Interview with

Founder & Teacher,

Audio Transcript

Pastor John, we have talked a lot on this podcast about personal productivity. And that leads to today’s question from a listener named Paul, who lives in Soria, Spain. Paul writes this: “Hello, Pastor John, and thank you for this podcast! Way back in episode 839, you mentioned the importance of writing out a personal mission statement for our lives with the aim of enhancing personal productivity. I agree completely. And I find this task entirely daunting. So how do I, as an average Christian layperson, go about coming up with a personal mission statement? Should we be strengths/talents-oriented about it? Focus on roles? Should we mostly focus on spiritual needs in the church, both locally and globally? And how do we avoid letting this statement grow so broad that we get overwhelmed to the point that such a statement does nothing to actually help focus our energies? Any help would be appreciated.”

When I read the Bible, I cannot escape the relentless teaching that God has purposes. He has goals in everything he does. He’s not a God who is coasting aimlessly. He’s not going in circles. The God of the Bible is pervasively pursuing accomplishments of his own counsel. So Isaiah 46:9–10 says,

     I am God, and there is none like me,
declaring the end from the beginning
     and from ancient times things not yet done,
saying, “My counsel shall stand,
     and I will accomplish all my purpose.”

So there it is: “I will accomplish all my purpose.” God has purposes. He has plans.

As I have planned,
     so shall it be,
and as I have purposed,
     so shall it stand. (Isaiah 14:24)

Have you not heard
     that I determined it long ago?
I planned from days of old
     what now I bring to pass. (Isaiah 37:26)

I don’t think there would be any gospel, any salvation, any eternal joy, if God were not a planner — one who lived with purposes and goals. Because Acts 4:27 says that all the enemies of God were gathered together in Jerusalem at the crucifixion of Jesus “to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.”

God-Sized Goals

Now, when I step back from all of that vision of the planning, purposing God, the effect it has on me is to stir me up to really serious questions like, Well, what is God’s ultimate goal, then? I’m sure he has millions of sub-goals and sub-purposes in everything he does. I like to say that God is doing ten thousand things we don’t know anything about. Most of those goals and purposes are hidden from us. But what has he revealed as his main or his ultimate purpose? Where is everything going? That’s the question that has burned in me ever since I was 22 years old and became a lover of the all-ordaining, all-planning God.

And then the next question becomes, Well, if I could discern what his ultimate goal is, how can I join him in it? I want to fit in to his ultimate purpose. I don’t want to strive against it. I want to be right in sync with what God is pursuing in the world. Nothing seems more obviously reasonable to me or hopeful to me than that God’s creatures should gladly fit into his purposes. So surely that’s his call on us. That’s what he’s beckoning us to do: “Find my purpose and join me in it.” So that’s my second question, then: Is there a way I can join the purpose of God once I have found out what his ultimate purpose is?

And then the question becomes, How do I do everything I am doing so that I help that ultimate goal come about, or so that I can be used by God to make it come about? I want everything — not just a few things, but everything I do — to somehow contribute to that purpose. So, that’s why mission statements seem helpful to me. They keep me focused on the great things of life.

Aim for the Big Picture

But let me caution us here: I think the particularities of life are too variable for our mission statement to be very detailed. I know our friend asked that it not be too general. And yet I might disappoint him because I find big, big, general purposes really helpful, if they’re the right kind.

So the more particularities about yourself and about your circumstances that you include, the more short-term your statement is going to be, because so much changes, right? You change. Your job changes. You have kids. You get sick. You move. Oh, my goodness! Life is just so variable that if you make your mission to include things about yourself, things about your circumstances that are going to change relatively quickly, then you’re going to have to be changing your mission statement all the time. And that’s probably not very helpful.

“What goals can I have that are in sync with God’s goals and are so clearly biblical that they don’t change?”

So, if you want your mission statement to last more than a few years, it will need to be high-level and general. And that’s mainly what I have in mind when I think of my own statements that guide my life. I need to be reminded regularly about the big picture of life: What’s everything about? What goals can I have that are in sync with God’s goals and are so clearly biblical that they don’t change?

So let me give you a whirlwind process of arriving at such a statement, and then you can adapt it to your situation.

