Here we are at the finale of the Purpose Driven Life (I know right?! FINALLY!!! :)), can you believe it?? In the past 40 days (and a little bit more given some lovely outside circumstances), we have explored the answers to the important question of “What on earth am I here for?”and discovered that there are five specific purposes God has for us in this life. So far, we have discussed four of these purposes in detail and how we have been created to make God smile, to be a part of God’s family, to become like Christ, and to serve God and others. And while all of these purposes are wonderful and essential to fully experiencing all God has for us in this life, there is one more purpose to add to the fold before we are finished: we were made for a mission (should you choose to accept it 🙂 ).
Your Mission… Should You Choose to Accept it
I love this saying, as well as the Mission Impossible movies that go with it (surprise surprise). No matter which rendition you watch, the plot is the same: there is some seemingly impossible mission sent out from an important authority to a group of select agents, and these agents have to determine if they are going to accept the job and attempt the impossible. Could you imagine if Tom Cruise and the other characters thought about the mission and said, “Nope, this one is too hard and I am tired from the last one so I am going to sit this one out. A nice nap or vacation sounds much better right now. Thanks for asking though!” Of course not! Then there would be no suspense, no action, no investment in the movie and there would be no reason for any of us in the audience to get excited. No one would want to watch because it would be pointless and boring.
The same goes for us with our lives! As we end our purpose driven journey, we are given a similar choice with a challenge to move beyond ourselves and our relationships with God and other Christians to truly reach out to those around us who do not know Christ and do not experience truth and wholeness as we do. As Rick shares, when we determine in our hearts to follow Christ and live out the other four purposes summarized above, we are also called to the mission of telling others about Christ and spreading the good news we have found to be true. Much like in the movies, we are a group of select agents, equipped with exactly what we need to be successful, and we have to choose if we are willing to risk it all to complete the task before us. Yes, you get to be a super special secret agent, which means all of a sudden, your life gets to be a little more exciting and a whole lot more purposeful :).
In other words, your mission (should you choose to accept it) is to share your story with the world and look for opportunities to tell them about the life and hope you have found through Christ. Rick calls this story our Life Message (Day 37), and explains that it consists of four components that give us a platform for sharing with others:
- Our Testimony: This is the story of how we came to know Christ. It includes what life was like before becoming a Christian, how we came to know Him as our Savior, and now what our life is like afterwards. Humans are innately drawn to stories (hence our love of books and movies) and so it makes sense that this would be one of the best ways we can share Christ with others.
- Our Life Lessons: These are the important truths we have learned over the years, also known as wisdom, that other people might benefit from knowing. Things like “learning not to worry about tomorrow” or “unforgiveness really only hurts the one holding on to it” or “you really can do anything you put your mind to” all fall into this category. Humans are always looking for answers to life problems, so we can use our own life lessons to shed light on these issues from a godly perspective.
- Our Godly Passions: These are the things that we really care about and that get us energized. There is a wide range of what you might be passionate about: it may be a specific cause or a people group or a food group or a sport or an art or anything else in between. These passions often give us something in common with others and provide a connection to be able to relate in other areas, like life questions.
- Our Good News: This is the hope we have in Christ because we have a reason for living in getting to know Him and the God who created us. People everywhere are searching for meaning, for a reason to live and thrive and do more than just breathe and eat and live till we die. The Good News that we have to share is that there is someone bigger than us with a bigger plan that we get to be a part of: we have a Creator who loves us, intentionally created us, and has specific purposes for us to experience and enjoy throughout all eternity.
For some of us, this may truly seem like a mission impossible sequel as sharing ourselves with anyone, much less strangers in another part of the world, sounds completely crazy. But I encourage you, especially if you are feeling stale or stagnant or bored with where you are in life and you feel like the other four purposes are right on, that you are probably at the place in life where a little risk and an attempt at an impossible mission is exactly what you need. The nice part about God is He will never force us to take on any mission (although there may be natural consequences for saying no… Jonah and a whale comes to mind :)), but He will invite us to join Him and the adventure is totally worth it!
How Does this Apply to Me?
If this mission seems a tad overwhelming or daunting, I promise, you are not alone. Sharing with others about Christ is a big task, but much like anything else, we can still bring it home with a personal, practical application that starts with smaller steps instead of trying to take on everything at once. One way we can do that is by being intentional about living out the five purposes we have covered in this book each and every day.
To do this, Rick encourages creating a life purpose statement (Day 40) that sums up what the five purposes mean for you in a clear and concise way. This statement can provide focus and direction for all that you do in a meaningful way without requiring the reading of an entire book everyday 🙂 . He describes that to create this statement, we can ask and answer these 5 key questions (p.314-316):
- What do I want at the center of my life?
- What kind of person do I want to be?
- What do I want my contribution to be?
- What do I want my communication to be?
- What do I want my community to be?
