BY PASTOR T. O. BANSO
“But you, beloved, remember the words which were spoken before by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ: how they told you that there would be mockers in the last time who would walk according to their own ungodly lusts” (Jude 17-18 NKJV).
“But you know what I teach, Timothy, and how I live, and what my purpose in life is” (2 Timothy 3:10 NLT).
I want to call your attention to the phrase “purpose in life” in the two scriptures above. Those called mockers in the first scripture were false teachers. The Greek word translated mockers is empaiktes, which means a mocker, by implication a false teacher (Strong’s Concordance). The purpose of these mockers or scoffers in life was to “enjoy themselves in every evil way imaginable” (NLT).
However, in the second scripture, Paul said, among other things, that Timothy knew his purpose in life and went further in subsequent verses to talk about it. Obviously, his purpose in life was a positive one unlike those who, though in ministry, their purpose was to enjoy themselves in every evil way imaginable. They were no different from those Paul also talked about in Philippians 3:17-19: “Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern. For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame — who set their mind on earthly things” (NKJV). These people talked about here were in ministry, but they were not serving the Living God; they were serving their bellies – sensual appetite. They were the enemies of the cross.
What is your purpose in life? Do you know it? Do others know it? Maybe you’re saying my purpose here on earth is ministry. What is your purpose in ministry? The Greek word translated purpose in 2 Timothy 3:10 is prothesis meaning: (1) the setting forth of a thing, placing of it in view (2) a purpose (As used in Acts 27:13) (Thayer’s Greek Lexicon).
According to another Greek Dictionary, the Greek word prothesis means “a setting forth, i.e. (figuratively) proposal (intention); specifically, the show-bread (in the Temple) as exposed before God (Strong’s Concordance). What is your life set forth to achieve? What is your intention in life? What is your life exposing to God and others to see? When people look at your life, what do they clearly see? What God sees and what people see, which is a summary of your life, is your purpose in life. As defined by a dictionary, “purpose” is the “reason for existence.” Divine purpose answers the questions: Why am I here? What am I supposed to live for?
At his conversion, Paul asked the question: “Lord, what do You want me to do?” (Acts 9:6a NKJV). And the Lord told him, “Arise and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do” (verse 6b NKJV). The Lord, thereafter, told Ananias Paul’s divine purpose: “Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake” (verses 15-16 NKJV).
Let’s go back to 2 Timothy 3:10 where Paul spoke about his own purpose in life. See what he said further in verses 10-13 for the summary of his life: “You know my faith and how long I have suffered. You know my love and my patient endurance. You know how much persecution and suffering I have endured. You know all about how I was persecuted in Antioch, Iconium, and Lystra — but the Lord delivered me from all of it. Yes, and everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. But evil people and impostors will flourish. They will go on deceiving others, and they themselves will be deceived” (2 Timothy 3:10-13 NLT).
We also see an excellent pursuit of divine purpose in our Lord Jesus Christ. He understood His purpose for coming to the earth and He pursued it to a logical conclusion. When His disciples told Him that everyone was looking for Him, He replied, “Let us go into the next towns, that I may preach there also, because for this purpose I have come forth” (Mark 1:38 NKJV). Luke 4:43 says a similar thing: “But He said to them, ‘I must preach the kingdom of God to the other cities also, because for this purpose I have been sent’” (NKJV).
His major priority was the preaching of the gospel, reaching the unreached, not being tied down by those who wanted to satisfy their curiosity or those looking for signs and wonders. He said in 1 John 3:8, “He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil” (NKJV). He was born to save His people from their sins (Matt 1:21). He died on the cross to fulfill this purpose because, without the shedding of blood, there is no remission or forgiveness of sins (Hebrews 9:22).
Critical Elements in the pursuit of divine purpose
1. Live a God-centred, Christ-honouring life. Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all other things shall be added to you (Matthew 6:33). Don’t pursue other things at the expense of the Kingdom of God. That doesn’t necessarily mean you should become a full-time preacher of the gospel. But why not, if that is the purpose of God for your life?
