There is a movement within Christianity that says that everyone has a specific, knowable purpose. There is an idea that through enough digging around, or coming to God, or going to Bible studies, or reading books, we can find that secret purpose God has for our lives. I’m not so sure about this anymore. I believe that God is the creator of the universe and of mankind, yes, and that God is sovereign. But I’ve gotten “purpose” mixed up in my mind, and it’s time to clear the air.
The verse most commonly used is “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” These plans are rather disturbingly unspecific.
I have gotten the notion that God’s plans and will are specific. That my purpose is specific. That I am less a “free agent” who acts according to Kingdom purposes and more a pawn to be moved and used by the hand of God, and given up by Him when advantageous for Kingdom purposes, and I must discern those purposes and follow them. Perhaps a bit of both is true. Or perhaps knowable purpose is a pipe dream. Oswald Chambers said it better than I am saying it:
We are not taken up into conscious agreement with God’s purpose, we are taken up into God’s purpose without any consciousness at all. We have no conception of what God is aiming at, and as we go on it gets more and more vague. God’s aim looks like missing the mark because we are too short sighted to see what He is aiming at. At the beginning of the Christian life we have our own ideas as to what God’s purpose is – ‘I am meant to go here or there,’ ‘God has called me to do this special work’; and we go and do the thing, and still the big compelling of God remains. The work we do is of no account, it is so much scaffolding compared with the big compelling of God.
Beyond that, I believe that knowable purpose is dangerous. It can become an idol, something we worship instead of God.
Scripture is replete with examples of people who knew specific purposes, and also with people who did not. If God has revealed a specific purpose to you, do it. If not, do not try to twist His arm into giving you one. We struggle already to obey His general known purposes; why should we ask for more tasks when we are not performing as well those He has provided?
Your turn: Does God have a specific, knowable purpose for every person? If so, how should we find it? If not, what do we do now?
David M Schell
I am a doubter and a believer. I have a Master's in Divinity from Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, but because faith grows and changes, I don't necessarily stand by everything I've ever written, so if you see something troubling further back, please ask! Read More.