Are We Asking the Right Question?
At the risk of sounding nit-picky, I want to address something I’ve been observing. How often do we hear people ask about discovering their purpose and asking God to help them fulfill their dreams? “What is my purpose?” No doubt, this can come from a very sincere and pure hearts. It is popular to hear people talk about:
- My purpose
- My calling
- My passion
- My destiny
In a sense, all of this can be fine as long as it is understood that all of these elements—our purpose, destiny, and calling—must ultimately come under the lordship of Jesus Christ. Actually, they should all originate there. The problem comes when we view the things of God through a narcissistic filter, erroneously thinking that God’s plan and purpose revolves around us, instead of us realizing that our lives are to revolve around his plan and purpose. Suggesting that God exists for us to fulfill our destiny must be subjugated to the fact that we exist for God’s glory and honor.
The way we read the Bible, pray, and process information should be God-centered, not man-centered or self-centered. It is true (and thank God for it) that we are wonderfully privileged to be the object of God’s love and the recipient of his blessings, but God remains a jealous God, and desires to be the focal point of our devotion, affection, and worship. Consider the following Scriptures that reveal the God-centered perspective we should embrace.
ROMANS 11:36 (NLT)
For everything comes from him and exists by his power and is intended for his glory. All glory to him forever! Amen.
ROMANS 11:36 (AMP)
For all things originate with Him and come from Him; all things live through Him, and all things center in and tend to consummate and to end in Him.
COLOSSIANS 3:16-18 (NLT)
Through him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth.
He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see—such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world. Everything was created through him and for him. He existed before anything else, and he holds all creation together. Christ is also the head of the church, which is his body. He is the beginning, supreme over all who rise from the dead. So he is first in everything.
We are accustomed to thinking that pastors, evangelists, missionaries, etc. have their own ministries. After all, a plethora of legal corporations reinforce this idea. However, we must be careful not to confuse our legal identification before the government with our spiritual orientation in Christ. Jesus does not look on me as having my own ministry—he sees me as being a partaker of his ministry. I am not an independent agent. I am his representative in the earth, and I am directly accountable to him. I am a steward, not an owner. If I owned “my ministry,” then I could do with it what I desired, but if I am discharging a sacred trust, carrying out his work on his behalf, then I am answerable to him in every way.
Consider the terminology used when the original apostolic band was selecting a replacement for Judas. Peter says of him, “He was numbered with us and obtained a part in this ministry” (Acts 1:17, NKJV). Another translation renders this, “He was counted among us and received [by divine allotment] his portion in this ministry” (AMP). Judas never had his own ministry; he was given a portion of Jesus’ ministry. The same can be said for Peter, James, and John, and the same can be said of all of us—we have received a part and portion of Jesus’ ministry.
If a person feels prideful about having “his own ministry” as though it belongs to him, he is sadly missing it. It is actually a much greater honor to be entrusted with a part or a portion of Jesus’ ministry. However, this should never foster pride within us, but should instill a holy fear and reverence; it should humble us with a sense of sacred responsibility.
Consider further some of the statements the New Testament makes that help us understand this perspective of ministry:
MARK 16:20 (NKJV)
And they went out and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word through the accompanying signs.
1 CORINTHIANS 3:9 (HCSB)
For we are God’s coworkers.
2 CORINTHIANS 5:20 (NLT)
We are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!”
2 CORINTHIANS 6:1 (NKJV)
We then, as workers together with Him also plead with you…
What is clear is that God did not anoint Paul or the apostles to do their thing; God anointed Paul so he could do God’s thing. The original apostles and Paul recognized that the Lord was working with them and through them. They didn’t each have their own ministry (in an ownership sense). Rather, they were each allowed to partner with the Lord and partake of his ministry, of his purpose, and of his dreams. The same is true for us today, whether we are called to preaching ministries or not. First Corinthians 1:9 (NLT) states that God “has invited you into partnership with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.”
The Latin phrase Missio Dei is translated, “the mission of God.” The concept here is that God has been on a mission to reach and express his love to mankind, fulfilling his good pleasure in redeeming lost humanity to himself. When I sense a call upon my life to serve God, it is not centered or focused on me. Rather, it is an invitation to join him in his mission, something he was doing long before I came on the scene, and should the Lord tarry his coming, something which he will be doing long after I am gone. Understanding this enables me to think much of him, and not to have an over-inflated sense of my own importance. Yes, I have a part to play, but his eternal plan does not revolve around me. Tim Dearborn says, “It is insufficient to proclaim that the Church of God has a mission in the world. Rather, the God of mission has a Church in the world.”
Missio Dei also requires that I recognize that many, many others have been invited into partnership with God as he expresses and fulfills his plan and purpose in the earth through them as well. It is not just me and the few I associate or fellowship with. Donald Gee wrote to the five-fold ministry gifts (Ephesians 4:11), saying, “These ministries come fresh from the hand of the exalted and glorified Christ at the Father’s right hand in heaven. They are His own provision for the continual need of ministry in His church until she has arrived at her appointed consummation.” Generation after generation, in nation after nation, God’s mission has been discharged (and continues to be discharged) through people privileged to participate in God’s plan.
It is important to note here as well, that every believer has the privilege of participating in Missio Dei, not just the preachers. All of us can partner with God by being godly examples, good witnesses, eager servants, and generous givers. Through a multitude of roles such as parents, spouses, neighbors, friends, employers, employees, etc., we can represent God’s nature and character in the earth. In all of this, it is important that we not think that it is ultimately about us because it is not. It is about him! Consider Paul’s perspective revealed in these two passages:
2 CORINTHIANS 3:5 (NKJV)
Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God.
2 CORINTHIANS 4:5 (NKJV)
For we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your bondservants for Jesus’ sake.
Jesus truly is the Alpha and the Omega, and in reality, he is everything in between as well. It is great for people to have goals, dreams, and aspirations. In many situations, I am sure that what is in a believer’s heart was planted there by God to begin with, but it is always good to remind ourselves that we are his, that we are created for his honor and his glory, and that we exist for his good pleasure. It’s not necessarily wrong to ask, “What is my purpose?” However, I propose it’s even better to ask, “God, what is your purpose, and what part can I play in your dreams being fulfilled?”