Several years ago, a book of similar title swept the nation and propelled a California pastor into the limelight. Among other things, the book confronted the amazing fact that in modern America, we are a land full of opportunity, but lacking fulfillment; a country of ambition lacking moral position; a people who work as hard as any on earth—job, family, soccer, school, community—but occasionally and secretly wonder, “what for?”
I think this is part of what drew each of us to God and His church—an offer of spiritual purpose. Like Jesus, we wanted to find not just our own salvation, but to join his commitment to “seek and save the lost” (Luke 19:10). At times, we ran a little wild with this concept, insisting that it was our sole purpose in this life before we meet our Maker. This apocalyptic view of life—forget about daily concerns, all that matters are eternal things—was convenient in our youth. We could eschew participating in this world because participating at that age (most of us from campus ministry) meant studying (ugh) or partying (worldly). Of course I’m oversimplifying. And many of us were not converted as students.
As we got older, participation reared its ugly head—if we wanted to keep our job, let alone get promoted, we had to invest in it. If we wanted to stay married after more than 7 years (the first tension/crisis point for most marriages), we had to actually spend time with our spouse and not just with “our ministry.” If we wanted our kids to mature, we needed to attend them in exploring their world—in school, athletics, clubs, you name it, all the while praying for them to love the Lord. (Most really do).
As I near the quarter pole of turning 50 (April, sigh), I realize that how we live this short life God gave us includes the paradox of both fully participating in this world and preparing for eternal things. God wants both eternal life to come and abundant life right now for each of us. If I’m right about this, then our sense of The Great Commission shifts from “forget everything else and go make disciples,” to more “as you go in this world, make disciples of all nations.” Yes, full time ministry people will feel this differently; our “as you go,” actually is evangelism (!), as well as shepherding.
Where does that leave you (you non-full time minister!)? My answer at 50 is this: pray for, search for, and embraceyour calling. Each of us has gifts from God to use in this world, first for the kingdom (Matthew 6:33), second for the planet. Stay focused on this word calling. God has precious work for you to do in this life—you are a steward of your gifts, your vocation, your money, your friends, and your family. Act like it. Ask the Lord to make clear His calling in your life and then go live it. Without a doubt, it will directly touch upon all things eternal.