Archive for the ‘Purpose’ Category

Hope for the Type-A Christian

Posted: December 30, 2013 by clairer in Purpose, Work

Finals week this semester was the longest…and shortest week of my life. Longest in the sense that I likely spent more hours awake in a single week than I ever have; shortest in the sense that I routinely had panic how-on-earth-is-the-due-date-tomorrow moments. The list of work to be done seemed endless and every moment not used productively felt wasted. Hours of sleep per night fell drastically…fun was out of the question… I had one goal and one goal only: to make it to the bottom of that to-do list with a straight perfect column of check marks. Yep…I’m a Type-A personality.

Between my schooling and internships, I’ve discovered just how much everyday people are bombarded with messages about work and productivity. In the classroom and the office, the “virtues” that are admired by my professors and employers are ambition, accomplishment, and advancement. From this trend comes people like me, the Type-A personally – people who are naturally driven, ambitious, active, impatient, under pressure to multitask, and keep trying to do more in less time.

Now our computers, iPhones, tablets, and 3G networks make multitasking easier and make it possible for us to work anywhere. I’ve found that as productivity is praised in every corner of society, my Type-A ambitious drive and disdain for leisure have only increased.

But added to the societal factors is the burden in being a Christian Type-A. I know for me, and for other Christian Type-As, the pressure to work hard and the guilt for resting is now even greater. After all, Christians are on earth to please and glorify God, and the Bible seems to be full of verses praising service and rejecting sloth and laziness. Rest – especially to one who is naturally inclined to stay active – seems to be a waste of God-given time and talents.

I have come across dozens of solid Christian books which have encouraged godly work and productivity, emphasizing vocation and filled with exhortations to not waste your life. But although many of these books rightly concentrate on how Christians should work, few of them explore how work should be balanced with leisure.

But this imbalance can be, at best, unhealthy, and at worst, spiritually, emotionally, and physically devastating. I know that in my life, this disproportionate focus has led me to many questions and false assumptions. Is God disappointed in me when I do something totally unproductive – like watch a movie or read a fun book? Am I minimizing God’s glory when I’m doing some “busywork reading” for a class instead of going out and starting a world-changing ministry? What do I do when my work is ineffective – when I stare at that empty Word document and just can’t get words on paper for that essay? …how can I justify sleep when it’s finals week and I have a million things to do?

Christian Type-As are finding themselves in a state of imbalance, being further encouraged to work for God’s glory, feeling guilt for necessary rest, and experiencing discouragement in unfruitfulness and ineffectiveness. Stressing God’s good purposes in work without addressing leisure has left the church in a spiritually skewed position.

While much is communicated about work in the Bible, God’s intentions for pleasure and leisure are equally clear. A holistic view of the Bible provides Type-A Christians with hope in their work and rest, not condemnation. This series – based upon a much longer research paper – is aimed at providing that holistic view.

Advertisements

Not the Point

Posted: March 24, 2013 by clairer in Purpose

The other day, I was playing a card game with my brothers called “Dominion.” The details of the game are somewhat intricate, but the overall point of the game is relatively simple: you use money to buy cards, you use cards to buy points, and points are counted at the end to reveal the winner.

I thought I was doing pretty well in the game. Over time, I accumulated more and more cards. My stack got to be huge and my turns got longer… but when the end of the game came and we all counted our points, I was left far behind. I’d been so focused on accumulating a stack of cards that I’d forgotten what the cards were meant to be used on: buying points. I’d forgotten my cards – in and of themselves – had no value at the end. I’d missed the main point.

I’ve had a similar experience lately in my life. My graduation from college is only 9 months away and my thoughts have been turning to my future and my career. What do I want to do with my life? Do I want to go to law school or graduate school? Do I want to pursue a career in government or go into ministry or teach? Do I even want a career or does God have another plan for me? My future decisions seem so…looming and immediate. I’ve had dreams and aspiration of achievement and success and I’m trying to figure out what steps I need to take to get there.

But as I’ve studied and dreamed about how to accomplish the things I want to do and achieve, I was struck by a sudden thought: …why? Why am I studying so hard and pushing myself to my limits? Well, to get good grades. Why do I want good grades? Well, so I can get into a good law school. Why law school? So…maybe I can change the world. But…why?

