Back in 2020, AIM Co-Founder, Don Brewster explained that there are 3 universal needs that every person strives to fulfill. These were taken from a passage in Matthew:
As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from Heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love: With Him I am well pleased.”Matthew 3:16-17 (emphasis added)
- “This is my Son” – belonging. We all want to be a part of something.
- “Whom I love” – love. We all want to be loved.
- “With Him I am well pleased.” – purpose. We all want to have a purpose beyond ourselves and fulfill that purpose as Jesus did.
At AIM, it is our main goal to help meet those needs for survivors of trafficking and others we serve.
In this series, we will walk through how these three things are truly universal needs for each and every one of us if we want to step into an abundant and joyful life. We’ll also see just how each of us can help others realize they belong, they are loved, and they have a purpose.
God doesn’t promise us an easy life or one that is free of pain, suffering, or hardship. But, through Him, we can have a different kind of abundance and joy. Let’s see what this is all about.
It’s likely that, at some point in life, you’ve asked yourself: “why am I here?”. Not “here” as in a place or a job or a school, but “here” on this earth. Why were you created? What are you supposed to do with your life? What are you called to?
These questions boil down to one thing – purpose.
“The need for purpose is one the defining characteristics of human beings.”Psychology Today
Along with belonging and love, purpose is one of the main needs of mankind – to have a calling that is beyond ourselves. Let’s take a look back at Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. We can equate purpose to “self-actualization”, which is described as “the realization of a person’s potential, self-fulfillment, seeking personal growth and peak experiences.” In this theory, self-actualization is a need for growth, not survival (like the lower four levels of the pyramid). Once the lower four are met, our motivation becomes self-actualization – finding our purpose.
The search for purpose is something we all grapple with. In the Bible, we see examples of those questioning their purpose or calling all the time. From Moses and Solomon to Paul and Timothy, stories of purpose are constantly woven into the Biblical narrative. Why? Why do so many stories (Biblical and secular, for that matter) expand on this search for purpose? Because we were created for something more. We were created for a reason and we have an ache to find out what that is!
Read on as we discuss more what purpose is, and what it isn’t. Together, we will do some soul searching, see how we fit into God’s greater plan and answer that question: “why am I here?”
What Purpose Isn’t
Have you ever met a person, read a biography, or watched a documentary where the subject says, “I just always knew I wanted to be a ____”? Recently, while watching the Netflix documentary, Break Point, I saw how common this phrase was for the tennis professionals highlighted. Paula Badosa of Spain said at 7 years old she knew she was going to be a professional tennis player. Paula and others highlighted in Break Point are the types of people who seem to be filled with a sense of purpose from an extremely young age. If I’m being honest, I’m pretty jealous! To know exactly what you want to do with your life? WOW!
However, the fact of the matter is, having a passion for a specific career path, hobby, or lifestyle doesn’t necessarily translate to having a purpose. All too often, we define ourselves by those things:
I am a writer
I am an electrician
I am a musician
I am a pastor
Even when we love our work, it is a mistake to let that define us and our purpose.
Back to the tennis example – American, Taylor Fritz, explained how his dad began coaching him at the age of 2. He always had his sights set on winning pro tournaments in his hometown (and beyond). Taylor has a very specific goal in mind, as many athletes do. Win the tournament, win the series, get the trophy/ring/title. Non-athletes have it to – get the promotion, finish the project, make x amount of money by the age of _. Goals are great. We love to have something to reach for (SMART goals, anyone?).
Even when the goal is great, letting it become our purpose is also a mistake.
What happens when we can no longer do the work or the career ends? What happens when we do or don’t win the tournament? (Taylor Fritz did win the tournament, by the way, in 2022.)
Do we lose our purpose in life? Do we find another purpose?
I would argue that defeats the purpose of a purpose. In the next section, we’ll talk about what purpose is. But, without giving too much away, let’s just say – purpose has to be found outside of ourselves or else we will lose it. Purpose has to be bigger than ourselves or else we will limit what God has for us! So, let’s get on to what purpose is.
What Purpose Is
If it’s not a career and it’s not a goal, what is purpose?
While there are many interpretations and definitions for purpose, I think you can break it down like this:
- Our general purpose – to love God and share his love with others (see our Love blog for more on that). By sharing God’s love with others, we get to glorify Him and point people to Him!
