Discovering Purpose and Meaning

 

Welcome now to lecture seven in our course Dynamics of Christian Spirituality – A Theology of Prayer and the Christian Life. We have been working with a definition of Christian spirituality or of the Christian life which we view as the same thing, that Christian spirituality is a spirit-enabled relationship with the triune God that results in openness to others, healing progress toward Christ’s likeness and willing participation in God’s purposes in the world. As such, we have been noting that there are three essential dynamics to Christian spirituality. There is a relational dynamic that involves our relationships to God and to one another and to the created order. In the last two lectures we took a closer look at the second of those dynamics, the transformational dynamic, which concerns the renewal of holiness within us and the healing of our wounds. And here we transition to the third of these three dynamics, the vocational. This is the area of Christ working through us. We were created for joyful participation in God’s work in the world, but sin has made our lives seem futile, meaningless. The good news is that by his Spirit, Christ is rebuilding purpose and meaning into our lives. And so, the title for this seventh lecture is Discovering Purpose and Meaning and our key verse for this particular section is John 4:34 where Jesus says—My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. Let’s pray as we launch into the vocational dynamic. Lord, may the words of my mouth and the meditation of our hearts be pleasing in your sight and nourishing to our needy souls. Thank you for the truths we can claim here today. Amen.

Crowds of tourists with guidebooks and cameras continually pass through the ruins of Rome’s ancient forum. We were among them one day in Italy as we started out from the coliseum and headed down past the Arch of Titus into the center of things. We passed derelict, what would you call them, pagan temples, the chambers of the senate and the Mamertine Prison where the Apostle Peter may have languished before his execution and like everyone else we eventually climbed back out and up to modern capital hill at the north end with its regal statue of a mounted Marcus Aurelius, the philosopher Caesar. Now this basin of ruble that I have been describing was once the center of a mighty sprawling empire. Clusters of toga clad orators, lawyers and generals laughed and whispered here. Caesars lived on the ridge and vestal virgins stood between the columns of their temple at sunset. Laws were passed here. Military plans were approved and the fate of millions was decided on this spot. But today grass grows over former imperial beauty and fragments of marble columns now litter the ground. These conditions tell us clearly that something catastrophic happened on this very site. The disaster, at least the first phase of it we know began in the early 400’s A.D. with the invasions of barbaric peoples attacking once invincible Rome. And in the nearby coliseum Christians were once martyred as a course kind of entertainment for the pagan masses. But Christian fortunes eventually reversed with Emperor Constantine’s change of heart. Just as the Arch of the Covenant once made the inferior idol of the Philistines crash on the floor of its temple, so the cross the Christians believed, the cross of Christ, had triumphed over all the gods of Rome. And from now on, the Christians assumed the advance of their savior’s cause in the world would be joined with the success of Rome. Well the attack upon their great city, the plundering of everything it had, shook the Roman Christians world view for they had invested heavily, too heavily as it turned out, in a system that had now collapsed. Instead of blessing Rome, God appeared to have abandoned it. It made no sense that God would allow what they were calling the eternal city to be treated like this. The Christians were in shock and their faith was in crisis. They had assumed that history was advancing according to God’s purposes, but now doubt reared its poisoness head like a snake. If God was not in control, and he appeared not to be, then perhaps history had no meaning at all. Could it be that the disciples of the pagan epicurus had been right, everyone should just eat and get drunk and be happy for tomorrow they would all die anyway.

For guidance the Christians turned to Augustine, one of their leaders who lived on the African side of the Mediterranean Sea. “Help us make some sense out of everything that is happening,” they pleaded. And Augustine responded by writing what became The City of God. It was a massive book that offered the bewildered Christians a meaning-making perspective on the catastrophic events they were experiencing. The most important thing Augustine did was assure them that history was still being directed by God. Things were not pointless, they were not chaotic, they were unfolding, rather, beneath an intact canopy or roof of meaning. Augustine’s key idea was that there are actually two cities, or communities, under construction at any given time in the world. There is the city of man and the city of God. Now the first is of the earth and its characteristic feature is this, it is dominated by the love of self. The other is heavenly and characterized by love for God. One is doomed; the other is destined for glory. But the complicating factor is that these two cities are interwoven as it were in this present passing world and mingled with one another. Those were Austustine’s words and as he explained further, the city of God through the ages has been developing not in the light but in the shadow. He meant kind of secretly, below the radar, yet despite its obscurity God’s principle interest lies in this second great construction enterprise and unlike Rome it is indestructible. Augustine’s assurance to the Christians of his day and the legacy he leaves to us is this truth that upheavals of human civilizations and nations do not threaten the advance of God’s agenda in the world. Despite the surface chaos and the events that periodically engulf us, there is a design and there is a purpose to history and to our existence in it. We are to live our lives according to this fact and discover our significance by contributing to this great overarching purpose and plan of God. We are privileged to be part of something that will succeed and endure. Our labor is not in vain. 