The first thing is to give your full heart to God. Deuteronomy 10:12-13 says, “And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways and to love Him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments of the LORD and His statutes which I command you today for your good?” (NKJV)
We’re not here on earth to do our own will but to do His will. His will should be done on earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:10; Luke 11:2). You must be born again (John 3:3; 7). Getting born again is the beginning of the journey to discovering your purpose in life. The devil perverts the purpose of those who’re under his control, who have not renounced his lordship over their lives.
However, your decision to follow Jesus is not a guarantee that you’ll live a God-centred, Christ-honouring life. You must cooperate with the Holy Spirit to be continuously transformed by the renewing of your mind (Romans 12:2). You must abstain from every form of evil (1 Thessalonians 5:22) and live a holy life, for He says, “And you shall be holy to Me, for I the LORD am holy, and have separated you from the peoples, that you should be Mine” (Leviticus 20:26 NKJV). Without holiness, no man, no woman, shall see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14). The Preacher says, “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man’s all. For God will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing, whether good or evil” (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 NKJV).
2. Prayerfully discover your purpose. Man is capable of many purposes, but that doesn’t mean they are all divine. What is your divine purpose in life? There is a purpose of God for your life; there’s something He wants to use your life for. There is a reason for your existence. Proverbs 16:4a says, “The LORD has made everything for his own purpose” (NLT). The Lord made you for His own purpose and for a purpose. He is always working together everything towards the realization of that purpose. Your upbringing, the training, and discipline you’ve acquired through formal and informal education, the experiences you’ve gone through in life, your abilities and talents, your failures and successes, etc. are all part of what God is working together to achieve His purpose in your life. You may not like some of these things but nothing is a waste! Jeremiah 29:11 says, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the LORD. ‘They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope’” (NLT).
Also, in Isaiah 44:8, God told the Israelites “Do not tremble; do not be afraid. Have I not proclaimed from ages past what my purposes are for you? You are my witnesses — is there any other God? No! There is no other Rock — not one!” (NLT).
After being born again, and the process of renewing of mind begins, the values of a child of God continue to change. He begins to cultivate Bible-based values and jettison worldly values. His outlook and perspectives change, and as he begins to review his life, he may become uncomfortable with the direction of his life. His heart becomes drawn to God for answers especially as he desires to live a life that pleases God.
It is the responsibility of every child of God to find out God’s purpose for his life. What matters most is that divine purpose and nothing else. “And Jesus answered and said to her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her’” (Luke 10:41-42 NKJV).
3. Invest in your purpose. You can never fulfill divine purpose without investing time and other resources in prayer, equipping yourself and others who work with you, building helpful relationships, etc. “Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterward He was hungry” (Matthew 4:1-2 NKJV).
Jesus chose twelve disciples (Mark 3:13-19). He invested in them, equipping them for three and a half years. The investment He made at that time is why we still have the gospel being preached today. The seed He sowed is the harvest we are reaping today.
Paul invested diligent labour in his purpose. Paul didn’t just labor more than the rest; he labored more abundantly than the other apostles. “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me” (1 Corinthians 15:10 NKJV). Yes, grace played a determinant role in Paul’s labour, but he didn’t receive the grace of God and go to sleep! The grace would have been in vain. But he put the grace of God towards him to work. You must cooperate with grace in labour. Invest in your purpose.
4. Put your confidence in God not in the flesh. In order to fulfill your purpose in life, you’ll need to develop your faith in God. Hebrews 11:2 says, “God gave his approval to people in days of old because of their faith” (NLT). The New King James Version says, “For by it [faith] the elders obtained a good testimony.”
Your abilities, gifts, family backgrounds, etc. could be beneficial in certain ways, but they can never be on the same scale as trust in God for the fulfillment of your purpose. Faith in God far outweighs all of these. In fact, Paul counted all the superlative credentials he had as a loss for the knowledge of Christ Jesus. “For we are the circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh, though I also might have confidence in the flesh. If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so: circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith” (Philippians 3:3-9 NKJV).
Nurture your faith in God, for by strength no man shall prevail (1 Samuel 2:9). There is a limit to what the arm of the flesh can accomplish for you. “No king is saved by the multitude of an army; a mighty man is not delivered by great strength. A horse is a vain hope for safety; neither shall it deliver any by its great strength” (Psalm 33:16-17 NKJV).