I think it’s easy for me to get so focused on the next hurdle of my future – whether that’s my next midterm, taking the LSAT, or deciding on future schooling – that I forget to ask the why-question. I am so attentive to my immediate to-do list, I forget to ask…what’s the point? What counts when it’s “game over?”

It’s so easy for me to forget this question. It’s tempting to make my degrees, my career, my successes – like those cards – into the goal…instead of merely a means to the proper end. But, like in “Dominion,” this isn’t what the game is all about. With a lot of cards, I have long, seemingly productive turns…similarly, with a resume of “successes,” I can have a busy and productive life. But if I didn’t use the cards correctly – if I don’t use my talents and successes to achieve God’s work…I’ll lose in the end.

This isn’t to say, of course, that I’m going to just give up my drive to study or pursue excellence or to dream of making a difference in the world. In “Dominion,” I still needed the cards to buy the points to win in the end, and in life, I still need to position myself to obediently do what God is calling me to do. But what’s important is to recognize these things for what they really are – to acknowledge their proper function. They aren’t the point. They’re the tool, a means to an end. If I want my life to honor God, I need to focus on what counts.

No Regrets

Posted: May 29, 2012 by clairer in God's Power, Purpose, Trusting God

I’m not a huge fan of the Field of Dreams. In my opinion, it’s a bit slow and rather nonsensical. Other than being a baseball movie, really, the only thing I like about the movie is the scene below. In this scene, Doc – once a young man with one major league at-bat, and now an old man past his prime – gets to go back and relive his baseball dream, until…


I suppose that in some ways, this is a tragic clip – Doc had to give up his own dream in order to save a young girl’s life. But I think there’s more to this scene than simply sacrificial undertones. I think it raises an important question about regrets and “if only’s” in our lives.

One of the most frequently quoted verses in the New Testament is probably Romans 8:28, “…and we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” This verse has become so routine that I think the concept can sometimes become stale. Take a minute to ponder this truth: for Christians, God works everything – our mistakes, our failings, our hurt, our confusion – for our good. Mistakes that we make are no longer mistakes – they are avenues to God’s greater purposes for our lives.

In this scene from Field of Dreams, Doc had the opportunity to go back and relive the dream he had left behind 60 years previously – playing baseball in the major leagues. But although Doc may have lived with regrets that he was never able to realize his dream, his decision to become a doctor instead led him (providentially) to a small village and a thriving medical practice that impacted the lives of hundreds of people around him for decades. In this clip, he essentially let’s go of the past, and embraces where his life has taken him.

I think this idea can really be seen in C.S. Lewis’s Prince Caspian. Lucy, a girl who goes to the fanciful world of Narnia, does not follow Aslan (Narnia’s parallel of God) when he originally calls. Instead, she follows her siblings into a disastrous alternate route. When Lucy sees Aslan later, she immediately regrets her mistake and wishes she could know what would have happened if she had followed Aslan.  She pleads:

“Please, Aslan! Am I not to know?” said Lucy rather faintly.
“To know what would have happened, child?” said Aslan. “No, nobody is ever told that. But anyone can find out what will happen.”

I think Aslan’s last line is very telling. In God’s kingdom, there is no room for looking back, for wondering what would have happened. As Corrie ten Boom once said, “There are no ‘ifs’ in God’s kingdom.” But all these past things are used by God to lead and guide us to be who we are today, and to be who we are called to be in the future – to shape what will happen.

I definitely find this comforting in my own life when I look back and wonder – did I get this right? Did I choose the right internship? Did I take the right course? Did I say the right thing? Did I spend my time wisely on that day? Maybe I made wise choices, maybe I made foolish choices and I will reap the benefits and consequences of those decisions. However, nothing that I do can surprise God or mess up His greater plan and purpose for my life. And ultimately, despite the consequences of mistakes, He’ll work all things together for my good. There are no “if only’s” when you have a sovereign and loving God.

