It is a well-known fact for anyone who knows me in the slightest that I love my books. It could even be said that I have the makings for my own personal library, as my bookshelf is nearly overflowing with these wonderful gateways into other worlds; into the sagas of our past, the present realities of others, and many marvelous future creations.
I love my books.
I also love sharing my books. As with any library, I encourage friends and family to borrow any book that catches their eye.
I wasn’t always like this though. In fact, I used to be extremely stingy with my books and sometimes even now I revert back to that.
It all changed when someone lent me a book. It isn’t necessarily the book itself that sticks out in my memory but rather the selfless manner in which it was given.
I remember this friend handing me this book as I promised to return it as soon as I was finished. I can clearly recall their words as they told me to pass it on rather than return it.
God had used that book in their life. Now it was time that it be used in someone else’s life.
A number of things come to mind when I think of what God has done in my life to get me to where I am today. The string of events that had to take place for me to be who I am and to do what I do can be traced as far back as I can remember, all of it forming in front of me a purpose.
We get wrapped up in this though, don’t we? We get wrapped up in this ideology of purpose.
Our God-ordained mission in life.
What our impact in this world might be.
“Be the change you want to see in the world” right?
Fueled by this mindset, which only seems to be further stimulated by the national stance of self-empowerment and social tolerance, we find ourselves contorting the whole idea of God-ordained purpose.
We build up such complex, detailed images of what we think our purpose in life should be that we miss it all together. When manufactured in our own minds, our purpose will naturally bend towards self; centering on self-glorification and praise.
That is not God’s purpose for your life.
Consider Joseph. He actually saw his future – his purpose even – through the lens of visions and dreams. In his mind, the only way to a life of power was through self-empowerment.
His dreams showed that others would bow down to him, therefore he was destined for a life of authority and praise. However, in his decent to the lowliest status of all, his expectations for what he thought his purpose was created a sort of blindfold over his heart.
He couldn’t see God’s purpose for his life but only the pitiful remains of his.
Through many years of trials and lessons, God slowly removed that blindfold to reveal the glory of His purpose – the preservation of His people.
We find in Genesis 45:4-5 that underneath all the heartache of betrayal and abandonment, God had a purpose; a redemption story if you will, for Joseph’s life.
“I am your brother,” Joseph said, “whom you sold into Egypt. And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life.”
That’s the thing about God’s purpose for our lives though, isn’t it? Very rarely do they actually have anything to do with us, but rather for those around us; those we touch and those we have the chance to inspire and love.
Joseph could have easily missed this had a remained self-absorbed. He could have missed all that God had in store for him and for His people if he had remained stubbornly focused on his self-proclaimed purpose.
Whose purpose are you focusing on?
Is it the purpose you have created in your own mind or is it God’s?
It could even be a purpose contrived on God-given insight, but has since evolved into a self-righteous, self-glorifying purpose that has no resemblance to God or His glory.
To align with Christ, our focus must remain outward towards others instead of inwards toward ourselves. It must remained fixated on His glory and on loving those around us.
This is not an easy thing to do and often it is the most selfish endeavors that are the hardest for us to see.
But God reminds us in 2 Corinthians 1:3-4…
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.
God does not bring us through the fire solely for our benefit and for our growth.
He does not show us love and mercy just so we can bottle it up for ourselves.
He comforts us and strengthens us so that we can then go and do the same for others.
Marshall Segal, an author for DesiringGod.org considered that ‘maybe the greatest earthly good that God will do through the things we have endured will be in someone else’s life and not our own.’
God’s will for your life; His very purpose for your existence may in fact have very little to do with you. -Anonymous