We will round up our discussion on the pursuit of purpose with our ultimate example: Jesus. He is not just another example but the only one worth emulating. From the cradle to the grave, His brief sojourn on earth challenges us all to stay focused, faithful and fruitful.
It’s great to emulate people who encourage and challenge us to follow after God. But Jesus never asked us to follow people but to follow Him. Instead of comparing our lives with others, let Jesus be our yardstick. If you have surrendered your heart to the Lord, and have God’s Spirit dwelling in your heart, you can tell if you are pursuing a life of purpose or not.
“Starting out well is great but will we still be running our race faithfully even if on our last legs when Jesus returns?”
And many argue that because Jesus is God, it was easier for him to pursue God’s purpose than it would be for many of us. But the Bible confirms that He was tempted in every respect like us but he didn’t give in to sin. And even with so much ungodliness and immorality in our world today, we can pursue with full focus God’s purpose for our lives if we stay connected to God like Jesus did.
Many times, you can decipher someone’s priorities and values by listening carefully to what they say . And none of us have met Jesus but we can learn about His priorities from all He said. Jesus began to do and then to teach others to pursue God’s purpose. It’s tough to challenge others to pursue purpose when your life is a poor example. Let’s take some time to review certain things about Jesus’ exceptional life:
Time & Season. And Jesus himself began to be about thirty years of age. Luke 3.23. One wonders why Jesus had to wait for such a long time before he was baptized and then to begin his earthly ministry. There was no time that he wasn’t God, He had the same power and authority while He was here just as He did before He came into this world.
In three years, Jesus did what many of us haven’t accomplished in our lifetimes. And it doesn’t matter how long you live, the more important question would be if your life has left any impact here on earth. Jesus was obedient to the will of the Father and waited till the right time before He was revealed to the world.
If Jesus had begun his ministry any earlier than he did, his disciples would not have been available, mature or ready to accept their new roles. Did you notice that when Jesus called each of them, they left everything and followed him immediately? If Jesus had begun to do the miracles and with so much opposition from the Jews, he may have been crucified before His time.
“It’s great to emulate people who encourage and challenge us to follow after God. But Jesus never asked us to follow people but to follow Him.”
God’s plan of redemption for the world was evolving and any change would have had an impact on the rest of history. When we run ahead of God’s timeline of events, the resources and people we may need to complete our assignment may not be available. When God has asked us to complete a task in a certain time period, but we do whatever we want, we will end up exhausted and frustrated.
And there are many people trying to do what God hasn’t called them to do. They have not heard from God and have begun an assignment that isn’t ripe for its season. Others should have completed or handed their scope to someone else but they are still pursuing their agenda in their own strength. And these are a few of the many reasons many people struggle with burnout or depression even in ministry.
Victory Over Sin. And Jesus being full of the Holy Spirit, and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, being forty days tempted of the devil and Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee. Luke 4.1,2, 14. Being tempted by the devil is one thing but being tempted for forty consecutive days while you are fasting, in solitude and waiting on God to begin your assignment is another thing entirely.
Jesus was full of the Spirit before he went to the wilderness and he returned in the power of the Spirit. After a series of temptations, many of us would not have returned stronger. And because we have chosen to follow the Lord and pursue His purpose is not a guarantee that we will be isolated or insulated from the attacks of the enemy.
Jesus was victorious over sin because he confronted the devil with the Word of God. We can’t claim to pursue purpose but place no value on God’s word. Your word have I hidden in my heart that I will not sin against you. The longer we stare at sin, the harder it will be to pull away. We will not win the war over sin if we aren’t intentional and consistent to stay away from anything and anyone that wants to draw us away from the Lord.
An Intimate Relationship With God. And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed. Mark 1.35. Jesus was neither in a hurry nor under any pressure to begin his day healing the sick, teaching about God’s kingdom or travelling to new cities and towns. His priority was spending quality time in solitude with the Father each day. Is spending time in worship, prayer and the study of God’s word still a priority for you?
