(Below are Jessica's thoughts on Days 36 and 37 of The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren. Please know that what we all learn from a study is usually different. Therefore, we encourage you to share your thoughts and what you've learned in the comment section below each post. We're sure you'll lift someone's spirit.)
I have learned through this book that in order for our lives to have meaning, passion and to make the world a better place, we must live with purpose. The only way this will really work is if we allow God to make His purpose our purpose. He prepares and trains us through our life experiences so that we can fulfill His mission: to share the truth about God, salvation through Jesus Christ and to impact the eternal destiny of the souls we come into contact with. In this way, our mission continues the work that Jesus began on earth. He continues his work by using people who were made for very specific purposes.
When we are operating in God's will, we can do very difficult things with peace and joy in our hearts and can go a step further to bless others. I really felt a great deal of connection to the statement that "Your mission is a wonderful privilege" (p.283) Whether we are working in ministry within our faith community or in our dealings with people in other aspects of our day-to-day lives, we have countless opportunities to impact others. There is no work that is insignificant to God, especially if it is done with great love and care. Going back to what I was saying about operating in God's will, I believe that a big reason why there is peace is that we know we are doing what we are supposed to, fulfilling our purpose in a way that is pleasing to God. I have been wrestling with the decision of whether or not to homeschool my son with autism. Once I felt that this was truly what God wants me to do in this instance, I was able to make the decision easily and have had tremendous peace and happiness. Before the decision, I was plagued with fears of not being capable or patient enough, and afraid that I would burn out. Those fears can still creep up, but more than anything I feel it is a privilege to be able to do this. I am still adjusting to how much work this endeavor entails, but truly feel so blessed and happy to do this work with love for God. Focusing on this helps to squash the fears and trust God to lead me. Anytime that we are given an assignment from God, instead of viewing it as an impossible undertaking, we can instead choose to see it as a great compliment. There is nothing more amazing than being used by God to impact someone's life, even more so to influence their eternity.
Day 37 takes our mission a step further by showing us what it means to be messengers of God. He has created each of us uniquely and formed us with a multitude of life experiences. Each one of us in uniquely equipped to be the ones in very specific circumstances to share the truth of Jesus through our Life Message in our words, actions and demeanor. I have always been somewhat intimidated by to commission of Christians to evangelize the world. This is not because I don't want to, but am not always sure just how to go about this in the way that will best bring someone to Christ. It is easy to avoid this and be tricked into thinking that we don't have what it takes to evangelize. I like the way that Rick Warren very plainly shows us how to extract our Life Message from our experiences and to begin by sharing our experiences with other people. I always thought you had to be the equivalent of a Bible scholar to make people understand and want to come to God. This is a great example of Nicole's point on Day 35 about impressing vs. influencing people. We most definitely need to continually spend time in, meditate on and grow in our knowledge of God's word. However, we need to make sure we use our experiences to influence instead of our knowledge to impress. Once we establish this connection, we are better able to share how salvation through Jesus Christ can change someone's life and eternal destiny. Rick Warren states this very well on page 290 by saying, "Shared stories build a relational bridge that Jesus can walk across from your heart to others." By answering the questions in Day 37 about our life experiences, we can have better knowledge of our Life Message and be better prepared to use what God has done in our lives to impact others.
Rick Warren also shares this from the Bible, that we are to "Be ready at all times to answer anyone who asks you to explain the hope you have in you, but do it with gentleness and respect." (p.291, from 1 Peter 3: 15-16) When you are speaking from the perspective of a shared life experience, you can do so with greater humility and compassion. I have learned in my most difficult interactions with people to ask God to show me them as He sees, or to show me their heart. When I am able to do this, I can find that humility and compassion, even if I don't have a shared life experience. In addition to how we are formed by our life experiences, God also gives each of us a different passion. This will often guide us to reach out to specific individuals, by feeling God's love for his children in a particular situation. As Rick Warren points out, giving us all different passions ensures that God's work gets done in all areas.
In all things, we must always stop and pray first. The early church members were empowered through the Holy Spirit to proclaim the Gospel. In the same respect, we should always trust in, rely on and look to Him in all that we do for God.
Bible Verses from Days 36 and 37:
However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the gospel of God's grace. -Acts 20:24 (NIV)
All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. -2 Corinthians 5: 18-20 (Today's NIV)
The right word at the right time is like precious gold set in silver. Listening to good advice is worth much more than jewelry made of gold. A messenger you can trust is just as refreshing as cool water in summer. -Proverbs 25: 11-13 (CEV)
Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. -Colossians 4: 2-6 (NIV)