Disentangling Achievement From Purpose

Aug 13, 2021

by Bonnie O’Neil

Do you find yourself asking the same questions day after day? “Am I doing enough with my life? Am I living in my purpose?” The world tells us our purpose is validated by success—of our career, children, a business we’ve launched, or a brand we’ve built. Yet God tells us our purpose is found in glorifying Him and enjoying His presence forever.

The world’s view is centered on doing, while God’s focuses on being. In a world gone crazy with measuring our purpose by the number of followers and likes we have on social media, how can we stay grounded in who we are rather than trapped in a cycle of measuring how much we do?

We begin by remembering the work of our hands is the outflow of steeping in our purpose. Our work is not our purpose. Yes, we were created to do good works. Paul writes in Ephesians 2:10, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (ESV). And Jesus reminds us in the parable of the talents to carefully steward the gifts God has given us. But we are never to confuse the work of our hands with our purpose in life.

How do we disentangle achievement from purpose?

Jesus modeled how to live a life of purpose. His secret? He would frequently go to a lonely place to pray. There He would reconnect with the Father to be reminded of His purpose. Even though no human has ever produced better work than Jesus, His purpose was not actually to do amazingly good works. His purpose was to glorify the Father. 

Notice how often Jesus emerged from these quiet times and set a new course in motion for His disciples. In the stillness, He could hear His Father’s voice, be reminded of His purpose, let go of His loosely-held plans, and change direction. His purpose—and ours—was to glorify the Father and enjoy His presence. Jesus retreated into the quiet to be reminded of His purpose, and His invites us to do the same. 

To live in our purpose, we too need time alone with our Lord, not so much for Bible study as for an opportunity to listen to God’s voice speaking words of love over us. Pausing throughout the day—even five minutes at a time—to turn our face toward God’s long and loving gaze helps us remember our belovedness. From this posture of knowing we are His beloved, we welcome our purpose of glorifying Him and enjoying His presence.  

The boy who offered Jesus his five loaves and two fish didn’t actually feed the 5,000. He simply offered himself and what he had and trusted Jesus to make something beautiful out of his offering. That’s what Jesus invites us to do today. To offer yourself—who you are, not what you do—to Him and trust Him to make something beautiful out of your life.

Bonnie O’Neil is an inspirational communicator who is passionate about restoring hope to hurting people. She is a spiritual director and the Executive Director of the faith-based nonprofit Alpha Mid Atlantic. She is the author of two books, Chronic Hope which helps readers discover hope in the unexpected and challenging seasons of life, and My Identity is in Christ which examines how to break free from our false identities to live in the freedom God intends for us. Bonnie has three adult children and lives in suburban Philadelphia with her husband. More of her writing can be found at www.bonnieoneil.com.



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