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Three Levels of Purpose by Tony Stoltzfus

Aug 13th, 2012 | By | Category: Featured Content, Transformational Coaching, [None]

In Ephesians 1 Paul discusses our destiny: we were chosen “before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before him” and that we are predestined for adoption as sons. The passage concludes with God’s overriding purpose: “to unite all things in Christ; things in heaven and things on earth” (Eph. 1:10 RSV). Paul saw our ultimate aim as being together with God in Christ, in the Kingdom of Heaven. The Holy Spirit is given to us now as the pledge of this inheritance: he lives in us now, so that we can be sure we will be together with Jesus in heaven. All God’s other objectives for humanity flow from this purpose.

Paul also talks about purpose in terms of a life mission he had to do: “To me, the very least of all the saints, this grace was given: to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ” (Eph. 3:8). This is to be done “in accordance with the eternal purpose which he carried out through Christ Jesus our Lord” (3:11). This connection is crucial. The eternal purpose Paul speaks of is the primary, being together purpose mentioned above. The doing purpose of our lives—our life mission—needs to come under and be done in alignment with the being together purpose that is God’s ultimate aim.

Here’s what that signifies in practical terms. God’s first priority is you: to be in a loving relationship with you and to bring you into oneness with himself. Being comes first, and doing second. So God will sometimes put your life mission on hold to have your heart. If your life (or your client’s life) is out of balance because you are doing too much ministry, God will eventually call you back to a balanced life, even if the ministry suffers. Even when you are doing well, living on-purpose and making a difference, God will prune your life back and lead you into outwardly-unproductive wilderness seasons to gain a greater grip on your heart.

One of my clients is a great example of this principle. Steve owned a 40 million dollar company and was fully absorbed in running it, to the glory of God as best he understood it at the time. In the process of capturing his heart, God pruned Steve’s life way back to prepare for greater growth. His company went bankrupt, he endured a string of legal battles, and finally his home burned down.

These challenges reformed him into a man of prayer, a friend of solitude, and someone with a heart for the nations. He now travels overseas regularly to train leaders and bring businesspeople to Christ. He’s expressed to me several times how grateful he is for God’s intervention, because he has come to a level of intimacy with God that he never knew before.

Steve learned that when God designs your life, growth in being together takes precedence over growth in productive doing. Relationship with God grows as becoming more like Christ enables you to understand him and enter into him more fully.

There is a third level of purpose as well. God is concerned not just with our being together with him (the Heavenly Kingdom) and our missionary doing to bring His Kingdom to others, but with our temporal well-being, too. “If God so clothes the grass of the field… will he not much more clothe you? … your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things” (Mt. 6:30-32).

God wants you to see good in this life. He wants you to succeed, to experience love and intimacy in relationships. As the Westminster Catechism teaches, man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.

However, this isn’t God’s only (or even primary) purpose for you. Your union with him and growth in being conformed to Christ is much more important. So God will put your happiness on the back burner to gain more of your heart. That’s right: success in your career, financial security, satisfying relationships, good health, you name it—all these things God may supply or withhold to gain your heart, because they are of incomparably less value than what He has for you in heaven.

Take success, for example. A common preparation experience of biblical leaders is demotion. God regularly moves leaders (like David, Joseph and Moses) out of a large, successful role and into a much smaller sphere of influence at certain stages of life in order to shape them inwardly. Moses’ case is particularly poignant—from being a big shot in the palace in Egypt, he went to being a shepherd (remember that herdsman were despised by the Egyptians) and a husband. His sphere of influence shrank down to his sheep and his wife, whose name aptly means “little sparrow.” That’s one of those little details that hints at God’s sense of humor—Moses the great deliverer reduced to serving one little sparrow.

In his subsequent ministry, Moses defining characteristic was humility. He immediately turned to God in every difficulty and asked for help and direction. Moses became that man in the desert. God put his success on hold to gain his heart, and in the process Moses became the man who could successfully fulfill his true call. Without the humility he learned from serving a little sparrow, Moses would have been a deliverer in the style of Egyptian power politics he knew—totally unsuitable for creating a nation out of God’s chosen people.

Living an on purpose life means aligning with the three levels of God’s purposes for us:

First, Deep Intimacy with God and others; becoming a person who is full, with an overflowing capacity to love.

Second, a Significant Mission in life; total commitment to be a unique part of God’s eternal purposes and leave a legacy behind.

Third, Joy in the Journey. The ability to find contentment in your lot in life based on being rooted in the deeper reality of Christ’s love.

Tony Stoltzfus is a master coach, author and coach trainer. A presentation of a thorough, practical toolkit for coaching Christian leaders to discover their identity can be found in his book the Christian Life Coaching Handbook.

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