive, workable solutions to address the problems, Josh would be an asset to any organization that employed him. People with the visionary foresight and strength that Josh has are few and far between.

That’s why it is so hard for me to believe that Josh just completed his fourteenth year employed as a stockroom worker at a retail shoe store. A college graduate and now in his mid-thirties, Josh is working the same job he obtained while working his way through school. It’s not that Josh has not had opportunities; it’s just that he doesn’t take advantage of them. On several occasions he has been offered good positions with local social service agencies after fellow church members, aware of Josh’s talents, have put in a good word for him. Each time Josh turned down the job.

After providing invaluable help to his pastor in getting a couple of community projects off the ground, Josh was asked to take a leadership role in an exciting development and expansion program his church was undertaking. Predictably, Josh declined.

Unfortunately, there are many like Josh who go through life under-employed, under-utilized, and unfulfilled. Although this is not what God had in mind, these talented individuals sabotage themselves and never leave the starting gate.

This happens for a variety of reasons. Some folks feel inadequate to the task of manifesting their vision in the reality of the day-to-day life in which they dwell. Others, top put it bluntly, are just too plain lazy to do what it is they are called to do. Still others lack basic motivation and for unconscious reasons quench the passion they feel for their purpose in life. Like the Beauty School Dropout in the musical Grease, they have the dream but not the drive.

Many, however, simply cannot believe God wants to use them due to past failures and disappointments. This was basically Josh’s problem. In his late teens he was involved in several crimes in which someone was seriously injured by accident. Josh was never caught and has no criminal record. Still, he feels responsible for what happened and, although God has forgiven him, he hasn’t forgiven himself. Moreover, Josh is convinced beyond a doubt that what he did disqualifies him for service to the Lord.

Josh and other believers like him choose to ignore the many biblical examples of heroes used by God even though they failed in the past. Think of Moses for example, a murderer who delivered his people from bondage in Egypt. Think of David, an adulterer who was also involved in a murder conspiracy. This sinner became a great king, an ancestor of Christ, and “a man after God’s own heart.” Think of Peter, who denied Christ three times on the night He was arrested. It was upon the “rock” of Peter that the NewTestamentChurch was built.

No, my friend, you are wrong if you think God will not use you because you failed in the past. Your failures, your shortcomings, your screw-ups – oddly enough, in God’s way of doing things may be your chief qualification for service to the Creator.

I want to use this article to encourage you to understand and accept the reality that God put a potential and purpose in you before you were born and, further, he still wants that purpose to be realized. Stop looking back at the past and instead, step forward into the service that God has for you. You cannot change the past but know this: whatever happened is history in God’s eyes and in God’s heart. As a Christian you have been forgiven so turn your eyes forward instead of keeping them riveted in your rear view mirror.

Do all that you can to let this truth sink deep into the depths of your heart: where you are going, what is in your future is far more important that what’s behind you. Scripture tells us that with God, all things are possible. So if it seems your dreams have died, let the Lord resurrect those dormant dreams and allow those dreams to drive you and motivate you to be all that you can be for the glory of God and the sake of others.

Our world is a hurting world and there are many areas of need. The dream God placed in your heart is designed to deal with one of those areas. More than anything, the church, the Body of Christ, needs compassionate people of noble character and a heart of service. That’s you, my friend.

Take the gifts God has given you and put them to work in service to something larger than yourself. You will be amazed at the transformation that will take place in your life if you consecrate yourself to using your talents for God’s plans and purposes.

Also, keep in mind that God would never place a dream in your heart without giving you all the talents you need to bring it to completion. I encourage you to take this principle on faith and act on it. Just put one foot in front of the other and start taking small steps toward making that God-given dream a bit closer to manifestation. Again, just trust that God has placed in you everything you need to succeed. Pastor Joel Osteen speaks clearly to this issue:

God would never put a dream in your heart if He had not already given you everything you need to fulfill it. That means if I have a dream or a desire, and I know it’s from God, I don’t have to worry whether I have what it takes to see that dream fulfilled. I know God doesn’t make mistakes. He doesn’t call us to do something without giving us the ability or the wherewithal to do it…You have to realize that God has matched you with your world. In other words, even though at times you may not feel that you are able to accomplish your dreams, you have to get beyond those feelings and know deep inside, I have the seed of Almighty God in Me. Understand, God will never put a dream in your heart without first equipping you with everything you need to accomplish it.

