John 1: 15 John testified concerning him. He cried out, saying, “This is the one I spoke about when I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’”
I love reading books about sports and training, especially those which rely heavily on the testimony of experts and studies. While anecdotal findings are of some interest, I’m always more interested to hear of the results that come from a much broader statistically significant sample. One of my favorite reads is Peak Performance[i] by Brad Stulberg and Steve Magness. Its tagline is “Elevate your game, avoid burnout, and thrive with the new science of success”. With topics such as: understanding stress, the importance of rest, optimizing your routine, Peak Performance is an amazing resource for athletes and coaches. The one chapter which I particularly like is called “Develop your Purpose”. The authors make the case that most elite athletes have found a purpose that is beyond themselves, something called “self-transcending”. They go further by providing a step-by-step guide to helping you develop your personal “purpose”.
While Peak Performance is a secular book, it struck me that the science of performance does not contradict the Bible, but it in fact supports what we read. The author’s conclusion that true fulfillment, and that a person’s peak performance actually comes from having a purpose beyond ourselves, is one of the central themes of the Bible. Jesus came to serve and not be served (Mark 10:45). Paul was poured out like a drink offering for the churches he planted (Philipp. 2:17).
I think there is great value for every Christian to determine what their unique “purpose” is here on earth, their personal “mission statement”. As I considered some of the key figures in the New Testament I began to recognize people with an unswerving understanding of their God-given purpose. Jesus expressed it in many ways: “I did not come for the righteous but the sinners” (Luke 5:32); “For the Son of Man came to seek and save the lost” (Luke 19:10), but in the end, it was clear that Jesus came to earth to die for us so that we could have life. Before him, John the Baptist clearly knew that his purpose was to prepare the Way for Jesus. “This is the one I spoke about when I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’” (John 1:15b). The Apostle Paul was created to go to the Gentiles to preach the Good News and establish churches (Acts 26:17-18).
You may be asking, “but why is it important for me to have a personal mission statement? Isn’t it just important that I honor God in all I do?” Again, in looking at our biblical examples, one key advantage in clearly understanding our purpose, is that we can avoid wasting our limited time on things that God has not called us to do. We can understand that not all “good things” are “God things” for us. Jesus often seemed callous when he did not do what others asked or expected of him (Luke 4:42-43, Matthew 12:46-50). If you understand your mission from God, then you can also move beyond the place of “people pleasing” (Galatians 1:10) or doing things to receive recognition from those around us (Matthew 6:1). When we understand our purpose, and walk it out, we will not be immune to pain and trial, but we will experience the inexplicable peace of God (Philipp. 4: 6-7). And when you are at the end of your life, like Paul, you can say the following with conviction: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” (2 Tim. 4:7).