When Sennacherib came against Judah boasting, King Hezekiah told his people, “With him is an arm of flesh; but with us is the LORD our God, to help us and to fight our battles” (2 Chronicles 32:8 NKJV). When the people heard these faith-inspiring words, they were strengthened, and God did fight the battle for them; He didn’t allow the arm of flesh to prevail. “Then the LORD sent an angel who cut down every mighty man of valor, leader, and captain in the camp of the king of Assyria. So he returned shamefaced to his own land. And when he had gone into the temple of his god, some of his own offspring struck him down with the sword there” (verse 21 NKJV).
In one fell swoop, one hundred and eighty-five thousand in the camp of the Assyrians through that onslaught of one angel (Isaiah 37:36). So put your confidence in God, not in any other person or asset you have. Be God-confident; let your confidence be deeply rooted in God.
5. Get rid of distractions. These include people and other pursuits – people you relate with and what you engage in. “He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will be destroyed” (Proverbs 13:20 NKJV). 1 Corinthians 15:33 says, “Do not be deceived: ‘Evil company corrupts good habits’” (NKJV).
Your comfort zone can be a distraction. That was the case with the Rich young ruler. He wasn’t ready to part with his wealth, which had become his idol (Matthew 19:16-22). He had put his wealth ahead of God in his life. Commenting on the incident, Jesus told His disciples, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God” (verse 24 NKJV).
Demas was distracted by the love of the world. Paul wrote, “Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world, and has departed for Thessalonica” (2 Timothy 4:10 NKJV). He quit the mission field. He did not only forsake Paul but, most probably, also forsook Jesus entirely thereby becoming an ex-Christian.
Your family can even be a distraction. In 1 Corinthians 7, when Paul was pointing out the advantage of staying unmarried, he explained his reason for saying this thus: “I am saying this for your benefit, not to place restrictions on you. I want you to do whatever will help you serve the Lord best, with as few distractions as possible” (verse 35 NLT). You must deal with every distraction that serves as an obstacle to the pursuit of purpose. “Now it happened as they journeyed on the road, that someone said to Him, ‘Lord, I will follow You wherever You go.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.’ Then He said to another, ‘Follow Me.’ But he said, ‘Lord, let me first go and bury my father.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God.’ And another also said, ‘Lord, I will follow You, but let me first go and bid them farewell who are at my house.’ But Jesus said to him, ‘No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God’” (Luke 9:57-62 NKJV).
6. Stay connected with the Holy Spirit. He is your guide, your leader, your help, your teacher, and your comforter. Without Him, you’ll miss your way and you’ll never fulfill your purpose. “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you” (John 14:26 NKJV).
Listen to the Holy Spirit and be flexible in His hand otherwise you’ll go and leave God behind or you’ll stay back when God has gone forward. Neither is the best. Be sensitive to what God is saying. Change when God wants you to change. “Now when they had gone through Phrygia and the region of Galatia, they were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia. After they had come to Mysia, they tried to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit did not permit them. So passing by Mysia, they came down to Troas. And a vision appeared to Paul in the night. A man of Macedonia stood and pleaded with him, saying, ‘Come over to Macedonia and help us.’ Now after he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go to Macedonia, concluding that the Lord had called us to preach the gospel to them” (Acts 16:6-10 NKJV).
7. Make use of good counsel. This can come from spiritual fathers or biological parents; it can also come from mentors, teachers, mature Christians, or those who have walked the same path. “For though you might have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet you do not have many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel. Therefore I urge you, imitate me” (1 Corinthians 4:15-16 NKJV). Nobody knows it all. The last portion of Romans 12:16 in the New Living Translation says, “Don’t think you know it all!”
Jethro counseled Moses although God gave the latter the assignment. He didn’t say if Jethro knew what to do God would have sent him. Rather, he took his counsel because it made sense (Exodus 18:13-26). “Every purpose is established by counsel; and by wise guidance make thou war” (Proverbs 20:18 ASV).
