I’ve often prayed to God for what he wants me to do in this life, and even though He has given me confirmation, there never has been specific instructions for what to do next, and how to get there. So my question is, does God give us specific instructions for how to live out that purpose, and that we just need to dwell in Him more often in order to listen to what it is he wants us to do, or is it just gaining confirmation, then working out how we can get there ourselves? If it’s the former, how can we get these instructions?
@AlphaOmega That is a great question. In my opinion we discover our purpose in life as we prayerfully grow in understanding of ourselves and step through open doors that God has placed in our lives. I think that we must take the initiative to learn about ourselves and to search for open doors, but we also must also prayerfully seek God’s direction during this process. I believe God’s direction comes through circumstances, other people and a knowledge of ourselves / the Word / the world.
In short, I think that we all must grow in wisdom so that we become the type of people who make better decisions. I have included resources below that I hope would be helpful. Please do ask more questions / keep the discussion going
- Know yourself - your talents, abilities, what open doors you have access to at this time in your life, your dreams
- Know the Scriptures - who God calls us to be in the world
- Get council from older, wiser, godly people on what they see in you / when you make decisions
- prayerfully ask God to open / shut the right doors as you journey through life
Tim Keller: Your Plan’s, God’s Plans
Hey there @AlphaOmega! Great ask! I love and agree with what @SeanO wrote with regard to your question. In musing about the notion of “purpose” and the search for it, I had these thoughts (bear with me with where I go, here):
Ok, so full disclosure…I’m a bit of a cinephile…(lover of movies). I love the movie The Matrix (and it’s sequels). It’s hands down one of my faves! It’s a mishmash of a few different genres, ie action/adventure, Kung Fu, fantasy, philosophical quasi-religious, futuristic drama! This quote is from the first sequel, to the movie, 'The Matrix’:
There’s no escaping reason, no denying purpose, for as we both know, without purpose we would not exist. It is purpose that created us, purpose that connects us, purpose that pulls us, that guides us, that drives us; it is purpose that defines, purpose that binds us… ~ Agent Smith from Matrix: Reloaded
I think Agent Smith hit the nail on the head: at the root of why we or anything exists is to fulfill its PURPOSE.
The Bible makes it clear that God created humanity and that He created humanity for His glory (Isaiah 43:7). That is true for every human being, regardless of age, sex, nationality, ethnicity or religion. Additionally, the creator of a thing, gives it its purpose. We don’t determine our purpose, (although that’s increasingly been the deception of many). We discover it. God – the Creator of us, gives; decides and defines our purpose – which is, again, according to the scriptures: to glorify God.
The Westminster Catechism echoes this truth:
> “What is the chief end of man? Man’s chief end (or ultimate purpose) is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever.”
Part of what it means to glorify God is to feel, think and act (with body, soul, mind and strength) in ways that reflect and give evidence of His supreme greatness and that represent God well. Part of what it looks like to fulfill our purpose of glorifying God is by:
- Acknowledging who God is (our Creator, for starters)
- Praise AND worship Him as such.
- Living our lives in relationship and faithful service to Him (1 Samuel 12:24; John 17:4).
Again, glorifying God is the broad overarching purpose of every human being. However there is – and I believe that this is more of where the basis of your question lay – a more specific purpose God gives to each of us.
Jesus said that,
“I have glorified You [down here] on the earth by completing the work that You gave Me to do.” ~ John 17:4 AMP
Jesus glorified God by fulfilling the purpose for which He came. So how does that look for YOU in your everyday life? How do you find YOUR specific purpose? Welp, since God created man in His image (Genesis 1:26–27) and uniquely and intimately formed and knitted him together (Psalm 139:16), it would make reasonable sense to conclude that man’s purpose cannot be fulfilled apart from Him. So, the more we get to know our Creator, the better we understand who we are and what our specific purpose is.
I love this quote thought to be given by Aristotle:
Where your talents and the needs of the world cross; there lies your vocation.
So, what are your gifts? What comes easiest to you that other people may need to train hard and have struggle doing? What issue(s) or need(s) in the world and the Body of Christ keeps you up at night (figuratively or literally)? What you were gifted to do you were called to do. What you were called to do you’ve been gifted to do.
God has a plan and purpose for those gifts that He’s deposited in you. Thankfully, we can be confident that whatever those plans look like, they will ultimately result in His glory (Proverbs 3:6; 1 Corinthians 10:31).
I hope that adds a little more in the answering of your question. Grace and peace!
