Purpose = Excuse

“I would be willing to do God’s will if I just knew what it was.”

As a (former) minister and teacher, I have heard this phrase countless times (to be honest many were by me), and over the years, I have given both good and bad advice to those trying to find God’s purpose for their life. But as of late I have noticed something about many of us struggling to find God’s will or purpose for our life…we want to know what it is before we do anything.

Our life is spent trying to understand our purpose in our head and there is nothing happening with our feet or hands. We sit around waiting for a word from God promising that when we get it we will jump to it! There are obviously problems with this mindset, let me unpack one of them:

I am not a physicist (physics almost kept me from getting my undergrad degree!), but I think I have this right…it is easier for an object to stay in motion than to get a stationary object to start moving. I am not discounting the ability of God’s wind to blow as it wills, but for those of us who sit and wait, it can take a lot of wind to get us sailing.

In reading scripture, however, what we find is the meaning is often found while doing. Some, like Paul get a clear word from God, but even then the specifics came from doing not from waiting. But most are not told their purpose but to get going and to believe God’s promise, “No matter where you go, I will be with you!” God is working to bring about his purposes in and through you, what he is longing for is not people who understand but people who trust and obey.

I love the mindset of the missions office at my church: we won’t always know where we are headed,but we commit to always doing the next right thing. And this is the simple advice I now give to those struggling to find their purpose (myself included) – do something. Find the next right thing and Just Do It, maybe Nike was right all along?

Help my unbelief…when good things happen

Is it strange to discuss unbelief connected to good things? Many of us would argue, “Of course I believe when things are good. That is when believing is easy.”

But is that really true? When the going is good is believing easier?

I know that in my own life that is not the case. As a matter of fact, I am better at believing during struggles than during success. Struggles break me, lead me to submit, lead me to ask for help…but success, it empowers me, leads me to trust in my own talents, leads me to think I do not need any help.

John Stott, in Basic Christianity, writes, “True faith with translate mental belief into a decisive act of trust.” Believing requires trusting. Believing certainly requires giving mental ascent to certain truths about God revealed in Jesus Christ, but mental acceptance without soulful trust is still unbelief.

Success, at least for me, guides me to rely on myself, to trust in my own strength. Success guides me to turn from giving God all the glory to trying to make a name for myself (Genesis 11, 1 Samuel 15). In other words, success is cause of my unbelief. Thus, although we are saying it for different reasons, I can proclaim like the father in Mark 9, “I believe, help my unbelief.”

I pray that God will confront me with my tendency to blame him for struggles and praise myself for success. I will rethink what I am striving to achieve. I will consider is my life being lived in vain or on purpose.