Instead of talking about purpose (is that still a fade in church families today?), perhaps we should address what our responsibility is. While the two are linked, purpose seems like a much more glamorous idea. After all there are times we get stuck taking care of our responsibility, while we visualize that we get to live out our purpose.
In Colossians chapter 1 the apostle Paul writes about his God-given responsibility:
“God has given me the responsibility of serving his church by proclaiming his message in all of its fullness to your Gentiles.” (Colossians 1:25; NLT)
Paul says his responsibility is about serving the church. It wasn’t about Paul going out and making a name for himself, but it was about obeying God and doing what He asked Paul to do. It wasn’t Paul’s name, but expanding God’s kingdom that was important.
One of the things I struggle with is that I want to do things that will get me noticed and have people talking about what a wonderful and spiritual guy I am. Though I have to admit that I am a walking contradiction. In small settings I would much rather melt into the background than to be noticed. So I want to have the big stage and the accolades, but I don’t want to foster real and meaningful relationships.
You see I want people to seek me out and ask me for my wisdom and advice. That is how I want to influence people: by being the big shot. That makes it had to be humble and do those things that won’t be noticed and will bring no recognition.
I think in our minds, at least in mine, it is through our purpose that we get a name, while responsibility often leads to anonymous acts of service. I much rather live a life of purpose than a life of responsibility.
Not only responsibility about serving, it is also difficult. Remember elsewhere in his letters Paul tells of all the difficulties that he faced as he took the Gospel to the Gentiles. He was persecuted, beaten, whipped, went hunger, stoned, and was shipwrecked (that is the short list). It was hardly the stuff of glamour. Instead it was the stuff that pushed Paul to his limits.
Responsibility is often like that. It will test us and push us to our limits (ask any mother who spends her day doing the essential work of raising children), but it is what needs to be done. There are no special awards or recognition and the majority of time it will go unnoticed.
We would rather live a purpose-driven-life than a responsibility-driven-life, but the church has survived through the centuries because people were responsibility-driven rather than purpose-driven. Being responsibility-driven means that we will do what needs to be done, even though it falls outside of our purpose and brings us no recognition. And it is by doing our responsibilities that we end up accomplishing our purpose.