In contrast to my friend Josh, Marty is an amazing example of how God often uses our areas of failure as a way of carrying forward his kingdom purpose on earth. Marty, a native of New York, had moved to South Florida in an attempt to find a geographical cure for his long standing addiction to heroin and cocaine. Had his thinking been even half way rational, Marty would have reasoned that moving to Miami, the hotbed of the drug world, was a mistake. Finding that drugs were much cheaper in Miami, mostly due to lack of transportation mark up, Marty quickly returned to his old ways. Quickly spiraling downward, Marty soon hit bottom. Arrested for an assortment of petty theft charges, Marty found himself in jail awaiting his hearing. He had neither bond money, nor any friends in the area. Marty had no choice but to cool his jets in the Dade County Stockade.

Marty’s time in jail provided him with an opportunity to face his situation honesty and he didn’t like what he saw. The Holy Spirit also went to work on Marty and helped ripen him for what was to come. After over five weeks in the slammer, he was informed that a local pastor was coming to give a talk to the inmates and, if he so desired, he could attend the lecture.

Feeling an almost magnetic pull to go to the presentation, he initially resisted. Marty feared that this pastor would be someone from the straight world and highly judgmental, he almost talked himself out of going. Still believing he had nothing to gain, he went anyway.

Sitting near the back of the room, Marty listened as the stockade chaplain introduced the speaker, Brother Larry. Marty was confused because the chaplain was the only person sitting at the front table. Maybe he hadn’t noticed that this Brother Larry wasn’t there, thought Marty. Next, a rather large man stood up from his seat in the front row. He walked to the podium and when he looked out at the crowd, Marty almost fainted.

Brother Larry was a large man with waist length hair and tattoos all over his arms and hands. He had a large scar on his right cheek, evidently from a knife wound suffered long ago. Then, as Brother Larry began his sermon, Marty almost fell out of his chair.

Not only did Marty recognize Brother Larry, he realized that it was he who had cut the preachers face. Many years earlier, in a drug deal gone sour in Queens, a fight had ensued and Marty found himself being pummeled by a large man. Reaching in his boot, Marty took out a dagger and slit his attacker’s cheek to the jaw bone. His attacker that night was none other than Brother Larry.

To make a long story short, Brother Larry spoke of his addiction, his crimes, and his eight-year term in Attica State Prison. He also spoke of how, as the result of a visit from a volunteer with Prison Fellowship, he found Christ and his life was turned around. Brother Larry now ran a halfway house in South Miami that gave recovering addicts a place to stay after they were released from incarceration. His ministry found them job training, gave them work to do, and made certain the residents were well connected with Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous.

Marty wondered if Brother Larry had recognized him that evening at the meeting in the stockade. He did. Two days later Brother Larry showed up to visit Marty. After being released, Marty lived for two years at Brother Larry’s halfway house. And that’s not all. Brother Larry recognized potential in Marty and encouraged him to return to college and finish his degree. He told Marty he had managed to get a donor to pay for Marty’s tuition, but the truth was Brother Larry paid for it out of his own pocket. Displaying true Christian forgiveness, Brother Larry never mentioned the scar he would carry for the rest of his life, nor any resentment toward Marty for inflicting it upon him. Instead, he paid for Marty’s college education and, after Marty had graduated, encouraged him to go on to seminary.

Marty graduated from seminary two years later and now runs the ministry begun by Brother Larry. Under Marty’s guidance and with God’s help, two more halfway houses were opened in nearby cities and are full with long waiting lists. One week after Marty’s graduation, Brother Larry had left this earth for his heavenly reward. He left behind a legacy, as well as a successor.

God used Brother Larry and he used Marty in the very arena where both of them had failed, hurt others, and suffered. Instead of punishing this pair of wayward prodigals, God exhibited a healing love to Brother Larry, who in turn, gave this same forgiving love to Marty. Brother Larry gave flesh to grace, just as Jesus did when he came to visit this planet.

The next time you think God can’t use you, think again. What do you think would have happened if Brother Larry had felt God could not and would not work through him? Certainly Marty would not be where he is today.

Look around you, my friend. Find a need and get busy doing something to meet it. You may very well be surprised what God can and will do through you if you just give him a chance.

Think about it.

 

© L.D. Turner 2008/2013 All Rights Reserved

Wise Words for Today

Ronald Reagan in Dixon, Illinois.
Ronald Reagan in Dixon, Illinois. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The character that takes command in moments of crucial choices has already been determined by a thousand other choices made earlier in seemingly unimportant moments. It has been determined by all the “little” choices of years past – by all those times when the voice of conscience was at war with the voice of temptation . . .whispering the lie that “it really doesn’t matter.” It has been determined by all the day-to-day decisions made when life seemed easy and crises seemed far away  – the decisions that, piece by piece, bit by bit, developed habits of discipline or of laziness; habits of self-sacrifice or self-indulgence; habits of duty and honor and integrity – or dishonor and shame. 

