In January, I attended what my church calls, The Dream Conference. It’s a beautiful 3-day experience where you fellowship, worship, and hear inspiring messages that are meant to help you find out God’s dream for your life – also known as, your purpose.
My husband and I had attended and by the end (to keep a long story short) we felt strongly prompted by the Holy Spirit to devote our musical talents and desires to the Lord’s good purpose. Before we left, we ran into the Children’s pastors and were offered a chance to start and lead children’s worship! I was so excited, but deep inside, when we accepted the offer, I felt this odd lack of peace. I disregarded that sense, and we pursued after this goal, assuming that it was what God wanted us to do, considering we had literally moments ago surrendered our music to Him.
Well, several months prior, God plucked me out of my daily routine through an illness and I spent three days “fasting” from all forms of media, besides sermons. I prayed, read my Bible, and listened to sermons and nothing else. During that time, God had done two alarming things. For one, He granted my prayer to have a revelation of His holiness. He did this by inspiring me to take a very dark song I’d written, and turn it into a song about His holiness, then granted me the ability to sing it (I could barely talk before singing it and lost my voice immediately after recording it). Secondly, He told me He wanted my husband and I to have a child, and that this child was meant to come before the music went anywhere and would be part of our ministry.
Literally one week before I was going to begin as the Children’s Worship Leader, I became pregnant and the symptoms were severe enough that I had to ask them to postpone my start, possibly until after I had the baby. The whole time, I was thinking about what God had told me before: first the child, then the music. I was also considering that the “dark” sounding song that turned into something about His holiness and everything else He’d ever inspired me to write, was not exactly “churchy” let alone, appropriate for children’s worship. It was more appropriate for evangelism and out-of-church ministry.
Again, to cut a long story down, without warning, the church’s worship leader became involved and his daughters took our place in children’s worship and not a word was uttered to my husband and I. Honestly, I was angry and relieved at the same time. After much prayer, the Lord showed me that He had no intention of actually placing us on that stage. He was using us to help throttle the pastors into putting the right people in their place, while also teaching me a harsh, and well needed, lesson about where I belong in the body of Christ. It finally hit me that God didn’t design me to be a worship leader in a church, but to use my various arts to evangelize. He was saying, “stop trying to be something I didn’t make you to be, and embrace who you truly are.” I feel so liberated knowing that I don’t have to be like anyone else. I don’t have to change who I am to fit into some “Christian” mold, I am already molded into what God wants me to be – I just have to do it.
This experience is why I’m writing about purpose. I don’t want anyone reading to assume their story is just like this, either. All of us have a different role and God has deliberately designed us and our lives to prepare us in the way He wants us to go – the way which is most satisfying for us.
So, let’s look at seven different ways to find out what God’s specific purpose is for your life!
- Your purpose is specific to your natural gifts and talents. (See Exodus 31:3-5)
As we know, God is the one who created us. He is a purposeful and deliberate God and is not likely to simply bless us with a natural ability that doesn’t have an important role in our lives. This means that the things that come natural to you are good indicators of what God might want you to do. For example, you might be a natural at cooking. Sure, you might take classes to further improve it, but you just get it in a way most people don’t. That could mean God wants to use you to bless others with food – something well known to bring others into community.
Our natural gifts come in all varieties of shapes and sizes. They generally are satisfying to us and unchanging throughout our lives. Even if you have seasons where you don’t do it as much as you’d like, you will always come back to those things. Make a list of your natural talents and ask God to help you see how these gifts are instruments of His purpose.
- Your purpose is specific to your spiritual gifts. (See 1 Corinthians 12:1-11)
You are likely familiar with the spiritual gifts, but in case you aren’t, a quick overview: The spiritual gifts are abilities that are supernaturally deposited by the Holy Spirit into every Christian at the point that you accept Christ. These gifts are designed to build up the church (the community of believers, not simply the physical church). There are many types (mostly listed in the scripture above) and they are all equally significant to God.
