1.05.2012

Finding Purpose

Just before Christmas, Peter called me up and told me to listen to Ravi Zacharias's talk, The Problem of Pleasure (Pt. 1 and Pt. 2). I got busy with other stuff and forgot all about the recommendation, but he kept bugging me about it until I finally downloaded the talk on New Years Day. Let me tell you, listening to Ravi Zacharias on January 1st and being convicted about a lack of purpose is certainly motivation for goal setting!

{Once Upon a Time, in a Galaxy Land Far, Far Away...}

I'll never forget the day that we were sitting in a hot living room of a second floor apartment in the middle of Mozambique, and the subject of Purpose came up. We pondered this idea and discussed what our purpose was on this earth and how God expected us to use our lives and what He wanted us to work towards. We came up with our very own Statement of Purpose, typed it up in a Word document, and promptly forgot about it. Why? I don't think it fit either one of us. It didn't then, it doesn't now.


In his talks about the Problem of Pleasure, Ravi shared a quote from Susanna Wesley (mother of John and Charles) which struck a chord with me:

“Whatever weakens your reason, impairs the tenderness of your conscience, obscures your sense of God, takes off your relish for spiritual things, whatever increases the authority of the body over the mind, that thing is sin to you, however innocent it may seem in itself.”

I think it's so easy to get caught up in the things of this world, the business of living, the "need" for relaxation and rejuvenation, that we, as Christians, can fall into the trap of becoming more like the world instead of more like our Father. It's not that any one of these things is evil in and of itself, but when we have no goal or purpose to work towards, nothing to use as a measuring device against which we hold up all plans and goals, it is easy to be swept up in the little things and busy-ness of each passing year.

As Huxley wrote in Brave New World and Postman followed up on in Amusing Ourselves to Death (one of my favorite books), we are in danger of being overtaken by the need for pleasure while becoming indifferent to the changes in society, government, and the needs of the world. We become inward-focused instead of outward-focused. We dwell on the here and now and how it affects us instead of creating a Life Purpose and focusing on what matters for Eternity.

Clearly, Ravi says it better than I can (and I highly encourage you to listen to his talk on this subject), but I hope you understand what I'm attempting to say. As a couple, we have gone through several major life changes in the last five years. Although we've accomplished a lot (started a business, purchased a rental property, published a book), there have been many times that we have come up with an idea and forged ahead without filtering it through any sort of overarching purpose.

{The Moral of the Story...}

We don't want to float aimlessly through life, so to help with that, we're working on coming up with a Purpose (or Life Goal, if you will) for us a a couple. We need something that we can look at when an opportunity comes along or an idea strikes and ask, "Does this fit with our Purpose? Or is it merely a distraction, a detour that will take our focus off of the long-term goal?" If the answer is, "Yes, this will help us reach our end goal", then we press forward. If the answer is, "It's a good thing - for someone else - but it doesn't fit our Purpose", then it's a whole lot easier to say, "NO" and walk away.

Already, we've been forming tiny goals as filters and have been given the opportunity to use them. As a recent example: a short time ago we were given an opportunity to travel to a location that we've been talking about going to for several years. We were swept up in the moment and when asked if we would seriously be interested, we said, "yes" without giving it too much thought. Some monetary figures were thrown around, but we knew it was several months down the road and we decided we'd have the resources to do it.

After we were home, we looked at one another and said, "Isn't that a lot of money to spend when we still have a house to pay off? Didn't we say that a big trip would be a reward to ourselves once the mortgage was gone? And wouldn't the money we'd be spending on this trip be better used towards paying down the principle?" Because of the goal we had set, we had a reason to reconsider our decision and a reason to say "It sounds wonderful, but we can't go at this time." Yes, it would have been a fun trip, but because we have set a larger, long-term goal for ourselves, it's easier to give up the momentary pleasures for the satisfaction we will have in the end.

2012 Word #1:
PURPOSEFUL

What about you? Do you have a major life goal or a Purpose that you view every decision through? As a Believer, do you keep the Eternal impact in focus when making a choice or do you squish it in when it's convenient? I know I've been guilty of that.

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There are more than 400,000 words in the English language. My only request of you is this: Use them wisely.

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