We are placed on earth by God for a purpose. But, what is our purpose? How do we find out? What do we do in the midst of searching for our purpose? How will we know that what we’re feeling is our God given purpose? Questions, questions, questions! But with a new year starting, we could use answers.
A Biblical example of discovering our Godly purpose comes from Jesus as he promised his disciples before leaving to ascend into heaven: “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8) A great promise but before receiving the power of the Holy Spirit, the disciples must wait.
Waiting is hard. Why must we wait? Years ago, I heard a story that put waiting in perspective. Actually, it was more like a dream or a vision:
Picture yourself standing at the wheel of a ship cruising down a river. There is a forest on one side and fields of corn on the other. The river is flowing smoothly and the scenery is beautifully serene but something seems strangely wrong. You look in the distance and notice your ship approaching what appears to be a mountain. There doesn’t seem to be any way around it. This presents a problem. What will you do? As you come closer to the mountain, you become increasingly fearful.
The ship represents your life as it follows the river. The scenery symbolizes events along the way. The mountain represents the obstacles and frustrations ahead. Sometimes difficulties can appear to be so large you wonder if there is any solution. You feel helpless, even hopeless.
As you come closer, you discover not a mountain but a lock to a canal. Once inside the lock, the ship comes to a stop. You can no longer go forward or see what is ahead. Large steel walls on three sides block your view. You are now faced with a dilemma. Everything you know and understand about the river, your life and your relationship with God is behind. You do not know what lies ahead and you are afraid.
This is one of those special moments. You can stop the journey and say, “I have traveled with God enough. I don’t want to go any further.” But deep down you know God wants you to keep going. To do so you must push a large button near the ship’s wheel. But you don’t want to push the button because you know that will cut off the one thing you still comprehend; your past.
Yet, somehow God gives you the courage to push the “Button” and immediately you regret it. Those big steel doors begin to close behind you so that you can no longer see in any direction unless you look up and right now there doesn’t seem to be anything skyward. It’s a scary feeling. The courage that enabled you to push the “Button” begins to weaken. Maybe you made a mistake?
Slowly water begins to flow into the lock and you sense the ship beginning to rise. But it happens slowly, very slowly. Why does waiting take so long? There isn’t much to do while you are waiting, except clean the ship. (Not a bad idea!) After waiting and waiting the ship finally rises high enough so you can see again but since you are higher, everything is much clearer.
“This is wonderful,” you exclaim. As the gate gradually opens you feel exuberant and alive. Your journey with God seems clear and the river ahead appears smooth. “Praise the Lord!” you shout. “Praise God in his heavenly dwelling; praise him in his mighty heaven!” (Psalm 150:1)
Yet before very long, you spot an obstacle ahead and you sail into another lock and the whole process starts over. Not again! What will you do? Once again you can say that you have sailed with God far enough. But to continue moving forward you must be willing to push the “Button” that will close doors to your past. Again God gives you the courage to reach out and push that button. Once again you are afraid but you begin cleaning the ship and you wait. “Why does it take so long, Lord?”
The water flows and the ship rises. As the doors open you are again higher than before. You are able to see further ahead and more clearly than ever. You turn around and even your past makes more sense. Your relationship with God is strengthened. “Praise the Lord!” you shout and continue your journey. But your happiness is short-lived as once again you sail into another lock.
At any point during the journey you may be tempted to stop but then you miss the tremendous opportunities God has for you. “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth.”
We are all placed on earth and called by God for a purpose. But, what is our purpose? How do we find out? What do we do in the midst of searching for our purpose? How will we know that what we’re feeling is our God given purpose?
Our ship is sailing and God is offering opportunities all along the way. But often those opportunities are disguised as locks or obstacles. God’s answers often require faith to push a button, take a risk, change something in our life. It is seldom easy or simple and there are often periods of waiting where the only thing we can do is “clean the ship.”
But, as the waters rise and the doors of the lock slowly open, there is the promise of seeing your life from a better perspective, there is the delight and joy of knowing you are serving God and fulfilling your purpose. There is the comfort of knowing God is in the boat providing guidance, strength and hope. Your past makes more sense, your relationship with God is strengthened, your future looks brighter!
Yes, there are more locks to come, more “faith” buttons to push and new opportunities lie ahead. That’s why we keep sailing, keep cleaning, keep looking up and trust in God to navigate our ship safely home.