@AlphaOmega I think a lot of people can relate to your question. Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Life was very helpful to me, Warren covers the physical and spiritual aspects of following Gods will for our life. Ravi Zacharias book The Grand Weaver was also helpful. And I’ll leave you with some thoughts and encouragement that people have given to me.
In determining what we do and what God does, some things could be obvious such as if you feel God has called you to the medical field then a lot of fulfilling that purpose is you going out to get a education and working that out. God may then open doors for you once you have the qualifications to proceed with being placed somewhere where you will be most useful.
While God may give the vision, you will find that it is a step by step process to seeing that vision fulfilled where step no 2 is not revealed until step no 1 has been completed.
There may be experiences and growth stages you need to go through in order to prepare you for your purpose. God sees the whole picture, we only see what’s in front of us. This is a time to trust God as we step out in faith to take action and also as we endure the process of personal development.
God may give specifics but remember He wants us to grow up. To be mature and to know what’s right and wrong. Just like a parent doesn’t want to have to think for their kids all their life, there comes a time when the mother eagle pushes her babies out of the nest and expects them to fly.
God loves to interact with us. That’s the point. It’s a conversation, it’s a relationship. His Spirit is there for our questions as much as our praise. Trust Him, even when there’s silence; He’s still saying something.
Thank you all so much for the responses. I’m currently trying to get in this skill (there’s a book about it: Deep Work by Cal Newport) in order to help me in my endeavours for my purpose. I’ve prayed to God, and it seems like he’s confirmed it (I asked him to confirm it by asking “if my Grandfather says that this is useful, that this will be a sign from You that it’s what you want”) but I’m just not sure if thats the right thing ( I got this from Judges 6:37). This might seem I’m stupid, either in the sense that “You’ve gotten confirmation, what are you waiting for?” or that “You MIGHT’VE taken this out of context and applied it to your own situation without knowing”. But the thing is, I am currently lost in the early stages of this skill, and I’M JUST SO UNSURE right now whether God actually confirmed this or not.
You have raised an amazing question and in such an honest way. I really appreciate you bringing this to the community - I think many others will find this a helpful conversation for their circumstances too!
One way I think about this question is raising my children. If one of my kids says, “Dad, do you want me to play chess?” I might say, “Yes, if you’d like to do so.” They say, “Ok, I want to learn chess.” I sign them up for a chess class. Now, in their second meeting, they come home from the class saying, “Why did you make me take chess? I lost a game today and it was horrible!”
From their perspective, it could seem like they discovered a purpose for their education, their father confirmed it, and it still went terribly badly. From my perspective, I saw a curiosity in a good subject, I encouraged it, and now they are growing through the experience.
What happens next? Perhaps they press through and become a slightly above average chess player (or a grandmaster…). Or perhaps they give up chess, but the experience helps them preserve through a similar challenge after they are playing soccer. While I didn’t sign them up for chess so they would be more ready for soccer, sometimes that’s how life works out.
Either way, my child remains responsible for their behavior, their choices, and their approach. Just because I encourage their dreams and open a door for the pursuit does not mean I am guaranteeing their success or ensuring that everything will work out. Life always has surprises - and sometimes they are bad ones.
So, even if you receive God’s confirmation to move ahead, the future will remain uncertain. The goal, whatever your circumstances, is to remain faithful to his ways, growing in fellowship with him, and honoring him in how you conduct yourself.
Thanks so much. This is really relieving, since I was afraid that I might move in a direction that wasn’t affiliated with God, and moving into something else entirely.
I think that’s a wonderful and very good concern. May your tribe increase!
One of the great joys of an obedient heart and a growing knowledge of Scripture is how much MORE freedom we gain about how to live our lives.
There’s a quote by Augustine you might find helpful:
Once for all, then, a short precept is given unto you: Love God, and do what you will: whether you hold your peace, through love hold your peace; whether you cry out, through love cry out; whether you correct, through love correct; whether you spare, through love do you spare: In all things, let the root of love be within, for of this root can nothing spring but what is good.
What a reformation of the world it would be, if all doctors conducted their medical practices out of love for their patients and love for God (rather than, say, prestige), if government officials served out of love for God and their constituents (rather than, say, power), and so on. May this be true of me as well in all that I do!
That reminds me of the quote by AW Tozer:
“It is not what a man does that determines whether his work is sacred or secular, it is WHY he does it.”
Hi @AlphaOmega, a sincere question and what an eternal question! The answers too are eternal , but let’s look at some key pointers as others have shared to help us gain greater clarity and perspective.
The ultimate calling, purpose and destiny of our lives is Jesus.