If you are not sure what your spiritual gift(s) are, I strongly advise you to ask God to help you discover those gifts. There are tons of resources available to help you understand what they are, how they work, and what yours are. There’s a good chance I will be writing about them soon as well. But these gifts are one of the biggest indicators of what your purpose is. Your spiritual gifts show you what your greatest strengths are – things that supernaturally charged by the Holy Spirit beyond regular ability. These gifts will give you energy, joy, and endurance, even when you are being challenged by an area of service. One of the best ways to find out what yours are, is to get around people and get involved in different types of service. Try children’s ministry or small groups to test the gift of teaching, for example. Try volunteering at a hospice or retirement facility to test the gift of exhortation. Keep trying until you find something that is deeply satisfying, and pray, pray, pray about it!
- Your purpose relates to your passions.
My pastor did an amazing job with this subject. He worded it as, God’s dream for your life is related to what you can’t stand. What he meant is that there are some subjects that just ignite a fire in us like nothing else. We might have one particular subject or several, but they will help us see the direction God wants us to go. These types of passions are divinely rooted in us if they correlate to things God also hates.
A great example of this is Moses. In Exodus 3:11-15, we see the familiar part of his story where he notices the Hebrew slave being abused by the Egyptian. This burned against Moses – the injustice, the lack of humanity. It upset him so much that he actually kills the Egyptian. Of course, Moses is chosen by God to face Pharaoh and free the Hebrews from slavery. Moses could not stand seeing the Hebrews as tortured slaves, neither could God. Those passions ignited together and led Moses on one of the most incredible journeys of faith in the Bible.
Likewise, when David faced Goliath, it was because he could not stand to see Goliath mocking and threatening God’s people (1 Samuel 17:26-27). Again, God couldn’t stand to see that either, so when David’s passion entwined with God’s passion, it turned into not only an incredible, miraculous victory, but David’s calling into kingship.
We can take from this by closely evaluating ourselves. What are some injustices that drive you crazy? What is that one topic that even if you were about to fall asleep a second ago, the moment someone brings it up, you are wide awake and ready for battle? Make a list of these things, from what gets you the most fired up to the least, and ask God to show you what passions align with His. Also, don’t get caught up writing things down that you should care more about. If you really don’t get fired up about homelessness or kids that are going hungry, don’t put them on the list. Something can upset us without it being something we are deeply passionate about. Be as honest as you can and remember God put those passions there for a reason.
- Your purpose is not necessarily the most “Christian” or “churchy” sounding thing.
This goes back to my story above. You might have the natural gift of charisma, the spiritual gift of pastoring/teaching, and have a vigorous passion for correcting false doctrines and God still might not have designed for you to be a pastor. Yes, being a pastor is one of the most “Christian”/”churchy” sounding titles out there, but maybe God gave you all those gifts and wants you to be a manager in a corporation that shows people the love of Jesus by walking in the faith and that is your ministry. Or maybe He gave you all those gifts so that you could lead a faith-filled family, or both.
I struggle with this in every way. God’s shown me countless times that my role is outside of the physical building of the church, using artistic means to shepherd lost/confused/hurting souls. But every time I see those worship leaders on stage or listen to a Bible Study series, I doubt what God’s told me. God constantly has had to remind me that His purpose is not limited by societal standards, physical buildings, or religious titles.
This is one that I believe you can only come to know through spending time alone with God. Once you’ve looked at the previous steps, look to this and ask God to help you discern between the possibilities of your gifts, passions, and talents. Remember 1 Corinthians 12:12-26, where Paul describes that church is the body of Christ, and a body is made of different parts. You wouldn’t expect the shoulders to walk – so why would God expect you to do something He didn’t design you most efficiently for? And, why should you? There is a role for each person. Do not compare yourself to anyone else!
- Your purpose will cause you to trust in God more.
God is not about to give you some wimpy dream or purpose. One of the most important roles of our purpose is that it will cause us to trust in Him, in small daily ways and sometimes huge ways, in order to accomplish it. Again, look at Moses. He doubted instantaneously that he could accomplish what God called him to do. Moses’s purpose forced him to trust in God with every step of the way. Of course, Moses is a big example. Most of us are likely not called to speak plagues over Egypt and part seas, but that doesn’t mean God’s methods have changed.
