John W. Gardner, who wrote the book “Excellence” says we have the potential to make a difference, not only in our own lives. But also in the lives of those we meet.
Gardner illustrates that point by relating the true story of a cheerful old gentleman who invested his life in others.
When the old fellow met people he never asked the conventional questions that we usually ask such as “What do you do for a living?” He always asked, “What have you done that you believe in and you are proud of?”
For some folks, it was an unnerving question. For those whose self-worth was based on wealth, position or fame, it was a question that was unsettling and awkward. But the answers he received were interesting.
He was delighted by a woman who answered, “I’m doing a good job raising three children.”
A cabinetmaker responded, “I believe in good workmanship and practice it.”
One lady replied, “I started a bookstore and it’s the best bookstore for miles around.”
“I don’t really care how they answer,” said the old man. “I just want to put the thought into their minds.” Then he added, “They should live their lives in such a way that they can have a good answer. Not a good answer for me, but for themselves. That’s what’s important.”
How would you answer the question?
In Acts 13:36 is one of the great statements of the Bible that perfectly answers that question.
“For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep and was laid with his fathers and saw corruption.”
This passage speaks of the issue of purpose in life. Sadly too many people today lack purpose. They fail to focus on what is really important. So they just drift along through life. Aimless. Erratic. Irresponsible.
Thomas Caryle was right when he wrote, “The man without a purpose is like a ship without a rudder–a waif, a nothing, a no man. Have a purpose in life, and having it, throw such strength and muscle into your work as God has given you.”
Others might have a problem with the question because they’ve given into a selfish, hedonistic, or a compromising lifestyle. Such folks have missed the true meaning of a satisfying life. Helen Keller put it this way, “Many persons have a wrong idea of what constitutes true happiness. It’s not attained through self-gratification, but through fidelity to a worthy purpose.”
Purpose provides meaning to life. Many just survive. They live from weekend to weekend. Vacation to vacation. They eke out an existence. But have no real direction.
For others, their life is about achieving success. They enjoy a comfortable lifestyle. Some possessions, prestige, and pleasure, However, many people in this situation ask, “Well, if I’m so successful, why don’t I feel more fulfilled?
A life with purpose focuses on significance. The problem is that most people are looking for meaning to life within themselves. Experiencing a fulfilling, purposeful life begins with God. Not you.
A paraphrase of Colossians 1:16 from The Message says, “For everything, absolutely everything, above and below, visible and invisible…got started in him and finds its purpose in him.
A life of purpose reduces frustration, increases motivation and offers greater focus. Spiritual purpose raises the bar and sets our sights on things above and not on those below (Col. 3:1-2). We can see a goal that is higher, heavenly and eternal.
It’s important to note, however, that when David served God’s purpose, he died and his body decayed in the ground. We’re all going to meet our inevitable appointment with death (Heb. 9:27). This life will one day end. But the opportunity for the next life begins.
The degree with which we serve God’s purpose on earth will determine our eternal destiny. The Preacher of old put it this way.
“The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man” (Eccl. 12:13).
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman