Some people are blessed enough to discover their purpose early on. others have a little more searching to do before their purpose becomes clear. Some people think they know their purpose only to discover later they never really had a clue. And for some, their purpose changes throughout their lives. Suddenly. Without warning. Completely transforming their lives.
Some accept their purpose.
Some run from it.
Others fear it.
I was a very morose teenager. You know Eeyore? We would have been best buddies. As such, I wondered on a pretty regular basis why God spoke to others and not to me? I drew the conclusion, falsely, that he must play favorites. After all, how did one get chosen to be a favored disciple? There must have been hundreds of Jewish boys in the area when Jesus began his ministry, so what was so special about these 12? In my mind, they must have done something to earn the favor and pleasure of God. It was the only thing that made sense. None of them were particularly smart (Jesus literally had to pull them aside and explain the allegory in his stories). They had average jobs, at bets–some below average (I mean, come on, no little kid dreams of growing up to be a tax collector, Matthew!) They weren’t a bunch of hot studs who made up the first boy band (at least I don’t recall hordes of women and girls following them and screaming when they flashed a dimpled grin their way).
So God did play favorites.
The more I grow in my faith and the older I get, the clearer it becomes that God is not playing favorites. He chooses those for great purpose whom he knows will choose to listen to his voice (with the exception of maybe Jonah, who chose to go in the opposite direction when he heard the call, but that’s a story for another day).
Those who chose to accept their purpose, those called by God, those who listened and obeyed, they received great favor from God, sure. They also experienced great heartache and did not live lives of peace. They had HARD, blessed, purposeful lives.
So what does this mean for us? For you and me in this life filled with distractions that threaten to snuff out our purpose before we can even fulfill it? I think it means 3 things:
- We must be willing
- We must be ready
- We must be disciplined
We must be willing
When Jesus called the 12 disciples, he didn’t wait around for them to make pro-con lists. He didn’t let them go home and ask for permission or discuss it with family, friends and mentors.
Mark 1: 18-20 is clear Come follow me, Jesus said, and I will make you fishers of men.” At once they left their nets and followed him. When he had gone a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John in a boat, preparing their nets. Without delay, he called them and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired me and followed him.” (NIV)
Jesus knew who was willing…he singled them out. He called. They went. No questions asked.
We must be ready
Not everyone is ready when God calls them to a purpose. It’s a sad fact of life. I mentioned Jonah earlier.
Jonah 1:1-3a reads: The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it because its wickedness has come up before me. But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish.
God called. He fled.
In Matthew 19:16-22 a wealthy young man sees himself as a successful leader. A good man. He has kept all the commandments and set himself up as a leader in the community. Then he asks Jesus what else he must do. Jesus tells him in verse 21 If you want to be perfect, go sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.
Notice this is the same command he gave to his disciples–and they weren’t all poor. Tax collectors, for example, were notoriously wealthy and corrupt. Yet this young man “went away sorrowful” in verse 22; he wasn’t ready.
Fortunately, God can redeem our purpose even when we rebel. Jonah may have spent 3 days as fish food, but his purpose was fulfilled in the end. The young man chose not to give his all for Jesus, but at any point, he could have changed his mind and Jesus would have accepted him on the spot.
We have to be ready when Jesus calls. We have to be ready to go. We have to be ready for our lives to change radically.
We have to be ready.
We have to be disciplined
Being willing and ready is actually the easy part, believe it or not. Being disciplined. That’s the tough part. To be disciplined you must be trained. You must be controlled.
Just like a soldier must be in shape, we also must be physically trained. We must treat our bodies like the temples they are, putting as many good things in as we can and saying no to as many harmful things as possible. In today’s world with ready access to harmful images and music, and shows–a simple drive to the grocery store to fill up the cart with junk food, or a quick trip the drive thru (#guiltyascharged), is not a disciplined life choice. I’m not saying you need to be ready to run a 5k (but kudos to you if you choose that route), but I am saying that discipline is not always fun, but to fulfill our purposes we must learn what is good for us and what will end us in the belly of a fish for three days (metaphorically speaking, of course). Because once you are swallowed, you have to work your way through a lot of yuck.
You can make your way through the yuck to the other side of grace with a little bit of discipline.
Living in your purpose is not an easy task, but it’s what we are ALL created to do–whether we know specifically what that is or not.
God doesn’t play favorites, but he does show favor to those who are willing, ready and disciplined.