It has been a long time since I read the Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren. At the time I read the book, it sort of agreed to a large degree with my views on purpose. This was way back 2007 or thereabouts. In the intervening 10 years or more I have acquired more knowledge, am not able to remember details of Rick Warren’s book, and am not sure post honing of my views that my views continue to tally with Rick’s as much as was the case 10 years or more back.
At the timing of my reading of the Purpose Driven Life, I was not fully clear as to the extent to which purpose is bestowed or acquired. In the intervening years it has become very clear to me that it is very much a misconception to believe purpose is bestowed, as opposed to acquired.
The first misconception about purpose is the assumption or belief that it is imposed, as opposed to acquired. Purpose is acquired, not artificially imposed or bestowed by the Christian God, Father of Jesus Christ.
The Evidence? Purpose is not fully set at Birth
In Matthew 5:21&23, Jesus Christ Himself declares (I paraphrase):
He who is faithful over little, I will set over much.
If our faithfulness affects Jesus’ decisions, and influences resources He is willing to commit to us, our purpose cannot be irrevocably set at birth. Our purpose evolves alongside our actions in line with Jesus’ responses to our faithfulness or lack of staying power.
Evidence Again: Righteousness is a pre-condition for Purpose
In 2Timothy 2:21, the Holy Spirit declares through Apostle Paul (I paraphrase):
If anyone will cleanse himself from lusts and iniquity, he will be a vessel unto honor, sanctified and useful to Jesus Christ, prepared for every good work.
If the extent to which we seek to be free of our weaknesses and sins (Hebrews 12:1–2) is a precondition for entrusting of us with certain objectives, there is absolutely no way purpose is fully set at birth of any child.
Purpose is Acquired not Bestowed
Purpose is earned or acquired not pre-ordained or bestowed by Jesus Christ. If Christians ever have lazed around waiting for purpose to materialize, Jesus Christ Himself corrects saying,
strive Christian, strive with honor and righteousness and diligence for acquisition of purpose (good works) from me, author and finisher of your faith and salvation.
Contradictory Evidence from same Bible?
How then, however, do we interpret words in Ephesians 2:10, which read (I quote verbatim from the NIV of the Bible):
For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
A contradiction? Absolutely Not.
Preparation of Resources and Soccer Programs
Soccer programs run by Premier League Clubs in England identify talent, then build a custom program for turning a child’s raw talent into expertise as a defender, midfielder, or striker. Note soccer programs do not attempt to turn all raw talent into strikers. Talent is guided towards playing of a specific position. The raw talent of a child is springboard for all of the resources put at disposal of the child for transformation into a Premier League soccer player. Do the opportunities already exist? You bet. This is why the Premier League has quotas for English players. But does every child make it to those Premier League opportunities? Answer is No. Some kids are not good enough for the Premier League. Some have the talent, but are not willing to work as hard as necessary to make it into the Premier League. Some make the rational decision that ease of life they seek is more consistent with League One, League Two etc. level of competition. Some develop slowly, start off in League Two, work hard and eventually find their way into the Premier League.
I ask, how exactly is this different from Jesus preparing opportunities for people, but with opportunities realizable only if we remain faithful to His cause?
2Timothy 2:12 states in unequivocal terms (words in brackets mine):
If we endure (if we are faithful), we will also reign with Him (that is, with Jesus Christ). If we disown Him, He will also disown us.
Preparation of Resources and Company Succession Plans
Successful companies identify promising future leaders, then set up a grooming program for preparation of these persons for leadership positions in future by exposing said persons to different facets of the business. It is the qualification of the person that is springboard for these actions. Do all make it? Absolutely not. Some leave because better opportunities open up. Some leave because they are not able to cut it. Some leave because life expired while they still were seeking the prize.
Again, we have preparation of resources and opportunities, but with only those who continue to qualify going on to acquire stated resources and opportunities.
Application to Purpose
God sees our hearts and spirits while yet we are being formed (Galatians 1:15), observes our interest in or delight in fellowshipping with Him, then makes choices about what to entrust to us on basis of what He observes in the Spirit, in eternity.
Listen to Psalm 58:3, and Jeremiah 1:5, respectively (words in brackets mine):
Even from birth the wicked go astray; from the womb they are wayward and speak lies.
Before I (Jehovah, Father of Jesus Christ) formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.
It is our responses to Jesus Christ before and while yet we are being formed that determine resources or good works He initially makes available to us. From that initial investment, it is all about how faithful we are, not some deterministic commitment that holds fast regardless of our choices, character, or actions. It is our faithfulness in utilization of the resources initially made available to us that determines our progression in good works.
Within context of Christianity, purpose is acquired via a meritocracy. Meritocracy starts, however, with delight in God, desire for fellowship with God prior to or while we yet are being formed in the womb.
We are spirits living in a body. God gets to know our spirits before we acquire a body. It is the response of our spirit to Him that is signal of resources He can entrust to us.
Still doubt? Well consider these words in 1John 4:2-3 (we are spirit), and Revelations 22:12 (purpose is a meritocracy),
“…Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God…”
Behold I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what He has done.
Why exactly would Jesus reward people for doing stuff about which they have no choice? 1Corinthians 13: 1–3 makes clear obedience without love — obedience that is not outflow of choice to respond to love of God — never is rewarded by Jesus Christ.
Within context of Christianity, purpose is earned within context of a meritocracy. Since merit starts with something everyone has capacity for: delight in and desire for fellowship with Jesus Christ, everyone starts with equal merit. There is no partiality.
Anyone saying to you that purpose is artificially bestowed by God independent of your choices, actions, or character desires your laziness, hates your soul.
You can choose to begin to delight in Jesus Christ today. If you already delight in Jesus Christ, remember it is your responsibility to turn your delight into a seeking after and acquiring of purpose. Good purposes already are reposed in Jesus Christ waiting to be acquired.