By Donna Williams
I. With Purpose, On Purpose
We mark Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. As the church celebrates and commemorates this event, it looks forward to the next Sunday, Easter Sunday or Resurrection Sunday, our celebration of the amazing revelation the angels made to the women: “He is not here! He is risen!” Yes!” the church responds, “He is risen; He is risen, indeed!”
Yet, between Jesus’ triumphant entry into the city and His resurrection, things begin to shift, attitudes and perspectives change. Betrayal becomes reality. The Master Teacher hangs on a cross. The disciples hide in the shadows. Daylight dissolves into darkness and final words are uttered, “It is finished.”
Encompassed in these final words of Jesus is all the world would ever need in order to overcome the flawed and potentially fatal Adamic nature. The work needed for the redemption of mankind has been accomplished; the atoning sacrifice for our sins has satisfied in full the debt mankind owed. We were bought back (redeemed) to be brought back into the family of God.
Still, in spite of my knowing and understanding this salvation so rich and so free, there is a dimension of my salvation that is too often MIA in my everyday life, a declaration Jesus made that I often have a hard time incorporating into my actions and reactions. I am not all that and a bag of chips all the time. Sometimes I am a true Romans 7 individual in real life, practicing the evil I should not do while the good I should do goes undone. Sometimes I flounder about in the darkness of despair, wrapped in anguish and angst when my circumstances do not live up to my expectations. I am pretty sure there are others who are in this dark place, especially today as we are beset and befuddled by the economic crisis and its traumatic consequences, its boomerang effect on our lives and because of such, in our hurry to regroup and recover, we trample beneath our faltering feet this dimension of salvation noted in John 10:10:
The thief comes but to kill and destroy;
I am come that they might have life more abundantly.
Jesus’ word to us is that through Him every believer can have a full and meaningful life, a more abundant life. The goal is not just to survive but to thrive, to blossom, to bloom in Christ. The goal is to live life on purpose with purpose, to live life beyond just existing.John 10:1-10
Jesus concludes the opening paragraph of His dissertation about the shepherd and His flock with the above declaration. The point He appears to be making is that when an individual truly understands the relationship of the shepherd and the sheep, the responsibility of the shepherd to the sheep and the recognition and the response of the sheep to the shepherd, then the by-product of said relationship is an abundant life, a full and meaningful life. Unfortunately, it appears that the disciples did not understand His story and Jesus had to elaborate on His point.
Today our understanding is supposedly greater and we purport to understand Jesus’ point about the full and meaningful life, a life that is centered and focused on Christ as we follow His example (1 Peter 1:21). Having said this, however, this is the issue I have with me, a question I too often asked myself. Since I know and am absolutely assured that Jesus came to give me life, why then is my life so full of situational angst and topical despair and mitigated misery and far too many “woe is Me declarations? Why is it so difficult to maintain my confidence equilibrium in Christ?
Why am I constantly spending more time comparing me to them rather than accepting who I am in Christ? Why am I still waiting for my goals to come to pass and my dreams to come to fruition? Lord, where is my abundant life? Out of my misguided musings and meanderings comes this study.
In this text, Jesus presents to His disciples a thesis on shepherding. This would not be a subject with which some of the disciples were not familiar. Surely, even as some of them were now otherwise occupied, these men understood the idea of the good shepherd who cares and is concerned about the sheep under his care. They would understand the idea of the sheepfold and the shepherd and the problem is that when Jesus spoke to them of the familiar, while they literally understood the concept, spiritually they did not have a clue.***John 10
v1 – “Truly, most assuredly” Kind of self-explanatory, isn’t it? If an individual comes in some other way than through the door, that person is up to no good and means no good for the sheep. They do not enter to give; they enter to take, to deceive, and to destroy. They enter with an action and an attitude that is disruptive and alarming to the sheep. In my state of misguided musings and meanderings, the thief and the robber controlled me.Question: What, if anything, has the enemy stolen from me?
Question: How has the enemy controlled me?
v2 – The one who comes in the door is the one in charge of the sheep, the one who has the ultimate responsibility for the well-being of the sheep. This one enters with confidence and an assurance that is calming to the sheep.
v3 – The individual in charge of the door recognizes that one who is in charge of the sheep and will open the door without checking credentials or requiring a strip search. Rev. 3:20 – As the keeper of the door of my heart, I open the door of my heart to allow the shepherd entrée with no hesitation because I recognize His authority as my keeper and I willingly acquiesce to His guidance and care. When the shepherd speaks the sheep respond because they recognize His voice. They know the voice of the one who cares for them and they willingly follow Him.Question: Is there any time when the sheep will not respond to the voice of the shepherd? Answer: “Yes, when they are sick.”)Question: How consistently have I responded to (obeyed) the shepherd’s voice?
