There are many different meanings for the word “mission.” It can reference a specific assignment that one is sent on (think Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible). Mission is also commonly used to reference a strongly felt ambition or calling; businesses apply this meaning when they attempt to answer the question, “Why do we exist?” The answer drives the direction of the organization. Mission, along with core values, should be a continual measuring stick for leaders.
Over the years, I have found following my personal mission crucial to my walk as a leader. Years ago, I was challenged by a mentor to answer two key questions:
- Why do I exist?
- What does that then mean for how I live and lead?
I now revisit these questions at the beginning of every year to assess their continued application to my daily life. As a follower of Christ, my personal mission includes the following:
- Glorify God (Col. 3:15-17, 22-24; 1 Pet. 2:9-12)
- Pursue my greatest joy—what will last (Ps. 16:11; Col. 3:1-4)
- Be conformed more and more into the image of Christ (Rom. 8:29)
- Maximize my impact on others’ lives (Col. 1:28)
Over the past few years, I’ve also discovered that a clear understanding of mission is crucial in the midst of crisis. We’d be foolish to expect that we can walk through life without experiencing the storms that often mark this broken world. When those storms come, we need foundational beliefs and direction that allow us to stand firm. We must be grounded and firmly rooted in the words of life. Jesus made this very clear for us in Luke 6:47-48:
Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like: he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built. (ESV)
We see this same story in Matthew’s gospel, but Luke includes an additional, impactful phrase that we shouldn’t miss: those who follow Jesus have “dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock.” When we dig deep into the word of God and apply it to our lives, we will not be shaken by the storms of this world.
Weathering the Storms of Life
Over the past few years, I’ve become acquainted with the storms of this world and various degrees of crisis. My wife and I have lost a long-awaited baby to miscarriage, grieved multiple family members that passed away, and struggled through family difficulties that we’ve begged God to take away. With almost daily reminders of these storms, we’ve often felt weary and beaten back. Yet I rejoice in the fact that God prepared our hearts for these struggles. Because we dug deep and applied God’s word to our lives, God’s truth moved beyond head knowledge and became a strong foundation that informed our purpose in this world.
As I’m writing this, the world is challenged by circumstances that most alive have never experienced. Life as we know it has been radically changed, and we don’t know when (or if) things will return to normal. For many, this crisis has stolen what little hope they had and replaced it with despair. But those who are on mission—who truly know their purpose—persevere and stand firm. They endure and glorify God. They know that no matter how hard the storms of crisis hit, they are held fast by the creator of the universe.
Following in the Footsteps of Job and David
There is, of course, a biblical precedent for this faithful response: Job. As his world was wrecked by sickness, natural disasters, the deaths of his children, and losing almost all his material possessions, Job also had his closest friends turn on him. Job had every right to moan and wail in self-pity. Yet, because he was rooted in the promises of God, he responded faithfully. “Though he slay me, yet I will hope in him” (Job 13:15). Although Job’s world crashes in on him, he declares absolute trust in God.
Another example of staying on mission in crisis is David. His faith in the promises of God allowed David to stand firm in the face of trials. David could have easily killed Saul, the ordained King of Israel, to preserve his own life, but David was faithful to his calling and his mission (1 Sam. 24:10-12). In the wilderness (figurative and literal), David didn’t fixate on his circumstances. He turned to the Lord: “O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you” (Ps. 63:1, ESV). He is intent on changing his heart and his focus, knowing that God alone can change the circumstances.
God is not surprised by the storms of this world, just as he was not surprised by the worst “storm” that has ever wrecked this world: the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Before the foundations of the world, God knew that he would redeem broken and sinful men through one of the worst events imaginable. Through unjust torture, mockery, and murder, God paved the way for the atonement of our sins. Jesus’ followers were overcome by grief and despair at the crisis of the cross. Yet we know that the story didn’t end on Friday.
Jesus forewarned that crisis awaits all of us (John 16:33). I have been tempted to sink into passivity and abdicate my mission in the face of crisis. But when I meditate on God’s purposes for me, I have found them to be a sure and faithful guide. Those who are on mission see past Friday to the life and joy that Sunday holds.
Editor’s Note: Learn more about the value of all our work in Hugh Whelchel’s seminal book, How Then Should We Work: Rediscovering the Biblical Doctrine of Work, now available on Audible!