The Epic Life- Matthew 16:21-23, Luke 14:26-27

From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day.
Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee.
But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.

If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.
And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.

COMMENTARY

Jesus began to shew unto his disciples, how he must suffer, and be killed, and be raised again the third day.
Then Peter began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be.
But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me.

If anyone has ever had a divine purpose to fulfill, certainly it was Jesus. He was born for a very specific cause and all the world depended upon his completion of it. Jesus needed to do what he was here to do or else all of us would be forever lost.
Of course one can see how Peter was well-meaning in his arguing against Jesus fulfilling that role. Peter’s perspective was limited. This was the death of his friend being talked about, and how could he be expected to approve of that? Peter was full of all manner of good intentions, but his suggestion that Jesus not go through with his calling would be the most heinous crime to humanity imaginable! Peter’s friend would be saved and the whole world would be damned.

If any man hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.
And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.

As Jesus had testified earlier, it was essential for him to bear his cross and fulfill his role, regarding it higher than his brother Peter. And when Peter tried to dissuade him, Peter had to be reminded of the hierarchy of Jesus’s love. In the moment that Peter tried to pull Jesus off of his divinely-appointed path he was not a true friend.
Of course a disciple can have families and friends and love them. But Jesus’ point is that when we have found the wonderful, epic life that God has given us, when we have found the cross we must bear and the path we must follow, then friends and family must be made to understand that that is what we are going to do! And if they try to dissuade us in that, they must be made to understand that even if their intentions are good they are doing us no favors by trying to derail our destiny.

The Epic Life- 1 Samuel 17:22-24, 32

And David left his carriage in the hand of the keeper of the carriage, and ran into the army, and came and saluted his brethren.
And as he talked with them, behold, there came up the champion, the Philistine of Gath, Goliath by name, out of the armies of the Philistines, and spake according to the same words: and David heard them.
And all the men of Israel, when they saw the man, fled from him, and were sore afraid.
And David said to Saul, Let no man’s heart fail because of him; thy servant will go and fight with this Philistine.

COMMENTARY

And David ran into the army, and came and saluted his brethren. And there came up the champion, the Philistine of Gath, Goliath by name. And all the men of Israel fled from him, and were sore afraid.
When David visited the army he found Israel in dire straits. A hero was being called for, and not a single one could be found. Thousands of soldiers, to be sure, but not any hero. And among so many fearful, who would have blamed David if he cowered, too? He could have heard that giant’s taunts, shrugged his shoulders and slunk away. No one would have blamed him. If anything he had more excuse than all the rest, for he was still a youth. They were soldiers and he was merely a shepherd!

And David said, Let no man’s heart fail; thy servant will go and fight with this Philistine
Yet David did not slink away, tail between legs. Because in spite of all rational reasons to be scared, he wasn’t. Or if he was, that fear was overrun by the call that he must answer. He was not just a lowly sheepherder, he was a son of God, and obligated to defend his country.
The giant was calling for a challenger, old King Saul was calling for a champion, God was calling for a representative. Many heard the cries, but it was David alone who elected to answer. This is the beginning of David’s great life, and he lived it only because he applied to the position.

The Captive Heart- Luke 4:18

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised.

COMMENTARY

He hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor
He hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted
To preach deliverance to the captives
Recovering of sight to the blind
Set at liberty them that are bruised

After fasting for forty days Jesus officially began his mortal ministry He did so by formally announcing who he was, the Son of God, and clearly laying out exactly what he was here to do. In this moment he was essentially giving his divine mission statement to the world. And in all of the stated objectives that he gave there was a common theme of healing the people who are hurt.
But he didn’t just want to do good., Jesus further specified that he was anointed and sent of God. Thus his desire was united with power. He can help us, and he wants to. There remains only one other variable then, and it is the one that is determined by us: will we let him help us?

Who Am I?- Matthew 4:21, John 15:16

And going on from thence, he saw other two brethren, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in a ship with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and he called them.

Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.

COMMENTARY

James, and John his brother, in a ship , mending their nets; and he called them
Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you
Yesterday we considered how Moses was not a prophet when God called him to be a prophet. Now that might seem stupidly obvious, but it is actually a very important lesson for our own journey of self-identity and it is a pattern that was later repeated when Jesus called his disciples.
They were not disciples originally. They were fishermen and tax collectors, individuals that had already carved out a definition for themselves and had their own lives, which he came along to disrupt. And Jesus didn’t limit the surprise callings to his lifetime, either. After his death and resurrection he came to Saul, who had defined himself as being against the church, and called him to be a disciple instead. It frankly didn’t matter who the disciples were, only who they were to be.
And sometimes they didn’t measure up to the identity he gave them, but still he gave it to them, and did so repeatedly. Whether they were ready for it or not, whether they would perform it well or poorly, whether they even wanted the identity or not…they were all still called, named, and given who to be.

