Have you ever wondered about God’s purpose for your life? Believe it or not, the answer is not as confusing as some make it out to be. In fact, God’s purposes for us are really quite simple. This study will take a good look at some of the inner qualities God looks for in his people. Dive in to learn more!
The Bible is full of interesting characters. Two of those figures are Israel’s first two kings. Their names are Saul and David. But what makes their stories intriguing is more than what they did during their own lifetimes. In order to fully appreciate them, we first need to become familiar with the larger movement of Israel’s history leading up to their rule. Due to space constraints, however, more attention will be given to Saul’s life. Hold on tight for this whirlwind tour of some Old Testament history!
So here’s the scoop: You may already know that Israel spent about 400 years in Egyptian captivity. They ended up in Egypt because a young man named Joseph was sold by his brothers to a band of Midianite merchants. To make a long story short, God utilized Joseph’s special gifts to save the known world from starvation. It was during a seven-year famine that people from all over the Middle East traveled to Egypt to buy grain. Some of those people were Joseph’s long lost brothers. After a tearful reunion, Joseph was able to use his high political influence to acquire orders (so-to-speak) for his whole family to “PCS” to Egypt. But this blessing soon turned into a curse as the rapidly growing Israelite tribe went from minority status to a major potential political and military threat. That is why the Egyptian Pharaohs enslaved the Israelites and horribly mistreated them. God’s people cried out to God and he heard their agony. In his grace and mercy, God sent Moses to deliver the Israelites from the oppressive hand of the Egyptians.
After Israel’s miraculous exodus from Egypt, they had to spend another 40 years wandering in the desert because they failed to believe God’s pledge to bring them into the Promised Land. At the end of that time, God appointed Joshua to lead an impressive military campaign against the pagans living in the land promised to the Israelites. Under his remarkable leadership, Israel claimed much – but not all – of the land promised them. Unfortunately for the Israelites, they failed to obey God, and eventually adopted the pagan lifestyles of their neighbors – practices which roused God’s anger. Thus, at the end of Joshua’s reign Israel enters into a 300 year period of being ruled by various judges who served as military leaders. During this time, Israel is marked by a cyclical pattern of moral and spiritual decay, punishment, repentance, periods of peace and stability, followed once again by spiritual downward spiral. It is not a pretty era by any stretch of the imagination.
Eventually, Israel cries out to God for her own king so it could be just like the other nations. This brazen demand was an outright rejection of God as their king. But God, in mercy, granted their request. And so it was that Saul was anointed Israel’s first king. He was the “people’s choice,” having all the external qualities of a good leader. But he lacked the inner character necessary for effective leadership. That is why God eventually rejected king Saul and anointed another to take his place; his name was David. This king was God’s choice, and David proved to be much more effective than his predecessor.
While Saul and David were both kings of Israel, the similarities end there. The two men are different in every other way, and thereby provide a nice contrast for a look at what God wants from us, or his purpose for our lives. Ultimately, what we do is less important than who we are. (You will find more on this issue under the topic of Identity.) You see, one of God’s dominant purposes for your life is that you grow to possess the inner qualities of Jesus Christ. This is the hallmark of any mature Christian. How and where we model Christ to the world is of secondary importance. At the end of this study, you will find a number of personality and spiritual gifts surveys that are helpful in discerning how God might want to use your unique design to accomplish his purposes. But they are at the end for a reason. Let us first focus on allowing God to form Christ in us.
The passage below captures the event that led to God’s rejection of the “people’s choice” King Saul. As you read, pay attention to exactly what God commands his servant to do. Then observe whether or not Saul follows through in obedience to God. Notice also how Saul responds when God’s priest, Samuel, confronts the king with his error. You may find that some of the terms are hard to pronounce – don’t worry about it. Skip over them and keep reading!
I understand that what you primarily want from me is that I be transformed into the image of your Son, Jesus Christ. I ask that you create within me a desire to change the aspects of my character that do not reflect you well. Help me, Father, to faithfully represent you wherever I go and in whatever I do.
Take a look at this map depicting the Isrealites’ wandering in the desert for 40 years, and all because of their disobedience to God! Before we judge them for their failure not to get it the first 100 times, think about how many times in your life you do exactly what you shouldn’t even though you know better. At the end of your life, your roadmap may look a little like this, but with prayer and dedication, God will show you the promised land he has prepared especially for you. View the map.
"Help me, O God, to see that I'm just a symbol of a movement... Oh, God help me to see that where I stand today, I stand because others helped me to stand there and because the forces of history projected me there. And this moment would have come in history even if M.L. King had not been born."
Martin Luther King, Jr.
11 August 1957
Consider the possibility that your life will impact just as many people as Dr. King’s. You never know what God has intended for your life, but challenge yourself to live it well in pursuit of godly rewards and to remember that you are where you are today because of others before you and that your actions will impact the future lives of others.
The following is an excerpt from Brennan Manning’s book Ruthless Trust.
The Story of the Cracked Pot
A water-bearer in India had two large pots. Each hung on opposite ends of a pole that he carried across his neck. One of the pots had a crack in it, while the other was perfect. The latter always delivered a full portion of water at the end of the long walk from the stream to the master’s house. The cracked pot arrived only half-full. Every day for a full two years, the water-bearer delivered only one and half pots of water.
