If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away---Henry David Thoreau

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Finding Purpose in Life: 2 Thessalonians 3:1-12

* This lesson can also be found at: http://www.faithandliferesources.org/curriculum/abs/abs100711.html

God has a purpose for your life. I often heard that phrase repeated in the Southern Baptist church of my youth. I suspect Rick Warren, who was one of my fellow college students at California Baptist University, heard that same message in his own Southern Baptist church. He amplified that message in the most popular Christian book ever written; The Purpose-Driven Life. God has a specific purpose for our life. It is predetermined. Even traumatic events are “father-filtered” or planned by God for our growth. We may be tested as to our fidelity to God’s purpose.

Paul commends the Thessalonians for their perseverance and faith in the midst of persecutions and trials. He does not say that the tribulations they faced were God’s testing for a higher purpose. If there was any purpose through these difficulties, it would be the larger purpose of justice that God would finally enact in the end. Still, this is not to say that God instigates or even allows tribulations in order to show his ultimate purpose of justice. What gives purpose and meaning to life in the present is living faithfully for God’s glory, whatever trials may come.

If we get too specific about “finding our purpose in life,” we may miss God’s bigger picture or get frustrated when life and its difficulties thwart our expectations concerning our perceived purpose. I know this firsthand. I like what my friend Bruce Epperly, professor at Lancaster Theological Seminary, has to say in response to Rick Warren’s views on God’s purpose for our life: 1) God is adventurous and wants us to be adventurous as well; 2) The future is open for God and us; 3) In partnership with God, we create the future. God doesn't decide the future but creates the future along with us; 4) God is constantly inspiring us in every situation. This view makes life into a “holy adventure.”

If we recognize that God’s ultimate purpose is justice and peace for all humanity and for us to live fully and faithfully in the present time, we have found enough purpose and adventure for a lifetime.

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