Who Am I?- Exodus 3:10-11

Come now therefore, and I will send thee unto Pharaoh, that thou mayest bring forth my people the children of Israel out of Egypt.
And Moses said unto God, Who am I, that I should go unto Pharaoh, and that I should bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt?

COMMENTARY

And Moses said unto God, Who am I, that I should go unto Pharaoh, and that I should bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt?
When God extended His calling to Moses, Moses showed surprise. “Who am I, that I should go?” he asked, believing that he wasn’t the right person for the job. His doubt is understandable, because who Moses was at that time was not the person that God was calling him to be. But then, who exactly Moses was had been a very fluid concept his whole life long.
Moses had been born a Hebrew slave. But that was not who he was meant to be. He was liberated from that position and instead given the role of an Egyptian prince. But that was not who he was meant to be either. Moses rejected the identity he had been given, and finally chose one for himself, that of a shepherd in the desert.
But that was not who he was meant to be either. In the end, Moses’s identity was not to be defined by the situation of his birth, or the titles others tried to put on him, or by the vocation he, himself had chosen. In the end, his identity was to be the one that God alone gave to him.

Who Am I?- Psalm 139:13-14 (ESV), Jeremiah 1:5

For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.

Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.

COMMENTARY

For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made
Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee
The question of who we are must eventually come to terms with the truths proclaimed in these verses: that we are creations of God. I say “come to terms” because this notion of being someone else’s creation rubs against the grain of our modern culture. Each of us crave to be a self-made man or woman, one who doesn’t owe anything to anyone, someone who no one else has any claim on. To suggest that that we might be a creation offends a part of us.
But…it also makes another part of us very excited. For we also speak longingly of finding somewhere where we feel we belong, a calling that we were meant to fill, a situation that we were uniquely fitted for. But how do we belong, or are meant to fill, or are uniquely fitted, unless we were designed–created–by another to be so?
There is no shame in saying that we are another’s creation, but there is a humility in it.

Who Am I?- Genesis 17:5, Genesis 32:28, John 1:42

Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham; for a father of many nations have I made thee.

And he said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed.

And he brought him to Jesus. And when Jesus beheld him, he said, Thou art Simon the son of Jona: thou shalt be called Cephas, which is by interpretation, A stone.

COMMENTARY

Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham
Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel
Thou art Simon the son of Jona: thou shalt be called Cephas

There is a theme in the scriptures of people being given a new name in association with finding their calling in life. This is a moment of extreme importance, usually based around a turning point, where the old person is remade into something greater.
Especially important is who it is that is giving out these new names: God or Jesus Christ, the same individuals who seek to give us a new life, a new identity, a new purpose to follow. These are the original creators of our souls, and also the creators of our new soul, after we choose to come to them.
Therefore, the question of “who am I?” can be replaced with another question, that of “who will God make me into?” Though it goes entirely against the grain of worldly philosophy, we do not make ourselves. Perhaps we choose our own destiny, but we choose it from the options that He gives us. If you ever want to really know who you are, you have to start asking Him who He thinks you are.

Active Discipleship- 2 Timothy 1:7, John 14:12

For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.

Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.

COMMENTARY

For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind
He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these
When I read the scriptures as a boy, I liked to picture myself in the shoes of Daniel, Gideon, and Joseph. These were stories of heroes, stories of people doing remarkable things in difficult situations, stories of valiant hearts that rose to the occasion, that knew their calling, and then lived it boldly. I loved these stories, and I always felt that they represented exactly the life that God wanted for me as well!
There is an important theme to each one of these stories, the very thing that made them so exciting to read. In all the scriptures, all of the heroes are examples of people that lived active lifestyles. These stories only exist because the men and women in them were not sitting around, living passive lives. We will never be like the fearless warrior David so long as we shy away from our struggles. We will never be like the great pioneer Moses so long as we turn down the ventures God offers us. We will never be like the great re-builder Zechariah so long as we refuse to make restitution for the things we have broken.
God always intended that we would feel the scripture heroes alive within us. He wanted for us to read their stories, be inspired by them, and become heroes just like them. But it will never happen so long as we remain sedentary on the sofa.

