People who have a purpose in life live healthier and longer lives, concluded neuropsychologist, Patricia Boyle. Dr. Boyle was quoted in a Wall Street Journal article by Diane Cole entitled “Why You Need to Find a Mission” (January 14, 2013). Having a purpose, Boyle pointed out, slows cognitive decline. When asked to define purpose in life, Boyle replied, “It’s the sense that your life has meaning. You’re engaged in things that you think are important on a broader level, beyond just yourself.” She goes on to say, “Being purposeful is not something that just happens without your being active and intentional.” I found this article thought- provoking, especially from a Christian perspective.
To be honest, I’m not big on “missions” and “mission statements.” To me the word “mission” sounds task-oriented. Being a bit lazy, I tend to shy away from anything remotely resembling more work I might have to do. But I do like the word “purpose.” To me purpose indicates my life makes a difference and reminds me what I do every day matters to God and those around me.
I’ll never be a Mother Teresa, and you’ll never be a Dr. Albert Schweitzer or a Billy Graham. But I suggest that’s not what God specifically called you or me to do. Maybe God called us to live ordinary lives intentionally trying to do what he would have us do in any given circumstance.
While I admire great missional leaders who do extraordinary things, I think God is just as pleased with the Christ-centered grandmother who raises her grandchildren with godly principles because her drugged-out daughter is in jail. The aged spouse who cheerfully cares for a mate with Alzheimer’s touches my heart. The policeman with a devotional in his pocket who puts himself in harm’s way to protect others paints a picture of what Christianity is about.
I think about the soldier who fights for my freedom counseling with a chaplain and praise God that the chaplain is there. The housebound prayer warrior who sends out cards and letters of encouragement is on mission with God. The single mother grocery clerk, working two jobs to keep her family fed, who smiles at me and tells me to have a blessed day is on mission. The dedicated teacher, trying to teach morality to her students in spite of low pay, overcrowded classrooms, and under-funded programs has God’s heart and understands her mission.
Mission is done by ordinary people who rely on our extraordinary God; people who see their purpose as simply trying to live a Christian life. By living in mission, they bring glory to God and positively affect those around them.
For some of us I believe our mission—our purpose in life—is as simple as sharing the love of God by how we live our lives. We are God’s workmanship, created to live our lives according to his will (Ephesians 2:10). If we stay God-centered, he will give our lives meaning, keep us focused and motivated—and provide the strength that can keep us going (Philippians 4:13).