“Your life’s purpose may remain a mystery to you, as may the events of your world, but that’s okay. God is in control. We are relieved of the responsibility of understanding everything and the need to change it.”*
I ‘happened upon’ these words earlier this week. It was no mistake. Had I not just been journaling my own questions about my purpose in life…dragging a bit with disappointment at my ‘performance’, dismayed at feeling so ‘stuck’ artistically—an otherwise ‘happy homemaker’ content in her pumpkin, yet with her neighbors heading obliviously to Hell! Ouch.
I was doing a sort of New Year’s assessment I guess, wondering all the while whether my guilt, disappointment and dismay were legitimate or just my ‘wrong-headed’ way of motivating myself to ‘DO SOMETHING!” Wondering, in fact, whether I was even asking the right questions: “How am I doing?” and “Am I pleasing?”
As per my last blog, that old hymn came to mind, a prayer:
Open my eyes, that I may see
Glimpses of truth Thou hast for me;
Place in my hands the wonderful key
That shall unclasp and set me free.
Silent, I waited. Well, to be honest, I suppose I just went off into the daily details. That was Saturday.
Then came the sermon on Sunday from Acts 3 and 4. Peter and John are at the Beautiful Gate giving what they have to the lame man begging for alms. No, not money. But Jesus. They lifted the lame man to his feet and for the first time in his life he walked, no he danced! into the temple praising God. Peter and John had been at the right place at the right time—after 40 years of waiting, this was the day chosen by God to heal this man. Of course that episode was just the beginning; the ‘greater work’ was the telling of the Gospel to the crowd gathered in wonder and amazement. The calling to repentance. The winsome invitation to find forgiveness and ‘times of refreshment’ from the Lord. Yes, Peter and John had quite the mission that day. Exciting. Mind you it landed them abruptly in prison when the religious leaders caught wind of the goings on. Did Peter and John even realize how many people had come to faith that day?
Then there it was again: “What is your calling?” Pastor said. And I thought of Peter’s words: “Look at us” (not much to look at?) “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you.” (Acts 3:4-6) What I do have, this I can offer… hmmm . The message went on to other illustrations of seeing people as Jesus sees. There were pointed challenges to follow Jesus out of comfortable places into the world, to make the work of God’s redemption known to those around us… but most of all the message confirmed my desire to answer the question: “Am I doing what God has designed and ‘prepared before the foundation of the world’ for me to do?”
Fast forward to the wonderful devotional clip on life’s purpose, pasted on my mom’s Facebook page– the story of a man who spent his life longing to reach the Koreans with the Gospel back in the day when Korea was closed to outsiders. After years his chance came– a trading ship going there to see if maybe… but NO! They were not welcomed. The ship was caught on a sandbar and burned. The stragglers ashore were brutally murdered on the spot. Was this the missionary’s reward after a lifetime of praying and waiting? But he held copies of Chinese Bibles that day. These were seen as valuable for their fine paper. Some illiterate man tore out pages to paper the exterior walls of his house. And one day these pages drew the attention of a scholar who could read. And the Gospel he read there won his heart…And would you know, it was his nephew a generation later who would assist another little known missionary to translate the Bible into the Korean language. ** God had a plan…
The devotional ended with these reassuring words: “The meaning of life does not consist in what we make of it, but in what God makes of it. Success is not about achievement or what we make of ourselves. It’s about placement, or what God makes of us. We take the lesson from the persecuted church that it is okay to die quite unaware of our life’s meaning. We can rest in trust that God, in His mercy, has used us to help build His eternal kingdom.” [Ronald Boyd-MacMillan, Faith That Endures (Grand Rapids: Fleming Revell, 2006), p. 314].
God is building an eternal Kingdom. We who have committed our lives to Him are stuck in the perspective of time, seeing days, weeks, years, maybe a generation but God sees all of Eternity and weaves all for the best display of His glory. We see life from our own perspectives, feel our disappointments, our pains, our comforts. He sees the big picture. There have been other nudges, other confirmations, other answers to my questions. God is not silent when we sit in muddled wonder at what He could possibly be up to. He may not unveil His whole plan but He knows just what we most need for this moment. And there are glimpses, mostly in retrospect, of how He has led us along so far. That’s a story for another day. For today He’s not asking me for dramatic deeds but that I listen for His promptings, pursue the passions that He’s planted in me, and trust Him with what I cannot accomplish.
Peter, in his address to the crowd gathered around the once-lame, now dancing man, called Jesus ‘the Author of Life’ (Acts 4:15). I love that! He is the One who writes my story. Through faith in His Name I am made strong—given confidence to walk, yes even to dance!—in praise for His work in my life. He calls me to repent of dead works and present my members, these hands, these eyes, this voice, this mind…as instruments for righteousness, and to follow Him in adoration all the days of this life!
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses,
let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely,
and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,
looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith,
who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross,
despising the shame,
and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”
* Ronald Boyd-MacMillan, Faith That Endures (Grand Rapids: Fleming Revell, 2006), p. 315.
** Story drawn from Paul Estabrooks devotional in “Standing Strong Through The Storm” (SSTS), Open Doors Int’l, 2011