“They saved three lives and it was great”: Three steps into your life purpose

In the midst of all the 2022 retrospectives in the news lately, this headline caught my eye: “Courageous heroes helped define 2022’s wild weather.”

The article cites Hurricane Ian, “arguably the biggest weather story of the year,” and describes the “countless first responders who endured a massive physical and emotional toll” to make “thousands of rescues in the storm’s wake.” When historic flooding swept through the St. Louis metro area in July, animal rescues were made by Central County Fire and Rescue and The Humane Society of Missouri’s Best Buddy Center. 

Buffalo residents responded to a record-setting blizzard by helping to shovel snow in order to free residents who were snowed in. Their efforts helped elderly people who needed medical attention and babies with families unable to get vehicles out of their driveways. 

And police rescued three people who fell through the ice on a frozen lake in northern New Jersey. “Everybody was so heroic,” an onlooker told the media. “They went out, and they saved three lives and it was great.” 

When I read stories like these, I find myself wishing I was in them. There is something in us that wants to do something beyond ourselves. We all want to live a life that truly matters. 

My heart resonates with the life motto of one of my mentors: “Attempt something so great for God, it’s doomed to failure unless God be in it.” 

A good question to ask ourselves early in 2023 is: How can I do something so great this year? 

One: Believe that God has a will for you that is best for you 

Implied in my mentor’s life motto is that what we attempt for God is something God wants us to attempt for him. Knowing my mentor as I did, observing his deep prayer life and abiding commitment to Christ as his Lord, this condition was an unnecessary addition for him. 

But it is a necessary condition for the rest of us. 

God has a will for every dimension of your life. His will is “good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2). His plans are “for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11). He wants to “equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight” (Hebrews 13:21). 

However, you and I are enculturated to be self-sufficient people. Our society rewards those who take charge of their lives, planning their years and their days and then ruthlessly executing their plans. 

As a result, we need humbly to admit that God can do far more with our lives than we can do with them. Then we need to begin every day this year by deciding that we will seek and follow God’s will for that day: “Trust in the Lᴏʀᴅ with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths” (Proverbs 3:5–6). 

Two: Identify and follow God’s purpose for your life 

Billy Graham wrote, “This is the greatest discovery you will ever make: You were created to know God and to be his friend forever. . . . But God not only has a general purpose for each of us; he also has a specific plan for each of our lives.” 

As a result, he encouraged us: “Don’t wander through life without any purpose or direction, but pray and seek God’s will, and learn to follow him.” 

I’m convinced that God has an overarching purpose for every life, a metanarrative for each of us. For example, Paul knew he was to be “an apostle to the Gentiles” (Romans 11:13; Acts 9:15; Galatians 1:15–16) while Peter was sent to the Jews (Galatians 2:7). 

When Jesus calls us to be “fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19), he has a “pond” in which he intends us to fish. And he wants you to know his will for you: “Do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is” (Ephesians 5:17). 

His purpose aligns with the abilities, opportunities, resources, and spiritual gifts he has entrusted to us. (For more on discovering and using your spiritual gifts, please see Ryan Denison’s excellent study, What Are My Spiritual Gifts?) Your Lord wants each of us to be able to complete the sentence, “My ministry is __________________.” If you’re not sure how to fill in that blank, ask your Father to guide you to his purpose for your life. 

Oswald Chambers was right: “You have to be able to walk in the light of the vision that has been given to you.” 

Three: Submit your day to God 

So, let’s begin every day this year by submitting that day to the Lord as a “living sacrifice” (Romans 12:1). Let’s ask his Spirit to “fill” and control us (Ephesians 5:18). And let’s identify and fulfill God’s purpose for our lives each day as each day comes. 

Annie Dillard was right: “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” 

Will you spend your day fulfilling your Father’s purpose for you?