Hanging On

Posted: November 28, 2011 by clairer in God's Faithfulness, God's Goodness, Hope, Purpose, Trusting God

I think that one of the most poignant scenes in the Lord of the Rings occurs at the end of the Return of the King. The ring has finally been cast into the sea of lava in Mount Doom and Frodo dangles over the lava at the edge of the cliff, clinging with all his might to a jagged rock. He looks down as the most important object in life — the reason for his year-long journey — sinks and dissolves in the fire beneath him. Then he looks up at Sam, offering him a hand. He looks back at the ring. For a moment, it looks like he will let go…that he will follow the ring to a fiery end.

It’s that moment that always stands out to me. Frodo thought — even just for a moment — of letting go. What was going through his mind as he watched the most valuable thing in life dissolve beneath him? What could he do? He couldn’t get it back. He was faced with only two options: cling to the cliff or let go and sink below.

Recently, though, I feel like I’ve been able to understand Frodo just a bit more. Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve watched as God has taken certain things that I have invested in and cherished in my life — just like the ring for Frodo — and has dropped them into the fires of “Mount Doom.” Some days, I feel just like Frodo…like I’m just “holding on.”

But like Frodo, I’m also faced with a decision. No, it’s not a choice between life and death, but it is a choice between hope and despair. When these trials entered my life, I couldn’t get rid of them. I couldn’t just “fix” them anymore than Frodo could prevent the ring from dissolving. But that leaves me with only two options: cling or let go.

But unlike Frodo, I’m not clinging to a rock made out of granite and dirt, I’m clinging to the Rock, my Salvation. When I lose the things that matter most to me in life, I can sink into the waves of despair or I can cling to the promises of God. I can cling to the promise that God loves me, that He will never give me more than I can bear, that He works all things together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purposes, that He knows the plans He has for me — plans to prosper me and not to harm me, to give me a hope and a future. These are the only sure things I can cling to, and in times of trial, these promises are what is keeping me from sinking.

I think that sometimes God gives us trials just to shake our foundation — to show us that what we’ve built our life upon can just disappear. But when we lose our footing and we need something to grab onto to keep us from sinking, He intends that we cling to Him — to that solid Rock — and His loving and everlasting promises. After all, what other option do we have?

In Light of Eternity

Posted: April 9, 2011 by clairer in Purpose, Worldview

When I hear the word “worldview,” I usually think of a basic belief system.  But a worldview is more than just a statement of faith or a list of beliefs about God, sin, and salvation. It is literally the lens through which we view the world — the perspective and attitude we take towards life. Our worldview helps us to evaluate ourselves, our circumstances, and the events we witness around us.  And, ultimately, it gives shape to our thoughts, our words, our actions, and our interactions with others.

When we’re living with an eternal worldview, we are living for the glory of God and living for eternal consequences instead of getting tied up with the daily concerns. It’s the embodiment of the verse “But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.” (Matt 6:20) Living with an eternal worldview will drastically reorient the way we approach our daily lives.

School: Having an eternal worldview gives us a specific purpose and a perspective toward our school work. First, an eternal worldview gives us the purpose of our work: the glorification of God through our diligence, the worship of God through the study of the world He’s created, and the preparation for the work that God has planned for us in the future. What an eternal worldview tells us is that the purpose of school reaches far beyond good grades or acclaim.

When we understand the purpose of our school from an eternal worldview, we take a different perspective toward how we do our school. An eternal worldview pushes us towards excellence. If we are doing our school to glorify God — working “unto the Lord and not for men” — we are going to do things excellently (not necessarily perfectly, but to the best of our ability). When we view our school as the study of God’s world and universe, we can find interest and awe in any subject — no matter what our natural skills or interests are. Finally, school’s purpose of preparation helps us to put the results of our education in perspective. An eternal perspective shows us that grades are not the purpose, learning is. The goal is to learn so that we can be prepared for what God wants us to do to accomplish things for His kingdom in the future. In the long run, a B+ instead of an A makes little difference; but the skills we learn and the implementation of those skills for God’s glory will matter.