As we think about the three dynamics of Christian spirituality we can say that the Christian life is about; first of all, connecting; second, becoming; and thirdly doing and it is the doing part that we are considering here as we study the importance of vocation. Our understanding of Christian spirituality finds its completion when we add this third element of self-denying participation in God’s purposes in the world. The Christian life, as we have seen, is about connecting and it is about becoming and it is also, finally, about doing. Christ wants to live with us, dwell in us and work through us and this is why vocation matters. It is interesting to listen to people today when they talk about their work. What is your vocation someone may be asked. And not infrequently, especially if they are younger adults they will answer, “Well, actually, I just have a job right now”. You see, they are making a distinction in their minds between having a vocation and having a job. In their minds being a medical doctor, well, that is a vocation, but just working part-time at a coffee shop is usually a job. We all try and aspire toward vocations and the status and the salaries and income that go along with them and at the other end we endure our jobs as necessities of life. Now this way of thinking, this way of defining a vocation hides the true and original and historic meaning of vocation. Like many Christian words it comes from the Latin language, it comes from the word vocare, which means to call. Historically then, or originally, having a vocation meant that someone had been called, divinely called and appointed, called by God, actually, to a particular kind of work and way of life. We each have a calling upon our lives to participate in the purposes of God, to play a role in his grand designs, to care for creation, to restore people to himself through Christ and to build his kingdom. Keep in mind those three things; care for creation, restore people through Christ and build the kingdom on earth, we will return to those. But God, and this is very important, God has revealed himself to be one who acts, who actually does things. Have you thought about God this way? He is a God who does not just sit around. Therefore, to be in God’s likeness also has a doing side for us. Imaging God, or imitating God involves a capacity for creative work because he is the Great Creator. It involves delegated sovereignty over the rest of creation because he is the Sovereign over creation and it involves participating in the redemptive and kingdom-building work which God is about and cares about in history. All of this is addressed and fulfilled in the vocational dynamic of Christian spirituality.

Now let me give you some biblical examples. The Bible is full of stories of individuals who showed in their lives a healthy integration of all three dynamics of authentic spirituality. Take Moses. Moses met God at the burning bush. Do you remember that story? And he was changed forever. The defeated fugitive running from the law became an empowered leader. He strode confidently back into Egypt with a walking stick that can dangerously change into a snake and he returned relentlessly demanding of Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, “Let my people go.” Consider Isaiah. He had a dramatic vision of God and saw God’s magnificent holiness and glory. As the door posts shook and the place filled with smoke, the prophet was overwhelmed by his own sinfulness but he was not allowed to feel sorry for himself or wallow in his sinfulness. A heavenly being, a seraph, places a hot coal, burning red and hot on Isaiah’s tongue to symbolize his purification from sin. Isaiah would never be the same and immediately he was invited to participate in the work God was doing in the world. “Who will go for us?” thundered the voice of God and Isaiah responded in the rounding out of his own spiritual experience, “Here am I, send me”. We see this pattern not only in Moses, not only in Isaiah, but think of the life of Jesus himself. He was baptized in the river Jordan by his cousin John the Baptist. The relational dynamic is present as the Spirit descended as a dove from heaven and a voice said, “This is my son whom I love”. Jesus was then led into the wilderness to strengthen his character by resisting temptation, but then he returned, full of the Holy Spirit, the gospel of Luke says. And he launched his ministry to preach the Gospel proclaiming freedom for sinners and release for the oppressed. One last further example. The same thing happened with Saul on the road to Damascus. The pattern is consistent. Those who encountered God and are changed by him are never permitted to remain idol. The story cannot end with just relationship and transformation. God’s spirit inevitability stirs such people up to engage in useful service, to find their place in the grand scheme of God’s higher purposes. As Ephesians 2:10 says – For we are God’s handiwork created in Christ Jesus to do good works which God prepared in advance for us to do.

