Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 24:29, 31-33, 49

29 And Rebekah had a brother, and his name was Laban: and Laban ran out unto the man, unto the well.

31 And he said, Come in, thou blessed of the Lord; wherefore standest thou without? for I have prepared the house, and room for the camels.

32 And the man came into the house: and he ungirded his camels, and gave straw and provender for the camels, and water to wash his feet, and the men’s feet that were with him.

33 And there was set meat before him to eat: but he said, I will not eat, until I have told mine errand. And he said, Speak on.

49 And now if ye will deal kindly and truly with my master, tell me: and if not, tell me; that I may turn to the right hand, or to the left.

The servant is graciously received into the home of Rebekah’s brother, Laban. His camels are unburdened and given feed, his feet are washed, and food is set before him to eat.

But while everything was done to set the servant at ease, he is not going to let himself relax until his charge has been fulfilled. He is here for a purpose, and while its success appears imminent, it is not yet made sure.

So, he tells his hosts about Abraham and Isaac, he tells of his commission to find a spouse for his master, and he tells the events that led him to their home. Then, in verse 49, he says that he must have an answer of them, and if their answer is to not allow Rebekah to return with him, then he must leave this table of food, put his sandals back on his feet, rouse his camels, and set right back to work on his given task! The man has the burden of duty upon him, and he isn’t going to relax until that has been taken care of. He isn’t going to waste his master’s time in vain pursuits.

The Epic Life- John 18:37, Exodus 3:10, 14

Pilate therefore said unto him, Art thou a king then? Jesus answered, Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice.

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 God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.

COMMENTARY

To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world
Come now therefore, and I will send thee unto Pharaoh, thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.
These verses are incredibly stirring. This notion of being called of God, of having an express purpose, a unique role to fulfill, a mission to undertake…these are the things that the heart yearns for! And while Moses took a little convincing to accept his calling, both he and the Savior became incredibly bold in declaring that they were doing what they had been called to do, and no man was going to prevent them in that. Indeed, that is the whole point of what Jesus is saying to Pilate in this first verse: the fact that he is facing the death penalty does not mean he has failed in his mission, rather it is the fulfillment of it. This trial, this crucifixion, this sacrifice…this has all been what he was born to do. “no power here. He’s not the one in charge. He is a pawn, pulled by strings that are pulled by God, all to make this very moment happen (see John 19:10-11).
Once again, isn’t there something exciting in Jesus’ testimony of his own destiny? And the fact that these stories excites something deep within us is significant. That we feel so affected really means something. For if we were not meant to reach for our own great purpose in life, then our soul would not stir at these words. Our hearts testify of what is true by how they respond to it. They race when they come into proximity with ideas that are good and right. These stories of receiving a divine calling are preserved so that they may excite us, and when they excite us we know that we should seek such experiences for ourselves.

The Epic Life- Question

There is something stifling about the idea of living an “average life.” Each of us wants to have a story that is significant, unique, and even epic in some way. Perhaps not every aspect of it has to be the most dramatic, but we want at least one area that is truly special.

We read stories of people that walked this epic path many times throughout the scriptures. Moses working miracles before Pharaoh, David slaying Goliath, the Israelites shouting down the walls of Jericho, Jonah swallowed by a whale, Daniel playing with lions, Samson with his incredible strength, Jacob serving fourteen years for the woman he loved, and Esther petitioning for her people.

All these examples would seem to suggest that the epic life is divinely approved. All these people came to their greatness while in the service of God. And that the epic life is such a common desire would further suggest that it comes to each of us from the same heavenly source. If this desire is baked into our very souls, if it is part of our birthright as children of God, then no wonder we crave it like food and water.

But at the same time, there are also many stories of men and women today who chase for greatness at the expense of their families. They try to accomplish something great in their career, or in their education, or even in their church, and all the while their family is left lonely at home.

I want to consider where this desire for the epic life comes from. How this desire is appropriately wielded, and how it is misused. I want to examine how one can properly go about finding their divine purpose and not be caught up by vanity along the way.

In the meantime, I would love to hear where your own journey for a life of significance has brought you. How did you come to know what your own purpose was? Or are you still looking for it? Have you been hurt by another’s negligence while they sought their own great story? What do you feel is the proper balance between reaching for more versus being content with what you already have?

For Our Own Good- Mark 9:23-24, Ether 12:27

Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.
And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.

And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.

COMMENTARY

Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.
The father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.
Yesterday we discussed how each of us is weak in our understanding of some commandments, but strong in our understanding of others. One commandment is that we should have faith, which apparently was an area where the father in this passage was weak. His reaction to this failing, however, is a wonderful example for how each of us can face our own realizations of weakness. He acknowledges what strength he does have, what strength he does not have, and then ask for help between the two.

I give unto men weakness that they may be humble, and if they humble themselves, and have faith, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.
In a non-shaming way, we need to acknowledge that our inability to see the meaning in certain commandments is a weakness. But having these weaknesses is no mistake, in fact our weaknesses are given to us intentionally. Strange as it may sound, we are designed to be somewhat broken.
As we learn from this verse, though, the reason for this design is because when we heal from our brokenness we heal back stronger than if we had always been whole. If all of us had a perfect understanding and commitment to the commandments right from the get-go, we probably would live more obedient lives, but we would not develop our reliance on God and His grace, which is of even greater value.

For Our Own Good- 1 Corinthians 12:8-12

For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit;
To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit;
To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues:
But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will.
For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ.