The perfect pot was proud of its accomplishments, because it fulfilled magnificently the purpose for which it has been made. But the poor cracked pot was ashamed of its imperfection, miserable that it was able to accomplish only half of what it had been made to do.
After the second year of what it perceived to be a bitter failure, the unhappy pot spoke to the water-bearer one day by the stream.
“I am ashamed of myself, and I want to apologize to you,” the pot said.
“Why?” asked the bearer. “What are you ashamed of?”
“I have been able, for these past two years, to deliver only half my load, because this crack in my side causes water to leak out all the way back to your master’s house. Because of my flaws, you have to do all this work and you don’t get the full value from your efforts,” the pot said.
The water-bearer felt sorry for the old cracked pot, and in his compassion, he said, “As we return to the master’s house, I want you to notice the beautiful flowers along the path.” Indeed, as they went up the hill, the cracked pot took notice of the beautiful wildflowers on the side of the path, bright in the sun’s glow, and the sight cheered it up a bit.
But at the end of the trail, it still felt bad that it had leaked out half its load, and so again it apologized to the bearer for its failure.
The bearer said to the pot, “Did you notice that there were flowers only on your side of the path, not on other pot’s side? That is because I have taken advantage of it. I planted flower seeds on your side of the path, and every day, as we have walked back from the stream, you have watered them. For two years I have been able to pick these beautiful flowers to decorate my master’s table. Without you being just the way you are, he would not have had this beauty to grace his house.”
In his book, [Brennan] Manning is his true self, going deeper in and farther on to extract the inner essence of the story. He writes, “Using the cracked pot to serve his didactic purpose, the moralist preens his feathers by laying another burden on us, saying in effect, ‘Accept your clumsy, cockeyed selves, you dimwitted dorks!....’ Although a moral code is indispensable for an authentic spiritual life...incessant and exclusive moralizing reduces the Good News to a tedious behavioral code, a rigid ethic, or an altruistic philosophy of life....The pot had assumed that the sole purpose of its existence was to haul water from the stream to the house. Enfolded within its narrow self-determination, the flawed pot had not suspected God’s grand purpose for it: to give life to the dormant flower seeds along the path.
“Does not this restricted view describe our own situation? We formulate plans to fulfill what we perceive to be the purpose of our lives (inevitably limited), and when the locomotive of our longings gets derailed, we deem ourselves failures....”
Brennan Manning goes on to describe that he had rented an office in order to work on a book. He suffered from writer’s block for three months and became hugely frustrated. An eighty-year-old man asked him, as he was walking around the complex trying to pray through his frustration, to run an errand for him. And for twice a week for a long bit of time, he did so.
“One day in prayer the Holy Spirit whispered, ‘The function of this office is to serve the purpose of your life: to spend time in prayer, loving God with all your heart, mind, and strength, and to go to the store for Johnny. The book is a bonus.’ Then like a bell sounding in my soul, came to the words of Meister Eckhart, who insisted that the entire goal of the spiritual life is compassion. ‘If you were in an ecstasy as deep as that of St. Paul and there was a sick man who needed a cup of soup, it were better for you that you returned from the ecstasy and brought the cup of soup for love’s sake.’”
Our disappointments arise from presuming to know the outcome of a particular endeavor. The cracked pot was clueless about its life-giving purpose as a vessel.
1 Samuel 13:14 – The prophet Samuel rebukes King Saul for performing a sacrifice that only he was to perform; consequently, God begins to look for a new king whose heart is fully devoted to God.
1 Samuel 16:7 – a verse that tells us what God looks for his in people.
Micah 6:8 – a verse that describes more of the inner qualities of God’s people.
Galatians 5:22-23 – a great list of inner qualities that God wants to form in us.
Philippians 2:5 – Here Paul instructs us that even our attitudes need to be like Jesus.
Ephesians 2:10 – Paul informs us in this verse of God’s second primary purpose for our lives.
James 2:17-18 – James agrees with Paul that one of God’s purposes for our lives is that we put our faith into action.
(Video contains some language)
Listen to / read this quote from the movie “Fight Club” and consider what Brad Pitt says about God and who we are. When that is your view of God and life, how does that change the purpose of your life? Even if some of his anger and pain make sense and compute into your life, is an existence of empty meaninglessness really what you want for yourself? Is it really what you think God intended for you? If you feel like you need to talk with someone about these questions, don’t hesitate to approach your leaders, pastor, or perhaps your parents or friends. They would love to hear what you think and see what God will show you!
involved, but odds are the results will be fairly accurate.
In “The Wizard of Oz” there is a famous scene where Dorothy finally meets the wizard. She’s done everything he told her to do and she did it quite well. Now she has come back to be rewarded with her heart’s desire – to return home. As you probably know, her dog Toto pulls away a curtain, revealing just an ordinary man with no power to give her anything he’s promised.
Perhaps that’s how you sometimes feel, afraid that you’re gonna get to the end only to find out that God isn’t all powerful like he said. This fear and doubt is natural and it’s ok to question things and express your thoughts to leaders and parents. Talking with them may even give you some answers! But even if it doesn’t take away all of your doubt, never give up.
Instead, bring those fears and doubts to God and ask him to help you believe. It may be a lifelong process but he will never tire of you or give up on you. Know that your God, our God, is powerful!
Check out this hilarious song from “Singing in the Rain.” Consider how, despite his comical presentation, the message of making as many people as possible laugh in your lifetime is nothing to make fun of.