Every apprentice of Jesus is also His ambassador.
Day by day, week by week, and year by year, He delights in revealing His glory and extending His grace through salt-of-the-earth disciples like you. Whatever your current circumstances, your daily decision to love and obey the Risen Savior reveals that you already are a world-changer.
DISCOVERING YOUR DESIGN
Yet deep down, we also long to know, Does God have a particular purpose for me, something I’m uniquely created to do?
We each have at least three areas of uniqueness—talents, spiritual gifts, and life experiences—that God flows through to fulfill our purpose or calling. Notice I didn’t say our gifts and talents determine our calling, because God can use our gifts in any combination He chooses, in any given season.
Let’s examine the three areas of uniqueness we each possess.
Often we don’t even recognize our abilities as talents because we take them for granted: Aww, that’s no big deal…anyone could do that!
So then, what is a talent?
A talent is a natural aptitude or skill that comes easier for you than it does for the average person.
If you’re not sure what your talents are, try asking a couple of your closest friends what they think you do well. Whether you agree or disagree, their answers will be good food for thought. After all, your friends see your life from an angle you never could.
For clarity’s sake, what is a spiritual gift?
Spiritual gifts are manifestations of God’s character and power given to believers by the Holy Spirit for the building up of the church and the display of His glory.
That’s a pretty exhilarating thought, when you stop and think about it. Yet when spiritual gifts come up in conversation, people’s reactions tend to be mixed.
- Wow, that’s so interesting, I’d love to know what mine are!
- Sounds great, but I probably don’t even have any.
- That spiritual gift stuff sounds kinda weird to me.
- I took a test a while back—turns out I only have the “wimpy” gifts.
Sadly, many believers leave their spiritual gifts unopened. This often happens due to fear, lack of information, or both.
Don’t let that happen to you!
If you can open a present on Christmas morning, you can discover your spiritual gifts.
- Open the box.
I Corinthians 12:7
Tear off the wrapper, open that box, and look inside your heart to see what gifts God has already placed there. Start paying attention to what motivates you, how God prompts you to reach out to others, and what kind of activity tends to bear the most fruit in your life. You may even want to take a spiritual gifts assessment to help speed up the process.
- When in doubt, read the instructions!
I Corinthians 12-14
Ever notice how long you fumble around with gadgets on Christmas morning before breaking down and reading the instructions? These great “instruction” passages will help get you started. (see if you relate to any of the gifts they list…)
- Try it out—and get feedback.
2 Timothy 1:6
Think something might be your gift? Then give it try! There’s nothing like real-life experience to fan a new gift into flame.
Giving your gift a test run will also help you discover…
- Do I have ability in this area?
- Do I see fruit in people’s lives as a result?
It’s also great to get feedback from leaders, co-workers, or those you already minister with. Again, others can see things we can’t, so asking for feedback often helps shed light on the process.
- Give it away!
I Peter 4:10
Once you’ve opened your gifts, read the instructions, tried them out, and gotten feedback—you’re ready to start giving them away to others! Look for opportunities in your daily life to lovingly serve those around you. The very best way to refine and strengthen a spiritual gift is to use it.
Your third area of uniqueness is life experience.
No one in all of history has ever lived out the exact combination of experiences you have. That’s why you can see a facet of God’s glory from a completely unique vantage point!
That said, you also share certain kinds of experiences in common with others. For example, any woman who’s carried a child for nine months and given birth shares an instant connection with every other woman who’s ever had that experience. If a woman merely mentions she’s pregnant, she’s suddenly surrounded by fellow moms who can “totally relate.”
You may connect over positive experiences, such as where you’re from, family background, ethnicity, schools, hobbies, interests, friends in common, years married, number of kids, career path, or ministry passions.
Or you may connect over more challenging experiences, such as childhood trauma, losses, learning challenges, insecurities, discouragement, depression, anxiety, financial challenges, traumatic events, illness, injury, or grief.
While it’s great to connect over fun things we have in common, we tend to shy away from mentioning the more unsettling areas of life. Yet being real about the difficult experiences God has brought us through is often the very thing He uses to build a deeper heart connection between us and those around us. As the saying goes, He’s oh-so-capable of turning your test into a testimony and your mess into a message!
Another benefit of life experience (both positive and negative) is how it fuels our passion. Those who’ve gone through the heartbreak of bankruptcy tend to have a passion for helping people get out of debt. Those who’ve struggled with weight loss often have a passion for healthy nutrition and fitness. Those who love art, music, sports, or travel often have a deep and abiding passion for their favorite pastime.
Also, the more we yield ourselves to God, He often deepens our passion in specific areas. Have you ever been watching the news or crossed paths with someone in heartbreaking need and heard God whisper, I want you to do something about that. And in that moment, you find yourself fired up by a Holy Spirit passion you might never have felt on your own.
C.S. LEWIS: Friendship is born at the moment when one person says to another “What! You too? I thought I was the only one.”
FREDERICK BUECHNER: The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.
RECOGNIZING YOUR PURPOSE
A few years ago, I stumbled onto the practice of helping people view their talents, spiritual gifts, and life experiences simultaneously—which as a culture is something we rarely do.
