Blessed are the balanced; they shall outlast everyone.
One of the events in the summer Olympics is the pentathlon. It is composed of five events: pistol shooting, fencing, horseback riding, running, and swimming. The pentathlete’s goal is to succeed in all five areas, not just one or two.
Your life is a pentathlon of five purposes, which you must keep in balance. These purposes were practiced by the first Christians in Acts 2, explained by Paul in Ephesians 4, and modeled by Jesus in John 17, but they are summarized in the Great Commandment and the Great Commission of Jesus. These two statements sum up what this book is all about-God’s five purposes for your life:
1. “Love God with all your heart”: You were planned for God’s pleasure, so your purpose is to love God through worship.2. “Love your neighbor as yourself’: You were shaped for serving, so your purpose is to show love for others through ministry.3. “Go and make disciples”: You were made for a mission, so your purpose is to share God’s message through evangelism.4. “baptize them into . . .”:You were formed for God’s family, so your purpose is to identify with his church through fellowship.5. “teach them to do all things …”:You were created to become like Christ, so your purpose is to grow to maturity through discipleship.
A great commitment to the Great Commandment and the Great Commission will make you a great Christian. Keeping these five purposes in balance is not easy. We all tend to overemphasize the purposes we feel most passionate about and neglect the others. Churches do the same thing. But you can keep your life balanced and on track by joining a small group for accountability, by regularly evaluating your spiritual health, by recording your progress in a personal journal, and by passing on what you learn to others. These are four important activities for purpose-driven living. If you are serious about staying on track, you will need to develop these habits.
Talk it through with a spiritual partner or small group.
The best way to internalize the principles in this book is to discuss them with others in a small-group setting. The Bible says, “As iron sharpens iron, so people can improve each other.” We learn best in community. Our minds are sharpened and our convictions are deepened through conversation. I strongly urge you to gather a small group of friends and form a Purpose-Driven Life Reading Group to review these chapters on a weekly basis. Discuss the implications and the applications of each chapter. Ask “So what?” and “What now?” What does this mean for me, my family, and our church? What am I going to do about it? Paul said, “Put into practice what you learned.” In appendix 1, I have prepared a list of discussion questions for your small group or Sunday school class to use.
A small reading group provides many benefits that a book by itself cannot. You can give and receive feedback about what you’re learning. You can discuss real-life examples. You can pray for, encourage, and support each other as you begin to live out these purposes. Remember, we are meant to grow together, not separately. The Bible says, “Encourage each other and give each other strength. After you have gone through this book together as a group, you might consider studying other purpose-driven life studies that are available for classes and groups (see appendix 2).
“I also encourage you to do personal Bible study. I have footnoted over a thousand Scriptures used in this book for you to study in their context. Please read appendix 3, which explains why this book uses so many different translations and paraphrases. To keep these chapters to a size for daily reading, I was unable to explain the fascinating context of most of the verses used. But the Bible is intended to be studied by paragraphs, chapters, and even entire books. My book Personal Bible Study Methods can show you how to do inductive studies.
Give yourself a regular spiritual check-up. The best way to balance the five purposes in your life is to evaluate yourself periodically. God places a high value on the habit of self-evaluation. At least five times in Scripture we are told to test and examine our own spiritual health. The Bible says, “Test yourselves to make sure you are solid in the faith. Don’t drift along taking everything for granted. …. Test it out. Give yourself a regular spiritual check-ups…. If you fail the test, do something about it.”
To maintain your physical health, you need regular check-ups with a doctor who can assess your vital signs-blood pressure, temperature, weight, and so on. For your spiritual health you need to regularly check the five vital signs of worship, fellowship, growth in character, ministry, and mission. Jeremiah advised, “Let’s take a good look at the way we’re living and reorder our lives under God.”
Don’t let the errors of evil people lead you down the wrong path and make you lose your balance.2 Peter 3:17 (CEV)
Balancing Your Life
At Saddleback Church we have developed a simple personal evaluation tool that has helped thousands of people stay on-purpose for God. If you would like a copy of this purpose-driven life spiritual health assessment, you can email me (see appendix 2). You will be amazed at how much this little tool will help you balance your life for health and growth. Paul urged, “Let your enthusiastic idea at the start be equaled by your realistic action now.”
