If you're using your gifts to serve others, you'll run a race that's full of friends—full of life—and you'll be empowered to finish your race with joy.
"I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith." (2 Timothy 4:7, NIV)
Have you ever noticed that it's easier to start something than it is to finish it? Finishing is sometimes just flat hard to do. These words from the Apostle Paul serve as a great reminder that if we're ever going to finish our race, and fulfill God's plan for our lives, then we will need to do two things: Fight for it, and do it by faith!
In studying the life of Paul, I've noticed many principles that will help all of us to finish our races. One we’ll look at today is this: “Know Your Purpose.”
Why are we here and what are we supposed to do with our lives? The writer of Ecclesiastes tells us that God has placed within our hearts a "divinely implanted sense of a purpose." (Eccl. 3:11, AMP)
Paul understood his purpose, and he knew what guided his life. He described how it happened as he stood before King Agrippa, explaining his dramatic encounter with Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus:
"So I said, 'Who are You, Lord?' And He said, 'I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But rise and stand on your feet; for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to make you a minister and a witness both of the things which you have seen and of the things which I will yet reveal to you.'" (Acts 26:15-16, NKJV)
Paul was just doing his own thing, living for his own purpose, and then Jesus stepped in and interrupted his life. The first thing Jesus told him to do was to "stand up." We are never going to finish our race sitting down. It's going to take effort, and not just any kind of effort; it's going to take everything we've got. Then Jesus told him that he would be a minister and a witness. But notice next that Jesus told Paul that he would be a witness of some things that he had seen—as well as a bunch more that was yet to be revealed. In other words, as you and I start our races, there are a lot of things we aren't going to know, but we'll just have to step out and do it by faith.
So what's your purpose? Why do you exist? What's God's plan for you? Actually, the answer is really simple; and once you "know it," you'll find it's easy to live out.
Are you ready? Here it is…the answer to those questions is in two things: To know God and to serve God. Your first purpose is to know God. Let's take a look at what happened when Jesus selected the twelve apostles:
"And He (Jesus) went up on the mountain and called to Him those He Himself wanted. And they came to Him. Then He appointed twelve, that they might be with Him and that He might send them out to preach, and to have power to heal sicknesses and to cast out demons." (Mark 3:13-15, NKJV)
The very first thing that Jesus wanted from His disciples was their time. He understood how important it would be for them to get to know Him personally. He knew that if they were ever going to fulfill their purpose and go out and preach with power that they needed to spend time with Him ... just hanging out, getting to know His heart, allowing Him to influence their lives. So our very first purpose is to know God.
Your second purpose is to serve God. Every one of us is unique. There are no two people on the planet who are the same. We each have different passions, desires and even different gifts and talents.
"As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God." (1 Peter 4:10, NKJV)
Do you see that the gifts that God gives us are not for us, but for others? Then—on top of that—the gifts aren't even ours; we can't even claim them. He tells us that we're just stewards over them. So are you using your gifts to serve others ... or yourself? If it's all about you, then you're going to run a lonely race. But, if you're using your gifts to serve others, you'll run a race that's full of friends—full of life—and you'll be empowered to finish your race with joy.
Say It: “Father, thank You for giving me a race to run. I really want to fulfill Your purpose for my life. I want to know You better every day, and I want to serve the people You have placed into my life. Thank You for the gifts that You have given me, and I commit myself to use those gifts to serve others today. In Jesus' Name. Amen."