Read an Excerpt
Establishing Your Life's Strategic Priorities
By Ramesh Richard
Moody PublishersCopyright © 2004 Ramesh Richard
All rights reserved.
Look well to this day For it is life, the very best of life In its brief course lie all realities and truths of existence the splendour of warmth the glory of power For yesterday is but a memory Tomorrow is only a vision But today, if well lived, makes every yesterday a memory of happiness and every tomorrow a vision of hope Look well therefore to this day.
Ancient Sanskrit poem
For nearly five years my family and I lived in New Delhi, India. Dotting the neighborhood were several general store merchants. Naming their shops after family, such as "Patel & Sons," they announced their lineage, heritage, and experience. However, the subtitle of "General Store" on the shop sign described their business. General purpose merchants sold everything necessary for daily living: wheat, rice, toothpaste, razor blades, lightbulbs, candy, and aspirin. If you shopped there, you could meet each day's needs. Store owners maintained an inventory of ingredients required for basic survival. We shopped at these places nearly every day.
Specialty shops flourished nearby, supplying the marketplace with items outside the scope of the general stores. Butchers, barbers, and bakers carried distinctive products or performed occasional services. These more exotic businesses catered to those who had a little extra to spend toward a special need (haircut) or a special day (a birthday cake). For routine needs we visited a general store. For special needs we shopped at the specialty stores.
A new economic day has dawned in Delhi since our time there. General purpose stores have expanded to carry specific merchandise. Indeed, some such stores have become known for what they carry in their upper floor departments. Distinctive items can be bought upstairs, but general-purpose merchandise still dominates the center of the "general" floor. You may ascend flights of stairs to buy specific, more expensive goods like Kashmiri carpets, but the ground floor features the staples for daily existence. The by-lines on the signs outside now proclaim that these stores are general and specialty merchants.
WHY DO WE NEED A PURPOSE?
The ground floor (or the first floor) of the store helps the business survive. Money and people pour into that ground floor of the store on a regular, predictable basis. Unless there is a general purpose draw, the public won't come in. But the specific purpose merchandise coaxes them to climb the staircase to buy the high margin commodities. The business thrives from the upper-floor income.
Your life, too, needs to be constructed like those shop buildings, with general and special purpose levels. Built with God's universal and unique purpose in mind, such a life-structure will enable your effective existence and influence, helping you to survive and thrive, allowing you to be alive and finally arrive at its God-intended destination.
You need a general purpose, which
wakes you up each day,
nourishes your routines,
furnishes your sustenance,
provides you with motivation,
overcomes your monotony.
If you don't have one, you will be driven "out of business," so to speak. Without general purpose, the will shrivels. Without the will, will-ers wilt. Without the will-er—moral determination—there is no human purpose for life.
New Delhi's Municipal Authority is quite flexible if you want to continue adding on to a building straight up. Building codes are easily circumvented through bribes and corrupt maneuvers. Indian businessmen find it easier to receive forgiveness than permission from government bureaucracy (just like my children try to find with me). If a business owner wants to expand his or her operations, there is virtually no limit to the height of the building. But physics can't be bribed. At a certain point, the foundation must be reinforced in order to support the weight of a taller structure. The subtitles on the marquee have to be lengthened and the name boards widened to acknowledge the new expanded services available within. But if the store owner has a vision to pursue, there is no limit to how high he or she can go, as long as the foundation can support and the ground floor can anchor that vision.
In like fashion, a foundational passion governs you, a total mission grounds you, and a personal vision grows you into the heights as you move along into the future. That, in a sentence, summarizes what it means to live the Intentional Life.
DEFINING SOUL MISSION
May I help you articulate a general purpose for your daily existence so you can "look well to this day"? Will you explore with me what the general purpose—the ground floor—is for your life? A general purpose, like your life passion, will be sweeping, comprehensive, and extensive. It gives you the primary drive and pull for your daily survival and life's challenges. It fits as a constituent of the highest purpose.
At your death, eulogists may recall your mission in their panoramic descriptions of your existence. Your family may tearfully and proudly admit your life mission to the public—and be truthful about it. They may even inscribe your general purpose on your tombstone over your final passive, resting place on earth. But none of these results will probably occur unless you give serious thought and willful action to your general purpose for living—your soul's mission.
Soul mission is the outworking of humanity's essential reason for existence. Later in Book Three we'll explore how to build your "specialty" level—your unique features and specific vision in life. But now we will focus on a general purpose for life. Your current life mission relates to
what you do repeatedly,
what justifies your existence,
what validates your activity.
