David Jeremiah - Pursue: Chase Your Dream
Paddy Kelly grew up surrounded by music. The tenth child in an American family living in Ireland, he joined his older siblings' band, The Kelly Family, at a young age. When he was 15, he wrote a song that propelled the family to stardom, and the group became a global sensation. With money and fame came great opportunities like singing in stadiums to 250,000 screaming fans. In time, Paddy moved into a 17th century castle. He traveled by private plane and helicopter. His family was near him in his pursuits and he was never far from their love. Yet, something strange happened. Paddy felt empty. He felt lost. The higher he rose, the lower he felt. He asked himself a haunting question: "If all this doesn't make me happy, then what is the sense of life? Why do I exist"? He eventually retired to a monastery in France, seeking answers.
Joseph Schooling is one of the best swimmers in the world. His youthful face and friendly grin make him a crowd favorite, especially after he won Singapore's first ever Olympic gold medal in 2016. He's one of a small group of people who breathe the rarified air of being the best in the world. But how does it feel to be a gold medalist? According to Schooling, there's a feeling of emptiness. Schooling concedes he didn't know how to respond to fame and pressure. "I should have taken more time away from the pool", he said. "I had to change my mindset as I was no longer chasing; I was being chased. I needed to find my 'why' for what I was doing".
Like Paddy Kelly and Joseph Schooling, millions of people are searching for their purpose: the "Why" of their existence. Maybe that includes you. Your purpose is about meaning and motivation, for purpose stabilizes your life. It's the reason behind your actions and decisions. It answers that nagging question "Why": "Why am I pursuing this dream"? Paddy Kelly knew the "What" of his life: singing. Joseph knew the "What" of his life: swimming. But they could, neither one, figure out the "Why". Was it for applause? Was it for money? Was it for achievement, self-fulfillment, national pride? Do you ever end a day like that? Do you ever end a day or the year asking yourself, "What was all that for? What did I really accomplish? What difference did I truly make"?
When you find your purpose, you stop chasing things that will never satisfy you. Instead, you find the joy of pursuing the next steps God has for you. What Paddy Kelly and Joseph Schooling longed for, Jesus possessed. He knew he was on this Earth for a reason and he pursued his God-ordained purpose at every step. In Mark 1:38, he told his disciples: "Let us go into the next town, that I may preach there, because for this purpose I have come forth". In John 12:27 he said, "Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? 'Father, save me from this hour'? But for this purpose I came to this hour". The Apostle John said, "For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil".
You see, as you read these passages of Scripture, you discover Jesus knew his purpose in life and he was compelled to fulfill it. You also can have this sense of certainty to move you toward your goal and you can do what Jesus did. You can live the rest of your life with no regrets. How do you discover your "Why"? Your journey begins by committing your life to God. Present yourself totally to God.
Manny Pacquiao is one of the greatest professional boxers of all time. He is the only eight-division world champion in the history of boxing. Yet, along with his fame, came gambling, and sex, and money, and parties. But his heart was as vacant as a boxing arena after all the people go away and the lights are turned off. He said, "I felt empty. I had money, I could do whatever I wanted, but I was empty in my heart". One night while walking in a forest, the Filipino boxer was convicted about his lifestyle. He knelt down and he cried out to God, asking for forgiveness and help. He later said he felt like a light was shining on him as bright as the sun, but he couldn't raise his head. He was on the ground, crying out to the Lord. He felt like he was melting. That night, Christ came into Manny Pacquiao's life. The Lord changed his heart. Pacquiao's life took on new meaning.
He became involved in public service and, today, he serves in the Philippine National Senate. During the coronavirus pandemic, he donated hundreds of thousands of masks to those in need, along with five buses to transport healthcare workers around Manila. He felt such an immense burden for the poor that he determined to care for them even if he died in the effort. He told his constituents: "We should continue praying and believing in the Lord. Let's draw strength and hope from him". You can't find your purpose in life by focusing on yourself and leaving God out of the picture. Pacquiao found that out. Life isn't about using God for your purposes. It's about God using you for his purposes. It's about the Lord Jesus showing you how you fit into his plan. And you do fit in. He has a lifetime of purpose stored up for you and for me.
Perhaps you're thinking, "I'm not sure what I want in God's plan. What if I don't like it"? Oh, you will. It's what you were made for. If you don't embrace God's plan, you'll miss the purpose for which he created you. The Bible is very clear about that. This is what Jesus said. He said, "I am the light of the world. He who follows me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life". When you follow God's plan for your life, you will be walking in the divine wattage of God's light. There's no other source of ultimate purpose. All pursuits lead to darkness and futility. If you're still afraid to present yourself totally to God, do you think he'll mess up your life by telling you to do something you don't wanna do or go to some place you don't wanna go? I can tell you by my own testimony that everything I ever dreamed of doing in my life I found in God's purpose for me. I cannot imagine doing anything else than what I've done as he has led me. So many of my dreams have come true, plus quite a few dreams I never even knew I had.