Discover Ultimate Aims

In those crucial years of discovery for me — the life-changing years from 22 to 25 — what I saw and could not deny, and have never changed my mind on since, was that God is infinitely full of every perfection, and cannot be improved, and is the sum of all excellence, all beauty, all worth, all greatness, so that his purpose never includes people counseling him or adding to him or improving him or providing for his needs, since he doesn’t have any.

Rather, what I saw was that God is the kind of God whose ultimate aim is that his fullness, his completeness, his perfection, would overflow with the communication of all his satisfying greatness and beauty and worth and excellence to me. In other words, God’s ultimate purpose is to be seen and savored and shown (those are my three favorite words for describing it). God’s ultimate purpose is to be seen and savored and shown as infinitely glorious. That’s his ultimate purpose.

This is not megalomania, by the way, because the communication of himself, in all his glory, is what the human soul was made to be satisfied by. So God is the one being in all the universe — and he is the only one — for whom self-communication and self-exaltation is the highest virtue and the most loving act.

Bring my sons from afar
     and my daughters from the end of the earth,
everyone who is called by my name,
     whom I created for my glory. (Isaiah 43:6–7)

And so, the very first thing that he teaches us to pray over and over is “Hallowed be your name” (Matthew 6:9) — that is, glorified, treasured, loved, honored, praised, admired, enjoyed. Hallowed be your name. That’s the first and foremost cry of every saint every day: “Make me a means, God — please, make me a means of the communication and the display of your beauty and your worth and your greatness.” That is, “May others hallow your name because I exist.” That’s why we come into being. That’s the essence of every biblical personal mission statement, I think, if it ties into God’s ultimate purpose. So that’s where I start.

Join the Chorus

And then the question becomes, How? How can I live that way? How can I join in to that accomplishment of that purpose? And the Bible just seems to offer countless answers:

  • Whether you eat or drink, do all to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31).
  • Give thanks to the glory of God (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
  • Confess Jesus to the glory of God (Romans 10:9).
  • Do good deeds that God may be glorified (1 Peter 2:12).
  • Welcome one another for the glory of God (Romans 15:7).
  • Be generous to the poor for the glory of God (Romans 12:13).

And on and on. I have other texts listed here, but they’re all over the place. Everything we should be doing with our bodies and our minds and our hearts should be something that makes God look glorious, because he really is. We’re helping people see him, savor him, show him for what he’s really like.

Rely on God

So finally, the question becomes, Is there a common denominator that runs through all those deeds, all those attitudes, all those words, that turn them into God-glorifying acts? How does everything I do become worship? How does everything I do become a display of God’s greatness and beauty and worth? And the answer is given, for example (there are other places),

Whoever serves, [let him serve] by the strength that God supplies — in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 4:11)

So, if everything you do is a service, then, he says, let the service be by relying on the all-sufficiency of God’s grace in your life, so that when you accomplish what you just attempted to do, it’s done in his strength, so that he gets the glory. You get the enablement and the power and the guidance and the strength, and he gets the glory. So when we joyfully rely on God in all we do in the service of others, God looks glorious in our lives.

“When we joyfully rely on God in all we do in the service of others, God looks glorious in our lives.”

We see the same thing in 2 Thessalonians 1:11–12: let every work be a “work of faith by [God’s] power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you.” That’s the same point as 1 Peter 4: we do what we do in glad reliance upon God for everything we need, in order to love people. In other words, we live by faith in the promises of God in the service of love.

Fine-Tune for You

So I would say, build your life mission statement by thinking through this much before you get to the details of your own gifting and your own calling.

  • God is infinitely glorious.
  • God means to communicate that glory to his people — to see it, savor it, show it.
  • He means for us to join him in that purpose.
  • That applies to absolutely everything we do.
  • And we do it in humble reliance upon his grace and power, which come through Jesus Christ in the service of others.
  • That will make him look great.

Then, when you have crafted an overarching mission statement built on those purposes of God, then you can make some short-term mission statements, say for a year: you’re going to write a book, or you’re going to change jobs, or you’re going to pursue marriage, or whatever — some short-term goal that then draws particularities up into that mission statement according to the season of your life.