Ten years ago, I was on a plane heading for New York to give a presentation. The man next to me was a professor of public speaking at a major university.
Somewhat sheepishly, I asked for advice, “What is the key to great public speaking?”
After some preliminary comments, he said this:
“At the beginning of World War II, when Winston Churchill became Prime Minister of England, he said, ‘I felt as though my whole life had prepared me for this moment.’”
“Sam,” he continued, “the best public speakers feel as though their entire lives have prepared them for this moment.”
His words pierced me more deeply than had any other past comment or deliberate insult.
I was devastated. I didn’t feel prepared for anything of significance.
My soul longs—and I believe every soul longs—for a purpose, for a deep meaning, to know that we matter. We long for something transcendent.
Yet I believe most of us fritter our lives away with little dreams. We eagerly await our next vacation or our next car. We squander our money—or our dreams—on the next new iPhone or matching shoes and purse.
We numb our hearts with nonsense.
I know I had. At the time of this airplane conversation, I was an executive at a software company. My disposable income allowed me ski trips out west and a large addition to my house. But it didn’t satisfy, and this conversation bared my soul naked to the inconsequential elements of a frivolous life.
Yes, I was a believer. I did believe Christ had died for me; I did pray; I didgive money to the poor; I did serve. But somehow I wasn’t living the life designed for me. There was something in the universe I longed for but didn’t have.
The greatest sin
A short while after my devastating airplane conversation, I read a quote by Dorothy Sayers,
In hell it is called Discouragement and Despair; the sin that believes in nothing, cares for nothing, seeks to know nothing, interferes with nothing, enjoys nothing, hates nothing, finds purpose in nothing, lives for nothing, and remains alive merely because there is nothing for which it will die.”
The quote did nothing to quiet my soul. I was haunted by the phrase, “[it] remains alive merely because there is nothing for which it will die.”
Yet this haunting awakened something. An inner compelling began to drive me. I wanted to live for something, even if I had to die for it.
The image of God
Early in scripture, God says, “Let us make man in our image after our likeness (Gen 1:26); and then—as if to reinforce through repetition—the next verse continues, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him.”
God is all glorious. The word “glory” means weightiness, significance, splendor, and matter. To be made in God’s image means we matter; that we were designed for lives of significance, glory and nobility.
When God put Adam and Eve in the garden, he made them comrades in creation. He gave them a garden to nurture and a world to manage. In essence, God said to Adam and Eve, “I’ve brought you into creation at just the right moment, to use your creativity and skills to nurture life and order to the creation I made.”
Likewise, God gives us purpose and destiny. He brought us into the world for this moment. It is no accident that he made us male or female, that we live in the twenty-first century (instead of the seventeenth), that we live in our cities with our families and gifts and talents.
He brought us here—and now—for a purpose. The world has needs that only we can supply. There is something only we can do.
Oswald Chambers said,
It cannot be stated definitely what the call of God is to, because His call is to be in comradeship with Himself for His own purposes, and the test is to believe that God knows what He is after.”
For some unfathomable reason, God has chosen to work through us. He could have done everything without us; instead he ennobles us to work with him, in comradeship with him, to bring his life and light to the world.
For some unfathomable reason, God calls us his friends, to share in his purpose, to be partners and comrades in an ultimate mission.
That is why we are here; and the test is to believe God knows what he is after.
I love how these posts always seem to come “right on time”… and I’m sure I speak for many of us reading. Thank you, Sam!
Things do come “right on time.” The mysterious conversation with a stranger on a plane happened, “right on time,” just when I needed it.
“But it didn’t satisfy, and this conversation bared my soul naked to the inconsequential elements of a frivolous life.”
That is exactly where I am.
Not necessarily soul-wise. I have always wanted more. But my life choices have been toward the frivolous. And I find myself wondering what changes will I and my family make to risk finding that which we will die for. It’s scary. And unclear.
But I do trust the power of God. If he created me, created the world, still stuns us with the smells of morning and the sight of the evening sky, then this God of mine, can and will lead us to that thing he’s called us to die for…which is just some version of living out himself here.
Thank you for sharing. It was very timely and impacting.
Good to hear from you again.
I love it when you say, “That is exactly where I am.” Not because misery loves company (!) but because it was the beginning of a great time in my life, a time of longing and searching … and discovering.
I am sensing that God’s preparation of us involves more than skills. His preparation involves the total essence of who he made us to be. It involves personality, heart, passions, gender, history, spiritual and natural gifts, and loads more.
