Do you know your purpose in life?
Acts 20:24 But I do not count my life of any value to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the good news of God’s grace.
Paul was being obedient to God and was on a journey which was different from any other on which he had embarked. This was a journey that would lead him to the end — to the telos — to the completion of his journey and ministry here on earth. No longer would he be traveling around as a missionary, but he he knew that the journey would bring his life to an end. It might begin in Jerusalem, take him to Caesarea and eventually to Rome — it might take time, but it was a different journey. Knowing this time things were different, Paul was saying farewell to some very dear friends. He wanted them to know who he was working for — and why he would continue on his journey. Paul wants to finish and fulfill his ministry in a way that would be pleasing to God. He didn’t work for anyone else — God and God alone! His joy was only in pleasing and glorifying God and this was accomplished by testifying to the good news of the grace of God.
I think that many of us struggle with finding our true purpose in life. We want to know the vocation to which we are called and we want to do it well. We are hoping that we are successful in the eyes of the world and that we will receive kudos from those around us, a validation of who we are and what we are doing. Unfortunately as followers of Jesus Christ that validation may never come from those around us, but may only come from God.
We must seek God and him alone, and in doing so he will reveal to us day by day and moment by moment the purposes of our lives. Paul understood that his calling was to “testify to the good news of God’s grace.” He was to do this everywhere he went and the result was churches were planted throughout the known world.
But what about you and me? What can we learn today from Paul?
1) That we all have a course set before us — a course to run, a job to do. If God is before us, and if we follow him faithfully we will discover that we are on our course as we follow him in obedience. Sometimes we may wonder about where we are and what we’re doing, but eventually it will all be made clear.
2) There will be times when we are discouraged as we travel our course. Paul had to face danger and fear of death. No matter how much the world throws at us, we are only in true danger when we do not fulfill the purpose for which God has created us. When we are disobedient we make God our enemy and that is the most dangerous place in which to find ourselves. Therefore we should abandon ourselves to the course that God has laid before us.
3) The end of the course for Paul was joy. Joy awaits us as well if we will live faithfully to the end. Paul knew that human death awaited him and yet he knew that ultimately joy would triumph over death. In this we can have hope!
4) Barnes tells us that it doesn’t really matter “when, or where, or how we die, if we die in the discharge of our duty to God. He will order the circumstances of our departure; and he can sustain us in the last conflict. Happy is that life which is spent in doing the will of God, and peaceful that death which closes a life of toil and trial in the service of the Lord Jesus.”
Every follower of Christ, clergy or layperson, is called to passionately serve God in the course laid before them. Our purpose in life is to follow that course and win the race before us, to the glory of God. In this we will find peace and joy.
Lord, please help us to keep our eyes on you and not be distracted from the course you have laid out before us. Amen.