Compiling the answers to these questions, we should be able to create a simple life statement that reflects who and what we want for our life and gives us the direction we have been looking for. While Rick shares several examples on page 317 that are comprehensive and directly describe each of the purposes and answers to the questions above, I found that they were a little too wordy and formal for my current stage in life. So I encourage you to really search out and develop a statement that fits who and how God has created you to me.
For me, I can answer all of the above questions: I desperately want Christ and His love at the center of my life, I truly want to be an inviting and loving person where people can experience grace and acceptance while at the same time being encouraged and challenged to grow and achieve the best in life, I want to be able to leave a legacy where those I teach can then teach others and the people around me have more hope and understanding after having known me, I want every thing that I do and every word that I say to reflect all of the above, and I want this to be evident to those both within and outside of the church. And while I love these answers, it is way too long for me to call to memory in quick moment, so I have summed it up in this simple statement that I actually have posted all around (including as the wallpaper on my cell phone):
Love Generously with an Undivided Heart.
If I can do that, if I can seek to love those I come into contact with (especially my husband and children) generously (unconditionally) with a heart that is not divided (because a house divided cannot stand), then I will be living out my purpose on this life… and will experience an amazing peace and joy that wells up from within regardless of the external circumstances. And when I fall short, which happens all the time, I still have a goal to work towards and a direction with which to guide whatever efforts I have left 🙂 And I have an awesome purpose that infiltrates and radiates all that I do!!!
With all of the above said :), there are a variety of challenges we could take from this segment (and the book as a whole) to apply all that we have learned. Feel free to choose working on your Life Message or creating your life purpose statement, as these are both incredibly important. However, for this finale, I want to focus on Day 39, where Rick describes the importance of finding balance in our lives. As a counselor, this lesson is near and dear to my heart, as I have personally experienced as well as professionally worked with burnout and compassion fatigue and all of the adverse consequences that come from an imbalanced life. God never intended us to operate in an imbalanced state, but wants us to truly thrive by looking to Him and putting into practice the healthy steps to maintain and achieve balance. These steps include (but are not limited to):
- Walking through life with a spiritual accountability partner or small group. This means being real and honest with someone(s) outside of your immediate family (not a spouse either) and inviting them to speak truth into your life in both an encouraging or challenging way. I have a specific set of people that I have asked to hold me accountable, to pray for me, and to challenge me when my life seems out of balance from their perspective and I am forever grateful for all of the times they have come through for me!!! If you do not have an accountability/prayer partner or a small group, I STRONGLY encourage you to be on the lookout.
- Writing down your progress in a journal. To be honest, I am horrible about this but I really am trying to get better. There is something to be said about cataloging what God is doing in our lives and recording the good, the bad, and everything in between. Most importantly, I have loved recording answered prayers to be able to look back and see what has been answered and revealed over the years. Plus, if you are out of time or energy to journal on a regular basis, it can reveal an imbalance that you may not have noticed just yet. If you do not journal, I recommend trying it out, even if just for a season, and see the depth it can add to your life and faith walk.
- Passing on what you are learning to others. Humans have a tendency to learn better when they teach something to others. This is probably one of my favorite things about being a professor, as I learn my craft better and better each time I teach it to a group of new learners. There are even specific topics that I feel like I have come to almost master, recognizing there is always something new I can learn, because I have taught it so many times. The same goes for spiritual concepts; we learn them more when we share them with others and explain how we have learned them so they can potentially learn it too. It can also provide us a new perspective on what we have been learning, which could reveal any blindness we have been unaware of or confirm the truth we have uncovered. And who knows: maybe the one you are sharing with can benefit from the lessons as well. Again, if you find that you are out of time or energy or even people to share with, then it is probably a sign that imbalance has occurred and it may be time to re-evaluate and re-calibrate!
Our challenge then is this: Looking at the above options, what is one thing you can add to your life to move towards balance today??? For me, it is getting back to journaling. I have definitely been imbalanced in the past month, and I know because my journaling and writing (obviously) has not happened. In seeing this as I finally have time to write, I realize that I need it back in my routine to really cement the lessons I am learning and help ground me for the week. Hence I am back at it today… and will hopefully be able to keep it going in the days to come.What about you? Do you need to find a someone to support and challenge you and vice versa? Do you need to take that step to share with others what you are learning? Do you, like me, need to break open that journal and review, renew, and refocus (from Ordering Your Private World by Gordon MacDonald and the January Book Club)? Whatever it is… I encourage you to do so!
And just in case you need a little extra motivation… I am going to end with this statement from Rick that I cannot seem to get away from 🙂
“God wants to redeem human beings from Satan and reconcile them to himself so we can fulfill the five purposes he created us for: to love him, to be a part of his family, to become like him, to serve him, and to tell others about him. Once we are his, God uses us to reach others. He saves us and then sends us out” (p.282). This is my mission and THIS IS YOUR MISSION too… should you choose to accept it. ♥