Archive for August, 2015

God’s Purpose, Your Purpose, and Julian Bond

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Part of walking in the supernatural involves doing the “world thing,” which is really just the supernatural walk’s counterpart in the natural world. There are times that you don’t have to do anything in the world to watch and enjoy the supernatural realm working around you, but a lot of the time you have to do something. But if walking in the supernatural sometimes depends on what you do in the world, then what, exactly, should you do? In its broadest sense, this question raises the important topic of your purpose in this world.

When I was younger, I asked my dad, “What’s the meaning of life – what’s the purpose of everything?” Sadly, he answered only in terms of the natural world. He said the purpose is to get a good job, have a family, use that job to provide for that family, work hard, etc. Later on, when we talked more and more life and God, I’m pretty sure he changed his mind a bit and would have answered the same question quite differently.

In my opinion, we’re here to learn God’s purpose as provided to us in the Bible, and then to discern our own purposes for this world that God has selected for us. You can get into the weeds pretty fast by trying to pin down God’s purposes (and you can read all of the detail about both God’s and our purposes in Rick Warren’s book The Purpose Driven Life), but most every follower of Christ thinks that God created men and women to love them and for them to love Him – to have a relationship, or, as some would say now, a reconciled and restored relationship. It’s a lot like an earthly father or mother. Why would they have a child? Mostly, it’s because they want someone whom they can love and who will love them back. But God’s purpose goes further. Whereas an earthly mom or dad might want good things for their child and have some general ideas about what they want them to do, God has a very specific and beneficial purpose for your life and you were born to achieve that purpose and to follow His will. Figuring out that purpose becomes the key to doing things in the natural that run smoothly parallel to the supernatural.

Discerning God’s purpose for you can take a moment or a lifetime; it can be placed in you as a “desire of your heart,” or it can be thrust upon you and constantly established as a supernatural desire of God that you can’t deny. It can line up with what you thought you wanted to do in your life (such as, to make a bunch of money) or it can be what you never thought you’d ever do in your life (such as, to live meagerly and help the less fortunate). The key is to figure out that purpose, make sure it lines up with God’s will, and then do it.

As Denise wrote in her book, you can make sure that things line up with God’s will generally by simply following a couple of broad boundaries. For example, when asked about commandments, Jesus summed up everything found in the OT law and prophets into two: love God, and love others as yourself. This one boundary, alone, can help you decide whether the thing you’re doing in the world is something that might be a part of your supernatural purpose. First and foremost, does it show love for God by glorifying Him? Does it please God?  Hint – if it’s not biblical, it probably doesn’t.

This command will automatically put pressure on you to do God’s will for you in the world. Whatever you’re doing – and even if follows biblical principles – if you don’t feel God’s pleasure (and believe me, God will let you know his pleasure or displeasure through the supernatural, even if you might be ignoring it), then you need to re-assess. When I practiced law in Washington D.C, I had a few friends who said, “I’m not sure that what I’m doing is helping anyone.” These kinds of thoughts likely represented God talking to my friends, and ran counter to any thoughts they might have entertained that God’s purpose for their lives was making sure that extremely wealthy people had good federal representation. On the other hand, I knew other people in the same firm who constantly felt that they were helping people and were using the law practice even to witness for Christ. They felt the pleasure of God in the work they did, and were likely coming quite close to fulfilling God’s purpose for their particular lives. There wasn’t anything necessarily unbiblical about the work in the law firm, but some of the people simply didn’t belong there. It wasn’t their purpose.

Pleasing God is good, but even those of us with the best intentions us can do awful, horrible things and justify that we are somehow pleasing God. That’s why I think Jesus also emphasized the second part of the command/boundary – love others as you would love yourself. It’s hard to do, but if you constantly do it, I think it’ll change your life. It’s this command that causes people to switch careers, to start missions, and to find blessings in a life that the world might scorn for its lack of material gain. It’s also the command that changes the way you walk down the street, that tells you not to write nasty comments on the Internet, and that keeps you from honking and swearing at people for how they drive.

This second part is also important because, despite talking about loving yourself, the command is not about self-love. This is incredibly relevant today, an era defined by Facebook pages, selfies, Twitter followers, and sharing information more to show one’s own interests than to disseminate knowledge. Quite simply, it’s awfully hard to do God’s will when all you’re thinking about is yourself.

Overall, you’re lining up what you think you should do with whether it follows biblical principles, whether it leads to inner thoughts of contentment showing God’s pleasure, and whether it shows love for others. That may seem to limit your options, but knowing that you are following your supernatural purpose will make it all worthwhile. Think of it this way – the world has plenty of things for people to do who don’t believe or care about God. But you, a follower of Jesus, should be looking for all of those other things that do.

I say all this because just a few days ago, amid all the trending stories of movie stars, musicians, athletes, and others trying to capture clicks, views, and likes, I saw that Julian Bond had died. For all I know, those other people might be following God’s will for their lives and doing all they can to love others as themselves, but it seems to me that Julian Bond, in particular, took a walk in the world that likely pleased God. Some of Julian’s purpose was likely thrust upon him. Who, in their right mind, would want to have the kind of hatred and scorn heaped upon them that was likely heaped upon the person that helped lead the civil rights movement, founded the Southern Poverty Law Center, and ran the NAACP? There’s a lot of natural world selfishness these days, too, but I think Julian Bond mostly stayed away from it and lived a life focused mostly on others.

By the way, even though my dad had told me that the purpose of life was to have a good job, provide for family, and other things in the natural world, he never mentioned any of those things at his death. As he was dying, I was with him constantly, and he only wanted to talk about God and people – what God and people meant to him, what God and people did for him and what he did for them. My dad was focused on a boundary that helps us to walk with purpose in the world, and he wanted to know whether he had lived a life that had pleased God.

I imagine that the same thing happened to Julian Bond at the end of his life, and I can only assume that the same will happen to you and me.

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