The following is from our mission’s Lenten Devotional Series for this year that I wrote.
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Scripture Reading – Day 19
Listen to me, you islands; hear this, you distant nations: Before I was born the LORD called me; from my birth he has made mention of my name. He made my mouth like a sharpened sword, in the shadow of his hand he hid me; he made me into a polished arrow and concealed me in his quiver. He said to me, “You are my servant, Israel, in whom I will display my splendor.” (Isaiah 49:1-3 NIV)
What greater quest can there be than for purpose? Our God alone has designs of purpose for every person, family, city, and nation—even before birth, as this passage declares, resulting in a symphony of praise to “display his splendor.”
Christian and Jewish commentators all agree that this passage refers to the coming Messiah—one of scores of passages that speak of God’s foreknowledge in sending his Son to bring hope and redemption to Israel and beyond. Israel had long since been given a mission—a mandate, even—to be a blessing to the nations (Genesis 12:2-3). It is a theme repeated over and over again throughout scripture.
God is intensely interested in everyone’s purpose—everyone from every tongue, tribe, and ethnic group. Why does Isaiah call the distant islands and nations to hear about the Christ in verse 1? It is not merely for their salvation, but also for the restoration of their own sense of purpose as a people, as the rest of the chapter explains.
Like many of us who are products of a highly individualistic culture, I used to think of my purpose as being nothing more than the fulfillment of my personal dreams and desires. When I came to understand that my relationship with Christ demanded more than this, I started looking for purpose in the intersection of my gifts and passions, in answer to some need. There is another level, however. My purpose is two-fold. It is shaped in my relationships with those in the body of Christ whom God has put me alongside, and it is also shaped in my relationships with those who do not yet know God and who I am called to reach.
Purpose isn’t static. It is in motion like a constellation. Wherever God calls me, my purpose is to fulfill his sovereign desire for the redemption and restoration of the nations.
Questions for Reflection
How well-defined is your sense of purpose?
To what extent does your sense of purpose include those around you and God’s redemptive plans for them?
How would you help others expand their sense of purpose from being solely self-focused to other-focused?
Lyle Thomas serves with his wife, Diana, and their three children in St. Petersburg, Russia, primarily ministering among and on behalf of orphans so these children can realize their God-given dreams and purposes.
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