Millions will wake up this morning with no clear sense of purpose. Without a compelling “why” behind all of their “hows,” life is void of motivation and meaning. For the majority, days are spent going through the motions of a mundane life.
Others (I would suggest a minority) are gripped by a compelling biblical reason for living. They tend to experience significance and sustained joy, even in the routine days of the journey.
Maximizing Your Purpose – Minimizing Your Pain
Wise Christians learn early that their purpose in life is the gospel. They are consistently persuaded from the depth of their soul, by the word and the Spirit, that Christ has saved them and left them on this earth to embrace and live the gospel for the sake of others. Ordinary Christians see the gospel as some kind of “add-on” while their values are still rooted in the systems of this world. Rather than living for others, they are self-focused, dissatisfied and unfruitful.
Our Model for Mission
In my book, The Deeper Life, I provide an exercise that lists the many passages where Jesus explicitly described why He came—the purpose behind His earthly mission. I suggest that we are wise to embrace these same realities in shaping our sense of purpose for life on earth. Knowing our purpose fuels all that we do and frames each day with eternal significance.
One such passage states Jesus’ mission in compelling terms. Jesus said, “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28). In context, the mother of James and John requested special privilege for her sons in His future kingdom. This incited “indignation” among the other 10. Jesus contrasted the self-serving style of worldly leaders with His own values by stating, “Whoever would be first among you must be your slave” (see Matthew 20:20-27). Then, He settled the debate with this powerful statement of His own purpose in life.
NOT Our Daily Purpose
Don’t miss the clear disclaimer. This truth is essential in avoiding unnecessary pain and perplexity in life. We are NOT here to be ministered unto.
Over the years I have been profoundly affected by an excellent article by J.H. Horsburgh, titled “Not To Be Ministered Unto.” (You can find my posting of his original article HERE.) He honestly testifies, “In the ups and downs, the wear and tear of daily life, there are few passages of Scripture which search me as this does. It convicts, rebukes and condemns me. It is always finding me out. And, yet, how it encourages, quiets, strengthens, comforts and helps me!”
He goes on, in much detail to state that:
This desire to be ministered unto is at the bottom of disagreements in the nursery, fights in the school, quarrels amongst private individuals, wars among nations. And, alas, not only in the world is this spirit prevalent, but in the church also. As Christians we do not adequately realize—perhaps we hardly realize at all—how much of sin and failure, how much of vexation and discontent, how much of peevishness and irritability, how much of discord and unhappiness in our lives, is due to our DESIRE TO BE MINISTERED UNTO instead of coming not to be ministered unto.
Are we not too often cross, vexed, rasped, indignant? Sometimes we show it by a foolish exhibition of temper; sometimes we restrain ourselves, but there the nasty feeling is. And why? In all probability because we want to be ministered unto and have been disappointed… The fact is we are always wanting to be ministered unto by people, by circumstances, by fortune (“luck” perhaps you call it), by the weather, by something. To be ministered unto is so natural, so necessary, so proper! We have been brought up to expect it. And if we are thwarted as we often are, we are apt to get cross, sulky, moody, nervous, and perhaps end by making ourselves miserable, and others too.
When the gospel purifies our core motivations, it minimizes unnecessary daily pain that can arise from false expectations and feelings of neglect, or even rejection.
The Liberty of Lowered Expectations
When we stop anticipating that others are obligated, in any way, to serve us, we are free to live with an unselfish and deeply satisfying gospel-based purpose. Christ living in us compels and empowers us to do so. For this to be our consistent experience we must be secure in our identity in Him, finding our sufficiency in what Jesus says to be true about us. Otherwise we will be scrambling for significance based on how people view, validate or value us. (This is why I teach in The Deeper Life that identity precedes purpose in our process of daily renewal.)
When we stop anticipating that others are obligated, in any way, to serve us, we are free to live with an unselfish and deeply satisfying gospel-based purpose. Christ living in us compels and empowers us to do so. This does not mean that we are to be martyrs or that we pretend to have no needs. Of course, we should always be grateful for the gracious service others provide for us. Yet, our ambition is to live the gospel, from a secure and satisfied soul, and find our joy in how Christ uses us to serve—not in how others bolster our neediness by their service to us.
The Fulfillment of a Gospel Focus
Horsburgh offers a helpful summary of a better perspective:
I am persuaded that the happiness of our lives depends enormously on the spirit in which we come afresh into the world each day. If we come to be ministered unto, we shall soon be fretting and inwardly fuming. But if we come NOT TO BE MINISTERED UNTO, but to minister, it will be very different. “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” It is happier to minister than to be ministered unto. And it is far nobler: “Whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant” (Matthew 20:27).
With this fact in view, in what a different light must we regard NOT BEING MINISTERED UNTO. Welcome disappointment! Welcome hardship! Welcome slight! Welcome thorns and pricks! These may all be turned to excellent account. To fail in getting what we want may be a piece of good fortune! To be thwarted may be so good for us! To have our wishes crossed may be positive blessing! To be trampled upon may be a splendid thing! For every time we are not ministered unto, a fresh opportunity is given for Self to die! And the person who snubs us may well be regarded as a friend for administering to our arch enemy—SELF—a stout knock on the head! SELF MUST BE MORTIFIED. For it is only as Self dies that we can live the happy and victorious life.
Christ’s Person and Purpose Through Me
Many passages could be cited to explain these realities. One serves as a strong conclusion: “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).
Christ has given us life and is our life. As we trust Him, by His indwelling presence, to live through us, we are supernaturally empowered each day to love others and give our life away for them—just like Jesus. This is a compelling and satisfying purpose for those who affirm why they are not here and why they are here. This will change the way you live as you embrace a gospel clarity in why you live.
This post originally appeared here.