Ronald Reagan

(quotation from his speech at the Commencement exercises at The Citadel in 1993)

Wise Words for Today

Revelation
Revelation (Photo credit: parker yo!)

When you have inquired of God and received a revelation of what you can become, you have a place to focus your faith. Be solid and fearless in what the Lord has revealed to you and he will bring it to pass. He says you will live by His faith.

God is your source! You have no ability to bring the revelation to pass, so don’t worry about how your revelation will happen. God is fully aware that it’s impossible for you. Even though you have no proof, your faithfulness and commitment to Him assure the manifestation of the revelation. Believe steadfastly and keep seeking Him first. 

Bishop James Lowe

Living From Sacred Mind: A Daily Choice

The statue of C. S. Lewis in front of the ward...
The statue of C. S. Lewis in front of the wardrobe from his book The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe in East Belfast, Northern Ireland (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Mick Turner

Each day we have a vital choice before us. It is a choice that is both critical and simple, but above all, it is a divine choice. Each morning before our feet hit the floor, we must ask ourselves: Today, will I live from my Lower Mind or my Sacred Mind?

How we answer this question will have significant consequences and will largely determine the character and quality of our day. Further, our answer to this daily question will have direct impact on whether or not we live in accordance with and in pursuit of our Sacred Calling.

When we talk about our “Sacred Calling” we are talking about our purpose and/or mission in life. From the beginning of your journey, it is vital that you come to understand several key points. First, each person has a universal calling and what we here at LifeBrook term “particular calling.” Your universal calling has to do with God’s universal mission and purpose. There are certain things that each of us are to do and more importantly to be. Our particular calling is just that – particular to us as individuals. It is a personal mission that only you can fulfill and is normally based on your natural talents and proclivities.

An important aspect of your universal calling is “walk in your divinity,” which is another way of saying you need to live each day from your Sacred Mind. Unfortunately, most people are incapable of this without help from the divine order and a significant amount of mindful awareness about what they are doing from one moment to the next. This, in turn, requires work.

Each of us has as a part of our inner world, a Sacred Mind and a Lower Mind. The Sacred Mind is that part of you that is created in the image of God and reflects God’s character, wisdom, and love. When we act from Sacred Mind, we act with reverence, honor, integrity, and grace. The Lower Mind, on the other hand, is that which is often called the “ego,” and it is a useful part of ourselves that most of us have turned into an enemy. We do this by giving the Lower Mind more authority over our lives than it should have. The results are disastrous on personal, collective, social, and global levels. Confronting and dealing with the Lower Mind is an essential component of the spiritual journey and should always be viewed as an ongoing process rather than a one-time event.

Get one fact planted firmly in your mind right at the beginning of your dealings with the ego: the Lower Mind (ego) is a complete illusion; a fabrication that you created in order to help you deal with the world and, at the same time, develop an identity for yourself. In this sense, the ego has an important service to perform. It helps you understand how the world works and it helps you navigate the world’s sometimes turbulent and treacherous waters. Further, the Lower Mind helps you discern who you are and who you are not. So, in relation to these two important factors, the ego is a great tool to have.

The downside to the ego is the fact that it has a heartbeat of separation, not unity. The ego views all things from a me/them perspective. More often than we would like to admit, this turns into a me versus them mentality. Cooperation, a necessary component of unity, is jettisoned in favor of competition. This leads to many obvious problems based in conflict between one person’s needs and another person’s needs. The ego runs on the premise that there is a limited amount of “stuff” around and this “stuff” is of vast importance. The purpose of life is seen as accumulation of “stuff,” often at the expense of other people getting enough “stuff” to live comfortably. The Lower Mind, however, is not too concerned about this state of affairs. After all, the ego, like all successful egos, understands several fundamental laws:

Always look out for Number One first

It is the fittest who survive and the strongest who thrive

I deserve to have my share of the pie (and maybe even more)

 It’s my way or the highway

If I end up stepping on someone’s toes, they shouldn’t have put them under my feet

Christian writer Donald Miller, in his wonderfully insightful book entitled, Blue Like Jazz, paints a candid, revealing portrait of what life is like under the continuing sway of the ego. Miller describes how, as a child, the awareness of the fundamental flaw in human nature dawned on him:

Still, I knew, because of my own feelings, there was something wrong with me, and I knew it wasn’t only me. I knew it was everybody. It was like a bacteria or a cancer or a trance. It wasn’t on the skin; it was in the soul. It showed itself in loneliness, lust, anger, jealousy, and depression. It had people screwed up bad everywhere you went – at the store, at home, at church; it was ugly and deep. Lots of singers on the radio were singing about it, and cops had jobs because of it. It was if we were broken, I thought, as if we were never supposed to feel these sticky emotions. It was if we were cracked, couldn’t love right, couldn’t feel good things for very long without screwing it all up. We were like gasoline engines running on diesel.

