When Wayne was just six years old, his father built an ice rink in the family’s backyard in Ontario, Canada. Why? “It was for self-preservation,” his father, Walter, said. “I got sick of taking him to the park and sitting there for hours freezing to death.” All his son wanted to do was play ice hockey. He had been skating and playing hockey since the age of two, and by the time he was six he was competing in youth leagues far above his age group. When he retired from his professional career in 1999 at age thirty-eight, “The Great One” was considered to be the greatest hockey player ever. Wayne Gretzky knew from the beginning that hockey was his life’s calling.
At an early age, Michael wanted to win every basketball game he played. His father, James, noted, “What he does have is a competition problem. He was born with that . . . the person he tries to outdo most of the time is himself.” Michael dribbled and shot his way into the University of North Carolina in 1981 and led the team to a national championship the next year. Collegiate championships, Olympic gold medals, NBA championships, and MVP awards—Michael Jordan was just fulfilling his childhood dream of being the best basketball player ever.
In September of 2013, long-distance swimmer Diana Nyad successfully completed her fifth attempt to swim the 110-mile span from Cuba to Florida. This feat was accomplished without a shark cage! With this historic world-record swim, at age sixty-four Diana achieved her decades-long dream to successfully meet this goal. (Her first unsuccessful attempt to swim from Havana, Cuba to Key West occurred thirty-five years earlier in 1978.) Diana was introduced to competitive swimming in seventh grade, and throughout her youth and adult life she never lost the desire to attempt more stringent and difficult long-distance swims. Beyond her physical ability, the other key component to Diana’s successful swimming career has been attributed to her positive mental stamina—her passion to meet a challenge.
These well-known athletes reveal an important connection—the connection between purpose and passion. The deeper the conviction about purpose in life, the deeper the passion to excel. But I’m not just talking about athletes. Life is filled with people who are passionately committed to fulfilling what they know is God’s purpose for their life.
By the end of this article, I hope you will believe that God has a purpose for your life that only you can fulfill.
Discover God’s Purpose for Your Life
Whether in a spiritual or a natural sense (and sometimes they go together), there is great power in knowing our purpose in life. If we know that our purpose in life is “A,” then “B-Z” will never prove to be a temptation. Focus, and the ability to say “No,” is made easier. There are fewer distractions and an increased sense of esteem and self-knowledge.
In terms of our contributions to others, the sooner we recognize our calling, the sooner the fruits of that calling can be shared. And nowhere is that more evident than in the kingdom of God, where life and ministry callings come from God Himself. The Bible is filled with examples of God’s call on an individual’s life. Abraham, Moses, Joshua, Samuel, David, Jeremiah, Gideon, Mary the mother of Jesus, the original twelve disciples, Saul of Tarsus who became Paul—the list goes on of those whom God called to do something specific for Him.
The reality is that all Christians are “called to be saints” (Romans 1:7). In fact, the word church in the original Greek refers to those “called out”—in a spiritual sense, called out of the world to God. So every Christian has a divine purpose: “to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called” (Ephesians 4:1). We have a purpose as servants of Christ to carry out the instructions He left with His apostles—to proclaim the Gospel and make disciples in all the nations of the world (Matthew 28:19-20).
That purpose alone—called individually by God, to enjoy fellowship with Him, before the foundations of the earth were formed (Ephesians 1:4-6)—should be enough to keep us focused, energized, and prioritized for a lifetime. But there is an even deeper degree of calling and purpose I believe every Christian should seek, find, and fulfill.
Pursue God's Purpose for Your Life
An old farmer had harbored a secret desire for years to be an evangelist. One day, taking a break from his plowing under a shade tree, he looked at the sky and thought he saw the clouds forming the letters “P” and “C.” “It’s a sign from the Lord,” he concluded. He left his crops and went out to “Preach Christ.” Unfortunately, his preaching skills were not as refined as his farming skills, and he saw little response to his ministry. After hearing one of the farmer’s sermons, a friend who knew about the cloud story came alongside him and said, “Are you sure God wasn’t saying “Plant Corn”?
Discovering God’s will and calling at a personal level can be challenging. Yet Scripture gives us every reason to believe that God has specific tasks for each of us to do for Him. First, Scripture tells us that we are formed in our “mother’s womb,” and we are “fearfully and wonderfully made… and skillfully wrought” by God (Psalm 139:13-15). Second, “the days fashioned for [us]” were written before they came to pass (Psalm 139:16). Third, the Holy Spirit distributes spiritual gifts to each believer “individually as He wills” (1 Corinthians 12:11). Fourth, spiritual gifts are a serious indicator of what God expects us to do for Him (Romans 12:4-8). And fifth, there is ample biblical precedent for God calling specific individuals to carry out specific tasks and ministries for Him. For God to direct some into specific service while leaving the rest to “trial and error” seems inconsistent with the nature of a loving Heavenly Father.
I have been asked many times, "How can I know God's will for my life?" Here are some things to consider.
- Be obedient to the will of God you know today. Every moral and spiritual command in Scripture is the will of God for your life. There is no reason to expect God to reveal more of His will to someone who is not being faithful to do what is already revealed.
- Expect God to guide you into His will. Live, pray, and minister expectantly based on the conviction that He has a calling for your life.
- Identify your spiritual gift(s) from God and seek out ways to minister with your gift(s). Get counsel from others about the effectiveness of your ministry.
- Live actively, not passively. Don’t wait for God to show you His personal will. Assume that you are in His will today and that He will guide you and reveal more as you walk with Him.
- Ask! Tell God you want to do what He has created and called you to do. Don’t be guilty of having not because you asked not (James 4:2).
Remain Faithful to God’s Purpose for Your Life
Someone once said, “If it’s Monday and you want to know God’s will for Tuesday, just wait until Wednesday.” Well, there’s a sense in which that is true. Everything that happens can ultimately be viewed as God’s will—permissively or intentionally. But I believe there is greater accountability and responsibility involved—more than “waiting” would suggest.
Discovering God’s will is only half the task. The other half is nurturing that will—being faithful to what God has called you to do and giving it a clear vision. Think of it as the difference between being a child and a steward. A child is a seeker while a steward is a server. A child wants to know “What?” while a steward asks, “Where and When?” A child is curious: “What is your will for me?” while a steward is committed: “I’m here to do Your will, O Lord.”
Paul’s words to Timothy suggest great responsibility for the young pastor: “Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you” (2 Timothy 1:6). It is God’s responsibility to show us His will for our life. But it is our responsibility to nurture His calling and perfect it for His glory. Developing a God-given dream for our life starts with a personal conviction that is fueled by knowing and fulfilling His call for our life. Once we connect our passion with God’s purpose for our life, we are free to chase our dreams with everything we’ve got. Is it ever fun? If Wayne Gretzky, Michael Jordan, and Diana Nyad are any indication, the answer is a resounding “Yes”!
This article originally appeared in the January 2014 issue of Turning Points devotional magazine.