The “Why” of Life: Purpose Statements
I’ve had a life purpose statement for almost 28 years. It’s morphed a few times and is about to morph again, but it’s been there since I heard Ron Blue ask this question:
If your life is a dollar, what will you spend it for?
At the ripe old age of 34, I didn’t have a clue. Truth be known, my purpose statement would have read “Go as far as I can as fast as I can.” No thought as to where I was going or what I’d do when I got there. “Far” is a place you never get to and “fast as I can” is an abyss. I needed purpose. I started the quest. Haven’t stopped.
Rick Warren’s Purpose Driven Life started a lot of talk about purpose. “It’s not about you” was a huge stake in the ground. And “to glorify God” was the other stake. I knew my purpose had to be about glorifying God and about touching others. But how?
A short little book called The On-Purpose Person by Kevin McCarthy helped me a ton. That little allegory helped me put “how” to the “why” with this purpose statement:
“I, Regi Campbell, exist to glorify God as I love, serve and challenge others to be all they can be and give all of themselves to Jesus Christ.”
And that’s been ‘it’ for a long, long time.
Last year, I realized I’d put the emphasis on the wrong word. I’d become a self-appointed expert in “challenge” and neglected the “love and serve” part. I’ve been working on it—focusing more on loving people than trying to fix them.
Like most good things, this whole idea of purpose started with Jesus. His purpose, as stated in John 10:10b says, “I have come that they might have life and have it to the full.”
His life, death and resurrection gives us eternal life. What He taught, energized in us by the Holy Spirit, gives us meaningful lives NOW, if… and here’s a big if….IF we buy into it’s not about us. Life “to the full” only happens when we start living our lives for others. And with ‘glorifying God’ as our purpose, we have a why for everything we do.
So translate that into my work life, to my secular job—as secular as they come.
A quote from my friend John: “We go out looking for work that will bring purpose. God wants us to bring purpose to our work, no matter what it is.”
Easier to say than to do.
Here’s the trick. God cares about our motives, our hearts, and the ‘why’ we do what we do. Sure, He wants us to work smart and hard. But when our “why” is about Him (e.g., loving Him by loving others), He’s in it with us. When our “why” is to make money or a name for ourselves, it’s about us. About “me and mine”. We’re on our own.
I snagged this quote from Peterson’s Message paraphrase of Matthew 12: “It’s your heart, not the dictionary, that gives meaning to your words.”
If you go to work to get what you want, you’re living for you. But when you start with what He wants, your purpose bends toward glorifying Him instead of you. That’s the happy place. And you’ll see over and over, what He wants is for us to love and serve people. His highest and best creation. Made in His image. What He bled and died for.
I spend a month helping my Radical Mentoring guys develop life purpose statements. The “drums say” its one of the most helpful things we do. Let me encourage you to give it a shot. Knowing your purpose is to glorify God in your unique design and personality won’t keep you from wandering off the farm. But it might help you remember where the farm is so you can find your way back.