v4 – The real shepherd does not herd the sheep; he leads the sheep. He shows them the way and all He does is speak and they followQuestion: How consistently do I follow the shepherd?
v5 – When a stranger approaches and speaks, it will not matter how soothing or encouraging or enticing the words are, the sheep will flee for they will not recognize that voice as the voice of the one who genuinely loves them and is not out to “fleece” them (Have you ever noticed that Jesus never talks about fleecing or shearing the sheep? While this procedure may look painless, it leaves the sheep naked, subject to bug bites and skin irritations with the soothing lanolin of the wool stripped away).
v6 – They did not understand! The disciples were spending more time focusing on what they thought they knew than what the Master was trying to get them to understand. They were too focused on the “now.” When we focus on the now, we miss the spiritual truths that ground us in the abundant life. The disciples thought they knew more than they actually knew.
v7 – “Truly, most assuredly” – Jesus breaks it down for them; “Take your focus off of what you think you understand and put your focus on me.” “I just told you that I AM the shepherd, but no only am I the shepherd, I AM the door through which you enter into love and care and rest.
v8 – Anyone who comes before me proclaiming to be the real thing is counterfeit and their intent is for their own self-gain and greed and not your well-being.
v9 – “I AM the door.” Jesus reiterates again (Why does Jesus make this statement again?) Anyone who enters by me will come in and go out and find pastureQuestion: What does the “I Am” statement of Jesus mean to you?Question: What do you suppose “pasture” means to a sheep?
Psalm 23: “He maketh me to lie down in green pastures.”
Here is what I “see” when I hear “pasture.” It is green. It is lush. It is expansive. I see the shepherd standing and watching and because of His presence I am not afraid. There is rest in the pasture. There is no need or want in the pasture. There is abundant provision in the pasture. There is protection and care in the pasture.
v10 – Here is the point to all that Jesus has just said: “If you will trust me as your shepherd; if you will submit your will to my will and heed my voice only, then your life will be full and meaningful. You will be complete in me and the things you do, the goals you set and the dreams you dream will have purposeful significance not only for your life but also for the lives of every person who crosses your path.”
This is the turning point for each and every one of us. When we accept Jesus as Lord and Savior, which not only means redemption for my soul but also responsibility for my life, the full and meaningful can be the only result in me and in my everyday living (John 14:6).
II. Personal Revelation
The abundant (full and meaningful) life for me would be_______________________.
– The Committed (faithful, steadfast, devoted, staunch dedicated, loyal, unswerving) Disciple (follower, believer, supporter, devotee, adherent, scholar, learner) is that person who chooses to relinquish control of his or her life to focus on the call of the Master. The committed disciple looks neither to the left or the right. He or she, instead, keeps his or her eye on the prize, earnestly straining for the finish line without a clue as to when the race will end (Philippians 3:13, 14). This person is an ardent follower of Christ whose devotion to the call is reflected in their daily lives.
– Challenges to Commitment: “Me, Myself and I.”
It is true; the real challenges to commitment are those things that whisper my name in the shadows, that pretend to fulfill all my desires, that promise satisfy a need, those things that supposedly can fill any void in my life, things that practically ooze self-gratification. This is exactly why Jesus had to tell us that the committed disciple is that individual who chooses self-denial over self-gratification in order to follow Jesus daily and invest their time, talent and treasure into the lives of others.
Sacrifice is never about giving up that which we do not like; sacrifice is about giving up those things we love, cherish and treasure. This is why we are usually so conflicted when it comes to following Jesus with absolute assurance; we are not sure that the sacrifice is worth the cost, but how will we ever know if we never take that leap of faith and follow Him closely without any thought to loss or need.
The full and meaningful life becomes our life when we refuse to focus on this world system and the tyranny of self-gratification to follow Jesus on purpose, with purpose.
11 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.
12 Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you.
13 And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.
The schematic of our lives, God’s intricate and grand design for each of us, practically demands that we give up all rights to self-hood if we want to get to that place of a truly full and meaningful life. If we refuse to let go of the reigns, then we can expect the threads of our life to begin to fray and we will spend the balance of our days trying to keep the fabric of our life in one piece.Application of Effort/Deliberate Practice
The Law of Applied Effort says any goal, task, or activity is amenable to the sustained effort of hard work. In other words, our daily decision to follow Christ must be deliberate and conscious, the deliberate application of effort in those areas of self-denial, cross-bearing and daily following.
Question: What shall it be? Conscientious learner or careless imitator?
Deliberate Practice is the willingness to practice that which you wish to become, to move beyond the mediocre to the penultimate; God can work in this mindset regardless of our flawed nature and imperfect bodies. We just have to begin to move toward Him with deliberate focus.