Sometimes Jesus travelled to new cities, other times, he sent his disciples out instead. Sometimes he preached to thousands, other times he preached to only one individual who took the good news to many more. Sometimes he healed certain people by touching them, other times, he healed those who were even miles away. And that’s why spending time to seek God is so important. So we don’t end up exhausted and frustrated trying to do what God hasn’t called us to do.
Jesus could have prayed as he went but he understood the importance of solitude. And none of us will hear God’s still small voice in the hustle and bustle until we retreat. Jesus wasn’t busy, he was effective and fruitful. He wasn’t everywhere, doing everything and being all things to everyone but as He was instructed. For many of us, it’s a lot of movement but no progress, a lot of effort and resources expended but no fruits and a lot of noise but no impact.
” If you have surrendered your heart to the Lord, and have God’s Spirit dwelling in your heart, you can tell if you are pursuing a life of purpose or not.”
A Mission Statement. The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he has sent me to heal the broken hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised. Luke 4.18. Before Jesus came unto the world, He knew what purpose he was going to accomplish. One day, when he was in the temple, he shares his life’s call with many others.
A mission statement or a set of life goals that are well articulated will keep your life simpler and focused. While everyone seems to be heading on a fast lane to nowhere, you refuse to join them because you know where you are going. Jesus kept this mission at the fore of his ministry and everywhere he went, he wasn’t just preaching but also bringing healing, freedom and deliverance and the revelation of God to the ignorant and oppressed. And it’s very easy for any of us to go off track, comparing and competing with others or pursuing our selfish agendas when we have not heard clearly from God about our assignment.
Jesus says that he had been anointed for a certain purpose. His anointing wasn’t to garner any earthly wealth, position and influence. And all those who have surrendered their hearts to the Lord have been anointed with supernatural power, unusual grace and uncommon wisdom to fulfil a certain assignment to point people to God and bring God glory not for our selfish ambitions. And the details of God’s purpose for each of us would be different but the end goal is the same: That many will find healing, deliverance and freedom at the cross.
Humility & Obedience. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus. who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God. But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men and being man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Philippians 2.5-8.
Jesus is God but He didn’t come to earth waiting for people to acknowledge that He was God, He didn’t have to prove His deity to anyone and he wasn’t waiting be served. He could have come as a supernatural being but He chose to take on our flesh. He could have called on thousands of angels to rescue him from those who crucified Him but He laid down His life to rescue us from sin.
And if we will pursue a life of purpose, we are encouraged to have a new mindset of humility and obedience. We can’t afford to be proud and forget whose we are and who gave us all we have. We can’t serve God on our terms or only when it’s convenient but wholeheartedly doing what He has instructed. Life isn’t all about us and we refuse to take the credit for what God does in or through us.
Focus. I must be about my Father’s business. Luke 2.49. Jesus could have diverted the power and authority He had to accomplish other laudable goals. He could have built a large cathedral or a monument for Himself. He could have launched a business making huge profits. But the thrust of his life was all about His Father’s business. And whether you dance, write or fly choppers, our focus should be the Father’s business.
It’s easy to get distracted or derailed when you have got no focus. But you have to be focused on something that is clear and concise. At the end of every day, every week, every month or year, you must be able to tell if you are focused and making God’s purpose for your life a priority or not.
Surrender. For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me. John 6.38. Before Jesus came to earth, he fully understood his mission. And that didn’t change. He lived a life of surrender. He didn’t give in to the desires of those he met who asked him to do certain things or become someone else. His life’s mission was to do the Father’s will. And we have all been sent with one message and one mission: To point others to God. Sadly, many have abandoned the purpose God has entrusted to them and are pursuing their personal agenda. A surrendered life is one that’s committed to fulfilling the will of God.