Colossians 1:16 NKJV [boldface mine]
For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him.
Romans 8:28-30 NKJV [boldface mine]
And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.
Now, to the big question that thrills and plagues every true lover of God: What is His specific or unique purpose for me (or this situation)?
To share my experience, I’ve not yet arrived in always knowing immediately as to what He is specifying, but I have arrived to a place in my life where I’m discerning now what is not of Him. Meditating on the word of Christ (not the law) as helped my heart in a way to discern the soul (willfulness) from the spirit (willingness).
Colossians 3:16 NKJV [boldface mine]
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.
Hebrews 4:12 NKJV [boldface mine]
For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
Matthew 26:41 NKJV [boldface mine]
Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation.The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.
Before I share a few pointers from what I’ve gleaned from my experiences so far (and I’m still gleaning ), I want to emphasize this foundation again that leads us in our decision-making:
We often tend to misplace our notion in assuming our unique callings to be the center of our lives and our ultimate calling (to be conformed to the image of Christ) as the perimeter or circumference of our lives. Whereas, each of our unique callings are the concentric circumferences, the spiral pathways that meander our lives into the center of our ultimate calling (being conformed to image of His Son).
Now, let me share a few pointers:
- As we truly and prayerfully seek Him, our Lord Jesus guides our thoughts and desires.
Proverbs 16:3 NKJV [boldface mine]
Commit your works to the Lord, and your thoughts will be established.
Philippians 2:13 NKJV [boldface mine]
For it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.
Luke 18:40-42 NKJV [boldface mine]
So Jesus stood still and commanded him to be brought to Him. And when he had come near, He asked him, saying, “What do you want Me to do for you?”
He said, “Lord, that I may receive my sight.”
Then Jesus said to him, “Receive your sight; your faith has made you well.”
- Our Lord ministers/confirms through His Body (genuine believers/fellowship). When Apostle Paul was stranded face to face with our Lord Jesus, Paul asked Jesus to reveal His specific purpose for him; here our Lord guided and instructed Paul through another devout believer Ananias.
Acts 9:6 NKJV [boldface mine]
So he, trembling and astonished, said, “Lord, what do You want me to do?”
Then the Lord said to him, “Arise and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”
Acts 9:11-15 NKJV [boldface mine]
So the Lord said to him, “Arise and go to the street called Straight, and inquire at the house of Judas for one called Saul of Tarsus, for behold, he is praying. And in a vision he has seen a man named Ananias coming in and putting his hand on him, so that he might receive his sight.” Then Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much harm he has done to Your saints in Jerusalem. And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on Your name.” But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel."
- Your unique gifting and talents which you recognize, that which you work at it with ease and enjoy too can guide you on your specific purpose.
Ephesians 4:11-13 NLV [boldface mine]
Christ gave gifts to men. He gave to some the gift to be missionaries, some to be preachers, others to be preachers who go from town to town. He gave others the gift to be church leaders and teachers. These gifts help His people work well for Him. And then the church which is the body of Christ will be made strong. All of us are to be as one in the faith and in knowing the Son of God. We are to be full-grown Christians standing as high and complete as Christ is Himself.
Romans 12:6-9 NLV [boldface mine]
We all have different gifts that God has given to us by His loving-favor. We are to use them. If someone has the gift of preaching the Good News, he should preach. He should use the faith God has given him. If someone has the gift of helping others, then he should help. If someone has the gift of teaching, he should teach. If someone has the gift of speaking words of comfort and help, he should speak. If someone has the gift of sharing what he has, he should give from a willing heart. If someone has the gift of leading other people, he should lead them. If someone has the gift of showing kindness to others, he should be happy as he does it.
- The Holy Spirit Himself leads us and corrects our steps as we prayerfully take actions even if it is a decision between two true and good options. Most times, the enemy could burden us in our focus and bring in paralysis and inaction, in such times, we need to prayerfully seek God and counsel from other devout believers and step out believing that He will not allow us through any wrong door even if it seems a good option at that time. When we take a step prayerfully, the Spirit bears witness with our spirits. If our restful peace is disturbed, we could reconsider our step. Apostle Paul stepped out on a decision to preach the word but the Holy Spirit redirected him. The Holy Spirit directed him to do the right thing at the right time for the right people; in retrospect we see the hand of God and His wisdom.
Isaiah 30:21 NKJV
Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying,
“This is the way, walk in it,”
Whenever you turn to the right hand
Or whenever you turn to the left.
Romans 8:16 NKJV
The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.
