Have you ever struggled with the problem of purpose? If you’re like most men, at one point or another of your life, you would have wrestled with this question. In fact, these days, many women do as well.
We know that we’re not biological flukes or accident. Most men feel a void in their hearts without a life of purpose. And so they go in search of something to feel that void. Many become slaves to their passion. But nothing in this world ever lasts. If one day, our purpose, built on sand, were to disappear, what then?
For Christian men without direction, this is worse. Christian men know that God has a purpose for them, for the word of God tells them so. They invest their lives in ministry, but the ministry falls into routine, and they get burnt out. Some try to read the Bible everyday but the words don’t connect with them.
However, if you had followed previous write-ups on this series for men, you would already know that every man has a life story to tell. Men Alive at DUMC is a ministry that aims to build up men through spiritual discipleship and accountability through genuine care and love. In the June session, fellow members help to guide one another towards discovering the true meaning of life. Bro Vincent guided his fellow brothers in determining what is essential in life and what is not.
Though we try to be hard and isolative, the fact is we are products made up of everything that we have experienced. This meant that every person that had come into our lives was significant in its shaping. Besides this, everything that has happened in it and how we responded to them had an immense influence in the contours of our lives today.
Choose how you may look at it, this is also truly encouraging because it means that we are unique. In God, there is no mistake. We are where we are today because God has positioned us there for a purpose. What has God positioned us for? What has He prepared or shaped us for? God has a unique purpose for us as men, and these are the questions that men are encouraged to ask. The thing we need to learn is how to ask them in the right way.
So what is life really all about? Patrick Morley writes in his book, Man Alive, that the most successful organizations in this world have something that is called the ‘Big Hairy Audacious Goal’ or BHAG for short. These are shockingly bold goals that inspire fanatical loyalty from their employees. Just as an example, Google’s goal to “organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful”.
If fallible man-made organizations can inspire such a life of purpose in their employees, what more an awesome Being like God? Patrick shares that God has a Big Holy Audacious Goal for our life, and that it is supremely clear, compelling, inspiring, and simple. We know that God’s purpose for His people is to take up discipleship and to disciple others in turn, but we do not always understand what it means.
Being a Disciple of Christ and Discovering the Purpose of Life
So we know that God’s purpose for men is to be His disciple, but what exactly is a disciple? The word disciple comes from the Greek word mathetes, which denotes a pupil or a learner. In God’s Kingdom, such a man is one that adheres to the person and teachings of Jesus. He is called to live in Christ, is equipped to live like Christ, and is sent to live for Christ (Luke 6:47-48). The discipleship journey includes both the moment of salvation and the lifelong progression of sanctification. Morley writes, “To be a disciple of Jesus is the highest honor to which a man can aspire”.
First of all, we need to get to know who Christ really is, and the way to do that is actually really simple. We need to deepen our personal relationship with Christ through prayer and petition before Him, not least in asking His guidance for our daily lives and for a clear mind in reading His word.
Religion without this personal relationship is dangerous. Without knowing about our eternal identity and salvation through Christ, religion is also meaningless. It diverts our focus away from where it should be. We start to squeeze scriptures into our personal schema. We carry out our ministries through our own strength instead of abiding and resting in God. One of the most important things for men of God is learning to live in Him daily.
Secondly, a disciple is equipped by a process of ongoing teaching, growth, and transformation. ‘To not disciple (train and equip) people who profess Christ will almost always mean they become lukewarm in faith, worldly in behavior, and hypocritical in witness,’ Morley shares. ‘Evangelism without discipleship is cruel.”
Once we have built on this twin foundation of living in and being equipped to live like Christ, we can finally experience the purpose of life as planned for us by God. A disciple that is sent to live for Christ becomes a part of a community, loving others and bearing much fruit. We are able to discern a worthy cause and are willing to give our lives to it. The best thing is that God has planned distinctive ways and causes for each of us to take up and be part of this life. And this time the cause will be founded in God rather than the other way round.
Being a disciple of Christ takes great courage in today’s world but it changes the paradigms of life in a new and incredible way. Many brothers at the June Men Alive session shared about their struggles with personal issues of life, some with relationship, and others with struggle over sin and still yet others with tough decisions in their jobs. Some of the testimonies were shared from such an honest, open and vulnerable standpoint that it was obvious they took accountability and their life purpose very seriously.
‘One of the things I love about the Biblical definition of discipleship is that it’s actionable,’ Morley relates. ‘It is daily and personal and it doesn’t get lost in glittering generalities. Once you have been with Christ – experienced the joy of His grace, the warmth of His love, the cleansing of His forgiveness, and the indwelling of His Spirit – you inevitably come to a point where you can no longer be happy unless you are serving the Lord [in the way you were purposed for by Him.]”
Discipleship as Purpose and God’s Guarantee
One of the common misconceptions about discipleship is that it is a magic potion. We always have this picture in our minds. To be a disciple means that our life will be plain-sailing. We will be insulated from problems of the world, and that we will never stumble. But Morley cautions that such unrealistic expectations of how God operates would in fact inevitably cause us to stumble.
Being a disciple is a purpose, not a panacea. The lives of God’s prophets and the Disciples of Christ were full of challenges but they had an unwavering focus and purpose. What God has promised isn’t to eliminate storms in our life, but to deliver us out from them. Sometimes, He would use them to mould our lives but He is always with us and He never forsakes us. Remember that how we handle our problems will bring glory and honor to His name.
God’s guarantee to us is that He doesn’t do random and leave us to chance. ‘He is not sitting helpless up in Heaven wringing His hands about how our lives would turn out. He’s working out everything to conform to His will – the crux of which is His BHAG for us, to be His disciple,’ Morley communicates. God’s guarantee is that by being His disciple, our lives would be transformed.
The only thing standing in the way is our self-will and this is the biggest challenge for men. Many of us fear to let go of control and we are resolute that our plans are better and wiser. We rather find our purpose elsewhere – to pursue the riches of life, to be more powerful, to be venerated, etc – than in God’s.
For many others of us who have been burnt out or who have realize that there is more to life than this, God offers us a whole new and higher purpose, one that isn’t founded on the random factors of the material life. Even king Solomon who had achieved so much earthly success finally mourned that all is vanity.
As men, we need to learn how to let go and surrender to God. We need to understand that being a disciple is not merely about conformity but rather about a truly richer and distinguishing life through Him. God’s Kingdom is diverse and each of His prophets and Disciples was really distinctive people but there was one factor that unified them. The Bible’s guarantee to us is that every disciple will become like Jesus. There is no greater honor and it is our true north.
NOTE: This article is a personal expression, guided extensively by the fourth chapter in Patrick Morley’s ‘Man Alive’, and written through the lens of the value and understanding the writer has gained since attendance in the Men Alive fellowship at DUMC. Men Alive meet one Saturday per month. The next sessions are as follows:
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– Jason Law