Read an Excerpt
Does God Have a Purpose for My Life--Really?
I never thought it would happen. But it did. It was a dream come true. We designed and built our own home!
My wife and I were both raised in southern California. Then, after nearly thirty years, we moved to a small town in northwest Iowa. Among many special friendships was one with a carpenter named Gary. Before long, with his help, we were actually considering the possibility of building a new home. We explored costs. We purchased a lot. We agreed on a design. We built the house, and we moved in just in time for Thanksgiving.
While in the Midwest, I discovered that there really are four seasons. Following the snowy winter came spring showers, and it was time to landscape our new home. We went to the nursery and bought trees, shrubs, and flowers. We planted the lawn and the yard was set.
While most of our plants did really well, some died. I went back to the nursery and got more. I planted them. They died too. One afternoon I was in the yard explaining to my neighbor (actually complaining about) how frustrated I was with my plants. I showed him how some of them were doing really well while others kept dying.
He made a brilliant observation. He said, "These plants won't grow here!" (At that point, I figured he must be a college graduate. He was able, so graphically, to articulate the obvious.)
I said, "Really?"
He went on to explain. "These plants require direct sunlight. Have you ever noticed that the sun never shines within three feet of the north side of your house? They should be placed where they can get the sunlight they need to grow."
It seemed so simple. Yet someone had to explain to me how God had made each plant with different requirements. A plant needing direct sun will perish or flourish, depending on the amount of sun it receives. Another plant, requiring shade, will have its potential destroyed in direct sunlight. When I understood what the plants needed, it was not difficult to find an appropriate place for them.
So, the "bad" plants I had purchased were not really bad at all. They were simply planted in the wrong place. In short, I had learned two important and related gardening lessons: First, know what a plant needs to flourish. Second, place it in the appropriate environment.
Created with a Purpose in Mind
In my twenty-five years of ministry, I've discovered that many people have had similar experiences in their lives. Like poorly planted shrubs, they often feel misplaced. Maybe you've felt that way too. Take a moment to check the statements below that apply to you:
_____ I feel that I am capable of accomplishing more than I am presently achieving.
_____ I sense that God wants to use me in a meaningful way, but I'm not sure how.
_____ My frustration and confusion about not knowing just what to do makes me less confident and competent.
_____ I desire to be more fruitful and fulfilled, making a difference with my life.
_____ I feel there must be something wrong with me because I still have not been able to figure out what I should be doing.
_____ I wish I knew God's will for my life.
_____ I am often asked to do things I am not interested in doing.
If you checked any or all of the statements above, then this book is for you. In the pages that follow, you will find some practical insights and helpful tools to assist you in two of the most important aspects of your life: Identifying the particular person God has made you to be; and discovering how you can be fruitful and fulfilled in a meaningful place of service.
Are you in an environment that is enabling you to realize your greatest potential? Maybe like the plant, you are not a bad Christian, but you are unaware of what you need, and you aren't sure of the appropriate position from which your life could make an impact on others.
At times, I have felt that there was something wrong with me because I was not growing or developing in ways that those around me expected. Have you heard the saying, "Bloom where you are planted"? What happens when you aren't blooming? There must be something wrong with you--right? No, not necessarily.
God has created and designed us with a purpose in mind. We are "wired" to care about some things more than others. We have been given a passion. We have been given spiritual gifts to competently accomplish ministry tasks. We have also been designed with a personal style of relating to others and the world around us.
When you know your God-given passion, spiritual gifts, and personal style, then you'll know what you need to be both fruitful and fulfilled in your life and ministry.
Most of us know that we should serve God. We know that God not only desires, but commands us to serve (Galatians 5: 13). And we want to obey. We have a genuine desire to honor him by fulfilling his purposes and plans for our lives. But many of us don't know how to serve. While we want to serve and know we should serve, it has been difficult to find the places where we are able to make our unique contributions. Rather than constantly "replanting" ourselves in a variety of environments in the hope that we might find fulfillment and fruitfulness, doesn't it make sense to discover what God created us for in the first place?
You can gain a better understanding of what your contribution should be through the identification of your servant profile, which you'll find throughout the coming chapters. Your servant profile indicates those three keys that we mentioned before: your God-given passion, your spiritual gifts, and your personal style. With an understanding of your servant profile, you can increase your ability to follow God's will for your life.