We came to Regent College in Vancouver in the late 1970’s. The school had just taken a bold step of faith by hiring, not one, but two new theologians. One was J. I. Packer from England, the other was a German theologian by the name of Claus Bachneul who had studied under Karl Barth in Basel, Switzerland and still spoke with a strong German accent. We discovered Bachneul’s profound piety as we got to know him and were invited to his home. He walked with his God, invested in that relationship and spoke of the inner life from personal experience. It was a great loss to us all when he died at midlife of a painful cancer, but one of the things he wrote before he died was a little book entitled, Living by the Gospel. The first half of the book describes the gifts we receive from the Gospel and the second half described the duties that arise from the Gospel. The structure made sense. We were used to thinking of the Christian life this way; what Christ gives us and what we are obliged to return to him by way of duties and responsibilities. The first part is the good news and the second part is the not so good stuff, so to speak. But here was the amazing thing; Professor Bachneul put his chapter on our calling in the gift section. He called it the gift of commission. Why? Did he move the chapter over from its rightful place in the duties section just to give his table of contents more balance and a greater appearance of symmetry? Certainly not. No. He referred to our commission deliberately as a gift rather than a duty. He sought, like the Apostle Paul did, as an incredible blessing and he did so because our calling satisfies our deep need to be creatively useful and gives us opportunity to invest our life energy in something of significance. As a lady by the name of Margaret Silf has said, “There is more to life than the mere management of our lives to achieve comfort and security”. Few gifts match the blessing of being able to give our lives to something that matters. And where will be find this? We humans stand between what is seen and what is unseen. We are creatures of the earth, fashioned from the earth and destined to return to it. This is the sphere; this is the region full of suffering and conflict in which we are called to do our work. Authentic Christian spirituality follows the pattern of Christ’s own incarnation. It becomes flesh. Vocation is following the heart of God into the world.

Unlike our grandparents, only a few of us today ever learned the classic stories of Greek mythology in school. At least I speak for those of us who have grown up in North America. Nevertheless, some of us have a vague recollection of the myth of Sisyphus. According to the ancient Greek writer Homer, this tragic figure Sisyphus had gotten on the bad side of the gods. As a result, this poor guy was blinded and doomed to push a massive rock up a mountain with no choice but to try and fulfill his assignment. He strained and grunted, grinding his heels into the flinty ground for traction. But as soon as Sisyphus neared the peak and the accomplishment of his task, the massive stone would roll back down to the bottom and he would have to start the painful effort all over again then the cycle played out with numbing repetition and futility on and on and on without end. People from many cultures have connected with this story for thousands of years because they found in it something of their own life experience. Back in the 1940’s there was an existential philosopher, a Frenchman by the name of Albert Camus. He dusted off the ancient myth of Sisyphus to make it a metaphor for the meaninglessness of modern life. I thought about this one day while visiting the Sorbonne Campus of the University of Paris on that cities famous left bank. If you walk just a few blocks along a street near there you come to a little café, a little restaurant where Albert Camus and fellow Frenchman Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone Beauvoir, and other existentialists used to hang out together.  These thinkers had sadly concluded that there was no meaning in life, no over-arching direction or intention for human life. This was very painful to conclude and these people were well-acquainted with the anger and even the feeling of sickness this realization brought with it. So, since there was no meaning to be discovered in life, their recommendation was that individuals should try to create, invent their own meaning. Camus suggested that if old Sisyphus had only learned to accept the absurdity of his rock-pushing task and had resigned himself to it, he might possibly have been able to learn to enjoy his ordeal. For the last half century this way of thinking has been spreading like an oil spill throughout modernized countries. It especially grieved me to notice that the little café where the used to meet is located right across a cobblestone lane from the front of Paris’ oldest church site. That means that Sartre and Camus huddled in the very shadow of the cross, pausing everyday in their conversations until the loud church bells on that church steeple finished ringing and despite how close they were to a church they declined to accept the purpose-filled Christian vision of life as their own. It is very difficult to live life as those philosophers, and people today who think like them, recommend. It is impossible to live life that way at least in any healthy or joyful way. The vocational dynamic of Christian spirituality addresses the problem of meaninglessness in life. Part of the pain and the anguish of life without God is from our inability to find meaning and purpose for our lives. The question of why bothers us ever more intensely as we get older and see our end approaching. It explains our often unfulfilled longings for significance, our restless efforts to try this and try that and run about and always looking for something more and our frenzied workaholism where we just cannot slow down. There is a simplistic kind of advice going around, that we should content ourselves with just being and not worry about doing. Now, such advice is well-intentioned. It is meant to turn us back from an unhealthy activism, but it is actually wrong nonetheless, for we were designed to be doers too, the invitation to contribute to something that matters, to something bigger than our individual selves. This is not a duty imposed upon us but actually an incredible gift. It is part of what makes our lives meaningful.

