I know the plans I have in mind for you, declares the Lord; they are plans for peace, not disaster, to give you a future filled with hope. When you call me and come and pray to me, I will listen to you. When you search for me, yes, search for me with all your heart, you will find me. I will be present for you, declares the Lord, and I will end your captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have scattered you, and I will bring you home after your long exile, declares the Lord (Jeremiah 29:11-14, Common English Bible).
In the United Methodist Church, candidates for ministry must read a book titled The Christian as Minister and discuss it with their pastor. It is one of the very first steps in the candidacy process.
I can’t say I was overly fond of the book, but there is one part of the book that has stuck with me for years. The book discussed “vocation.” It said (I paraphrase) that our vocation is not necessarily the way we make our living. Instead, we find our vocation in life by finding the place where what we want to do in life and what God most needs done in the world. The authors (the book never says who actually wrote it) went on to give a couple of examples. Let’s say you write television commercials for personal hygiene products and you really get a kick out of your work. You meet the first condition, what we want to do in life. And, we might even be doing the world a favor in helping to sell these products. But we probably miss the boat on the second condition. While this may be good for people and the world, it isn’t what God most needs done in the world.
On the other hand, if you are a physician and you work in a leper colony you have the work God most needs done in the world in spades. Let there be no doubt, this is a place where God needs work done. That being said, if you find your work distasteful and depressing, not only are you not meeting condition number one, you probably aren’t helping your patients very much either.
Where we find our purpose is, where what we want to do meets up with what God most needs done in the world. To make me a math teacher (for those who really know me, quit laughing) would be ridiculous. First of all I don’t like it. Second, I am not any good at it. And third, well, I never would have gotten through the course work. I don’t think I would have met any of the criteria. But as a preacher, I love what I do and it is definitely something God needs done in the world.
I love this definition. When I became a candidacy mentor several years later and found they had revised the book, I was terribly disappointed when I discovered they had removed this part of the book in the revisions. I thought it was the best part of the book.
Several years ago I ran across a Facebook meme that seems to speak to this very well. Mark Twain is credited with saying, “The two most important days in your life are, the day you were born and the day you find out why.” Personally I would add a third date, the day you discovered the love God has for you. That date is important because that date is when we respond to God’s call.
God put us on this planet for a purpose. Some of us have found that purpose and are living it out in the world. Some are still searching. I believe the easiest way to find it is to look around at the world. What do you see that breaks God’s heart? What can YOU do about it?
I have a friend named Bob who made a mission trip years ago to Haiti. While he was there he noticed a child drinking water from tire ruts in the road. As he continued in his work he saw there were children, again and again, drinking water that was fit for human consumption. It broke Bob’s heart. If you asked him, I am pretty sure he would say he believed it broke God’s heart.
When Bob got back home he did some research and found that one in eight Haitian children die before they reach age 10 due to water borne diseases and bacteria. Bob found his purpose.
Bob makes his living and personally funds some of his mission work. But, that isn’t his vocation. Bob’s vocation became “Clean Water for Haiti.” After doing some research Bob discovered that for less than $60 he can purchase filters and five gallon buckets that allow families to filter up to 25 gallons a day for up to 10 years.
Today Bob funds a great deal of the work with “Clean Water for Haiti” and when he isn’t in Haiti or on his lawn mower, he is telling other people about the work, raising money to buy more filters so more people can have clean water.
Bob found the intersection. Bob loves helping these kids and he is doing some of the work God most needs done in the world. He has found his purpose.
If you are going to make a New Year’s Resolution, this just might be the place where you need to make one. It would also be a place where the alternative I am going to suggest might just play in for you.
Have you found your purpose/mission? If so, what is it?
Have a blessed day in the Lord.
Joy and Peace,
Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved