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“Challenging, inspiring and practical.”
“I can’t think of anyone more qualified to write about the significance of knowing your purpose than my friend Ken Costa… His new book, Know Your Why, is absolutely foundational to living a purpose driven life.”
“Among the crush and the rush of life, there's no better guide in the pursuit of getting it right than my friend Ken Costa… I highly recommend Know Your Why, and am confident you will see more clearly and live more purposefully after absorbing the wisdom in its pages.”
Louie Giglio, Pastor, Passion City Church, Passion Conferences
“This is an important and timely book. In a world of seemingly endless options, discerning the voice of God can be an increasingly difficult task. Ken draws on decades of experience to help Christians cut through the confusion and distractions and live lives in tune with God.”
Andy Stanley, Senior Pastor, North Point Ministries
“There are few people on this planet that I find more fascinating than Ken Costa. His capacity for business is only outweighed by his affection for the local church; and he has beautifully modelled to a generation what it means to live out your calling and build the Kingdom.”
Brian Houston, Global Founder and Senior Pastor of Hillsong Church
Are you working for cash, a career, a cause—or a calling? “Why do you do what you do?”
People work for a variety of reasons.
For many, the primary purpose of their work is cash. Their principal motivation is the paycheck that funds their everyday needs. Their work is a means to an end. Others are motivated by ambitions for a career, to move up the professional ladder and expand their experience, becoming more skilled in a particular area. Still others work for a cause, believing in the wider purpose of their work, attempting to make a difference in the world—to leave a mark in some way.
All of these are legitimate motivations. However, missing from all three is any sense of the value of work itself. The focus is on the output of the workplace, rather than valuing the input.
What we need is calling. Those who see their work as a calling experience a rich integration in their lives. They sense a purpose, a direction to their activities. Work has intrinsic meaning, rather than being simply a means to an end. In many ways this is precisely what the Spirit of God does in our lives. When we are in the flow of the Spirit, we are cooperating fully in our God-given callings. When people embrace their callings, they love their work, can manage inevitable tensions that arise, and are welcomed by their colleagues, who sense that there is something beyond the cash or career objectives. But how do we get there?
Know Your Why is written with one objective: to help you find your life’s calling so that you can be more satisfied, fulfilled, and happier at work.
“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last.”
—John 15:16 NIV
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Read an Excerpt
Know Your Why
Finding and Fulfilling Your Calling in Life
By Ken Costa
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2016 Ken Costa
All rights reserved.
Called to Passion
"What do you want?"
These are the first words Jesus spoke in John's gospel (John 1:38).
What are you really looking for? What lifts you to a new level? What makes you want to get out of bed on a winter's day, grab hold of the day, and make the most of every moment? What is it that gives meaning to your life? What enables you to navigate the confusion of a world that changes every nanosecond? Which values make every day worth living in a world that seems hostile to the good news of Jesus?
These are all questions that can be answered if we grasp the driving importance of Jesus' first question: What do you really want? And this question is addressed to all of us.
But I hear echoing back at me, Surely this can't be right. It sounds selfish. What I want surely doesn't matter. It's what Jesus wants that's important. And anyway, isn't this a superficial question? The answers that immediately spring to mind certainly seem to be: a pay raise, a new car, a nice vacation, the latest gadgets.
No. The question Jesus asked is profound. It goes beyond the material wish list. It confronts us and forces us to think seriously about our true longings and objectives. Perhaps that is why these are the first spoken words of Jesus that John recorded in his gospel.
Mark's gospel recorded another instance, when blind Bartimaeus called out to Jesus, "Son of David, have mercy on me!" (Mark 10:48). And again, Jesus asked him, "What do you want me to do for you?" (v. 51). Jesus knew exactly what this blind man wanted, but he asked the question so that Bartimaeus himself would articulate directly to Jesus exactly what he was longing for: "Rabbi, I want to see" (v. 51). It matters to Jesus what the desires of our hearts are.
And that is why Jesus' question is so powerful. It forces us to search deeply into our motives for what really drives us to live every day with purpose.
The disciples were not dissimilar from us: they were seekers, trying to make sense of their purposes. And that first encounter with Jesus, recorded in John's gospel, is riveting.
Here were two disciples who had been in the desert with John the Baptist, who was preaching a gospel of repentance in expectation of the Messiah. John was a celebrity, a life coach, a guru. His message was one of self-help and self-improvement — a message of repentance from sin that could not yet rely on the power of the Spirit to be sustained. People from Jerusalem and the surrounding towns flocked to hear him. They wanted answers about how to live with a real and defined purpose, answers not only for themselves but also for the nation of Israel as a whole. But there was something unfulfilled in their lives that could not be satisfied by John's teaching, radical and appealing as it was. They were going to John for a self-help fix, but nobody realized better than John that self-help could only go so far. Then the disciples saw Jesus:
When [John] saw Jesus passing by, he said, "Look, the Lamb of God!"
When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus. Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, "What do you want?" (John 1:36–38)
The action started with Jesus. He broke into their world as he passed by them. It was not they who had to seek him out. All they had to do was be ready and waiting when he came — ready to take the risk and follow where he led. The disciples knew something was missing, and they saw in this encounter with Jesus something of what they had hoped for. The rest was up to Jesus. And he did not disappoint — as he never disappoints those who genuinely want to hear his call.
And so the disciples turned to follow Jesus. They said nothing. They must have been bursting with questions. Shouldn't the disciples have asked him the burning question that their search for truth with John the Baptist had been all about: "Are you the one who is to be revealed as Savior of oppressed Israel?" But they didn't. They just followed him. There was something about him that drew them in. Something intangible and inexplicable. They saw in Jesus something more than repentance. They saw the missing piece of their lives — a relationship with God himself.
And then Jesus turned to face them.
I cannot get the image of Jesus turning around out of my mind. It is so much part of my life. How many times have I faced the big issues — choosing a career, proposing to my wife, changing jobs, dealing with conflict at work and in relationships — and chosen to follow his guidance? Yet, how often have I done so and not quite believed he would notice I was following? In my mind, a follower is the one who looks mostly at the leader's back. But Jesus turns toward his followers. In the culture of the time, this was a profound sign of acknowledgment and recognition. He noticed them. Their anonymity disappeared.
He doesn't merely stride on purposefully as some leaders might do, expecting their followers to tag along behind. In the simple act of turning he shows his regard for every one of us seeking our callings. Attention is God's greatest gift to us. He reaches out to us, and he responds as if we were the only ones marked for special attention. Such is his love for us. A well-known saying observes, "Don't walk in front of me; I may not follow. Don't walk behind me; I may not lead. Just walk beside me and be my friend." And likewise, Jesus said to his disciples, "I have called you friends" (John 15:15).
Jesus' question to the disciples goes more than skin deep. The word we translate as "want" is the Greek word zeteo, which means "to seek." So the question "What do you want?" is not a dismissive "What are you after?" It's not a confused "Why are you following me?" Rather, Jesus is asking the deeper question of "What are you seeking?"
The drift of Jesus' question is clear. What is the principal desire in your life? What are your passions? What dreams do you long to see fulfilled? What makes your life worth living? In effect, what is the main driver of your life, your calling?
Finding Your Passion
All of this talk about your passions, your dreams, your desires might seem selfish and confusing. I first met Rick Warren when we were both speaking at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland. Looking around at the titans of industry and politics, I remember him saying, "We must always be mindful that it's not about you." This then became the opening sentence and most quoted remark of his book The Purpose Driven Life. In many ways this is a life transforming truism, a huge challenge to the self-driven life. It's a reminder that to be a follower of Christ is to live for others; that your purpose cannot be fulfilled outside of the community of God's people. That's why church, the gathering of the local people of God, is so vital in helping you find your true calling.
But on another level, what you want is so important. Your passions and dreams are the fuels that feed the fire of God's calling. God really is interested in you. He really is interested in what it is that makes you tick. He really does call you, just as you are.
Very often when people talk about calling, they try to remove human autonomy from the equation. They imagine that our desires, our concerns, our passions and talents are irrelevant. But the fact that our loving Father has called us should not negate the freedom we have to make choices. There is nothing in Christian faith to encourage the resigned acceptance of fate. Que sera, sera — "whatever will be, will be" — might be an old favorite song, but it is not the basis of our callings. Something much more liberating, exciting, and fulfilling lies ahead when we seriously seek the call of God in our lives.
Following his call isn't about blind obedience. It's more like leaving a house with a friend to go on a journey. You both have a shared destination in mind and a map to get you there, but there are many routes you could take along the way. And so you work out your route in conversation and relationship. Sometimes your friend might suggest very strongly that you both take a certain path. Perhaps she knows something about the way ahead that you don't. Sometimes you might insist on taking a wrong turn, away from the destination, and have to allow your friend to show you the right direction. But you work it out together. That is what I believe it means to follow your calling with Christ. Your opinions, your passions, your desires really do matter to him.
This is something we see very clearly in the Bible — particularly in the journeys of Saint Paul. The letters of Paul paint a picture of a man who was constantly probing at different doors, trying to work out in dialogue with God where his next steps might go. There's no sense that his path was laid out clearly before him. Sometimes his attempts to take a certain road were blocked by forces outside of his control, and sometimes he was responding to a very specific message of the Holy Spirit. But very often, Paul simply followed his nose, listening to his own heart while keeping himself open to the promptings of the Spirit of God.
The point is, we are not called to be robots. God does not dictate our paths but gives us wide room to maneuver. So often I hear people say that if they make a wrong choice they have missed their call. But often it is not the presenting decision but the purposeful direction that matters. After all, it was God who gave us our unique humanity — who put those passions and talents within us, for us to use.
Crucial to understanding our callings, then, is understanding ourselves. Seeing the passions and desires that God has placed within us — the talents and dreams that await realization in him.
The truth is that God gives us passions for a reason. He will not call us into something that makes us miserable or that is a waste of our talents. Frederick Buechner, the American theologian, once wrote, "The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet." The fact that we are passionate about something is often a sign that this is where God is calling us to be.
Of course, some needs are more conspicuous than others, and some passions can strike us as more obviously worthy than others. When I was growing up in South Africa under the brutal apartheid regime, my fellow students and I deeply desired to see that iniquitous system broken once and for all. We had a cause that was clear-cut, single-minded, and driven by a commitment to justice — an unequivocal calling. We believed in it. Many were prepared to die for it, and some of my fellow students did just that. We never doubted that in the end our case for justice would prevail. And so the student movement at the time committed itself to undermining the regime as best we could.
It can seem more difficult to find a cause worth fighting for, let alone dying for, in this modern, noncommittal world where anything seems to go. Yet we can see many remaining injustices, if we take the time to look. The trafficking of people as sex slaves, the destruction of parts of the planet, the scourge of extreme poverty, and the growth of inequality at our own back doors are but a few pressing examples of injustices crying out for the transforming hope of the gospel. As I write this book, millions of refugees are fleeing battle-scarred countries such as Syria and Libya, hoping to start new lives in Europe.
But it's also important to remember that the world's deep hunger for Jesus is not confined to deprived communities and instances of injustice in war-torn areas of the world. Anyone who has ever worked on a bank trading floor knows the spiritual emptiness that can accompany the cutthroat competition and false bravado on show there. That is a place of deep hunger, and that same hunger exists throughout the working world. The world is hungry for godly lawyers, godly bankers, godly charity workers, godly shop assistants, and godly teachers! The great and humbling truth of Christianity is that God in his wisdom chooses to work through us and with us. He calls us out to be his hands and feet in the world, each with a special role to play in the expansion of his kingdom.
Finding our passions — answering the question "What do you want?" — is therefore crucial to finding our callings. Rarely is that question easily answered. For most, determining what we truly want is a profound psychological process: a journey of discovery that takes time to travel and that can lead us in different directions at different points in our lives. What I most wanted as a graduate entering the job market was different from what I wanted when I first got married. I faced my deepest longings in different ways at different times. That is why the pursuit of our callings is something that permeates every moment of our lives.
So it was for the disciples. They didn't know what they wanted — only that they were searching for something. When Jesus asked them, "What do you want?" they didn't know how to answer. Instead they sidestepped it with a question of their own: "Where are you staying?" (John 1:38).
The inference from the disciples' question is clear: We don't know the answer to your question. We're not sure what we're seeking. We don't know where we're going. But we do know that we want to spend time with you, to abide with you, to learn more about you. Because if you truly are who John says you are, then maybe you will be able to show us what we are truly seeking.
In this simple exchange we have a most powerful link to our generation. Confronted with so many options and possibilities at our fingertips with unlimited knowledge just a Google search away, how many of us struggle to work out what we truly want? How many of us recognize that there is something missing, without understanding what it could be? But Jesus knows the longings of this generation so well. He isn't critical of our failure to answer the question that he poses, just as he wasn't critical of the disciples. Instead, he responds to us as he did to the disciples: "Come and you will see" (v. 39).
Jesus' simple response to the disciples also acknowledged their unspoken questions. The words, "Come and see where I am staying," meant, "Come and find out the plans that I have for you; the callings and the passions that I will give you." And that is exactly what the disciples did. They entered the house seeking — but they left sought. For Jesus sought them out and called them. They gave up their searches for truth and took up new callings and new identities, not because they had all the answers, but because they found the one who does. They found not a new religious project, not a new program, but a person. They became known to him, and that recognition changed their lives.
Andrew lost no time. He knew that this was the Messiah, and he responded, grabbing hold of his brother Simon and introducing him to Jesus. Jesus recognized Simon immediately and renamed him — he was to be called the rock: "Jesus looked at him and said, 'You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas' (which, when translated, is Peter [rock])" (v. 42).
This is breathtaking authority. Can you imagine interviewing someone for a job and the first thing you do is change her name? "You were known as Philippa in your previous job, but in this place you will be known as Jane."
It is interesting to note that, in the Gospels, Simon (Peter) was anything but a rock; he was impulsive and unstable. But in Acts, he was the pillar of the early church. Jesus named him not for what he was but for what, by God's grace, he was to become. Jesus knew Simon's future as well as his past.
And so it is with us as we struggle to find our true callings. Jesus reaches toward us. He does the calling, seeing us not as we have been pigeonholed by our own and others' definitions, but by what he, through his indwelling Holy Spirit in our lives, is shaping us to be. Our lives are meaningful, not because we fulfill the projections of others but because we follow the promises of God for our future well-beings.
In the next few verses of John's account, we see the calling of the first disciples.
From one encounter, Philip joined up. Nathaniel had sneered at the name of Nazareth and had asked whether any good could come from it, and yet he joined up immediately, once Jesus had revealed that he knew where Nathaniel had been even before Philip called him. The attraction of Jesus and the power of his personality went viral. In these few verses, we see a first-century social network.
When truth takes hold of an individual, it does so with such overwhelming conviction that others need to be told.
In my experience, when I take hold of the words of Jesus, his words take hold of me. Jesus' words, "You call me 'Teacher' and 'Lord,' and rightly so, for that is what I am" (John 13:13), transformed my life when I first read them as a student, and they continue to transform me now. Jesus calls with all the commanding firmness of the Lord who is accustomed to being followed, and yet with the gentle compassion of the teacher who is longing to draw alongside his pupil. Jesus' words are powerful to change our lives. That is why the fact that he asks, "What do you want?" is of vital, immediate, compelling importance. It's not that the answer to the question becomes clear, but that the source of that answer is revealed. His question is not simply an inquiry but an offer. Jesus offers us the chance to join in a relationship with him through which we will find out what he is calling us to.
Excerpted from Know Your Why by Ken Costa. Copyright © 2016 Ken Costa. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
Foreword Rick Warren xv
Chapter 1 Called to Passion 1
Chapter 2 Called to Engage 23
Chapter 3 Called to Flourish 47
Chapter 4 Called to Wait 63
Chapter 5 Called to Choose 81
Chapter 6 Called to Courage 105
Chapter 7 Called to Focus 127
Chapter 8 Called to Persevere 149
Chapter 9 Called to Worship 165
Chapter 10 Called to Break Borders 181
About the Author 211