Viktor Frankl was a Jewish survivor of the 20th century holocaust. That was Adolph Hitler’s evil effort to exterminate the Jewish race. Frankl’s reflections on his experience of concentration camps were published in a now famous book, a thin little book entitled Man’s Search for Meaning. In this book Frankl reflects on the things that determined who managed to survive that awful ordeal and who did not. In most cases it came down to the intensity of the survivor’s will to live and the will to live, Frankl argued, depended on whether they were able to identify some meaning for continuing to live, some meaning in their ongoing existence. For he who has a why to live for, he concluded in the words of the philosopher Nichi, he who has a why to live for can bear or put up with almost any how. Most of us live lives that are cushioned from such a stark choice between life and death, but we are aware that burnout is a common phenomenon in our busy, competitive society. I recall my struggle a number of years ago with the early stages of burnout. I had given all I had to the ministry I was involved in but my energy and enthusiasm had finally dried up. It was getting harder to sit up in the morning and swing my feet over the side of the bed. Then on a book table at a pastor’s conference my eyes fell on a little book entitled Clergy and Laity Burnout. Burnout, I saw. I grabbed the book, I paid for it, took it back to my room and read it straight through. One statement stood out above the rest. Burnout, the author explained, is seldom the result of an excessive workload, seldom the result of having too much to do; rather, it is caused by the loss of a sense of meaning in all the work we have to do. Well, that was me. That was exactly my problem. A sense of meaning in our lives is what keeps us moving toward the future. We find sustained energy when we are involved in something we believe really matters. Henry Scougal, a godly Scotsman of the last century, pointed out that every human being craves a cause worth exchanging their life for. We see this theme in the life of Jesus himself. He and his disciples were traveling on foot from south to north, from Judea to Galilee, and of necessity past through the in-between region of the alien Samaritans. There Jesus took a noon rest break, a siesta beside the town’s water supply while his disciples went to find food. While they were gone Jesus started up a conversation with a Samaritan woman, an encounter that led to her life being transformed. By the time his followers came back with lunch, Jesus had lost interest in lunch. “My food,” Jesus explained to them, “is actually to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work”. Jesus’ use of the word food here is quite striking. It means that Jesus found his soul’s nourishment. He found a healthy vitality and a personal intensity from the commission he had received from his Heavenly Father. It was the same with the Apostle Paul’s sense of privilege in being called as an ambassador for Christ. We find real significance only as we are able to align ourselves with a goal greater than our own personal comfort and security. As my wise Professor Bachneul put it, “God’s call upon our lives, his invitation to play a part in his unfolding plan for history liberates us from drifting and liberates us from our natural self-centeredness, from our egocentricity”. He said, “Feeding our ego occupies so much of our attention, yet it is so notoriously too small an aim for a human being”. A person’s creational design is to serve a purpose bigger than his own sustainment and survival. You see, God’s call boosts us to a different, higher plane of living. Rick Warren states in the very first sentence of his book The Purpose Driven Life, it is not about you. That is just about the most countercultural thing anyone could say today, yet this was undoubtedly part of what Jesus meant when he advised his followers on the Sermon on the Mount to seek first God’s kingdom and his righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well, for it involves us, but it is not primarily about us.