Friendships: An eternal worldview also changes our approach toward friendships. What if we viewed our everyday interactions with people as more than opportunities to laugh, talk or to hang  out.  What if we intentionally viewed these people as eternal souls? How would that reorient the way we relate or the time we invest in these people? Living with this eternal worldview shows us that when we hang out with people, we are influencing them. Therefore, we should be sure that our interactions are edifying and God-glorifying, since each interaction has the potential to influence eternal souls.

Spiritual Walk: Living with eternity in view will change our priorities and put them in the right order. When we’re living for eternity, our spiritual walk will become our first priority. Morning devotions will be skipped less often. Church will be more anticipated because our goal will be to grow in Christ. An eternal perspective helps us to realize that only Christ is what matters in the end.

Trials: We all have them. Some are bigger than others. A trial might be the loss of a paper when the computer malfunctions, or it might be the loss of a loved one. It might be sickness: a cold or cancer. Whatever the trial is and regardless of whether it’s “small” or “serious,”, having an eternal perspective helps us to make it through these trials. Having an eternal worldview reminds us that there is more to life than this world. The trials we’re facing now may be overwhelming, but they are only temporary. We can have hope in – and look forward to –eternal life without tears, trials, or pain.

Having an eternal worldview drastically re-directs our lives. It helps us to acknowledge what is truly of value in life. It helps us to gain perspective on work, sleep, eating, socializing, sports, literature, relationships, media choices, and everything we do in life. As we develop an eternal worldview, we come to value what God values. We will be living this day for that day.

Solid Rock vs. Sinking Sand

Posted: January 16, 2011 by clairer in Purpose, Trusting God

Everyone loves January because it gives the impression of a “fresh start.” People can start exercise programs and claim they’ve exercised every day of the year so far (which in reality might have only been a couple of days). People can start new Bible reading plans and resolve that this year will be the year they actually read through the whole Bible. New semesters begin and people can start over: new classes, new teachers, new friends. The new year presents endless possibilities.

But as January is passing us by, and New Year’s resolutions begin to fall through the cracks, I think there is a very important question that most of us forget to ask ourselves at the start of the year: what are we building our lives on this year? What is our foundation?

I’m starting my next semester at college and already I’m being faced with the decisions of how to spend my time. Do I hang out with friends? Do homework? Do extracurricular activities? I seem to have endless options and opportunities. How I spend my time will be very revealing of what I am building my year around. If I’m building my year around getting a 4.0 GPA, I’m going to spend a significant amount of time studying. If I’m building my year around friends, I will be spending my time hanging out and scheduling social events. If I’m centering my year on winning a debate tournament or getting into a school play, I will spend my time doing those things. Jesus said, “Where your treasure is, your heart will be there also.” In the same way, where I spend my time, will determine where my heart — my foundation — will be.

But as I’m surveying my schedule for the semester ahead and looking back at the semester I just finished, I’m realizing that I don’t want my foundation to be in grades, activities, or friends. While these things may be good, they’re not a sure foundation.  Grades can go up and down; activities come and go; and, even friends — though a precious gift — can fail us, at times. If I build my semester, my year, or my life on these things, there is a good chance that my whole world will, at some point, come crashing down around me.

Last semester, I tried to build my world around these things…and at first, it seemed to work. I made good friends, got good grades, and enjoyed a few extracurricular activities. But by the end of the semester, my little world started to crumble. There were some social tensions amongst my friends and final exams that I was feeling unprepared for. My foundations started to shift and sink and I didn’t know what to do.

What happened for me to get to this point? I had been building my foundation on the wrong things. My devotional times with God had begun to slip through the cracks. I would rather have spent my time with friends than with my Best Friend. I began to find my identity in grades rather than finding it in being God’s child. I’d been building my life on temporary and fallible things instead of on the eternal and infallible God.

Of course, making new friends and working on school were not bad things for me to be doing. The problem came when I began to base my value and identity on — and place my trust and hope in — those things rather than in God.

I think often times this can happen in our lives. We get so wrapped up in the good things that God has given us, that we forget who gave them to us and why (to glorify Him and enjoy Him forever). We place our trust in the gifts rather than the giver. We base our lives on worldly foundations rather than on God.

