Written By Jess Ragg, New Zealand
In my late teens and early twenties, fresh faced and uni-bound, questions and concerns about God’s will for my life often dominated my thoughts.
“What was God calling me to do?”
“What was my purpose?”
“How was God going to use me?”
I searched for my “purpose” and “calling” in every corner I could find. I read all the books, did the quizzes, prayed passionately, and went forward on every purpose altar call, as if trying to uncover some personal “superpower”—perhaps speaking prophetically, or praying for miraculous healing?—that I surely had in me and just had to “unlock”.
But this whole process led me in circles, and there was never any “prophetic” preacher who called me out of the crowd to tell me exactly what my life was going to be about.
Wonderful as it was that I passionately sought to live for God and His specific calling, at one point it became more about what I was doing for God, than what God was doing through me.
It took a while, but I eventually learned to submit my questions and pursuits to God. This was never a lightning bolt moment, but a slow revelation as God aligned my perspective to His.
In my quiet time, God showed me that not only are we told to “delight in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4), but we’re to also do the bit before that: “Trust in the Lord, do good; dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness” (Psalm 37:3).
As I reflected on this passage, God taught me that His purpose wasn’t a destination, but instead participation in His kingdom—doing good in the big and the small of everyday life.
God taught me that His kingdom doesn’t have a hierarchy. Just as the person who runs revivals or saves orphans is a wonderful, God-inspired human being who lives a life of meaning, so is the person who works as a cleaner and does the job with diligence, in service of God, and who loves their family and provides for them.
Some thoughts on finding our purpose
The problem with the way we try to find our purpose is that it can be immobilising. We become afraid to commit to something, in case it isn’t the thing that God has called us to do, and we miss our purpose. Subsequently, we flit from thing to thing, desperate to find our one true path.
Has God called you to do something unique to your life, with your particular giftings and personality? Yes.
But it doesn’t have to be complicated. We don’t have to have grand plans or be a big deal to do good and live a purposeful life.
In Acts 3:1-10, there is a cool story of Peter and John on their way to meet the rest of the believers in the temple. Along the way, they come across a crippled beggar asking for money.
John and Peter stop, and they say to him: “Look at us.”
Expecting to get something, the man looks at them, then Peter says, “Silver and gold I have none, but what I have, I give to you. In the name of Jesus of Nazareth, get up and walk.”
He reaches out, pulls the man to his feet, and the beggar is healed.
In this encounter, I see three learnings about purpose:
We can serve in the smallest of things
Peter and John were basically Christian super stars of their time, apostles! But they did not see themselves as too busy and important to stop and minister to someone on the side of the road.
Some years ago, I thought I’d finally “made it”. I was the keyboardist for my church’s night service, which was a big deal. But having finally achieved this position, I remember consciously believing then that chatting with new people in the foyer wasn’t something I had to do anymore, nor did I have to worry about tasks like changing the toilet paper roll in the bathroom.
But looking at the apostles’ example reminded me that we should never be above any task or above serving anyone.
We often feel like a purpose has to be something big. But if we see a need and we have the means to respond, that is purpose waiting to be fulfilled.
We haven’t “silver or gold” to offer—we have Christ
Even as they responded, they understood that they had nothing to offer the man except Christ (verse 6).
The Christian narcissism kicks in when we think we can offer more than just God. In my case, I tend to gravitate towards fixing people’s problems for them. When someone comes to me with a situation, my instinct is to come up with a step-by-step for them to do and suggest which books they need to read.
Here I am, trying to offer “silver and gold” in terms of books and guides, when I should be pointing them to Someone who is worth so much more—Jesus. The reality is, the first and foremost thing I can do is to pray with them.
How crucial it is to remember that our purpose isn’t our so-called “superpowers”, but in offering the most valuable Person, Jesus.
We’re to pull each other to our feet
They reached out and pulled the man to his feet (verse 7).
When I was living the dream as the night service keyboardist, I was pretty miffed when I was rostered for second keys and a new girl took my usual spot as lead.
Did I celebrate with her that she’d come so far in the development of her gifting, which are unique and different from my own? No.
Did I think, “How awesome is it that this girl is gonna bring to the services her own gifts, which will really add to the dynamic of the worship?” Not at all.
I wasn’t interested in helping this girl at all, because I was too concerned with my own ladder to climb.
In our search for purpose, it’s easy to become self-focused and self-interested. We want to know how God is going to do something amazing through our lives, and in that process, we can miss the opportunities to partner with how God is moving in the lives of others.This story in Acts 3 was a reminder that living me-focused has never been and never will be what we’re called to do as Christians.
When I finished my degree, I had the privilege of running creative writing programmes for intermediate and high school students. While I enjoyed the kids’ company, and the content of the course was fun, the thing I most relished was the thought that there may be a young person in the programme who would go on to write the next “Great Novel”.
The idea that I could have the opportunity to encourage and help someone who was more talented and would go further than me, that I could be a small part of that journey towards their calling, was what got me out of bed in the mornings.
These days I’m more relaxed into the gentle tide of God’s calling over my life. I’m no longer the flashy night service keyboardist, and instead delight in my office job (which uses everything I learnt at Bible college) and being the best mum I can be for my little girl.
Despite not having the clear-cut “ministry” role I was determined to acquire, God frequently gives me the opportunity to preach and write, which I treasure and enjoy. Over time, He has made me more willing to faithfully put my hand to whatever He puts in front of me.
There’s an exciting journey ahead of me, and although I don’t have the entire road map for it, I know it would still be a life of purpose for His kingdom.