Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Life on Purpose

Why were you born? Why do you exist? Does the world care that you are here?

These are some serious questions, and I believe they are worth asking and answering. Depending on your worldview, you may have very different opinions than mine. That's OK, as long as you don't turn off your brain and rely on stereotypes.

According to my worldview, there is a Creator. Just as a carpenter builds a chair, the created thing is given purpose by the will of the author.

In short: You matter.

No one in all of history will have your exact genetic, social, emotional, spiritual, or mental signatures. You are completely unique, and, as a created being, you have a completely unique purpose.

Do you know what your purpose is? Do you know how to find out?

I often find myself having conversations about living life on purpose. The more I think about it, the more I believe it's a pretty good approximation of my personal brand (if I have such a thing). I'm all about living life on purpose and being stoked every single day. The idea of being "stoked" isn't just a play on my last name. It's well known to surfers and others who live life with passion and exitement.

I like the urban dictionary's definition best:
"stoked" - adjective - to be "stoked" is to be completely and intensely enthusiastic, exhilarated, or excited about something.
I want people to be stoked on life. The only way I've found for life to make sense is when I'm living it according to the unique design created for me. I've blogged about purpose and significance before, but I want to give some back story to why I believe these things.

Story Time

I grew up in a Christian home with very loving parents. I didn't know what I wanted to be when I grew up, but towards the end of high school I started tinkering with computers and building web pages. In college, I majored in computer science and was a pole vaulter on the track team.

I had so many injuries, it was ridiculous. I sprained an ankle I had previously broken, tore an ab muscle, and eventually broke a small bone in my back. After eight weeks in a space-age back brace that healed line-backers with ease, I was still hurting.

What happened next was, I believe, one of the most important moments in my life. I actually asked God, "If I'm not here to have a pole vaulting career, why am I here?" I only had one semester left, and I felt very clearly the answer was to start a Bible study.

I said OK.

Every college senior is asked, "What are you going to do when you graduate?" at least 3 times a day. My answer was always the same, "Move back to California, start my own company, and make a lot of money."

And then I read this verse in James 4:13-17:
Come now, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit." Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, "If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that." But as it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil. Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin.
Again I asked, "OK, you're the Author... what do YOU want me to do?" I was presented with an opportunity to raise support and go into full-time ministry. I remember what can only be described as a conversation with God that went something like this:
Papa: Sure, you can go start your own company but eventually I'll ask you for it. You'll have to sell it all and go into ministry. Or, you can go into ministry now (when you have nothing to lose) and later in life you can start your company. 
Me (thinking ministry always involves poverty): Huh. Well, it sure is simpler to give up what you don't even have then to give away everything once you get it. Easy decision.
I said OK.

From there I worked in ministry for 6 years, then for a "for profit" ministry for almost another 4. Slowly, almost without realizing it, "my company" started to take shape as a friend and I began to build FoxyCart on the side.

As I write this, I'm enjoying 10 weeks in Costa Rica (the photo above was last night's sunset view) with my family, running a business remotely, and enjoying every minute of it. What I thought would be decades later was less than 10 years. I haven't made a ton of money yet, but I believe that will come also as I'm prepared to steward it.

God knew the desires of my heart because He designed them. What has become my favorite life verse explains this well:
Trust in the Lord and do good;
Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness.
Delight yourself in the Lord;
And He will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the Lord,
Trust also in Him, and He will do it.
Psalm 37:3-5
Want to know how to find your purpose? I believe it's hidden in this verse. Ask yourself:

  • Do you really trust the Lord?
  • Are you "doing good" with your life, putting others' needs before your own?
  • What was the last thing you knew you were supposed to do? Are you still doing it? Are you cultivating faithfulness by sticking it out until it's done? (Remember the verse above in James: knowing the right thing to do and not doing it is sin.)
  • Have you learned the secret of delighting in God and loving His plan for your life above your own (see Isaiah 55:8-9)?
  • Are you able to receive blessing when it comes?
  • Have you fully committed your ways to God? That means He's completely in the driver's seat, calling the shots, making the decisions.
  • Really though... Do you trust God?

Are you willing to say "OK" when He shows you the next step to take?

Isaiah showed us exactly what this heart looks like in chapter 6, verse 8:
Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, "Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?" Then I said, "Here am I. Send me!"
Here am I. Send me!

I'm often amazed and heartbroken when I hear people say things like, "Yeah, I know God wants me to do [insert something here], but I'm really not willing to give up [insert something here] yet." They are like the pot telling the potter he doesn't know what he's building. They're like a chair, shaking their head at the carpenter. When we do this, we're essentially telling the Creator of the entire universe who knows the number of hairs on our heads that we have a better plan.

I have a very blessed life. If you know me, you know this to be true. I don't say that to boast in my own success, but I am willing to put it on display and say, "Look! God is good, and His plans for you are awesome!" My life isn't blessed because of the outward things you see. It's blessed because of the relationship I have with the one who created me.

The Author, through relationship, communicates to me my purpose.

Be Stoked.

Live your life on purpose because it's the only way worth living. You are unique, and no one else can do it for you.

If you'd like to talk about this more but don't feel comfortable leaving a public comment, please email me at luke.stokes at gmail.


Jim Woods said...

Love this. I think the more I realize this life is NOT about me, the more everything falls into place. By using our gifts for the glory of God, we start loving others and treating others as we should. Fantastic post Luke! Bravo!!

Luke Stokes said...

Thanks so much, Jim. This is one I've been thinking about for a long time and pieced together from various conversations I've had. It's important to me because it summarizes a lot of why and how I live.

So much comes down to trust. If we just trust that the One who created us has a better plan than we do, it's so much easier to go through life with joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control. No laws against those things. :)

Aaron Wright said...

Thank you, Luke, for another awesome post!

I struggled with what my purpose was for a little over 6 years after I graduated from college (and probably for 3 years prior). I started to develop an idea about what my purpose is while my wife and I were going through FPU in the fall 2010 (the career lesson was a roundhouse kick to the face). This idea then progressed through my reading of Jon Acuff's book, Quitter, last summer.

However, it wasn't until last winter that my wife and I truly stopped and fully gave it over to God. I then felt like He started to show me what I was supposed to be doing: using web design to help people & to give them hope. After asking God for help while setting goals at the beginning of the year, we started to feel like He was even pointing us towards where He was sending us as part of our purpose. Jeremiah 29:11 has been a great verse for us right now.

My struggle right now is trying to discern what is a plan I have come up with and what is The Plan put on my heart by God (maybe it's doubt and fear trying to interrupt).

I'll email you after work tonight with more details.

Luke Stokes said...

Thanks Aaron! I'm looking forward to your email.

The key always seems to be trusting His plan instead of our own. Your comment got me thinking about that (and maybe I should have clarified in this post), but it's not about the 'plan' as much as it's about the heart position. Abraham is a good example. He didn't miss the plan concerning Isaac because God provided the ram, an alternate sacrifice.

As far as your struggle goes, my encouragement would be to continually check your heart. If you would give everything up in a split second, you're probably good because you know it's His plan and not one you're holding on to too tightly. Everything can change tomorrow, and that's OK because it's His story.

Another helpful idea to keep in mind is something someone said to me years ago: "It's always easier to turn the wheels of a car when it's moving."

Keep moving. If your heart is in the right place, I literally don't think you can do wrong. He'll keep guiding and directing you along the way.