Lord, just tell me what you want me to do with my life!
The Bible is riddled with promises that point to God having a purpose for your life.
Perhaps you’re like me and spent a good part of your life serving yourself but now you’re ready to spend your life for His glory.
The thought of living your God-given purpose is exciting, but it doesn’t just happen.
It’s not like you’re at you’re corporate job one day and the next day, your world is turned upside down and suddenly you’re walking in your purpose.
Finding and fulfilling your God-given purpose is more of a journey, so my hope today is to get you on your path to finding and fulfilling your God given purpose.
Purpose is bigger than what you do and even who you are. It’s an expression of a deep passion that benefits others and glorifies God.
One early winter morning, it was unseasonably warm for the time of year in the Northeast. I decided I would take advantage of the beautiful weather and go for a hike. I love hiking. It serves many purposes. I get to exercise, enjoy the outdoors, AND spend quiet time with God.
That week was particularly stressful, so I really needed it. But since time was limited, I had to stick with one of my predictable trails to ensure I’d be back in time. No time for exploring on this day!
About 45 mins into my hike, I stopped and looked around. Panic rushed over me. I had no idea where I was. Nothing looked the same. There were no familiar trees. They were all bare. The path and the woods were both covered in the same leaves, making it impossible to tell where the footpath went.
How did I get here and worse, where do I go?
Off in the distance I saw a man walking. I thought “Praise God” and started to follow him. As my feet quickened to keep pace with the stranger, I heard God’s voice speak to my heart.
He said, “So you found a path. But is it the right path?”
I stopped frozen, confused as to whether to entertain God or keep pace on the only other person that could potentially get me back safely. I didn’t have an answer. “God, I have no idea if I’m on the right path.”
“Then why are you following him?” is the question I heard in return.
In that moment, I knew that I needed to let this life-saving stranger fade off into the woods and ask the Holy Spirit for guidance. I pulled out my compass and realized that I in fact was going the wrong way. I was on a path alright, but not the right one.
It got me thinking how easy it is to get lost and jump on the wrong path. After all, it doesn’t take much to get lost, in the woods or in life.
In Acts 9 the Apostle Paul, who at that time was named Saul, was traveling on his way to Damascus searching for followers of ‘The Way’ (that’s what Christians were called then). His purpose was to persecute them.
On his path he was met by the Lord Jesus and struck blind. His traveling companions had to escort him the rest of the way to Damascus where he would be met by a man named Ananias who was instructed by the Lord to restore Paul’s sight. And that is when Paul’s purpose began.
He went on to meet with the disciples, preach to the gentiles, travel on 3 (possibly more) missionary journeys, and wrote two-thirds of the new testament. I think we can all agree that Paul was a man who lived his purpose.
Even though God had a path marked out for him, initially, Paul was on the wrong path.
God has a path marked out for you too.
I get it. When you feel lost it’s tempting to jump on any trail. You can even assume the path someone else is on is good for you. But unless you stay on YOUR path, unless you run YOUR race, you’re going to miss it.
So let’s glean from Paul’s story the 4 steps to finding your path to purpose.
Step #1: Relax.
“Be still and know that I am God.” — Psalm 46:10
When you’re lost, as I was in the woods, the common reaction is panic and fear. Questions like “Where am I?” Will I make it back before dark?” And, “Why didn’t I grab a map?” race through your mind. The same is true when you come to the realization that your life lacks purpose.
But here’s what I tell myself, in the woods and in life. “The Holy Spirit can and will guide me. I just need to relax.”
The same is true for finding your purpose. When you panic, you make impulsive, fear driven decisions (or no decisions). And when you quiet your mind and allow the Holy Spirit to lead you, your next step begins to unfold.
Like King David said so well in Psalm 57:2: “I cry out to the God Most High, to God who will fulfill his purpose for me.”
Step #2: Rely
When Paul was struck blind by the Lord Jesus on the road to Damascus, he had to rely on those God provided to care for him. He had to relearn what it meant to rely on and trust in God. Remember, prior to his conversion, he had a distorted view of who God was and what it meant to serve Him. We too can have a distorted view as to what our purpose should look like and how it should play out.
If we’re being honest, we often think that our “purpose” will be a version of a biblical fairytale. That’s not what Paul experienced. In 2 Corinthians 11:25 he shares with us just a glimpse of the trouble he had to endure: “Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked. Once I spent a whole night and a day adrift at sea.” If Paul could relearn how to rely on God for EVERYTHING, so can we.
Step #3: Ready Yourself.
The call that God has placed on your life will likely not manifest overnight. Paul did not encounter Jesus on the road to Damascus on Tuesday and write most of the new testament on Thursday. True purpose takes preparation. In Galatians 1, Paul says:
“But even before I was born, God chose me and called me by his marvelous grace. Then it pleased him 16 to reveal his Son to me[e] so that I would proclaim the Good News about Jesus to the Gentiles.
When this happened, I did not rush out to consult with any human being. 17 Nor did I go up to Jerusalem to consult with those who were apostles before I was. Instead, I went away into Arabia, and later I returned to the city of Damascus.
18 Then three years later I went to Jerusalem to get to know Peter,[g] and I stayed with him for fifteen days. 19 The only other apostle I met at that time was James, the Lord’s brother. 20 I declare before God that what I am writing to you is not a lie.”
God’s timing is more like a crockpot than a microwave. He’s not in a rush and He’s less concerned with getting you to our purpose and more concerned with keeping you there.
Purpose takes preparation.
Step #4: Respond.
Long before we find our purpose there has to be answer to an even greater calling. That’s the calling to spread the gospel. So while Paul did take the time to prepare for his purpose, he wasted NO time in fulfilling the great commission.
In Acts 9:20 we see that immediately after regaining his sight and strength, he began to preach. “Immediately he preached [e]the Christ in the synagogues, that He is the Son of God.” (Acts 9:20).
If God is going to reveal your unique purpose, He’s first going to see if you will fulfill the purpose he has for every one of His children. And that purpose can be found in Matthew 28:19: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”
Our world needs Jesus. God he will use you—your talents, your temperament, your time, and your testimony to reach the lost. There’s no greater purpose than this.
God desires that you find your path to purpose even more than you do. So will you relax, rely on Him, ready yourself, and respond to the call? I believe that when you do, you will be on the right path. His path.