If you're like most people I meet, you have at least a general sense of what your life is supposed to be about. You may see yourself as an educator, an organizer, a protector, or a manager. Ever since I was a teenager, I've known that I was called to be a spiritual leader, just like my father and grandfather who served for many years as pastors of churches. But having a general sense of purpose doesn't really give you or me much of the detail regarding what it looks like in practice.
And that's where understanding the cause within you comes into play.
Surveys tell us that tens of millions of people—nearly half of all adults—admit they are still seeking to understand the meaning and ultimate purpose of their lives. Research confirms that a huge majority of people—more than three out of every four adults—say they want to make a difference in the world; they want their lives to account for some lasting, positive outcome. But the statistics further point out that most people hold onto that hope as something they may experience in the future; it is not a present reality for them. In other words, many of us do not know the cause that will give our lives genuine fulfillment.
When you were born, God instilled many things within you. One of them was a great cause that He wants you to embrace. In His unique grandeur, He created a universe in which the cumulative effect of all people faithfully pursuing the cause within them would result in a transformed world -- one in which everyone's needs would be met and every servant's heart would be filled with the joy of blessing others. Unfortunately, we live in a traumatized world -- in part because so many people fail to identify and pursue the cause He has given them. Even though it would provide the happiness and fulfillment they have been seeking, they have failed to build their lives around that cause.
From the outset, let me point out that I don't know the details of the great cause residing within you, but I do know that it is related to people—specifically, how you can make the world a better place by serving other people, whether one-on-one or behind the scenes. A transforming cause is never about you—promoting yourself, achieving greater fame or fortune, experiencing more pleasure or comfort, amassing great power. It is always about using the resources God has given you—skills, relationships, experiences, money, time, intelligence, and all the rest—to make a positive impact in the lives of others.
To grasp that cause, your spirit needs to be awakened. So many people are alive but not really living -- they're just surviving. That's not how it's meant to be! I get such inspiration from the ordinary people I meet who are doing extraordinary things because they have devoted themselves to the great cause God has custom designed just for them. They have had to search deep inside themselves and examine the information, people, experiences, and opportunities that God brought into their lives to discover how to get the most out of life. When they figured it out and committed themselves to that cause, they found that God partners with them in amazing ways. At the Dream Center, we see God doing miracles all the time—miracles that were made possible by ordinary people, like you and me, stepping up and stepping out to do astounding acts of service that really do change the world.
Sometimes people challenge this claim and say, "I can't do anything great. I don't have an education." Or, "My life is a mess. I have been physically and emotionally abused. I'm not strong enough to help others; I can barely help myself." Or, "I'm so busy right now, raising my children, trying to make ends meet financially, and taking care of my spouse; I just don't have the time or energy to change the world." Or even, "I'm not interested in helping other people. It's a dog-eat-dog world, and I've got to look out for myself. Nobody else will."
At the risk of offending you, let me point out that excuses like these are arrogant. Such statements betray that you are living by one of two fallacies: either you're fixated only on what you can do in your own strength, or you believe the only way to maximize your life is to focus on and take care of yourself. Such statements suggest that you believe living a successful life is all about who you see yourself to be, what you're able to do with your natural talent and ability, and when you feel ready to do something great.
On the one hand, you don't give God credit—not enough to believe that He would never set you up for failure, but that He wants you to optimize your earthly journey, and that He loves you so much that He is eagerly awaiting the chance to partner with you to have an amazing impact in the lives you are about to touch. On the other hand, you’re giving yourself too much credit. Sure, you can make choices, but ultimately you are not really in control of your place in the world; God is.
So don't settle for weak excuses about your inabilities, lack of experience, fear, busyness, personal needs, or other obstacles. Those are all distractions from the truth. We have had literally thousands of people come through the Dream Center who are addicted, abused, prostituted, abandoned, disabled -- you name it, we've seen it. In spite of such barriers, many of those people transcended their challenges and limitations by choosing to trust God, getting their lives right, adopting a realistic perspective about life, and pursuing the cause He instilled within them. It's never easy—and there is always a price to pay—but people invariably testify that their commitment to the cause elevated their life to a new level of significance and satisfaction. And there is a hidden benefit in being true to their cause. In every case, we hear our Dream Center volunteers explained that although their motivation was to help others, they feel as if they were the ones who have been helped the most.
Watch Matthew Barnett this Monday on LIFE TODAY. Adapted from The Cause Within You: Finding the One Great Thing You Were Created to Do in This World by Matthew Barnett, copyright 2011. Published by Barna Books, an imprint of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.