After some “ice breaking” questions, the ten of us talked for nearly two hours, covering key worldview questions including: How did life begin? What is the meaning of life? Is there such a thing as right and wrong? Despite never having met one another, the conversation was organic and dynamic.
I was amazed at the group’s honesty and willingness to be vulnerable. In a very natural way, we were able to speak into some of the obvious shortcomings of the secular perspective and share what we believed. It was a huge success!
We plan to do five more focus groups in the next 12 months, and I’m sure this will be a significant part of our team’s activities going forward.
This experience highlighted a pattern in my life. So often, the things that prove to be most fruitful are the ones that I initially feel least confident about. Every major area of my current work in missions has not come about as the result of my own meticulous planning, but rather of God’s supernatural guidance.
And perhaps this is how it is supposed to be.
Every follower of Jesus is called to make an eternal difference. No one was created to grow old, accumulate material possessions, and die. Paul writes in Ephesians 2:10, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”
If this is true, the question becomes, “How does one find and carry out the good works for which he or she has been created?”
The answer is not what you might expect.
The world says finding purpose is about knowing yourself, identifying the things that make you happy, and at all cost pursuing those things. Do more of what you want, and less of what you don’t. This is the key to significance.
As followers of Jesus, we know this is incompatible with the Bible we read, and yet I would suspect that many, if not most Christians, live by the same set of assumptions.
If there’s one thing I have learned in life so far, it’s that I am a terrible judge of what will make me happy.
With no exceptions, I doubted or even resisted what I now consider to be the most fulfilling parts of my work. This has led to and solidified what I believe are two key principles for discovering real significance in life.
1) It’s who you are, not what you do.
Amidst failed experiments and unplanned plans, the one thing I have tried to be consistent in is seeking God. I haven’t been perfect, but I can say that ever since my dad introduced me to taking prayer walks while in college, I have made prayer a priority in my life.
This regular time with God has gradually cemented a simple but profound truth in my mind. God cares far more about who I’m becoming, than what I do.
God’s highest goal is be known intimately by His creation. It is through prayer and reading the Bible that this knowing process takes place. Furthermore, in this space of divine exchange, God begins to shape who you are - and this was always His plan.
I am convinced that what we do is of secondary concern to God. This is because the byproduct of authentic communion with God is everything else - including our calling.
Sadly, many Christians believe their faith consists of religious activity. I have found the opposite to be true. Jesus wants our hearts first, and the rest follows from there.
2) Take risks and hold on loosely.
When we realize that what we do is of secondary importance, then we can think less and take risks more. Far from immobilizing us, the primacy of our relationship with God gives us the freedom to explore what He might have for us, knowing that failure is okay and success doesn’t define us.
We can pray, “God, you are in charge; show me what you want me to do!” From there, we can step out and try things. What I have found is that God quickly favors and blesses His plan, and He shuts the doors He never intended for us to go through.
In a weird paradoxical sense, knowing our activities matter less means we are free to do more.
From the outside looking in, my life might look like the result of my careful planning, but I know better. God has to guide me every step of the way. He has taught me to take risks and hold my plans loosely, and in doing so, I have a life of incredible purpose and significance.
I can’t take credit for any of it. All I can do is continue to invest in what got me here—a personal relationship with the Creator of the Universe, who loves me, and will never care more about what I do than who I am.