Let us think a little bit about the dimensions of purpose in life. Our ultimate purpose is to glorify God and everything we do is meant to contribute to this goal. That is what we read in 1 Corinthians 10:31. Each of us is unique and so we will end up doing different things. Nevertheless, we will all find our places in larger currents of divine purpose that carry us along. The will of God is like a mighty river and we, like many small boats, are borne along in the direction of its flow. From Scripture we detect that this waterway consists of three great causes or tasks. Participating in them gives meaning and significance to our individual lives. First there is the creational demand, we read about that one in Genesis 2. That is the creation mandate, that is what it is called sometimes, it is our calling to steward the earth, our calling to care for it while we responsibly manage its resources and explore and enjoy its wonders. This is a mandate, or a commission, or a calling that legitimizes a Christian being involved in the arts or science or medicine or industry or even the political sphere; working in these areas is in no way inferior to full-time Christian service, as we call it, no it is not. And secondly we are also called to participate in the redemptive work of God by spreading the Gospel and we get that, of course, from Matthew 28. God is constantly seeking to draw people to himself for their own good and we have been given a role in this. Jesus called his followers to proclaim an embodied Gospel, a good news that is more than just words but has flesh to it. As we noted in an earlier chapter the church is to be more than merely a herald or announcer of the church. The way the church does life together and shows compassion to the world should make our testimony believable, plausible, attractive and compelling. This is an integral part of fulfilling the evangelistic mandate too. In addition to the creational mandate and the evangelistic mandate there is the third great purpose of building the kingdom which we read about in Matthew chapter 6. Thousands of people live on top of Manila’s mountainous garbage dump. The smell is sickening as they root through the burning garbage for the smallest little salvage items, but this is their life. Mothers holding babies and staring vacantly ahead squat in the hot sun at the border between Tijuana, Mexico and affluent San Diego, USA, and in their hands these mothers hold little Styrofoam cups for donations from passers by. Aids ravages African communities in which the main industry seems to be the manufacturing of simple coffins. A Christian family loses their teenage son to a drunk driver just weeks before his high school graduation and they weep on the phone that they have lost their little man of God. We hear the girl next door who has a drug problem crying out from her second story bedroom balcony in the middle of the night in fantasied is being justified in a botched partial-birth abortion when the baby accidentally slips out alive. And so we pray as Jesus taught us for his kingdom to come because it is the comprehensive solution to all of these problems. Jesus launched the rule of God in the world and by the kingdom or the rule of God he meant a sphere in which blessing flows from acknowledging God’s lordship in every aspect of living and we are called to contribute to the advance of this kingdom. Our individual callings in life will express God’s unique plan for each one of us and they will match who God has made us and the abilities and inclinations we possess. But in one way or another we will be fitting into these three great purposes of human existence. This is how we bring glory to God and this is where we find our true selves.

The authors of the Bible and also those who have imitated their faith have always known that the challenge to live a godly life, to remain strong and resistant in the face of opposition and to be effective in advancing the kingdom, all of this exceeds our natural human resources. Jesus reminded us, apart from me you can do nothing, that is John 15:5. And Paul, who understood Jesus’ word of caution also made a wonderful discovery on the positive side, I can do all this through him who gives me strength, that is Philippians 4:13. The words of a great Christian from the fourth century, a man by the name of Hilary of Poitiers, his words ring true today, in response to his own calling he prayed, “If I am actually to do it, I must ask for your help and mercy oh Lord. Ask you to fill with wind the sails I have hoisted for you and to carry me forward on my course, to breathe, that is, your Spirit into my face and to enable me to continue”. Like Hilary, we must become sailors, hoisting our sails so that the empowering wind, the very breath of God, can move us forward.

I have a friend who was not a Christian when he began college. One of the student organizations at the school he attended in Chicago had organized Christmas hampers or big baskets for needy families on the cities poor south side. The large boxes contained a turkey and other Christmas foods along with candy and wrapped toys and gifts for the children. All the boxes had destinations and had all been promised for delivery by Christmas Eve. My friend Paul had agreed to assist in the distribution. One of the homes he was assigned on a very cold and snowy night was on the third floor of a cheap apartment house. You could only get to it by climbing up three flights of rickety iron staircase bolted to the outside of the building. Well, he got all the way up and upon knocking on the door he was ushered into a small room in which a poor family of seven people was squeezed together. The room was hot, humidity clouded the window panes, the father was in his undershirt, but both parents were overwhelmed with gratitude. The children’s eyes lit up with anticipation. There was a touching and memorable celebration of good will and hope. But Paul was feeling self-conscious and made his exit as quickly as he could. To this day he believes that his Christian conversion occurred during his descent on that treacherous exterior staircase. Something happened as he steadied himself against the shaking of the metal in the frigid winter wind. He felt something he had never experienced before. “For the first time in my life,” he recalled many years later, “I felt that my heart was beating in sync with the heart of God”. He sensed intimacy, closeness with God, he felt God’s approval, and it felt so wonderful that he was drawn into the embrace of God from that moment on.