Acts 16:6 NLT [boldface mine]
Next Paul and Silas traveled through the area of Phrygia and Galatia, because the Holy Spirit had prevented them from preaching the word in the province of Asia at that time .
- Our God is our Abba (Good Father) and He would help us discover our purposes which would not be hard and heavy. When we find this purpose, it will definitely bring along more life in our inner man even as our Lord Jesus affirms.
Matthew 11:30 NKJV [boldface mine]
For My yoke is easy and My burden is light .
John 10:10b NKJV
I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.
Ephesians 5:8-17 ICB [boldface mine]
In the past you were full of darkness, but now you are full of light in the Lord. So live like children who belong to the light. Light brings every kind of goodness, right living, and truth. Try to learn what pleases the Lord. Do not do the things that people in darkness do. That brings nothing good. But do good things to show that the things done in darkness are wrong. It is shameful even to talk about what those people do in secret. But the light makes all things easy to see. And everything that is made easy to see can become light. This is why it is said:
“Wake up, sleeper!
Rise from death,
and Christ will shine on you.”
So be very careful how you live. Do not live like those who are not wise. Live wisely. I mean that you should use every chance you have for doing good, because these are evil times. So do not be foolish with your lives. But learn what the Lord wants you to do.
One final thought in conclusion, the narration of Lazarus’ resurrection (John 11) gives us great hope and consolation that He would work out His purpose for our lives even in our dead situations. This hope relieves us of any condemnation of having missed or missing God’s specific purpose for our lives.
John 12:2 NKJV [boldface mine]
There they made Him a supper; and Martha served, but Lazarus was one of those who sat at the table with Him.
John 12:9-11 NKJV [boldface mine]
Now a great many of the Jews knew that He was there; and they came, not for Jesus’ sake only, but that they might also see Lazarus, whom He had raised from the dead. But the chief priests plotted to put Lazarus to death also, because on account of him many of the Jews went away and believed in Jesus.
The ‘core’ of the ultimate purpose we may say, is for us to believe in Him (John 12:2) and help others to believe in Him (John 12:9-11).
Let’s ask for wisdom to guide us:
James 1:5 NKJV
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.
All praise, glory and honor be unto the only wise God, Jesus Christ. Amen
THIS. IS. AWESOME. Thank you so much Patrick. This is a REALLY thought provoking post. Thank you so much for sharing.
God bless you
I’m currently reading Ravi’s book “The Grand Weaver”, and I’m trying to apply it into my own walk with God. On the chapter Your Will Matters, Ravi talks about writing down our purpose. I’m confused if he means purpose as in our calling, or purpose as in to be conformed more to the image of Christ. Any ideas?
Hi @AlphaOmega, spotted your question just this week, it made me pull out my copy of the book and revisit the chapter. As you’re asking specifically to the relevance of the statement ‘So write down your purpose.’ in accordance with the chapter ‘Your Will Matters’, let me share my observations.
In the book ‘The Grand Weaver’, the chapter ‘Your Calling Matters’ precedes the chapter ‘Your Will Matters’. In the chapter ‘Your Calling Matters’, the author specifically deals with two distinguishing aspects; ‘Our First Call’ and ‘Our Specific Call.’
Your confusion expressed in your question fits perfectly into the two distinguishing aspects of our call as the author describes:
‘Our First Call’: To be conformed to the Image of Christ, for we are His temple.
‘Our Specific Call’: This is your specific purpose as in your specific calling. This could well be a commonplace secular calling as the author clearly emphasizes that the opposite of ‘sacred’ is not ‘secular’ but rather ‘profane.’
Now, this could leave us without a choice to answer the statement ‘So write down your purpose.’ unless we grab hold of the statement in context to the author’s flow of thoughts.
Here, in the chapter ‘Your Will Matters’, the author begins to build a bigger theme in terms of our own individual free-will (independence) and the consequences (character) therein produced by those choices exercised by the free-will. The author humbly suggests that we submit to God’s Will and be led by the power of the Holy Spirit in making those choices with our free-will.
In this context, in terms of submission of our everyday choices of our will to God, the author urges us to have a bigger purpose statement (to mark down our life’s goal or the mission statement of our life) which would always encapsulate us in fulfilling ‘Our First Call’ and ‘Our Specific Call.’ As described in the book, we see Joshua declaring one such ‘purpose statement/life goal/mission statement’ in the scriptures:
Joshua 24:15b NKJV
But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.
The author politely suggests that we, having known the goodness of God in our lives, can come up with our own unique creative ways of reminding ourselves every day of our life’s mission statement ideally with a scripture verse to complement it.