No Identity Crisis. I am the light of the world, I am the bread of life, I am the good shepherd. I am the resurrection and the life. I am the way, the truth and the life. John 6.48, 8.12, 10.11, 11.25, 14.6. Jesus knew who he was. And that didn’t change before he began his ministry or even after. He didn’t have to prove to anyone who he was. He wasn’t trying to be someone else.
And anywhere he went he wasn’t ashamed to reveal himself to the people he met. In a dark world, Jesus is the light. To those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, He is the bread of life and living water. Those who have surrendered their hearts to the Lord can be confident that they will be protected and preserved by the good shepherd. The dead can experience new life in Jesus.
And it’s easy for any of us to struggle with a low self-esteem, insecurity or be derailed by the opinions and suggestions of others when we forget who we are and whose we are. Our worth and identity aren’t dependent on what we look like, what we have or what we do but whose we are. Jesus is audacious when he announces to his disciples and everyone else within earshot that He is the way, the truth and the life. He leaves no one in doubt about the one and only way to God.
When we don’t know who we are, why we are here and where we are going, we will continue on an endless and exhausting pursuit of trying to find the meaning to life outside God. We will compare and compete with others, trying to garner attention and acceptance. We will waste huge investments of our time, efforts and resources on journeys God never approved.
Understood The Brevity Of Life. I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night comes, when no man can work. John 9.4. Jesus lived for thirty-three years on earth but only three of those years was spent in ministry. When his disciples were exhausted or hoped they could do what they wanted to, whenever they wanted, Jesus reminds them of why they must give their best while they can.
Jesus was sent. He was on earth for a purpose and while his ultimate purpose was to lay down his life as the propitiation for our sins, he made the most of everyday fully aware that his earthly ministry would soon be over. And for many of us, the ‘night’ is coming when no one can work. It might be poor health for some or a lack of passion or zeal for the kingdom.
Others might be bogged down with the demands of marriage, parenting or pursuing other ventures and the pursuit of God’s purpose is no longer a priority. And for many, it will be the end of their earthly sojourn. Whatever the night connotes for you, let’s do all we can while we can with all the strength God has given us because none of us knows how much time we’ve got left.
Purpose. My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work. John 4.34. On several occasions, Jesus refers to ‘God as Him who sent me’. Jesus knew from where he had come, who had sent him and why he was here on earth. And if we will keep those in focus, then, pursuing God and His purpose for our lives will be attainable. Once, when Jesus’ disciples got some food for him to eat, he told them that what brings him satisfaction and great joy isn’t the consumption of sumptuous delicacies but completing the assignment God entrusted to Him.
Jesus didn’t come to earth chasing after what was temporal or fading. And many of us have not discovered God’s purpose for our lives, we are busy doing so much but nothing close to or connected to the reason God sent us to earth. Jesus’ mission wasn’t just to do God’s will but to complete it. Starting out well is great but will we still be running our race faithfully even if on our last legs when Jesus returns?
Jesus was fully surrendered to the will of the Father. Not my will but your will. Matt 26.39
So whatever we do, wherever we go or whatever we’re involved with, at the end of each day or week, we should be asking ourselves: Is my life aligned with God’s plan and purpose? Do you know that you have been sent? Are you focused and on track to complete the assignment God has entrusted to you?
Effective & Fruitful. And he did not do many mighty works there because of their unbelief. Matthew 13.58. Sometimes, Jesus preached to only one person, other times he preached to the thousands gathered. He wasn’t everywhere and doing everything. But as he was led by God’s Spirit. But in this town, even though his power was still available to do many mighty works, he didn’t because not many believed in him.
When Jesus had a chat with the woman at the well, his disciples must have wondered what impact that would have but they were speechless when she returns to her community and many believed in Jesus. Being a Jew, the Samaritans wouldn’t have listened to Jesus, but he shares the good news with one woman who takes the news to her community.