“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”– Matthew 22:36-40
Since the general purpose guides our life as a whole, we can come back to this when we feel uncertain in our current circumstances. Unlike resting our purpose on a career or passion, which can end, this greater purpose will not change!
- Our specific purpose – the plan that God specifically has for each of us!
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. – Romans 8:28
In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.– Proverbs 16:9
When we recognize that our purpose is God-given, it relieves the pressure to figure it all out ourselves! This purpose will always serve the greater (general) purpose as well. It can show up in our career or passions, but it’s not tied to that. If you’re called to teach, this can be a career path, but it can also show itself in other areas of your life! If you’re called to lead, by all means, use this in your professional life to point back to Christ. But don’t forget that you can lead outside of work as well.
I love this blog about people in the Bible who find their purpose. To sum it up, the author writes:
God has given you a purpose that is greater than yourself. To love him and to love others – that’s the gist. But we each get to do this in unique ways that bring glory to Him and His kingdom. Our God is a CREATIVE God. No one else is like you, no one else can love God like you can! No one else can love others like you can! Take time to meditate on what God has called you to today.
Sharing Purpose with Others
We’ve touched on how we each have a unique path, plan, and purpose from God. No one else on earth is like you! That means no one else is like your neighbor, your sibling, your friend, or your spouse. So what does it look like to share purpose or, in other words, help others find theirs?
First things first – live out your purpose. When you are living to love God and love others, you are a light to others! Can you think of someone you know who just… really loves God? Their light and energy is contagious. They are caring and compassionate and they make you feel like you matter. This is what it looks like to live in the greater purpose to love God and love others! Allow Him to work in your life and guide your path, step into your calling and you will show others what it looks like to trust Him with their purpose.
Then, while we are living out our purpose, we can encourage others to step into theirs! Of course, the big picture is to (that’s right) love God and love others. But there are also practical ways we can encourage our people to step into their calling. For example:
- Give credit where it’s due – when someone has a talent or skill, tell them! These words of encouragement can spark thought, prayer, and movement into something bigger that God has called them to.
- Listen and learn – sometimes it’s hard to listen to other people talk about something we’re not interested in. However, when we listen and learn about someone’s interests and passions, it may open up further conversations about how they can use their gifts to glorify God! It is also super fun to recognize how differently God made us!
- Pray – when a friend or family member is struggling to find their purpose or calling, pray with them! Remind them of the greater purpose that we can all be guided by – loving God and loving others.
Finding purpose can be a big source of stress for many people. Since it is such an innate need for us, the search for purpose can take up a lot of time, energy, and even resources. Luckily, as believers, we have a greater purpose that is set in stone. Let’s share that and encourage one another with this truth:
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”– Romans 8:28
A Story of Purpose – Eng’s Testimony
Eng was passionate about education from a very young age. She was from a small village with limited opportunities and she knew she needed an education. Her father even encouraged her to be a teacher. As a young woman, before she knew God, Eng moved to Cambodia’s capital city, Phnom Penh. While she was driven and passionate about getting an education, she was alone and scared and didn’t have much direction in her life. She was living in a bad area and she often feared for her safety. Shortly after moving to Phnom Penh, she prayed – if there is a God, help me! I need direction!
God showed up for Eng in a big way. The day after she prayed, a friend offered her a place to stay in a safe area! It was a dormitory run by a Christian organization. Eng thought, “That place is Christian? That must be the real God that I called on last night!”
Since becoming a Christian, Eng has lived in God’s purpose for her life and He has revealed his calling for her! She continued her education and decided to pursue a life of ministry and mission. In 2012, she found AIM. She told God that she wanted to live for Him and He made a clear path for her to work with the AIM School in Svay Pak.
Now, as the Director of the AIM School, Eng loves God and loves others every day through the work she does. With a gift for teaching and a heart for education, God has called her to this space where she can share that with others and transform lives for His Kingdom!
We are so blessed to have Eng on our team at AIM. She is a testament to the power of allowing God to work in our lives and what can happen when we are filled with His purpose!
This is the second of a three-part series on the 3 universal needs of humans. Check out the other posts for more!