Many people often ask, ‘How can I discover God’s purpose for my life?’ Many books have been written and many sermons have been taught with an attempt to answer this all-important question. I wish I had a magic formula to offer but I don’t.
Discovering God’s purpose for one’s life is exemplified in the life of the apostle Paul: It began with his dramatic conversion on the road to Damascus as he galloped with his horse to persecute and kill more Christians. With a bright light from heaven, he falls off his horse and becomes blind as he speaks with God. Many of us need to fall off our high horses on journeys leading to nowhere.
We are pursuing the wrong agenda, we are stuck with the wrong people, we think we know who we are and where we should be going but we are trapped in the rat race pursuing other people’s expectations.
When he catches his breath and is semi-conscious, Paul asks God two vital questions which we should all ask as everything we are, or will become or will achieve to God’s glory will be an answer to these: Who are you Lord? What would you have me do? Paul assumed he had been serving God; he gave his all to a God he didn’t know.
He was raised in the strictest sect of the Pharisees, he had the best of education, he kept the Ten commandments, but he was disconnected from God.
Who is God to you? Not the God your parents told you about. Not the God your friends think you know. Not the God we assume exists somewhere. Do you have a personal and functional relationship with God and His Spirit?
Because when we know the God of all the earth, the God who breathed into you and made you a living soul, the God who dwells in your heart by His Spirit, the God who will demand an individual account from you on the last day, there are some places you won’t go to, some friends you won’t hang out with, some journeys you won’t begin.
If you don’t know God, you will not fully know who you are because a revelation of God always results in a revelation of yourself. When we know who God is, we will finally realize that life is not about us but about Him. Life is not about celebrating ourselves but about celebrating Him. He must increase and I must decrease.
We are humbled and truly thankful to be given the privilege to represent Him. Don’t assume you know God when you don’t. Today is an opportunity to begin a relationship with God.
Paul’s second question is so vital and not many people have reached this crossroad in their lives when they begin to ask God this question. What a disappointment it will be to stand before God in a coming day and find out why He sent us to earth but how we failed to do any of the things He wanted us to do.
A purpose-driven life is always asking God: What would you have me do? God, I don’t want to go anywhere that you are not leading me, I don’t want to be a part of anything that is not in your plan for me. I don’t want to chase things or people that shouldn’t be in my life.
“A revelation of God always results in a revelation of yourself. “
Your arrival on earth was God’s solution to a problem. Our world continues to grapple with so much chaos and confusion because the people who were ordained to solve them never made it to the delivery room, some have been distracted or derailed by the enemy and many have not bothered to discover God’s assignment for them.
There are lots of people moving with no purpose and direction but who continue to have a damaging and destructive impact on those who know where they are going. Life doesn’t begin at forty or even at birth but when our lives begin to align with God’s plan for us.
God has deposited so many gifts in us but it’s our responsibility to develop them and use it to be a blessing to this world and bring Him glory. There will be no tangible fruitfulness till you’re free: free from your ignorance, free from the wrong associations, free from cycles of sin and ungodliness, free from being stuck on journeys God never approved, free from pleasing people, free from your self-limitations and the expectations of others.
Paul was ready to begin again. He wasn’t ashamed to sit in Bible studies with new converts and learn the rudiments of the kingdom. He allowed people pray for him, rebuke him and teach him. Paul didn’t move ahead till he had heard clearly from the Lord. His assignment was to take the gospel to the Gentiles. It was uncharted territory for him but he let go of all his fears, cultural barriers, self-imposed limits and stepped out in faith.
Something happens to you when you realize that you have been wasting your life on the wrong things and with the wrong people: there’s fresh fire in your soul, no devil in hell can stop or hinder you. Paul was zealous but about the wrong things but when he met Jesus, he went above and beyond what was required to make up for all the time he had lost.
None of us knows how much time we have left on earth and hence the urgency to discover why we are here and pursue it with full focus. Some people thought he was too forward or overzealous but for him, life was only just beginning and nothing was going to stop him.