Now I am going to invite you to think with me and do a little careful exegesis of a text of Scripture or two all about knowing God. You know, it is one thing to know about God, it is another to know God in the sense of personal encounter with him. So much of the literature of Christian spirituality is designed to move us from mere information about God to an experience of real connection with him, yet, I am going to suggest something that may be a new idea, and it is this – Knowing God in the fullest sense goes beyond even having an intimate relationship with him. Let me explain. If you know someone well, you have a pretty good idea how they are wired, or as we say what makes them tick. In other words, if you know them well you know their disposition and if you know someone’s disposition you can predict pretty accurately how they will respond to specific events or crises or people in the future. You will be able to anticipate how they will react because you already have some idea how their sails are set. Now, God has a predictable character too. We could call it the divine disposition. He is naturally predisposed to act in certain ways. He hates injustice for example and intervenes on behalf of people who are oppressed. He is slow to get angry. He has an extravagant capacity for love. These qualities and others that have been revealed in Scripture make up the divine disposition. They make up God’s characteristic or signature way of being and responding to events on planet earth. According to Scripture, knowing God is supposed to include, here is an important phrase, participating in the divine disposition. Knowing God in the fullest sense means that we adopt his disposition as our own. What this means is that our character, our values and our conduct are to line up with his. You can check this out in Jeremiah 22 verse 16, or say Philippians 3:10. This may seem to us like a strangely inflated definition of knowing God, but knowing him in the fullest sense really is this holistic. It includes living according to the impulses of God’s own heart. One of the most powerful forms of union is the unity of common purpose and this is exactly what we can experience with God when our disposition matches with his, when our disposition resinates or reflects his own. Now, Jesus once said, “I am the good shepherd, I know my sheep and my sheep know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father and I lay down my life for the sheep”. That is in John 10 verses 14 and 15. Now, it is very common in Bible studies to assume that this passage of Scripture contains two facts but two unrelated facts. Number one, that Jesus knew the Father, and two, that he had decided to sacrifice his life on the cross, but actually these two things are closely connected. Jesus understands that the Father’s disposition, there is that word again, his disposition is sacrificial love, and he knows the Father in the sense that he is going to live out that same spirit of sacrificial love himself. And there is an obvious invitation here to the sheep as well. Since they know Christ, they should also be prepared to give in to the same disposition that the shepherd has, which is supremely a disposition of sacrificial love. How does this work out? Well, in the next lesson we will focus on ways to discern God’s personal calling on our lives and how we can keep in step with the guiding voice of his spirit in our lifelong journey with him.

Now, on this matter of discovering purpose and meaning, here are some helpful guides. The older, or classic one, is Augustine of Hippo who lived from 354 to 430 A.D. We have already mentioned him in this chapter, but here is a bit of a recap. Augustine was one of the churches most significant theologians and a profound contributor to its spirituality. We have highlighted how his vision of the city of God sustained Christian hope and purpose during a collapse of empire, but his volume entitled Confessions has been at least as influential. This latter classic, Confessions, was a pioneering work in the psychological depth of its honesty and self-reflections. Its most quoted prayer is this, “Lord, you have made us for yourself and our hearts are restless until they find rest in you”. A second helpful guide is John Bunyan who lived from 1628 to 1688. Bunyan was an English puritan spiritual writer, jailed more than once for his church principles. He wrote a number of books of enduring influence in the Christian world including Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners and especially Pilgrim’s Progress. This latter work probably the most celebrated example of the journey idea in Christian spiritual writing underscores the truth that the Christian life, though difficult, is goal-oriented, purposeful and worthwhile. And finally, our third helpful guide is Rick Warren. He pastors Saddleback Church in California, one of the largest Protestant churches in the United States. His two best selling books, The Purpose Driven Church and The Purpose Driven Life, seem to have touched a deep need in America and worldwide. Warren himself has become active in ministry to desperate people in Africa living out the fifth thesis of his book, namely that we discover purpose in living through service to others. 

Now here is a summary of what we have covered in this the seventh lecture. The Christian life involves connecting, becoming and doing. In this lecture we began our study of the vocational dynamic of Christian spirituality which is God’s gracious solution to the apparent futility of human existence. It is an incredible gift to be called to purposeful living and to contribute to a cause greater than ourselves. We discover meaning in life by aligning ourselves with God’s invitation to steward the creation, evangelize the nations and build his kingdom. A spiritual life, as Evelyn Underhill has explained, is one that is self-given to the greater movement of God’s will. Knowing God in the fullest sense requires a heart that beats in sync or in harmony with his own and a willingness to follow it into the world.