Question: What shall it be? Frail, faltering and fragile, or bold, courageous and strong in the power of the Lord? Deliberate disciple or accidental follower?
The Power of ME
– The greatest revolution of my generation is the discovery that by changing the inner attitudes of your mind you can change the outer aspects of your life. ~Williams James~
– You are what you say you are (“According to your faith, it is done unto you. As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.”)
– We are prone to say “Seeing is believing.” Perhaps we should say, “Believing is seeing” as we move according to our faith which should always “see” God power ever present in our lives.”
The brain (subconscious mind) does not know the difference between fact and fantasy. We are what we say we are. We accomplish what we say we can accomplish. We become what we say we can become.
Question: What have you told yourself about yourself? What did you tell yourself about yourself today?
III. A Personal Mission Statement
A personal mission statement is a brief description of what you want to focus on, what you want to accomplish and who you want to become in a particular area of your life over the next one to three years. It is a way to focus your energy, actions, behaviors and decisions towards the things that are most important to you. This mission statement should specifically be about your goals and visions for you and your life in Christ.
Personal Mission Statement Guidelines
While there is no unique format or formula for creating your personal mission statement, the following guidelines may be helpful:
- Keep it simple, clear and brief. The best mission statements tend to be 3 to 5 sentences long.
- Your mission statement should touch upon what you want to focus on and who you want to become as a person (character) in this part of your life. Think about specific actions, behaviors, habits and qualities that would have a significant positive impact in this part of your life over the next one to three years.
- Make sure your mission statement is positive. Instead of saying what you don’t want to do or don’t want to be, say what you do want to do or become. Find the positive alternatives to any negative statements.
- Include positive behaviors, character traits and values that you consider particularly important and want to develop further.
- Think about how your actions, habits, behavior and character traits in this area affect the important relationships in your life.
- Create a mission statement that will guide you in your day-to-day actions and decisions. Make it a part of your everyday life.
- Think about how your mission affects the other areas of your life. Is it consistent with your other personal mission statements? Will it conflict with or contradict something else? Is it balanced?
- Make it emotional. Including an emotional payoff in your mission statement infuses it with passion and will make it even more compelling, inspiring and energizing.
- Remember that your mission statement is not cast in stone. It will continue to change and evolve as you gain insights about yourself and what you want out of each part of your life.
Personal Mission Statement Sentence Templates
Here are some sample personal mission statement sentence templates to get you started. You can use these templates as seeds to get your creative juices flowing.
- “To … [what you want to achieve, do or become] … so that … [reasons why it is important]. I will do this by … [specific behaviors or actions you can use to get there].”
- “I value …[choose one to three values]… because …[reasons why these values are important to you]. Accordingly, I will …[what you can do to live by these values].”
- “To live each day with …[choose one to three values or principles]… so that …[what living by these values will give you]. I will do this by …[specific behaviors you will use to live by these values].”
- “To appreciate and enjoy …[things you want to appreciate and enjoy more] by …[what you can do to appreciate/enjoy these things].””
- “To treasure above all else …[most important things to you] by …[what you can do to live your priorities].”
- “To be known by …[an important person/group]… as someone who is …[qualities you want to have]…; by …[some other person/group]… as someone who is …[other qualities]…; …”
When you get to a gap, pause for a moment, and then let your mind fill in the gap. Just write whatever pops into your head.
Repeat this a couple of times and then choose the sentences you like the most as your starting point. Later, you can add or refine your personal mission statement using more of the sentence templates.
IV. Finally, A STORY TO PONDER
I heard this story on a radio Bible study some years ago. It stayed with me. This is not my composition, but it makes a point I think we all need to ponder.THERE’S A HOLE IN MY SIDEWALK Autobiography in Five Short Chapters By Portia Nelson
I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I fall in.
I am lost …. I am helpless.
It isn’t my fault.
It takes forever to find a way out
I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend that I don’t see it.
I fall in again.
I can’t believe I am in this same place.
But, it isn’t my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it is there.
I still fall in … it’s a habit … but, my eyes are open.
I know where I am.
It is my fault.
I get out immediately.
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.
I walk down another street.
In the spirit of the short story, “The Lady or the Tiger,” which shall it be, the inescapable hole or the deliberate action to choose another street? A full and meaningful life beyond survival or existence, or purposeless meanderings for the balance of your days with no purpose in sight? It’s up to you? What will you render?
- Goal #1:______________
- Goal #2:______________
If you overlap the two circles, then where they intersect is the FAITH connector. Visions and dreams are puffed up and full of empty vanity unless we connect the two with FAITH, the active faith that visions and dreams are a result of God’s trust in us and our absolute determination is that He will be glorified in all that we say or do.
Pursue the abundant life without hesitation.
It really is time to thrive; not just survive.