Counsel is good (Proverbs 11:14; 12:15; 15:22; 19:20; 20:5). But don’t listen to just any counsel; listen only to wise counsel. “For by wise counsel you will wage your own war, and in a multitude of counselors there is safety” (Proverbs 24:6 NKJV). Don’t despise advice – you’ll always need a good piece of advice. “Timely advice is as lovely as golden apples in a silver basket” (Proverbs 25:11 NLT).
But you must understand that it’s not everybody who gives good advice. “The godly give good advice, but fools are destroyed by their lack of common sense” (Proverbs 10:21 NLT). Verse 31 says, “The godly person gives wise advice, but the tongue that deceives will be cut off” (NLT) According to Proverbs 15:7, “Only the wise can give good advice; fools cannot do so” (NLT).
8. Patiently endure. The road to fulfilling purpose is not easy. It could be thorny, long, undulating, bumpy, tortuous, tedious, and frustrating. Therefore, you need to persevere. Hear what Paul says about his suffering and endurance immediately after saying that Timothy knew his purpose: “You know my faith and how long I have suffered. You know my love and my patient endurance. You know how much persecution and suffering I have endured. You know all about how I was persecuted in Antioch, Iconium, and Lystra — but the Lord delivered me from all of it. Yes, and everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:10-12 NLT).
Faith is not enough; you need patience. Hebrews 6:12 says you should imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises. You must patiently endure as you travel on the road of purpose. “For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise” (Hebrews 10:36 NKJV).
There are usually opportunities for discouragement, but you have to determine not to be discouraged. “Dear brothers and sisters, whenever trouble comes your way, let it be an opportunity for joy. For when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be strong in character and ready for anything” (James 1:2-4 NLT). He who endures to the end shall be saved (Matthew 24:13b; Mark 13:13b).
Paul told Timothy: “But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry” (2 Timothy 4:5 NKJV). Without endurance, you can never fulfill your purpose.
Conclusion: Before you step into the mainstream of God’s purpose for your life, you’ll certainly find yourself doing something else or pursuing something else, which may be preparatory to divine purpose, related to it, or even opposed to it as it was in the case of Paul whom Satan had perverted God’s purpose for his life. Paul was living against divine purpose until his conversion. If you’re not born again, the possibility is high that Satan will pervert your purpose in life, so you have to give your life to Jesus and begin a new journey with Him.
If you’re born again and you’re currently engaged in a pursuit that is only meant to prepare you for stepping into divine purpose, you may need to begin to ask God for clarifications. Know that you have a limited time doing what you’re doing now before you step into divine purpose. What the Lord may be preparing you for may not be an entirely new thing but just a new dimension. The Lord told me years ago, “Don’t make your stepping stone your resting place.”
If you’re already pursuing divine purpose, be well focused and completely depend on God to finish strong. Trust and obey God for He is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases Him (Philippians 2:13). Be not afraid. “He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it” (1 Thessalonians 5:24 NKJV).
If you are not born again, you need to give your life to Jesus now. I urge you to take the following steps: *Admit you are a sinner and you cannot save yourself and repent of your sins. *Confess Jesus as your Lord and Saviour. *Renounce your past way of life – your relationship with the devil and his works. *Invite Jesus into your life. *As a mark of seriousness to mature in the faith, start attending a Bible-believing and Bible-teaching church. There they will teach you how to grow in the Kingdom of God.
Kindly say this prayer now: O Lord God, I come unto You today. I know I am a sinner and I cannot save myself. I believe that Jesus is the Son of God who died on the cross to save me and resurrected the third day. I repent of my sins and confess Jesus as my Lord and Saviour. I surrender my life to Jesus now and invite Him into my heart. By this prayer, I know I am saved. Thank You, Jesus, for saving me and making me a child of God.
I believe you have said this prayer from your heart. Congratulations! You will need to join a Bible-believing and Bible-teaching church in your area where they will teach you how to live your new life in Christ Jesus. I pray that you flourish like the palm tree and grow like the cedar of Lebanon. May you grow into Christ in all things and become all God wants you to be. I will be glad to hear from you. The Lord be with you.
T. O. Banso is the President, Cedar Ministry International, Abuja, Nigeria.
Phone No: +2348155744752, +2348033113523
WhatsApp No: +2349081295947