That’s why it’s so vital to hear from God for our next steps as we seek to serve Him so we are not exhausted and ineffective trying to do what we haven’t been called to do. Jesus wasn’t everywhere doing everything but wherever he went, whoever he reached out to, whatever methods were employed to share the gospel , there was always an impact.
Surrounding Himself With The Right Team. He ordained twelve, that they should be with him, and that he might send them forth to preach. Mark 3.14. It’s difficult to convince anyone to follow you if you have no vision or don’t know where you’re going. One wonders what each disciple saw or heard Jesus say that they left everything and followed him. Jesus met different people as he travelled from one place to another but he didn’t allow them influence his decisions and he wasn’t distracted from the vision.
It’s not enough to have a great vision entrusted to you by God or begin the race with so much zest and enthusiasm, if we are hanging out with people who don’t share our values and priorities, it won’t be long before they draw us away from the Lord or we are distracted from God’s purpose entirely. Let’s ask God to surround us with those who will encourage and challenge us to follow the Lord.
Our friends have the greatest impact on us. Influence is subtle and over time as we spend more time with certain people, we will either get more excited about pursuing God and His plans for us or we will lose our steam, passion and a desire to please the Lord. Jesus didn’t choose these men just to travel about with him but he was also looking forward to handing over this ministry to them and then they will do even greater works than he had done.
Choosing Calling Over Comfort. Foxes have holes! Birds of the air have nests but the Son of man has nowhere to lay his head. Matthew 8.20. Jesus said these words to a man who was eager to follow Him but who had no clue about the sacrifice required in his ministry. And many of us have decided to follow Jesus because someone has said that we will become wealthy, influential or comfortable. Many don’t love Jesus but are looking for only what they can get from him.
Jesus wasn’t chasing after what this world had to offer, he didn’t have the best of cars, houses or personal possession. He lived a day at a time with whatever God provided as he moved from one town to another. And there’s nothing wrong with having a comfortable life but if the amassing and acquiring of these deny us of pursuing God and His purpose for our lives, then we’ve completely missed it.
Many times, Jesus served in very uncomfortable situations, he preached to so many from a fisherman’s boat, his disciples woke him up while he had a nap, he was exposed to violent and evil spirits and he was constantly apprehended by those who didn’t believe in him. But he kept serving. He had no private jets, 5-star hotel suites or a large bank balance but he kept serving. His focus was completing the assignment that God had entrusted to him. If we wait for perfect conditions we will not serve God. Are we serving God on our terms and only when it’s convenient?
Refusing To Take Credit. When Jesus therefore perceived that they would come and take him by force, to make him a king, he departed again into a mountain himself alone. John 6.15. I have glorified thee on the earth. John 17.24. Even though there were many people who hated Jesus and didn’t believe that God had sent him, there were many others who were astounded by the great and mighty things He did. And they wanted to make Jesus king. Let’s get off any throne that people have asked us to sit on.
Pursuing God’s purpose isn’t about us or our selfish ambitions but pointing others to Jesus. We refuse to take credit for what God does in or through us. We don’t hop around town as if we are God’s favourite or because we have earned the right to be used by God. But we acknowledge with humility, a rare privilege to partner with God’s Spirit to bring hope and healing to others. Jesus acknowledged that fulfilling His purpose on earth was to bring God glory. And whatever we do, we must constantly remind ourselves that we are here for God’s glory.
One would have thought that Jesus would be excited about being around those who were eager to make him king because of what he had done but Jesus takes his leave to go to the mountain to be alone with the Father. And any of us could be deceived by the attention or applause of others and completely fail to fulfil our assignment. Jesus is King but he didn’t need to prove it to anyone and it wasn’t yet time for Him to be crowned as king.
A Focus On Eternity. I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world: again, I leave the world, and go to the Father. John 16.28. Jesus never forgot who He was, why He was here on earth, where He had come from and when or where He was going back to. And we all need to constantly superimpose a focus on eternity on our daily schedules. Some of us have forgotten that life is short and we won’t be here forever. Others are living their lives as if they will not have to give an account to God someday.
