The life we have is about fulfilling a purpose greater than ourselves. In another session, we introduced the idea that the life we’ve been given is more than fulfilling our personal agendas. In reality, God created us for his magnificent purposes that far exceed our lifetime. Check out the inspiring story of one man who spent his life fighting for a worthy cause.
Imagine for a moment that you were born into luxury. Picture the home you would live in or the cars you could drive. Imagine the gorgeous destinations where you could vacation and the fine foods you could enjoy. Can you even comprehend what life must be like when finances are not a limiting factor? Your parents have limitless bank accounts that you could do anything you wanted at any moment. How cool would that be!?
Well, this was the situation for one young man born into English wealth in the mid 18th century. He had all that this world could offer. He enjoyed a good education at Cambridge, traveled with friends throughout Europe, and connected with people of high political influence. What’s more, he was the beneficiary of the family fortune due to the early deaths of close relatives, making him independently wealthy at the age of 18. Roughly, the next eight years of his life were spent indulging his personal appetites of card playing, gambling, and drinking with high social elites. His charming personality and engaging way of conversation made him quite popular. These attributes along with his persuasive public speaking style propelled him to become an elected Member of Parliament by age 21.
Talk about a ripe candidate for the world’s most eligible bachelor! Life was handed to him on a silver platter. There was just one problem. Deep inside this aspiring politician and social elite was a crucial longing for a meaningful life. Even with all his accomplishments, he despaired that he had done nothing of any purpose with his life. Early success showed him the vanity of a self-centered life. And so it was that in the coming months, he entered into a period of deep sorrow and soul-searching. Finally, during Easter of 1786, at the age of 27, this young man converted to an evangelical expression of the Christian faith, which was generally looked down upon at that time in England. But, he had discovered a purpose worth living for: the abolition of the slave trade. His life suddenly took on a greater meaning. He discerned that God had assigned him a position of influence for a reason. So he committed himself to ending the slave trade. Though it cost him his popularity, health, and many sleepless nights, though it stirred the virulent anger of great economic profiteers in the business, he kept up the good fight. In the years 1789, 1791, 1792, 1793, 1797, 1798, 1799, 1804, and 1805, he introduced legislation calling for ending the slave trade. Each time the bills were defeated. His battle was truly on the scale of a colossal David and Goliath fight. Yet, he doggedly pressed on, being driven by a God-sized mission. Finally, in 1807 at the age of 48, Parliament passed a bill making the slave trade illegal in the British Empire. But, sadly, human trafficking continued under the radar. With inspiring resolve, this man tirelessly spent the rest of his life making sure the British Empire enforced her own laws. At the age of 73, this weary veteran learned that the slave trade in the British Empire was finally brought to an end. The news came no less than three days before his death.
A life well lived, a life driven by a purpose greater than himself. A man who in his youth had all the world could offer, yet could not ignore the ache in his soul to do something great. He wisely reasoned that the life he had been given was all about God.
Who is this man? William Wilberforce.
Like Wilberforce, the apostle Paul was also driven by a purpose greater than himself. He too endured all kinds of hardships. In a later section of this same letter to the Corinthians (see chapter 11), he lists some of the trials he endured for the sake of the Gospel. This selection here provides an insight as to what motivated Paul to keep pressing on to fulfill God’s purpose for his life. As you read, try to notice the God-centered orientation and eternal perspective of Paul’s life.
I know in my head that life is all about you and your purposes, but I confess in my heart I still hold onto selfish wants and desires. I ask that you put within me a burning desire and longing to life my life for you. Please put your passions within me.
Check out this link to Focus on the Family’s blog and listen to a free Adventures in Odyssey episode about John Newton. He wrote the hymn “Amazing Grace” and greatly influenced William Wilberforce and his political campaign to abolish slavery.
1 Corinthians 1:25
Luke 12:13-21 – Jesus rebukes a young man for his greed and warns against the dangers of thinking life is all about amassing possessions for personal gain.
Acts 20:24 – St. Paul addresses the Ephesian elders prior to his perilous return to Jerusalem. Many thought this trip by Paul was a suicide mission. In the face of death, listen to what Paul has to say:
Here is a clip from the 10th anniversary tribute to Les Miserables. It shows the part of the story where a recently released convict Jean Valjean is shown kindness by a bishop and in return for this generosity he steals from the parsonage and flees in the night. But the bishop forgives and saves Jean Valjean, causing Valjean to rethink the purpose of his life. Notice how the love of God expressed to another can change everything!
God asks us to follow him and model ourselves after him. Take some time and write down as many words as you can think of to describe God. There are no right or wrong answers. The point is to understand how you see him. Once you better understand that, it will be easier to become like him. After you make your list, try circling a few that you want to talk with your leader about later, or attributes you share in common. Maybe you’ll want to circle the words that you would like to use to describe yourself but still need to work on. Keep this list somewhere nearby and feel free to add, circle, cross out, highlight, or whatever as God reveals himself to you more and more each day.
One of God's biggest joys is seeing his children laugh and enjoy the rest of his creation. Take a look at this kid who, clearly, likes to spread the laughter around the world. The best part is, his love is contagious! Spread it around!!