COMMENTARY

For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge; To another faith; to another the gifts of healing; To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues.
We have thus far considered how we all have certain areas of weakness in the gospel. But let us consider the more positive side of that coin, which is that we all have certain areas of strength within the gospel as well. And even more encouragingly, those strengths tend to be designed to bolster and inspire our brothers’ and sisters’ weaknesses.
If we are going to fret about “why am I not strong in this aspect of the gospel,” we might as well also encourage ourselves with the question “why am I so capable in this other?”

But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will. For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ.
And I believe those two questions find their answer in each other. I am weak in this commandment, so that my sister may embolden me with her strength. And I am strong in this other, so that I may be a support to my brother that is weak.
Just a couple days ago, entirely outside the context of this study, I was thinking to myself how my wife and I are so much more capable as a couple than as separate individuals. I believe we are able to accomplish far more by not being equally capable in every sector. By both of us being fragmented, but then fitted together, we become something better than either of us.

For Our Own Good- Personal Example

I never had trouble understanding why I needed to say prayers. Talking with my Father was clearly going to be the best way to receive guidance, and to draw my mind into spiritual reflection. And studying scriptures made perfect sense as well. How could I live his word unless I knew it? When I was young I struggled with boredom attending church services, but later in life came to understand the more you put into community, the more you get out of it. Tithing has never bothered me either. Sacrifice feels cleansing, and it feels good to give something away for the things I truly value, just like giving gifts to my loved ones.

There was one practice of discipleship that I never really felt the purpose for, though. Fasting. I heard other people say how it helped them to master their appetites, how it helped their spirit have the upper hand over the flesh, and I didn’t doubt that that was their genuine experience…it just wasn’t how it felt for me.

I became very hit-or-miss about the practice, and would go months without remembering to do it. I frankly didn’t feel very guilty about it, either, because it didn’t feel like I was gaining anything meaningful when I did try to do it.

And then, just recently, that changed. I really cannot say why, either. I’d like to be able to point to some key piece of understanding, or meaningful life experience, which made the practice fall into place for me, but I can’t.

Just one time I started feeling it, and I have been feeling it ever since. Maybe this was always here and I just wasn’t picking up on it? Maybe I just had to mature a bit more? I don’t know.

Interestingly, though, it isn’t quite the same experience for me that I have heard others share about. In my experience, it’s about going through the crucible. Because lately, without fail, every time I fast everything falls apart. Relationships become strained, everyone gets on their worst behavior, stress mounts up, and powerful waves of depression wash over me. It frankly feels like being cursed, where everything I touch just turns out wrong. And then, without fail, everything turns right at the very end of the fast. In those last hours pride dissipates, problems work out, stings are soothed, and I feel at peace. During the crucible I start to lose faith that things will work out…but then they always do before the end.

And I guess…I still don’t really understand fasting. Why is this experience happening this way? What is going hungry essential for God to show me this? I don’t know. But at least I can attest that it’s doing good things in me.

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.

Finding Our Purpose- Personal Example

I always knew that God must have a purpose for me, and I knew that it was my duty to find it. But for the longest while I held back. I never let myself get “too good” because then I figured He was going to ask me to sacrifice the things I loved the most.

By that I don’t mean that I was afraid about Him taking away my sins. I was all for having his help there! But no, I had a fear that He was going to take even the good things that I cherished: my stories, my writing, my creativity. I realize that might sound strange, but if I felt that way then I assume others have as well.

I think part of it comes down to my namesake. My parents named me Abraham after the biblical prophet, the guy who is most famous for being asked to kill his own son. That story has always landed very heavily with me.

Another reason was that those same things that excite me most: stories and writing and pretend, were all stifled in my home. It is only natural for children to believe that the things their parents dislike God also dislikes.

All of which is to say that I had a flawed perspective of God, one that made me fear Him. Our relationship is much better now, and I entirely give Him the credit for meeting me with all my misconceptions and lovingly setting me straight. Now I understand God’s calling for me, and it isn’t to take away the things that I love, it is to give them new life!

Finding Our Purpose- Acts 9:15, John 15:16

But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel.

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

For he is a chosen vessel unto me
Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you
Saul set out for Damascus with the express purpose of imprisoning the Saints. Who could have believed that he would instead be called to carry the Lord’s gospel to the Gentiles? Clearly neither Ananias nor Saul did, to them that notion seemed ridiculous. Yet that was exactly the purpose for which Saul was chosen.
Who could have assumed that a lowly fisherman would become the head of Christ’s church? And yet that was who was chosen.
The key factor in both of these examples is who was doing the choosing. Not Saul, not Ananias, not Peter, and not any other man. Only God.
If you are concerned because you do not know what purpose God has for you, do not worry. It isn’t some puzzle that you have to solve, and it isn’t a revelation that you have to disclose to yourself. Our purposes are given to us, they are something that only God can reveal. All you have to do is make yourself a willing receptacle for that.

Finding Our Purpose- Genesis 45:4-5

And Joseph said unto his brethren, Come near to me, I pray you. And they came near. And he said, I am Joseph your brother, whom ye sold into Egypt.
Now therefore be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves, that ye sold me hither: for God did send me before you to preserve life.

COMMENTARY

God did send me before you to preserve life
I believe that most of us think of our calling and our trials separately. A calling is something beautiful and meaningful that we are meant to accomplish. A trial is something we have to endure to prove our faithfulness.
But it would seem that Joseph did not see them as so apart from one another. He was taken from his family, sold into slavery and imprisoned unjustly. And yet in all those monumental afflictions he had seen the hand God. Through his suffering he found purpose.
This isn’t to say that we should seek out suffering, or that we shouldn’t try to mitigate pain when it is in our power to do so. We are encouraged to avoid pain wherever possible.
But when we have been dealt a hard hand we should pause now and again to look for greater meaning in it. If we are being required to pass through something, then certainly there is a reason why. What is the bigger picture yet to be revealed?