In the last post, we looked at why the purpose-drive life is a lie. It’s a lie because it advocates a life seeking success and achievement, which the Bible does not. The Bible advocates a life of sacrifice and dying to one’s self and one’s desires—even physical death, for Jesus and for others. Jesus is our prime example of such of life. His apostles and many others have followed this example and suffered and died as martyrs.

The purpose-driven life seems attractive at first glance. Live a life of meaning. Effectiveness for God.

Nowhere in Scripture are we encouraged, taught, or commanded to live a life filled with “purpose.” We are told we must have a vision for our lives, because, after all, “Without a vision, the people perish.” However, the ESV renders the verse this way: “Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint, but blessed is he who keeps the law” (Proverbs 29:18). 1

When one studies the word “vision” in the Bible, it has nothing whatsoever to do with “having a vision (or a dream) for your life.” Visions in Scripture were revelations from God, not a personal goal envisioned by someone. This kind of teaching is disingenuous and misleading. No, perhaps it is better to say it is deadly. Deadly because it misuses God’s truth.

Most importantly, however, the purpose-driven lie is deadly because it takes the focus, the center, from Jesus and onto another—our purpose. Oh, yes, Jesus is tossed into this teaching to make it sound legitimate. Here are some examples: The Lord will enable you to accomplish your purpose. The Lord will strengthen you even as the world and the devil try to keep you from your purpose. The world needs people with purpose, so we can do great things in God’s kingdom.

We will read about great people in the Old Testament to whom God gave a purpose. Moses. Joshua. Joseph. Daniel.

We will hear a host of out-of-context verses.

Here is one of my favorite out-of-context verses that such teachers may use: “I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).

First of all, using this verse to tell people that they can accomplish whatever they put their minds to is misleading on its face. No, you cannot do everything through Jesus. You will never beat Usain Bolt in a sprint, unless you wait until he’s too old to run anymore. Very few of us will play on the same court as Stephen Curry or any NBA player, unless, again, you wait until they’re old and feeble. Most of us will never be able to hit a slider pitched by Felix Hernandez.

I think you get the point.

More importantly, however, is the context of the verse: “Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:11–13).

What were the “all things” Paul claimed he could do?

To be content, whether he was brought low or was abounding, whether he was hungry or full. He did not claim he could accomplish anything he put his mind to. That way of thinking is dreamland. It is living in a world populated by unicorns and gumdrop rainbows.

Let me finish with this. Jesus is your purpose. If you faithfully love Him with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, you will have all you need to live the life He has purposed for you, whether it is serving in your church and/or family, abroad as a missionary, or laboring away in obscurity in a job that the world considers unimportant. The Lord’s desire is not that you become significant. His desire is that you know, love, and believe Him. Everything else in your life will flow from there. If that is not enough for you, then you should find a god whom you think will supply what you want. But that god will not be the God of Scripture; it will not be our Savior, Jesus.

1All Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

Thanks to Ben Williams for the photo.