But this is such a mistake! Why would we choose to build our lives on “sinking sand” (as the Bible puts it) when we have a solid foundation? Why trust solely in people when people can change or make mistakes? Why trust in grades when the mind (and occasionally even a teacher) is fallible? We have a God who never changes, never makes mistakes. We have a God who will always listen to us when we pray to Him, who will always love us, who will never leave us nor forsake us. He is the Rock who never shifts, shakes, or breaks. So why would we base our lives on anything other than that Rock?

It’s great for people to be making all sorts of resolutions about how they are going to improve themselves for the next year ahead. But as you’re making all these resolutions, be sure to ask yourself why you’re making them. What are these resolutions revealing about your foundation? If they aren’t God-motivated or God-focused, they should be. Is God your foundation this year? If not, that should be your #1 resolution.

A Wasted Life

Posted: September 20, 2009 by clairer in Purpose

It’s been nearly a year since I read The Great Gatsby for my AP Literature class.  Off hand, I couldn’t tell you now the last name of the narrator, all of the major themes, or the motifs, but there is one scene that I can still remember very clearly (and I hope I’m not spoiling this for anyone.  If I am, skip to the next paragraph): Jay Gatsby’s funeral.  Nick, the narrator of the story, is desperate to have at least some of Gatsby’s “friends” come to the funeral.  However, no one is available to come.  One person has a picnic, another is on vacation, and the hundreds that “flocked” to his house every Saturday for his parties are suddenly too busy to even bid farewell to the man who hosted them year-round.   In the end, the only people at the funeral are Nick, Gatsby’s father, and the minister who is performing the service.

In many ways, people would consider Gatsby’s life a wasted one.  He spent his life chasing someone who wasn’t even worthy of his love and, in the end, there was no one who cared whether he was dead or alive.

The topic of wasting one’s life is not an uncommon one when it comes to teens.  It seems like everyone is telling teens to “not waste your life” because “time goes faster than you would think.”  There have been plenty of books published on the topic, from Don’t Waste Your Life (an appropriate title) by John Piper to Do Hard Things by Alex and Brett Harris.  However, I think it’s something that we as teens continually miss.

The fact of the matter is, we only have so long on earth.  Before we know it, our teen years are over and we’re in our twenties, then our thirties, then suddenly we’re middle aged, and then we’re old!  We don’t even have the guarantee of out-living our teens.  Every second, every minute, every day is a gift and it’s important that we put our gift of life to good use.

When teens hear the words, “Don’t waste your life,” though, I think that there is a temptation for them to think that the only way they can not waste their lives is by solving world hunger or by starting some organization that saves the lives of a million children in Africa — and that’s great!  If that’s what you feel God is calling you to do in your life and that’s the purpose He’s given you, then go for it!  However, I think in many ways, God is calling us to a different purpose in life – perhaps not something quite as glamorous as solving world hunger, but something equally important to Him.

I think the first step in not wasting your life is simply not wasting your time.  I’d encourage you to reevaluate how you spend your time.  Do you spend more time on Facebook or meditation of God’s word?  In your free time, are you distracted by all the things you want to do, more than how you can serve your family?  This is an area where I always seem to fall short.  However, I think if we truly have a desire to live our lives for God’s glory, we will want to spend every moment that we have working to fulfill His purpose in our lives instead of wasting our time on pointless things that are fading away.

Let’s Talk: The Purpose of Life

Posted: September 9, 2008 by clairer in Purpose

“The purpose of life is a life of purpose.” — Robert Byrne

I saw this quote the other day, and I started wondering, what is the purpose in my life?  What marks a life worthwhile?  When I die, what do I want to be known for?

I think it’s important for us to think about these questions, especially as we begin to make decisions that will influence our future lives.  When we’re living with a purpose in mind, it will help to guide our choices.  As I thought about what my purpose in life is, I also ran across a quote by J.I. Packer:

What makes life worthwhile is having a big enough objective, something which catches our imagination and lays hold of our allegiance…. What higher, more exalted, and more compelling goal can there be than to know God?

This is what my purpose should be: “that [I] may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, [and] growing in the knowledge of God.” (Colossians 1:10)

How would you define your life purpose?