Miller has a way with words, doesn’t he? If you haven’t read Blue Like Jazz, I highly recommend it. In the section containing the above passage, Miller also shares the following confessional poem by C.S. Lewis. I first read these lines by Lewis  early on in my college days, and even though I was thoroughly possessed by the notion that I was intellectually and morally at least two cuts above everybody else, the truth of what this humble, brilliant man was saying penetrated me to the core.

All this flashy rhetoric about loving you.

I never had a selfless thought since I was born.

I am mercenary and self-seeking through and through;

I want God, you, all friends, merely to serve my turn.

Peace, reassurance, pleasure, are the goals I seek,

I cannot crawl one inch outside my proper skin;

I talk of love – a scholar’s parrot may talk Greek –

But, self-imprisoned, always end where I begin.

Even now, realizing that I knew little back then and even less now, those last three lines of the first verse body slam me harder than Hulk Hogan. A self-seeking mercenary who never had a selfless thought in his entire life….indeed…

The Lower Mind’s focus on self results in a chronic sense of estrangement. When you are dominated by the ego, a part of you is always wary of others and your true, deep friends are few and far between. More telling, when you are under the sway of the Lower Mind, God usually takes a back seat or worse, is taken completely out of the picture. It is no stretch of fancy when wise people say the ego stands for “ease God out.”

When God is taken out of the picture the person puts ego in the driver’s seat and, although successful for a time, things usually come unraveled. The reason for this is simple. God is our true source of power and enduring success. When separated from our power source, the lights go out. Not only do we become confused and lost, we realize we are alone and don’t have any real answers. What’s worse, we even ask the wrong questions.

Lower Mind’s most consistent question is: What’s in it for me?

What kind of world does all this create? Guns n’ Roses summed it up pretty well with “Welcome to the Jungle.”

Conversely, when we live from Sacred Mind we see things from a much different perspective. Sacred Mind is focused on the whole more than the parts and attempts to create unity rather than division, cooperation rather than competition, encouragement rather than criticism, peace rather than conflict, joy rather than stress, and order rather than chaos.

Remaining connected to God requires living from Sacred Mind and this is not as hard as you might think. Regular spiritual disciplines, especially prayer, meditation, and study of sacred writings help immensely. The important thing is not the method used, but the resulting sense of connection to that universal Spirit that is at the base of all things. You must keep before you your true identity, which is a divine being created in the image of God, designed by God, and loved by God.

Your Sacred Mind is your Inner Light, that part of you that is most like God. No, you are not God and that is vital to understand. However, God did place in you a spark of Spirit that contains everything you need in order to carry out his universal mission and your personal calling. When you connect with and live from Sacred Mind, you have many of the answers that you need in order to become the optimal version of yourself. You don’t have all the answers because only God is all-wise. However, at least now you can ask the right questions.

Sacred Mind’s most consistent question is: How can I help?

 As we travel the path of spiritual formation, it is imperative that we realize one cardinal principle: we must come to understand who and what we are and once we do, we increasingly find ways to live from the perspective of our true identity, rather than the false construct of the ego, or lower self. As stated earlier, Paul referred to these two aspects of our being as “Spirit” and “flesh.” The words are different and perhaps somewhat outmoded, but the divine principle remains the same. The more we live from our true identity as spiritual beings, the more efficient, productive, and harmonious our lives will become.

 © L. Dwight Turner 2009/2013All Rights Reserved

Wise Words for Today

Mid-flight
Mid-flight (Photo credit: williamhartz)

No one can force this on you, nor can it be anyone else’s ambition for your life. It has to come from within you. Sometimes it takes a menagerie of different experiences to bring us to it. Some of us will insist on going through tremendous pain, disappointment, and failure before we come to it. Eventually we have to be able to look at ourselves in the mirror and decide there’s someone else that we want to see there. But everyone who’s going to make this particular trek has to pass through the same gauntlet that has brought me and so many others to that place where in the deafening silence we hear the cry of our own soul screaming, “I want to change!”

Erwin Raphael McManus

Wise Words for Today

Words Untold & Dreams Unlived
Words Untold & Dreams Unlived (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Living wide awake is about realizing that the world needs you to live up to your potential. There are others whose lives and future depend on you stepping up and living big. The better world you keep waiting for needs you to accept your life’s calling and responsibility, and then to create it. The future needs you to dream God-sized dreams; these are the only kind God gets involved in. 

Erwin Raphael McManus

(from Wide Awake