Sacrifice and Consecration- Personal Example

I shared at the end of my last study series about a fear I once had. This fear was that if I really tried to follow God, sooner or later He was going to ask me to sacrifice my creativity. He was going to point to all those silly, little stories that I loved to write and say “Enough of that childish stuff, you need to dedicate yourself to some real work now.”

That was a hard thing to face, because I had always considered my creativity to be an essential part of me. Surrendering it would feel like denying a core of who I am. As I spoke with God about these fears, He assured me that He had no intentions to make me sacrifice my creativity. In fact He pointed out that He is an extremely creative being Himself, and that I feel these creative longings because I am His son.

And then He did a most beautiful thing. He asked if I would allow Him to help me with my creativity. He asked if I would be willing to make a joint effort on the stories I write, one where I use my passion to communicate His messages. After all, why can’t a writer ask God’s advice on where a plot should go, or what a story’s theme should be?

So God didn’t take my stories away from me…but He did change them. And I have not sacrificed my creativity…but I have consecrated it.

And ever since that moment my writing has had so much more purpose, and my stories are full of so much more heart. When I write, I feel so much more enriched and complete. I feel that I am doing what I love, and that in so doing I am giving glory to God.

Finding Our Purpose- Summary

Deciding to do this study topic was very easy. I felt like its message was already pervading so many of my other topics, and it was time to give it its due. This message means a great deal to me, I feel that life really begins only when one finds their calling and pursues it.

It’s easy to wish that I had begun my own calling earlier , but I know that I wasn’t ready before. Fulfilling your life purpose will never be a trivial thing. You need to be sorted out and on a firm foundation before you can do it, and getting to that place is always going to take some doing.

In the end it doesn’t matter so much when you arrive, it only matters that you do arrive. Now let’s examine the three core principles that I gleaned from this study.

Everyone Has a Purpose

I expect that my perspectives will evolve and refine over time, but this one I am sure that I will never stray from. I simply refuse to believe that there is anyone in this world who does not have a higher calling to fulfill. If you didn’t have a reason for being here then, simply, you wouldn’t be here. The fact of your existence is the proof of your purpose.
It is easy to be cynical and doubt that life has any higher meaning when we see so many people who do not live one. But just because people do not live a higher purpose does not mean that they do not have one, only that they are not living it. In the scriptures we hear of too many small and simple people becoming powerful emissaries of Christ for me to believe that anyone is too incapable to be an instrument for the Lord.
1 Corinthians 1:27- But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty.
Jeremiah 1:5- Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee

Our Purpose Gives Glory

Even those tyrants who commit unspeakable atrocities came to this earth for a divine reason. Many of them were extremely powerful and extremely motivated and they could have been great. It is a terrible tragedy that they lost their way and used their capabilities for evil instead.
We all live in the midst of a battle of shifting luminance. We either add a light to this world, or else we plunge it deeper into darkness. God knows that there is more than enough of the darkness. If you still have any lingering doubts about whether you have a purpose, just ask yourself “could this world use a little more light or not?”
There will never be a time that we don’t need you to add your spark. It will always be better to add your glimmer, no matter how small you think it is. And if we wish to illuminate the world, all we have to do is let the light God put into us shine out. When we live the purpose He planted in our heart, then we are doing our part to brighten all the world.
Matthew 5:16- Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.
1 Corinthians 12:26- And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it.

We All Need Help to Fulfill Our Purpose

Now sometimes we do want to make the world a brighter place, but then we feel that we are blocked. As I suggested up above, living out one’s purpose first requires being straightened out inside. If one is living in guilt, one cannot live their purpose. If one is living in suffering, one cannot live their purpose. If one is living incomplete, one cannot live their purpose.
There is no shame in admitting that we need help to do the things we are supposed to do. I believe many of us get confused on this point. If our calling is ours to live, doesn’t that mean we should be able to handle it all on our own? The surprising answer is no.
Because God does not give us a life to live. He gives us a life to live with Him. Therefore it is impossible to live the life that God intended for us alone, no one ever has. God’s purposes are beyond us, and they can only be attained by His miracles.
So if you have the desire to live your fullest life, but the inability to act on that desire, then the only question is whether you will seek the deliverance that you need. You know what healing to pray for, what resources to ask for, what lifting to plead for. Let go of any pride and humbly accept God’s help. It’s time for the two of you to start doing things together.
Exodus 4:11-12- And the Lord said unto him, Who hath made man’s mouth? or who maketh the dumb, or deaf, or the seeing, or the blind? have not I the Lord?
Now therefore go, and I will be with thy mouth, and teach thee what thou shalt say.

John 15:16- Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.