Pursuit of Unity Week 2: Unity in Christ Devotional Day 4: Finding Our Purpose
There is an inspirational story that encapsulates the message we are sending young people regarding finding your purpose in life. It reads like this:
“A frustrated young man went to see the wise man in his village.
“I don’t know what to do with my life. How do I find my purpose?” the young man asked.
“Follow me,” said the old man.
Silently, they trudged together to a far away river where they found dozens of prospectors panning for gold.
“There are three types of prospectors here,” the sage said.
“What do you mean?” the young man inquired.
“There are those who strike gold straight away. Excited, they take their plunder, cash it in and live comfortably for the rest of their lives. Then there are those who pan for years. They know that there is gold here and they have seen others strike it rich, so they persist until they too find the gold that they’ve been searching for.”
“What about the third type?” asked the young man.
“They are the individuals who get frustrated that they haven’t found what they are looking for, so after a day, a week or a year or more, they give up, walk away and never find gold.”
Slightly confused, the young man asked, “What has this got to do with finding my purpose?”
“Aah yes, the age-old question.” the old man smiled and looked his companion in the eye. “There are those in life who look for their purpose and seem to find it almost immediately. From a young age they have a clear sense of purpose and pursue their dreams with energy and enthusiasm. Some others have to look a bit harder, perhaps for many years, but if they persist and keep looking, they will find something to live for. Finally, there are those who want to know their purpose, but they become frustrated with the search and give up too soon, returning to a life of meaningless wandering.”
“Can everyone find their purpose?”
“Is there gold in the river?” the wise man responded.
“So, how do I find my own purpose?”
“But what if I want to find it quicker?”
“Son, there are no guarantees that you will be able to find it quickly, the only guarantee is that if you give up and stop looking for it, you’ll never find it.”
The young man looked despondent, feeling that he had wasted his time with the old man.
He felt a reassuring hand on his shoulder, “I can sense your frustration, but let me assure you, if you can find your true calling in life, you will live with passion, make the world a better place, be richer than you could imagine and feel as though the very face of God Himself is smiling upon you. That may happen next week, next year or in the years ahead, but the search will be worth it and your life will never be the same again. So for now, your purpose is to find your purpose.”
“Oh, and there’s one other thing that I forgot to mention.”
“Just as those men and women need to get down to the river with a pan to find their gold, so we need to remain active to find our purposes, we don’t find it sitting around at home doing nothing.”
It was getting late, so the two men turned for home and began their long walk back to the village.
As they walked, the young man was deep in thought about what he had just learned, and the wise man smiled to himself, knowing that conversations like this were an important part of living his own purpose.” (Author Unknown)
While on the surface this seems like a touching tale, it can mislead people into thinking their purpose in life is based upon what they do rather than who they are. Unfortunately, this type of thinking featured in the story above is what has driven so many young people to pay more than the price of a house for an education that still does not fulfill. Imagine listening to all this sage advice from the world, pay hundreds of thousands of dollars of borrowed money to learn a job that everyone says should fulfill you only to graduate with two lifetimes worth of debt, doing an occupation that makes you feel more trapped than purposeful. This is the reality for so many of our young people coming out of school. I recall one day my dad telling me when he went to college he paid a couple hundred dollars for a class so it was feasible to work a job to pay for school. The cost of higher education has skyrocketed since then to the point that college students will pay a few thousand for one course versus a few hundred. Add this up and it is easy to see how many graduate today with crippling debt even while working a job at the same time. All in the name of finding purpose.
Perhaps the story above should have a different focus than the harder you work and the more you do the more gold you find and the more fulfilled you will be. Those who pan everyday for gold searching for that elusive purpose yet consistently come up empty will potentially face depression and shame because they just can’t measure up. This is the danger of tying purpose so closely to what you do.
What if the above story was changed to make the river representative of God, where there is something waiting for you to discover each and every day. Afterall, “There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High” (Psalm 46:4 ESV). The psalmist talks about a gently flowing stream that is representing Jehovah’s provision, and blessing to the land. This would carry a very different connotation and meaning indeed.
The reality is our purpose is not defined by the pressure of finding that one job and if you aren’t able to succeed at that, then you are left living a life where you believe you somehow missed it. The Lord isn’t about secret pathways, and hard to find clues. Our Father delights in giving good gifts to his children (See Matthew 7:11; Luke 11:11-13; James 1:17) and knows that satisfaction comes in the purpose our Lord highlights for us. Our purpose then is not evaluated based upon how well we do something but is based upon our living for Him. The book of Colossians encourages us, 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him (Colossians 3:17 ESV).
Remember Jesus’ prayer from John 17, “21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me” (John 17:21-23 ESV). We are to be in unity with Christ so that the world might believe that the Father sent the son and that the world may know of the Father’s love for the world.
So whether you are a doctor, or a carpenter, a plumber, roofer, nurse, psychiatrist, police officer, or shoe salesman, you are called to represent Jesus in such a way that the world might see firsthand through you, the love the Father has for them. This is the highest purpose we can hope to fulfill through our unity with Christ.
Questions for prayer and reflection:
1.) How am I defining my purpose? (Be honest) Where do I need to adjust my thinking in order to align with how the Father defines my purpose?
2.) Where do I need to grow in living out this idea of purpose being how we represent God versus doing a job? Am I fully trusting in the Lord’s provision in accomplishing this?
3.) What are some tangible ways Jesus is calling me to display His love to others ? (I.e. volunteering for an outreach event, serving a neighbor, participating in a mission’s trip, etc)
Take a moment to pray over the answers to these questions. Are there any areas you need to release in prayer to the Lord that you have felt as though you have fallen short in living in unity with Christ? The amazing thing is Jesus is ready to take that burden you have been carrying. Choose to walk in that freedom today.
For further reading: Jeremiah 29:11-13; Matthew 7:7-11; Luke 11:5-13; John 17; Colossians 3:1-4, 12-17; James 1:17