PRIORITY THROUGH PURPOSE

When day came, Jesus left and went to a secluded place; and the crowds were searching for Him, and came to Him and tried to keep Him from going away from them.  But He said to them, “I must preach the kingdom of God to the other cities also, for I was sent for this purpose.” - Luke 4:42-43

Now My soul has become troubled; and what shall I say, “Father, save Me from this hour”? But for this purpose I came to this hour.  Father, glorify Your name. - John 12:27-28

For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. - John 18:37

We can see from these words of our Lord Jesus, that He clearly knew His purpose in life and that because He was completely devoted to that purpose, He was able to prioritize His activities and choices.  Jesus knew that He was born for a purpose.  He states that purpose in a number of ways, such as, to “preach the kingdom of God”, to “glorify” His heavenly Father by dying on the cross and “to testify to the truth.”  All of these expressions of His purpose in life are various ways of saying that He came to glorify God by saving us lost and guilty sinners.  Whatever it took to do that, He was willing to do, and did.

But notice how having this purpose guided Jesus in turning down some otherwise good things.  The circumstances that led Jesus to say what we read above in Luke 4:42-43, were that Jesus had been teaching and healing in the town of Capernaum, soon after He had begun His public ministry.  It was the town where Jesus and some of His disciples had been living.  The people who enjoyed Jesus’ ministry among them did not want Him to leave them.  He could have stayed there and done a great deal of good.  But there was a greater good to which His heavenly Father had called Him and so He said, “I must preach the kingdom of God to the other cities also…”  Jesus knew He had but a brief time left to accomplish His purpose in life and staying in Capernaum would not allow Him to do it.

In the same way, some three years later, as He knew the purpose of His life would not be completed merely by practicing and preaching the truth, He faced a choice. He could keep on teaching people about the kingdom of God and healing people of their physical illnesses or He could die on the cross for the sins of mankind and thus save untold millions of souls. As the Gospel of Luke tells us, when that time came, “He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem...” (9:51; NKJV)  Yes, He felt the pull of delaying the cross or even of avoiding it altogether.  Satan, in the wilderness, was essentially tempting Him to do that very thing, for turning stones into bread to gain the allegiance of the suffering masses, descending from the pinnacle of the Temple to gain the endorsement of the religious leaders or having all the political leaders of the world delivered into His hands so that He might rule with might were all paltry substitutes for His Father’s purpose to save us from our sins.  Even Peter, that stalwart disciple, whom Jesus had just commended for His faith, earned this rebuke from Jesus:  “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God's interests, but man's.” (Matthew 16:23)  Why did Jesus say this to Peter?  It was because Peter had objected when Jesus revealed that He must go to Jerusalem to die at the hands of the priests and rulers.

Jesus knew His life’s purpose and it guided Him not only in His choices between good and evil but also when there was a choice between good and best.  So, likewise, for us His followers, a good grasp of our purpose on earth will help to guide us as we face daily choices.  Paul the Apostle speaks of his purpose in life in a number of ways, as in the following:  “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21)  “I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some.  I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it.” (1 Corinthians 9:22-23)  We see here the general guidelines to His purpose in life but it also included some more specific applications such as making a first priority of going to people who had not yet heard the good news of Jesus Christ (Romans 15:20) and by not using his right to be materially supported as he worked as a missionary in order to teach his converts not to be lazy.  (2 Thessalonians 3:6-13)  Everything Paul did was governed by His life’s purpose of knowing Christ (Philippians 3:7-11) and of making Him known to others (1 Corinthians 9:19-23).

And this should be our purpose too, although the specific applications will differ.  It would be a great spiritual exercise for each of us to sit down and write out our life’s purpose and then, as we think about our unique personalities, gifts, circumstances and stations in life, to write out some goals and guidelines for ourselves that we believe will best fulfill that purpose.  This can be refined over time with additional prayer and reflection until we have an almost automatic filter that keeps us from spending time on things that won’t contribute to our God-given purpose.

What is most important though, is a vision of what will be the likely result of accomplishing that purpose.  The Bible says that Jesus, “[F]or the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2)

The joy He kept in mind was the joy of saving our souls and fitting us for His eternal kingdom.  It enabled Him to put up with all the suffering He endured.  He knew His purpose and He knew what would accomplish it.  So, likewise should we, gain and maintain a vivid picture of the good that will be accomplished by remaining true to our purpose in life.  Just think of the people your life will impact for good and the way God will use you, in ways big or small, to advance His kingdom on earth and in eternity, as you prioritize with His purpose.!