We tend to think about talents when choosing a hobby, spiritual gifts when studying the Bible, and life experience when we’re filling out a resume or venting to our friends that we “just can’t catch a break.”
We rarely pause to ponder
our talents, spiritual gifts,
and life experience all at once.
This a la carte approach to life keeps us from catching a bird’s eye view of how God is truly working. Our tunnel-vision focus blinds us to how skillfully our Shepherd is weaving those seemingly random twists and turns of our lives into purposeful patterns of growth, tenderly equipping and positioning us to be exactly the kind of person He’s calling us to be.
Nor do we notice Him molding us into the image of Jesus in such a wonderful one-of-a-kind way that we’re becoming more and more “ourselves” than ever before.
Without that bird’s eye view, we may be tempted to think God has no real purpose for our lives. Yet often, when we take the time to prayerfully ponder all three areas of gifting at once, patterns of clarity and purpose we’ve never noticed before start rising to the surface.
For that reason, I suggest setting aside a few minutes to write down your talents, spiritual gifts, and significant life experiences all in one place. Feel free to download my free resource for this purpose.
Once you’ve got it all down on paper, stop and pray.
Ask God to give you wisdom, clarity, and the eyes to see what He’s invested in you from His perspective—trusting that He will.
Then take a few minutes to reread your list with fresh eyes. If you notice any recurring patterns or themes, jot them down in the margins of your list. Then ask God to reveal any next steps of obedience He wants you to take.
When I’ve taught workshops on this subject, I’ve been amazed at how much clarity can be gained through pondering all three areas at once. For some it’s a flash of “Aha!” revelation, while others experience a gentle sense of “Hmm, I never noticed that before—maybe I’ll try such and such.” Either way, as we’re faithful to show up and pay attention, we position ourselves to hear God’s voice and receive His guidance. It may even be helpful to repeat this process ever so often (as God leads) to gain further insight into how He wants you to focus your gifts in a given season.
The One who made you does have passionate purpose for your life—whether it’s a particular task to accomplish, core principles to live out, or simply being the most obedient one-of-a-kind original you can possibly be!
LIVING YOUR PURPOSE
After you look at the bird’s eye view of what God has entrusted to you, my advice for discovering and living out your passionate purpose is pretty simple.
Start by obeying what you understand so far.
Then “lather, rinse, repeat.”
Seriously. That’s it.
Obey the clear commands of the Bible, as best you can. Love God, love others, and put into action any specific guidance you believe He gives you. Do this with all your heart.
Just do what you know—and trust Him as you go.
Your purpose isn’t behind door number one, two, or three.
Your purpose emanates from the very heart of God—which is why drawing near to Him is so important. And so exciting. He’s overflowing with goodness and full of surprises, and He always has a heart to give to you, and through you.
So it only makes sense that the more you hang out with Him, and do what He tells you—the more you’ll hear what’s in His heart for you!
Whether God reveals His direction for your life inch by inch or all at once, there’s incredible peace in simply obeying what you do know and trusting Him with what you don’t.
For example, after decades of living out that process, I now know my purpose involves being a passionate disciple of Jesus, discipler of millennials, and equipper of thirsty women of all ages. That’s because over the years, God has confirmed these areas of purpose to my heart time and time again. Yet there are still many and varied ways He leads me to walk that purpose out in any given season.
For ten years, all I did was love the person in front of me and let Jesus do the discipling. Then gradually He began planting the idea of speaking into my heart. Then writing bubbled to the surface. As I started doing that, He opened my eyes to the need for more women to invest in millennials, which led to Him revealing His heart for women of all ages who’ve never experienced being mentored themselves. As I obeyed in the small things, the vision expanded.
As I’ve acted on what God has shown me so far, and listened for His next instructions, slowly but surely my purpose has unfolded. I can’t tell you exactly what it will look like in five, ten, or twenty years—but I can tell you God has worked certain kingdom truths so deeply into my soul that wherever I go, whatever I do, they come pouring out of me into the lives of those I meet.
The same will be true of you.
You have a handful of people you “do life” with—your friends, family, neighbors, co-workers, and acquaintances. God has given you influence in those people’s lives.
The Bible calls these people our oikos or “extended household.”
- Start with your
- Care deeply about them.
- Pour God’s love into them.
- Lay down your life for them.
And as you take one faithful step at a time—your passionate kingdom purpose will unfold!
PURPOSE PRESCRIPTURE (mp3 audio)
Here’s the full PreScripture list…with free downloads for pdf & audio!
- IDENTITY IN CHRIST PreScripture
- “MASTERING” THE DAILY PreScripture
- WISH-I-KNEW BASICS PreScripture
- KING’S DAUGHTER PreScripture
- RELATIONSHIPS PreScripture
- SMASHING STRONGHOLDS PreScripture
- PASSIONATE PURPOSE PreScripture
- INVESTING YOUR INHERITANCE PreScripture
I’ll be sharing about the remaining 1 PreScripture audio in my next blog, so be sure to join the DiscipleSips email list for notices of future posts!
And if you share my passion to equip women for a lifestyle of discipleship, click here to learn about becoming a DiscipleSips Pour-Out Partner!