A Purposeful Spiritual Life, part 3

For my birthday my wife took me out on a hike. We enjoyed the beautiful Arizona morning, winding our way up into the foothills of the Catalina Mountains through the lush Sonoran desert landscape. We went on a well-traveled trail toward our destination: pools tucked into the Catalina foothills, 2.8 miles from the trailhead.

As inexperienced hikers who hadn’t hiked the trail in some 20 years, we overestimated our progress and asked multiple passersby how far away the pools were. It shouldn’t take this long to go 2.8 miles, right? Our legs grew heavy and my wife wondered if we had made a wrong turn. Maybe we should just turn around?

Finally we crested over a hill and below us lay the pools below. Our pace quickened with the pools in view and the final 15 minutes sped by. We relaxed on sun-bathed boulders, ate a snack, took some pictures, and then headed back. Knowing the terrain now and having a much better sense of how far the 2.8 mile destination was, there were no moments of confusion or frustration. The trail seemed to melt quickly behind us and we arrived back at the trail head quickly.

Knowing your destination changes your journey.

This has been a series about fixing a spiritual destination; and doing so changes our spiritual journey.  

Today we will begin to define that destination and next week we will begin to look at what the contours of that journey might look like.

Rick Warren asks[i] five questions that are helpful in pinning down our spiritual destination. Working through these questions can be a helpful exercise in fixing our spiritual destination.

1.      What will be the center of my life? If you are a Christian, it might be easy to answer “Jesus” and move on, but I would encourage you to pause and dig deeper. How is Christ not just someone you are saved by and pray to, but someone you are? Of course I don’t mean that we become the Messiah, but the Bible says that, by the power of the Spirit, we ought to be in the process of being transformed into his likeness, day by day. Christ is someone we put on. Someone we represent. Mine scripture for descriptions of this identity. We find that identity in the fruits of the Spirit we are to exhibit. Paul packs his letters with statements about our identity. He reminds us that in Christ we are “sons of God,”[ii] “ambassadors,”[iii] slaves to God,”[iv] “heirs,”[v] and part of the “body of Christ.”[vi] These are not just statements that help us feel better about ourselves. They are statements that speak of who we truly are in Christ. As the Paul says in 2 Corinthians, “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away, behold the new has come!”[vii] Notice that Paul writes this in the past tense. We will not be fully sanctified until we meet our Savior face to face, but our identity is not in process, in Christ it is complete! The decisions we make from the moment we lift our heads from our pillows to the moment we put our heads back on our pillows ought to flow with that identity, not push against it.

2.      What will be the character of my life? This flows directly out of the center and identity of our lives. You can’t have a center that doesn’t become your character. If you are not a Christian, this is an important question for you to consider. My hunch is that the type of character you desire for your life looks something like Jesus of Nazareth: humble, self-sacrificing, caring, loving, faithful, trustworthy. But how can you become that kind of man or woman without help? Without a new power within you, what will shape you into that man or woman you want to be? That is the hope of the Christian life: that we are given God’s Spirit who transforms us into his likeness, by his power.

3.      What will be the contribution of my life? What do you want to last when your life comes to an end? What would your legacy be if you died today? Is that the legacy you want to leave? What have you created? What have you improved?  

4.      What will be the communication of my life? Will others know my mission? How will they know it? How can I make it clear? A legacy is no good if only you know what it is. If you buried your inheritance to your children in a chest in a remote location with no instructions on how to find it, it wouldn’t help them. Likewise, if you are not communicating one consistent message with your actions and words, you are leaving an unmarked treasure chest for those who follow you.

5.      What will be the community of my life? Who are you going to put around you in your journey? Who is going to help you toward your destination? Who do you want to help on their journey? Who did you want to leave your spiritual inheritance to?

There is much here to consider. On the one hand, these are the types of questions that almost every human being has considered. On the other hand, when was the last time you thought deeply about these questions? And when was the last time you wrote down your answers?

Purposeful living is a lifelong pursuit and requires significant reflection and meditation. I pray that you do that hard work for the benefit of your soul. Next week we will turn toward working out your vocational calling.

 

Photo credit: Robert Murray/Unsplash

 

[i] Matt Perman has a helpful reflection on Warren’s five questions: https://www.whatsbestnext.com/2009/03/5-questions-to-consider-when-creating-a-personal-mission-statement/.

[ii] Romans 8:14

[iii] Ephesians 6:20

[iv] Romans 6:18,22

[v] Romans 8:17

[vi] Romans 12:5

[vii] 2 Corinthians 5:7