An encounter with God is meant to change us, what tragedy to see the light but not be changed by it. Paul has a genuine conversion, a personal encounter with God, he receives a fresh revelation of who God is and clarity about the assignment ahead.
When these are lacking in our lives, we will be making lots of movement but no progress, busy but not fruitful and exhausted from competing and comparing ourselves with others, spending time in God’s presence but remain unchanged. Sadly, our churches are full of people who have not had an encounter with Jesus but they want to fulfill God’s purpose for their lives.
Then Paul had three mantras he lived by, very strong statements he must have repeated to himself very often. The first is: One thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before. Philippians 3.13.
Paul wasn’t resting on his oars, whatever he had achieved quickly became history, he wanted to make God proud, so he gave his best. If your best days as a child of God is in the past, you may have fallen from grace and there is an urgent need for repentance and a returning to your first love. Paul was constantly striving to please the Lord, he never thought he had done enough.
“You can’t be passionate or even share your convictions with anyone about something you don’t believe in.”
Paul’s spiritual gifts were speaking and writing. He could engage in conversations with just anybody and it didn’t matter whether they were illiterates or elites, he could clearly communicate the good news of the gospel and convince people to follow Jesus.
While he was in jail awaiting his trial, he didn’t waste that time whining or depressed but penned most of the epistles we are still reading today. It’s so vital to discover what gifts God has deposited in you so you won’t be running from pillar to post trying to be someone else and neglecting what you already have.
The second is: I have been crucified with Christ: it is no longer I but Christ who lives in me. Galatians 2.20. Paul was definitely now on a different path after he met God, he was consumed with the things that mattered to God, he fell in love with the Man who died for him.
What are you living for? Is Jesus Christ central to your existence or just another box you check every Sunday or your last resort only when you get into trouble. Paul’s waking moments was all about Jesus, how he could please the Lord and make Him known. Until Jesus is central to your existence, pursuing God’s purpose for your life will only be a mirage.
Finally Paul said, ‘ I put my body under subjection so after that I have preached to others I will not be asked to stand aside having been declared unfit for the price. 1 Corinthians 9.27. It’s not enough to know who God is, who you are or discover God’s purpose for your life, will you stay focused and faithful till the end? This will require an intentional, committed, and consistent decision to stay away from anyone and anything that will draw you away from the Lord.
There may be nothing wrong with certain people or going to certain places but if they will get in the way of you finishing strong, it’s time to move on.
At some point, Paul also knew that marriage and parenting were not in God’s plan for him. A demanding and insecure wife would have derailed him, raising children as an absent father would have been a poor example. Preaching to the whole world, laying hands on others people but having no time to even read the Bible with his spouse and children or not being able to kneel beside their bedside each night would have been a disservice.
Even though two are better than one, any spouse and kids would have been more harm than good for Paul. The earlier we identify what things and people that are not part of God’s plan for us, the better for us, so we don’t end up carrying crosses we were never meant to bear. Not everyone in your life and everything that seems attractive is from God or for your good.
Just because we have surrendered our lives to Jesus doesn’t imply that we have forgotten about our former ways of life. Paul says he didn’t want to miss the prize, so he was constantly assessing himself with the standards God had set and not the ever-changing expectations from his church or his family or the society. At the end, what really matters, is not what people think about you but God’s final assessment.
Paul was organised, he wasn’t everywhere, trying to do everything, being there for everyone, he had a plan. His missionary journeys took him from one town to another by boat and on foot. He had a plan to preach either in the synagogues or meeting skeptics in the city centre or didn’t mind interrupting some women praying by the riverside.
He didn’t leave anyone or any town till he had left an imprint there. He would plant a church, identify potential leaders and commit to a plan to visit them and then move on. It’s so vital to have a life plan that you can break up into year plans so you are not wasting your time, effort and resources in journeys God never approved.
Paul’s steps were ordered by God’s Spirit. He wasn’t looking to build a monument for himself. As one who had been converted, he preached with so much boldness of someone he had met and truly believed in, he was patient with those who were slow of understanding but left everyone with an urgency to turn to the Lord.