Write down your progress in a journal.
The best way to reinforce your progress in fulfilling God’s purposes for your life is to keep a spiritual journal. This is not a diary of events, but a record of the life lessons you don’t want to forget. The Bible says, “It’s crucial that we keep a firm grip on what we’ve heard so that we don’t drift off.” We remember what we record.
Writing helps clarify what God is doing in your life. Dawson Trotman used to say, “Thoughts disentangle themselves when they pass through your fingertips.” The Bible has several examples of God telling people to keep a spiritual journal. It says, “At the LORD’S direction, Moses kept a written record of their progress.” Aren’t you glad Moses obeyed God’s command to record Israel’s spiritual journey? If he had been lazy, we would be robbed of the powerful life lessons of the Exodus.
While it’s unlikely that your spiritual journal will be as widely read as Moses’ was, yours is still important. The New International Version says, “Moses recorded the stages in their journey.’ Your life is a journey, and a journey deserves a journal. I hope you will write about the stages of your spiritual journey in living a purpose-driven life.
Don’t just write down the pleasant things. As David did, record your doubts, fears, and struggles with God. Our greatest lessons come out of pain, and the Bible says God keeps a record of our tears. Whenever problems occur, remember that God uses them to fulfill five purposes in your life: Problems force you to focus on God, draw you closer to others in fellowship, build Christ-like character, provide you with a ministry, and give you a testimony. Every problem is purpose driven.
In the middle of a painful experience, the psalmist wrote “Write down for the coming generation what the LORD has done, so that people not yet born will praise him.” You owe it to future generations to preserve the testimony of how God helped you fulfill his purposes on earth., It is a witness that will continue to speak long after you’re in heaven.
Pass on what you know to others.
If you want to keep growing, the best way to learn more is to pass on what you have already learned. Proverbs tells us, “The one who blesses others is abundantly blessed; those who help others are helped.” Those who pass along insights get more from God.
Now that you understand the purpose of life, it is your responsibility to carry the message to others. God is calling you to be his messenger. Paul said, Now I want you to tell these same things to followers who can be trusted to tell others. In this book I have passed on to you what others taught me about the purpose of life; now it’s your duty to pass that on to others.
You probably know hundreds of people who do not know the purpose of life. Share these truths with your children, your friends, your neighbors, and those you work with. If you give this book to a friend, add your personal note on the dedication page.
The more you know, the more God expects you to use that knowledge to help others. James said,”” “Anyone who knows the right thing to do, but does not do it, is sinning.’ Knowledge increases responsibility. But passing along the purpose of life is more than an obligation; it’s one of life’s greatest privileges. Imagine how different the world would be if everyone knew their purpose. Paul said, “If you teach these things to other followers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus.”
IT’S ALL FOR GOD’S GLORY
The reason we pass on what we learn is for the glory of God and the growth of his kingdom. The night before he was crucified, Jesus reported to his Father, “I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do. When Jesus prayed these words, he had not yet died for our sins, so what “work” had he completed? In this instance he was referring to something other than the atonement. The answer lies in what he said in the next twenty verses of his prayer.
Jesus told his Father what he had been doing for the last three years: preparing his disciples to live for God’s purposes. He helped them to know and love God (worship), taught them to love each other (fellowship), gave them the Word so they could grow to maturity (discipleship), showed them how to serve (ministry), and sent them out to tell others (mission). Jesus modeled a purpose-driven life, and he taught others how to live it, too. That was the “work” that brought glory to God. Today God calls each of us to the same work. Not only does he want us to live out his purposes, he also wants us to help others do the same. God wants us to introduce people to Christ, bring them into his fellowship, help them grow to maturity and discover their place of service, and then send them out to reach others, too. This is what purpose-driven living is all about. Regardless of your age, the rest of your life can be the best of your life, and you can start living on purpose today.