I have been reflecting on Paul's address to the Ephesians elders found in Acts 20. While it is a sobering charge to church leaders, it also has some important elements that pertain to personal purpose. You may want to read Paul's comments first, then come back so we can work our way through this week's Memo topic.
Last week, we looked at Ruth's surrender of her future and well-being to remain loyal to her mother-in-law and how God blessed her in return. This week, we see the same kind of surrender in Paul's life. Paul did not pursue his purpose when it was convenient. He did not treat his purpose like a hobby, but invested all he had in seeing it fulfilled:
"I served the Lord with great humility and with tears and in the midst of severe testing by the plots of my Jewish opponents. You know that I have not hesitated to preach anything that would be helpful to you but have taught you publicly and from house to house" (Acts 20:19-20).
Paul also had a full-time job, from which he supported not only his needs, but also the needs of his team:
"I have not coveted anyone’s silver or gold or clothing. You yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions. In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’” (Acts 20:33-35).
Everything Paul did, including his job, contributed to his life mission, He structured his entire life to be able to fulfill his purpose. As Paul said his good-byes, he was able to look back with no regrets, for he had done everything he knew to do to fulfill his purpose.
Of course, Paul learned his focus from the Master, who was also consumed by His life purpose: "His disciples remembered that it is written: 'Zeal for your house will consume me'" (John 2:17). This zeal can be likened to the burning bush that Moses encountered, for it burned but was not burned up or consumed: "Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. So Moses thought, 'I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up'” (Exodus 3:2b). The bush did not burn up because God energized it, and you will not "burn up" in your purpose either, for it is God working in and through you.
Is your purpose a hobby, or is the central theme of your life? Do you "get to" your purpose when it is convenient, or have you worked to order your life so that everything you do is related to that purpose, sort of like a ladder on a wall? As make progress up the ladder of life, is it bringing you closer to your heavenly calling?
This focus will not happen overnight, but it will not just occur as you passively wait for it. You must first know your purpose and then shape your life to surround your purpose, to nurture and strengthen it. As you do, you will be able to look back and say, like Paul, that you gave your all in the pursuit of what you were created to do. If I can help you in any way on your purpose journey, please let me know.
NEW BOOK: I am pleased to announce that the first volume of my Live the Word Commentary is now available for purchase off Amazon. This first installment is on the book of Acts, with Matthew to follow in the next month.