He made us unique, and uniquely qualified to bring ourselves; not just bring this talent or that talent; he wants us to bring ourselves–our entire being.
And we can do that everywhere we go: on the phone, over coffee, in a meeting, at a movie, with friends, with family, with clients, with our children, and with brothers and sisters.
Very often we think of bringing one thing (hospitality, skill with a spreadsheet, gift of encouragement)–yes, let’s bring those things too. But let’s bring our whole selves.
What is needed is US, not just a talent someone can use.
And the only way we can bring US is to trust that God has been preparing you for this moment; that God has been preparing you your whole life…for this moment.
And Jill, He has!
Is it possible (if not probable) that we all have our specific purposes, AND a primary, overriding purpose of all Christians–that is to advance the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
I’m getting the idea that maybe the reason my specific purpose isn’t clear is because I have done very little with the fundamentals of how the Gospel has affected my life. I rarely give my testimony. I don’t relate God’s word to the folks around me. In general, I’m pretty much a Christian in hiding; only revealing my identity in Christ when it is safe to do so. Any words of advice out there? I’m sure I have a part to play. I’m sometimes not sure I want the Coach to put me in the game. Meek? Or just plain chicken?
I am impressed with your “no holds barred” self-reflection, “Meek? Or just plan chicken?” That is a good question for all of us.
I believe that some people are specifically gifted to be an evangelist. But not everyone.
I also believe that EVERYONE is called to advance the kingdom of God. I genuinely believe that one of the best ways we can advance the kingdom is to discover and walk into who specifically God made each of us to be.
Almost everyone I know wants (or longs for) a purpose and design. As believers, we can discover that purpose–our calling. God speaks to us and gives us tools to discover and walk into our unique design.
Think of how the world would look at us believers if we lived rich, full, abundant, splendid, glorious lives! They would want what we have. They would beat down walls and swim the farthest oceans to have what we have.
I think many modern believers think the Christian life is merely about being moral, being a good little boy or girl.
John, God has something incredible for you, a plan to have impact on the world that ONLY YOU CAN HAVE (because of who God made you). Discover and walk into that, and you will advance the kingdom, you will be living the good news of the gospel.
Thanks for you question. It was GREAT! (See, you already have an impact, just by your honest self-reflection.)
John, et al
Reading your question ‘is it possible …?’ brought to mind a description by Richard Nelson Bolles – author of ‘Parachute’ and other books on finding purpose, and a job. He is an ordained Lutheran minister as well. A reader of his once asked him in a letter, how one finds his or her purpose, and asked him to reply ‘from the heart’ without a formula, techniques, what have you – and this is part of his reply. I found it condensed, on a website – and I like it because it includes the shared mission(s) of all real believers, as well as the unique mission that only you can do.
1. To stand, hour by hour in the conscious presence of God, the One from whom your Mission is derived.
2. To do what you can, moment by moment, day by day, step by step, to make this world a better place, following the leading and guidance of God’s Spirit within you and around you.
3. a) to exercise that Talent which you particularly came to Earth to use – your greatest gift, which you most delight to use,
b) in the place(s) or setting(s) which God has caused to appeal to you the most,
c) and for those purposes which God most needs to have done in the world.
… That’s challenging and requires a lot of us, but real.
This is beautiful and profound.
Thank you so much for standing with us, doing what you can, exercising that talent, and for the purpose God needs to have done.
Really good… A little to close to home!… But good. ;-). Lots to process. Thanks for sharing your thought, it’s always valued.
Great to hear from you. Hope to see you in Colorado!
The first thing you have to do is change your thinking from success to significance. A significant life is one that was worth living because you fully played your part in the bigger story you were born into…no matter how small that role may have seemed.
I’ve had to face that 99.99% of us will be forgotten within 2 generations of our death. So all that we strive for to be successful will fade and mean nothing. But the legacy we leave by engaging in something bigger than ourselves can build foundations future generations can stand on. Our names may never be remembered. Those standing on better foundations may not recognize us for the part we played in their lives. But we will have done what God placed us here to do and that will be honored.
Want to know what would draw the world to Christ? A body of people living out the full expression of their potential working together in joyful unity. Every time you’ve been drawn into something, it was because the energy of unleashed potential and unity were present in some degree.
I love your closing vision: “Want to know what would draw the world to Christ? A body of people living out the full expression of their potential working together in joyful unity.”
I want that!