What Is My Purpose This Year? What Should I Aim For in 2021?
In his great book on spiritual disciplines, Donald Whitney begins with a simple, yet profound statement. He writes, “Discipline without direction is drudgery.” That is to say, we need to know why we do, just as much (if not more) as we need to know what we do. If we don’t understand the purpose or bigger picture behind our actions, we won’t have the motivation to continue moving forward.
Whitney illustrates his statement by telling a brief fictional story about a young boy who would rather be outside playing baseball with his friends instead of practicing his classical guitar. However, one day the young boy is transported to Carnegie Hall by an angel who stands with him in the wings while they watch and listen to a man on stage playing the most beautiful classical guitar music. The boy is enthralled by the music, and the angel tells him that the man is him in the future. But the boy must practice in order to get there. How do you think the boy would feel about practicing his guitar after this experience?
Now, of course this is a fictional story but Whitney’s point is that we must have a vision for that future that includes purpose. Not just what we should do, but why we should do it. Do you have such a vision for the coming year? Here we are at the beginning of 2021 and perhaps you are not feeling as hopeful for a new year as in the past. That’s to be expected. It seems we were all so hopeful as we entered 2020 and then… 2020 happened like we never would have imagined. So perhaps we need to reassess our desires and goals for this new year. Instead of focusing on solely outward activities, getting to the gym, reading more, eating healthier, etc., we should focus on the meaning question. What is my purpose this year? What should I aim for in 2021?
As a pastor of a local church, I am thinking about these questions for myself as well as for the congregation I serve. How should we, as a church family, look to 2021? And what should be our goals? Well, a few years ago at Maranatha as we were considering our mission as a church in the community, we adopted a brief statement of purpose which should guide us in this pursuit. “We exist to glorify God by making more and better followers of Christ.” This short sentence encapsulates not only what we should be doing as the church but why we should be doing it.
To Glorify God
If you are a follower of Christ, everything you do should be for God’s glory. And I mean everything. Paul writes that even our eating and drinking should be to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31). When we read God's Word we see that, as people who have been made in the image of God, we are not created for ourselves but for Him. We are made to focus on God, worship God, and to reflect His goodness. The writers of the Westminster Catechism had it right when they wrote that "the chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever." When we come into a relationship with God through Christ we start to see life as it really is. We see that all of those things we once used to bring fulfillment were never actually satisfying. It is only in God that we find fulfillment that lasts, that gives meaning and purpose to life.
In God, we find joy inexpressible (1 Peter 1:8) because we recognize that we deserve nothing from Him and yet, by His grace, have received everything. Every good gift is from God (James 1:17). In response, all of our focus and attention should be moved from "self" to Him who actually deserves it. When we put our attention on God, on what has been accomplished for us by Christ upon the cross, and what the Bible teaches us, we will find that everything else will fall into place. This is the “why” behind all the “what” we do.
Make More Followers of Christ
One way we glorify God is by telling other people about Him and His glorious gospel. All followers of Christ must heed and act upon the command Christ gives in Matthew 28 to, “make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19). The task of evangelism (sharing our faith) is not solely the job of the pastor or overseas missionary, but for all who know the gift of saving faith in Christ. We are to be so overwhelmed by what God has done for us that we must tell others. As it has often been said, we are merely beggars showing other beggars where to find bread.
Perhaps 2021 would look differently if we stopped focusing on all that has and could go wrong and instead focus on sharing the message of life with other people. In fact, one of the best ways to deal with the difficulties of this world is to focus on what we can do instead of what we cannot do. I cannot change what may be happening with this virus or in the political sphere, but I can still share my faith with family, friends, and neighbors. I can make much of Christ in 2021.
Make Better Followers of Christ
Believing in Christ for salvation, however, is not the end of the Christian life but merely the beginning. This is why the last part of the statement includes making better followers of Christ. That is to say, those who already profess faith in Christ must continue to grow and mature in their faith. Therefore, starting with myself, I want to make better followers of Christ. Followers of Christ who have a hunger for the Bible, who are devoted to spending time with God in prayer, who love the gathering of the saints for worship, and who are dedicated to sharing their faith. It will be my aim this year to model and to encourage this kind of godly devotion.
What is my purpose this year? What should be my goal? I will, with God’s help, live this year to glorify God by making more and better followers of Christ. What about you?