Whatever aspects of your life that fit the above conditions define your "mission." You may have inherited or unintentionally developed it, but your mission it is!
Your honest appraisal may produce some embarrassment. I am amazed how often I discover that very busy people stay very busy, in part, because they fear facing the truth about the worthlessness of their frantic busyness. Until you take the time to consider the repeated actions or habits in your life and the ways you have justified your existence and validated your activities, you won't have a clear sense of what must change. Experience intentional living to reflecting on this book and considering your present mission. Ask God to clarify and, if necessary, to redirect your purpose for life.
A wealthy man once contracted with a builder to construct the best house money could buy. His instructions were simple: spare no expense. But the builder decided he could make a handsome extra profit from this lavish contract. He used inferior materials. He hired inexperienced workers and approved shoddy workmanship. He cut corners everywhere that couldn't be seen. The result was a house that looked magnificent on the outside but was poorly built and dangerous to live in. The builder knew that.
The rich owner arrived for the final inspection of his new dream home. Walking through the house, he announced to the builder, "When I asked you to build this house, I actually wanted to give you a special gift. I knew how much you needed a house. Here are the keys. The house is yours."
God has given you the opportunity to build a house—a life—that is uniquely yours. You want to build it well. A spiritual foundation of passion—the love of Christ—equips you for balance, direction, and impact during life's brief building process. Your mission —general purpose—derives from your overall passion and becomes the ground floor of your daily life. Your unique vision will then summon your mission as you build a magnificent house on the inside as well as the outside.
Let's pursue the worthwhile task of profiling a Christian's soul mission, or your general purpose, the first floor of life's building. It deals with your mission today, for this very day, and every day.CHAPTER 2
Extending Passion, Framing Mission
"I'll huff, and I'll puff, and I'll blow your house down."
The Wolf, from The Three Little Pigs
Early morning air travel is especialy difficult alter truncated nights. But she sat next to me on a 7:00 a.m. Dallas-New York flight, eager to make conversation. She asked where I was going. As a rule, I go wherever the plane goes, so I replied, "New York."
She congratulated me for getting a good seat with extra leg space. She knew the dimensions of our seats, including the seat pitch and knee room. She quickly demonstrated familiarity with the seating configurations on every plane her favorite airline operated. She had called to arrange meal preferences and knew the number of drinks and food service this flight would feature. I thought she was a stewardess incognito.
I asked where she was going.
"Nowhere in particular!"
"Aren't you going to New York?"
"No. Actually, I traveled on the red-eye from San Diego last night to Dallas. This morning I am headed on to New York. Later this afternoon, I go to Cincinnati, spend the night there. Then I'll catch an early flight to Salt Lake City and end up in San Diego tomorrow evening."
I repeated her travel route. She was amazed by my short-term memory, and I was amazed at her routing. "Why didn't you just stay home?"
"Well, I needed these flights and miles to keep up my status with the airline," she explained.
I expressed her statement in the form of a question. "You are spending all this time, energy, and money to keep up your mileage status with the airline?"
"You're right! You really do have an amazing recall."
Perplexed, I said again, "You are spending all this time, energy, and money to keep up your mileage status with the airline." And then I added. "What a powerful parable for life! Spending precious resources to keep up perceived status. May I use your story?"
"Sure, sure," she said, though I'm sure she thought I was going to use her as a positive motivation for living.
Many people expend energy, time, and money to keep up their status—spending resources they don't have in order to get status that they don't need so they can impress people they don't know. My seatmate's "mission" in life at that point was to keep her status with the airline, and she spent her resources accordingly.
A central question that your soul mission asks and answers is: "Why do you do what you repeatedly do?" It will take some time to identify those actions and habits. What do you do almost every day? How do you approach most people or situations? Listing these "constants" as your mission in life will help you see them in a new way. Redirect your thinking if you have already forced yourself into a forged but unexamined mission for life. You may have been trapped by counterfeit values, beliefs, and conduct. You may be trying to live someone else's life mission. Or you may be living in the chaos of inherited and collected mission fragments from many others. Since the genuine mission of your life will arise from the passion of your life, we need to frame or reframe your mission, making sure that it fits the foundation of the passion we have already explored.
In Soul Passion (Book One of this series) we broke ground for an extended illustration of the Intentional Life. Here let me summarize and expand the earlier proposition. Borrowing from Jesus' parable of the wise and foolish builders (Matt. 7:24–27), we connected the construction of a physical dwelling to building a life. Indeed, the principles of interior, physical design in buildings also correspond to an interior spiritual redesigning of life. Interior design significantly influences the exterior life. Many live an exterior life without an adequate interior spiritual pattern, yet others live without any conscious, internal pattern at all. In either case, they live on different assumptions than the intentional, patterned life. They are examples of what we called living randomly.