Something happens to your values and priorities when you remind yourself of your identity, your purpose and your destination. Those who live for themselves, who continue to chase after only what’s temporal and fading will be sorely disappointed to discover too late that there was more to live than all they knew.
Let’s never forget that we brought nothing into this world and we will certainly take nothing out of it. We are all on a journey ‘home’ and someday we will give an account to God of how we lived here on earth. Life is short, every breath is a miracle, let’s make our waking moments count for eternity.
Service. Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many. Matthew 20.28. Fulfilling God’s purpose for your life is your commitment to serve with your time, talents and resources. Jesus didn’t wait for the people to come to him, he had no personal assistants responsible for booking any appointments for those who desperately wanted to see him. Instead he went to where the people were.
Jesus didn’t wait for his disciples to wash his feet, he washed theirs. He wasn’t too busy to touch the leper or heal the blind men. He wasn’t too tired to see the five thousand fed. He wasn’t isolated from the people he came to serve. His arms were open for the little children to run to, he was within reach as the woman with the infirmity for twelve years reached for the hem of his garment. And fulfilling God’s purpose will require us serving Him by serving others in different capacities in the different seasons of our lives.
When we stop loving, we stop serving. When we stop serving, we stop living. God is love, love is giving, giving is living, living is Christ. But God is more interested in our relationship with him. Our service to God is an overflow of our love for him and relationship with Him. Sadly many are more interested in doing so much for God rather than spending time with God.
No Conflicting Reports. The chief priests, and elders, and all the council, sought false witness against Jesus, to put him to death but found none. Matthew 26.59,60. Throughout Jesus’ earthly ministry, he was not accused of anything bad but because he healed people on the Sabbath, he went to certain people’s homes or said things about Himself, many thought was blasphemous because they didn’t know that He is God.
Before Jesus was crucified, many false witnesses came forward to say things which were untrue, but their report didn’t seem to agree. Pilate agreed that Jesus had done nothing deserving of death but he gave into the pressure of the people and the ultimate will of God.
Jesus was the same person in public and private. He practiced what he preached. His life was transparent, and his disciples were convinced that they were not part of a scam.
The people who were healed all had the same testimony of how their lives were before and after they met Jesus He didn’t demand an offering from anyone who was healed. He didn’t take advantage of anyone.
Mission Accomplished. I have finished the work which you gave me to do. John 17.4. It is finished! John 19.30. We all love the end of a great movie or story but we quickly forget all the effort and hard work required to get to that point. Jesus knew he had such a short time on earth, every day he stayed focused to the ultimate assignment he had. And the day finally came, he had completed all that the Father had committed into his hands.
For some people, at the end of their lives, they would have completed their selfish ambitions or exceeded the expectations of others but not fulfilled the assignment God entrusted to them. There will be lots of suggestions from people about what they think you should be doing, the enemy wants us to replace God’s plans with ours or pursue something else but I pray that at the end of your life’s journey, you will be able to say like Jesus: It is finished.
Jesus didn’t just complete his assignment here on earth but in excellence and in victory. His disciples were disappointed as they thought he would be their king but he handed over a ministry to them that changed the world. And some people might be disappointed with you but what’s more important is that you are doing what God has called you to do. When Jesus said those words, it was the end of his earthly ministry but the birth of the church when the Holy Spirit was sent.
It’s been almost two thousand years and many millions dead and alive have been and continue to be impacted by God who became flesh. Long after you’ve departed from this world, what legacy or impact would you have left behind? What would you be remembered for?
What an exceptional life! There’s so much to learn from Jesus: His surrender, obedience, focus, faithfulness, humility and a genuine desire to please the Father. If we will pursue with full focus God’s purpose for our lives, we must become like Jesus.
Day by day, dear Lord for these three things I pray: To see you more clearly, to love you more dearly and to follow you more nearly day by day. Amen