Sometimes it’s the smallest things in life that require us to trust God. Either way, you can always tell you are on the right path if that path is leading you closer to God and increasing your faith. A lot of times, this means God’s purpose might not make the most sense to our logical minds. We probably see lots of other, safer paths, than the one He designed us to take. But remember Proverbs 3:5-6. We are told to trust in His ways, not our understanding, and then He will make our paths straight. So, as you evaluate the possibilities, ask God to help you trust Him more. Focus on Him, His character, and His ways. We naturally walk in the direction our eyes are set on, so set your eyes on Him and you will gravitate in the direction He is leading.
- Your purpose may not be easy, but it will bring peace and joy.
One of the big mistakes people make, is they start going in the direction of God’s prompting and the second something goes wrong or it becomes difficult they think, “Oops, wrong way” and turn around. The thing about God is He deliberately makes your path difficult, not to hurt you, but to grow you. He doesn’t want your purpose in life to be something so easy that you wouldn’t need to rely on Him, nor does He want it to be so easy that you remain unfazed by it. Your purpose is part of the sanctification process. Sure, once you’re saved your salvation is in place and you are promised everlasting life in Heaven, but God still wants to do a work in you for the remainder of your life. What better way than through your purpose?
Here’s the catch. You can tell it’s your purpose because if you pursue it even when it gets difficult, you will encounter God’s peace and joy in spite of the trials. But you have to keep going and not give up yet. If you keep going and you never experience peace and joy, then that’s a good indicator that you’ve gone the wrong way, in which you should pause (be still) and wait for God’s direction. Don’t just assume it’s wrong. Ask God to confirm that it’s wrong (shut the door) and lead you back to your path.
After the worship leader’s daughters took my place, God helped me to do this. He told me to be still, and I was. I felt I had done something wrong and felt guilty, but I laid that at His feet. I asked Him to confirm if it was wrong, to shut the door completely, and to open the right door for me and encourage me to walk through. After praying that, my church randomly made a drastic change in which eliminated the need for Wednesday worship (the day we were supposed to lead) in the children’s ministry (they are doing kids small groups instead). Then as if that wasn’t enough, the children’s pastor resigned to be a stay-at-home mom and my whole connection to the children’s worship was eliminated, and I remained with my precious preschoolers. I have so much peace about what happened and am filled with divinely given joy, in spite of a lost opportunity, because I know I’m back on the path God designed me for. Look for those spiritual indicators as you pursue your purpose!
- Your purpose will help other people.
Lastly, your purpose is not meant to be a selfish thing. You might enjoy it (and should!) but it’s actually there to help other people. Everything God does is for our good and the good of the Kingdom. This means that as you begin living out your purpose there will be evidence of your good works around you. Of course, you can see fruits of your labor in anything really, but this will be something more. It will surprise you, satisfy you, and teach you. God will often, especially if you ask Him to, send people to encourage you on your path. This, to me, is one of the final steps to identifying your purpose: seeing how it sows into others in a way that is beyond your comprehension. It might not even be deliberate, but if it is God-given, He will ensure it helps other people.
The reason I say this is one of the final steps, is that there are plenty of opportunities to serve/volunteer out there, and obviously, those things are meant to help people. You can get so busy doing things that are good and helpful, but still miss the thing you would be most effective at if you don’t spend time with God evaluating your specifics. Of course, as I’d said above, you can try different things to discover what clicks, but just keep in mind that you trying to find what clicks, not just what works.
Purpose is such a big topic, and this is not an inclusive list or a fool-proof way to find yours. This is just what has helped me and what I feel God wanted me to share. Finding your purpose will not just happen overnight for most people. You have to take time, lots of time, with God in prayer. And remember as I said in the first post, it’s not actually about you. As counterintuitive and contradictory to much of what I’ve said above as that may sound. Your purpose as a human being is first and foremost to love and know God. Only once you’ve focused on Him, worshipping and glorifying Him, can you really start to see the specific, individual purpose He has for you.
“I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all,” (Ephesians 4:1b-3).