We began with life's foundation—your absolute passion forms your ultimate purpose. But your ultimate purpose demonstrates its presence and vitality throughout the rest of the structure you are constructing. Soul passion provides pervasive, foundational strength for life. In review, Book One stated that every part of the structure of life in some way acknowledges its connection to the foundation. In preview of the rest of this present book, we will see how the mission (your general purpose) of an intentional life is framed and structured by that foundation of passion. Let's extend the metaphor and truth of passion into a framework for life mission.
Floors, walls, and ceilings are found on every level of every house. In order to communicate the comprehensive, connected, and critical role of passion, I now choose the floor/wall/ceiling metaphor to describe both the identity and function of personal passion on setting up for life's mission. Each of these brings benefits and places boundaries to life. As I intimated before, passion influences our assumptions, focuses our choices, and guides our behavior. It will define and frame our sole mission, our soul's mission.
Floors are part of the basic structure of a house. I am not speaking of floor coverings—uniquely chosen, laid, relished, and used according to personal taste. Floor coverings are laid onto the floor structure. Floor structure is always there—beneath the tile, wood, and the carpet. It seems passive. It is indispensably necessary. It relentlessly supports. A beautiful carpet laid over a gaping hole or damaged floor joists may look pleasing—until we step on it. We depend on floor structure. There is no way around it!
Now that I think about it, the floor is the most underappreciated, neglected part of my house. I don't have to hold it up. I don't make it function. I only take notice of the floor when I spill something, when it gets dirty, or when tiles separate. For the most part it is simply there, unnoticed. But I couldn't get far in my house without it.
Passion functions in the manner of floor structures. The floor framework extends the strength of passion (the foundation) by creating a supporting span upon which we walk and work. Our passion includes our worldview—the assumptions we hold about life and reality. Passion supports and shapes our worldview at every level, every decision, and every activity. In the psychology and sociology of religion, we speak about worldview as the control box of individual and cultural behavior. Seeing the connection between passion and worldview, then, becomes crucial to the Intentional Life. Like floors, passion influences and controls our way of life without becoming that life. It can't replace life; it receives what we place on it. On occasion we need to clean it up, for passion dirties with spills. If the spiritual foundation shifts, the fractures appear in floor-passion.
We use floors. We don't make them useful. We assume them. Unlike basements, we don't have to make floors functional. We may cover them with carpet or layer them with linoleum, but these are surface changes. The most beautiful floor coverings—Alpujarra rugs from Spain, Chinese Ningsia tapestries, or marble granite quarried in India's state of Rajasthan—simply decorate the surface of a floor. We live off floor dimensions. Similarly, passion doesn't live by us; we live off our passion. Like floors, passion functions all the time.
The way we experience passion compares to the floor structure in a dwelling. Our passion may be enhanced with appropriate coverings, but we can't extend its quality or expand its competency. Quality and competency come from the divine Savior-architect while it is being built.
Likewise, the quality and competency of a worldview derives from its attachment to truth. When we speak about a biblical worldview, we are attempting to explain and justify our assumptions over and against other assumptions. The deity, exclusivity, necessity, sufficiency, and authority of the Lord Jesus Christ found and are founded on those basic assumptions. For instance, the Christian worldview demands a theistic sense (where humans are not God). Monistic assumptions (where all reality is one essence), pantheistic assumptions (where humans exhibit divinity), or deistic assumptions (where divinity absconds from human life), all conflict with the uniqueness of Jesus as God. Consequently, our inferences about reality contradict inferences from nonbiblical assumptions. Christians hold that it is possible for God and humans to share in life without abandoning their distinctiveness. Passion, informed by justifiable assumptions, elicits the total, spiritual, love response of the believer to Jesus, without either losing their identities or functions. In a fundamental way, the passion of the Christian centers on the Lord Jesus Christ.
In Soul Passion we looked at Jesus Christ's work of salvation as the foundation on which we build life, and His values as the foundation by which we live. In this book, we reference the person of Jesus as our ground floor as well, the underlying structure of our lives. He is not only the Giver of life but also the ground-floor anchor of life's growing building. He remains our constant support wherever we move in life. He functions as the solid ground on which we carry out our soul's mission.
Excerpted from Soul Mission by Ramesh Richard. Copyright © 2004 Ramesh Richard. Excerpted by permission of Moody Publishers.
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