He had only one mission: To make Christ known. Is that the thrust of your life? Are you consumed with only one thing: To represent Jesus everywhere you go? To be a light brightly burning for the Master?
Finally, after giving his all to the service of the Master, Paul could say, ‘I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith, there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness. 2 Timothy 4.7,8. Paul was confident, he woke up every day and went to bed each night with a conviction that he had done what God had called him to do.
You can’t be passionate or even share your convictions with anyone about something you don’t believe in. Paul was convinced that Jesus is the only way, the truth and the life.
It will be a fight to finish strong, we have a relentless and aggressive enemy who doesn’t want any of us to finish strong, he will send people and things to derail and distract us but you must fight to finish. Paul says that he had finished his course, not someone else’s course or even his own selfish agenda.
He stayed in his lane, he stayed focused from start to the end on what God wanted him to do. When we don’t stay focused, we will end up somewhere else, we will be exhausted and drained of the spiritual energy to finish strong.
Paul says that he had kept the faith. What does it mean to keep the faith? What is ‘the faith’? He kept his eyes on who he had believed in. He didn’t have one leg in the world and one leg with God.
There was no middle ground for Paul, he was all in. It wasn’t about keeping a set of rules and regulations, but Paul was in touch with God. He could hear God’s voice; he obeyed every instruction to the letter. His life reflected what he believed. He wasn’t one thing in public and someone else in private. Paul made God proud, his passion and zeal was contagious.
Paul was living daily for heaven’s applause. He was certain there was a crown of righteousness reserved for him in heaven. We can only imagine as he walks past the pearly gates of heaven and the host of angels and Jesus with a standing ovation welcoming home one of his generals home, Paul had left an imprint not only on his generation but impacted many more after him.
What a legacy! Paul handed over the baton to the next generation and we are here today following a God we haven’t met because someone discovered their purpose and pursued it.
So, in a nutshell, discovering God’s purpose for our lives will not be an event that happens in a moment but a journey of a lifetime but which will only begin when we discover who God is, who we are, why He sent us to earth, what assignment He has entrusted to us, when we stay focused, giving our best shot, staying away from anything and anyone who will draw us away from him and living daily for heaven’s applause.
If our waking moments will count for eternity, if we will leave an imprint on our generation, if our lives will bring God glory, it will begin where Paul did, getting off our high horses on a road heading to nowhere and truly seeking God’s will for our lives.
What stage or phase of life are you’re in? Maybe it’s time to surrender your heart to Jesus and ask Him to reveal Himself to you or get off the cycles of sin and ungodliness and rededicate your life to the Lord. God will not entrust the details of His assignment to anyone who is still a slave or prisoner of the enemy.
Or you may be asking God to help you begin a journey of self-discovery: To identify what gifts and talents He has deposited in you: What are your strengths? What problems God is asking you to solve? What specific assignments is He entrusting to you? Sometimes it’s when we step out by faith or take advantage of the opportunities to serve that we realize what we are great at and what we enjoy doing.
For some of us who have discovered God’s purpose for us, it might be time to begin to ask God for unusual grace to stay focused, to be faithful and resist the urge to draw any attention to ourselves and courage to stay away from anyone or anything that’s not adding value to our walk with the Lord.
And as you remain faithful, God will expand your sphere of influence and give you more to do. Maybe for you, it’s time to ask God to enlarge your coast to do more for Him or even diversify into another aspect of your calling. Sometimes, we think we have found our calling but many times, it’s only a tip of the iceberg as we move into uncharted territory as we discover how much more can be accomplished.
A few of us may be in the evening of our lives, having accomplished great exploits for God and you might be at the stage of handing over the baton. Ask God to enable you identify young men and women you can begin to mentor who will continue the legacy that you will leave behind. There is no true success if we are not pouring ourselves into the next generation.
Whether you are at the earlier stages of discovering God’s purpose for your life or thriving in your sweet spot, it’s not going to be short dash but a marathon of sorts. What are you living for? For me, to live is Christ.