I’m convinced that each of us was made for a specific purpose in life and until we are actually doing the thing we were made for we’ll be unfulfilled, discontented and unhappy. Okay, I’m no genius; scripture actually tells us that in Ephesians 10:2 – “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”
I found in my own life that I chased a lot of different things before I found the one thing I was created in advance to do. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed a lot of the work I did. But I wasn’t fulfilled by it. I never felt satisfied with it. I kept asking if that was all there was to it.
Luckily, God revealed a way for me to figure out what His purpose was for my life and I want to share it with you today. I use this simple method with a lot of college students to help them focus on their future so they are working toward the spark God put in them instead of just working to work.
If you’re a churchy person at all, you’ve probably taken a spiritual gift test somewhere along the way. Spiritual gifts include:
1 Corinthians 12:8-10
- Word of Wisdom
- Word of Knowledge
- Gifts of Healing
- Spirit Discernment
- Interpretation of Tongues
- Voluntary Poverty
If you’ve taken one of these tests you’ve probably found yourself exhibiting several of these gifts with one or two being your most significant gift or gifts. Then what happens is the church leaders put you on some board or committee so that you can “use” your gift to “edify” and serve the body!
That’s not what I think God intended. Certainly, we are to use our spiritual gifts for encouraging the building up the body of Christ, but there is A LOT more to this than just being stuck on some committee!
In fact, when I’m counseling anyone regarding what God’s will is in their life, I don’t even start with spiritual gifts. I leave that for last! Here is what I do instead.
I take a piece of paper and I draw lines to make the following columns:
- Innate Abilities – things you were just born with
- Educational Skills – things you learned in your life
- Experiential Skills – things you learned through experience in your life
- Passions – things that really drive you
- Spiritual Gifts – from the list above
In each column you list as many things as you can come up with. And then you take a moment and reflect on those lists. Here are the questions you ask:
- Is there a thread or commonality that connects the columns?
- How do my passions relate to the other columns?
- Am I currently working to my strengths based on these lists?
- What kind of work comes to mind when I look at these lists?
- Then pray that the Holy Spirit reveals His truth about these lists to you!
I know what you’re thinking! Shouldn’t you pray first? You can, but I like to review my list first and ponder it so that I’m pretty familiar with it and my thoughts before I ask the Holy Spirit to blow my mind by revealing His thoughts!
I did this in my own life a while back – it’s how I ended up quitting my very successful secular career and going into full-time ministry. For me, the thread that connected my columns was people. Everything I had ever done involved engaging other people; I figured that part out all by myself! Then I prayed and the Holy Spirit showed me that my passion really was using my past experience, education, and passion to serve other people, to help other people, to counsel other people. See, it wasn’t just about people, it was about being the hands and feet of Christ to them while using my spiritual gifts of leadership, exhortation, and evangelism to bring them to faith!
Before I did this exercise in my life, I can honestly say I would have NEVER thought I could be a full-time minister. If you actually knew me you’d agree that it was just a silly thought. But after I did this list and saw how the Master made me, there was nothing else I could possibly do but be a full-time minister!
I chased a lot of careers in my life. I was a journalist, a soldier, a political consultant, a private investigator, a public relations consultant, an intelligence officer, an adjunct professor, a business owner, a senior executive and more. Most of what I did was okay, but it wasn’t great. None of it gave me a sense of accomplishment, nor did it really feel as if it was the thing I was made for.
Then I gave it all up and followed God’s call into ministry. WOW! I cannot even express the joy, contentment, fulfillment, and comfort I feel when I am ministering to someone. They are truly Holy Spirit moments where I am just a tool in God’s hand – the tool He created me to be! There is NO better feeling in the world than that. I found my calling because I took the time to discern why God made me.
My little exercise is very similar to a more developed exercise created by Purpose Driven Life author Rick Warren. He has a process called SHAPE – Spiritual Gifts, Heart, Abilities, Personality and Experience. I think I came up with mine before he did his, but I have used his system with groups and believe it is very good as well. If you are interested in using this process, check out this website: http://www.sbpcshape.org/
The bottom line is this: You were made for God’s purpose to do things for Him before the beginning of the world and chances are you’re not doing the thing you were made for. Want to be happy? Want to be content? Want to be fulfilled and satisfied? Give one or both of these methods a try to see what the Holy Spirit tells you. But be advised that it could mean a complete change in your life’s direction, but it will be the best change you’ve ever made!