One of the mysteries of life purpose is when we focus on the outward roles, mission and rewards of purpose—the things we do—we hit a dead end. Only staying focused on what we are supposed to be–first things–yields the blessings of living on-purpose.
Temporal blessings fit in with life purpose as by-products of putting first things first. When you focus on money, success or fame as the objective in life, you may gain those things—but the fulfillment you seek through those things will slip through your fingers. As Jesus put it, “he who finds his life will lose it.” And God becomes hazy and distant, because your capacity to know him is diminished—you’ve become about yourself. If you focus on the mission or task as the main thing, even if it is a worthy cause you’re doing, it eventually becomes hollow and devoid of impact, because you’ve missed the whole reason for doing the task in the first place: to channel the Christ embodied in your being.
On the other hand, if you put first things first, you may never have money, success or fame—or even health or freedom—but the joy and fulfillment we all try to find through those things will be yours, in spades. Paul worshiping in chains in prison was at a place of deeper peace and purpose than the powerful jailer who held the keys to his cell.
To put it in practical terms, the core life purpose of a God-centered individual is never about being financially independent, or being able to do what I enjoy in my retirement years, or traveling the world, or being successful in my career. Those objectives are small and self-centered—they look inward, toward my wants and needs, while love looks outward, to the wants and needs of others. It is true that as humans we will never be free of basic needs, or the need to attend to them. But even in things like food, clothing and shelter, Jesus urges us to fully trust them to him, and “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Mt 6:30-33)–put the first things first.
Tony Stoltzfus is a master coach, author and coach trainer and director of the Leadership Metaformation Institute. A presentation of a thorough, practical toolkit for coaching Christian leaders to discover their identity can be found in his book the Christian Life Coaching Handbook.