So the first step in pursuing your God-given purpose is to present yourself totally to God. He loves you, he wants the best for you. You can trust him. Sign your name at the bottom of the page and watch God fill it in. The second step in discovering the "Why" of your life is coming to grips with the unique you. Every single person on this planet can celebrate their uniqueness because God didn't create any two people, not even identical twins, who are exactly alike. We all have different bodies, different faces, different fingerprints, different backgrounds, different gifts, and different talents. There is no one exactly like you. Only you have the unique plan God has designed for you.
Here's what Ephesians says: "For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do". The Living Translation says: "For we are God's masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago". Now, stop and read that again. You are God's masterpiece. Before you were born, he created you for your life's purpose and, at the same time, he was creating your work, not for anyone else, just for you.
So for that reason, be very careful about comparing yourself with others. There's almost always someone who seems more gifted or more successful than you and if you're not careful you can slip into imitating that person, even without realizing it. If you look at somebody else for the pattern of who you should be, you'll miss it because God made you special and then he threw away the plans. Thank him for your strengths, thank him for your weaknesses. Make your strengths stronger and work on your weaknesses, your blessings and your burdens, your gifts and your talents, your experiences and your adventures, all of them are for your use, for his glory, and they will make you better. Once you understand the uniqueness of you, you'll be well on your way to pursuing the purpose God created you for. So, first of all, present yourself to God and then realize, "I am a unique creation of Almighty God. He made me alone, threw the plans away. There's nobody like me on planet Earth. He has a special thing for me to do". And then, thirdly, realize your responsibility.
The next step is to realize that your uniqueness implies action. The Bible says it this way: "As each one has received his gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God". In other words, God has given you a gift and, with that gift, comes a responsibility to use that gift to bless others. The church is this big circle made up of all of God's children and every one of us has a responsibility. The Bible says: "A spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other". And Jesus said, "I must work the works of him who sent me while it is day, for the night is coming when no one can work".
So let yourself develop a sense of responsibility for reaching others and serving the world. And make that decision before night falls on your life, before it's too late. Present yourself totally to God, understand your uniqueness, realize your responsibility, and then pursue God's plan for your life. If you've presented yourself totally to God, if you've grasped the wonderful fact of your uniqueness and you've realized that you have a responsibility to serve the Lord and others, then you're ready to pursue God's plan for your life. And now the task is to chase that plan. You have to run in the direction your purpose leads you. Look around you right now. Do you see any clues that God is dropping for you to follow?
Once again, present yourself totally to God. Understand you are unique, realize you have a responsibility, pursue God's plan for your life, and obey orders from God's Word. His will for your life never deviates from the Word he has given you in Scripture. You'll need instructions for the journey and God's instruction manual is your Bible. Joshua 1:8 says it this way: "The book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall mediate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success".
Notice the phrase, "Observe to do". It's easy to pass over these words like they were unimportant but this is one of the great concepts of the Old Testament. We're not to read the Bible just for curiosity or intellectual reasons. We're to study it in order to do it. We're to read it in order to heed it. David describes this principle in his first Psalm. He says: "His delight is in the law of the Lord, and in his law he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of waters, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper".
Evangelist Anne Graham Lotz describes her strategy like this. She says: "I just try to faithfully follow the Lord, step by step, day by day. Ten years from now I just wanna look back and know that to the best of my ability I've been obedient to God's call on my life". We have to get to the place where we understand that God has given us a manual and when we're trying to pursue our dream and we don't know what's next, we have to realize the answer to what's next is in that book and if we will absorb ourselves in that book, if we will just allow ourselves to let that book wash over our soul, God will show us what to do. I've never asked God what to do next that he hasn't in some meaningful way directed me. And then, serve others selflessly.
Earlier, I talked to you about uniqueness in the church which is the body of Christ, but your work for the Lord extends beyond the walls of your church. The purpose of the church is to prepare followers of Christ to take the reality of the gospel to the whole world and all of us are called to serve and share with our lost and needy world. For me, this was a life-changing concept. I grew up in a pastor's home but only later, as a young adult, did I really develop a biblical awareness of my responsibility to those who do not know Jesus Christ.
And when I figured that out, it changed my life. We can never truly find purpose in life until we realize we're under orders to obey the Great Commission: to go into all the world and preach the gospel. And the key to the Great Commission is the Great Commandment which tells us to love our neighbor as ourself. The greatest continuing joy of being a Christian is the joy of sharing Christ with others and serving others in the body of Christ. Finally, experience eternal life. Are you staying focused here? Present yourself to God, realize you're unique, recognize you have a responsibility to others, pursue God's plan for your life, obey orders from God's Word, serve others selflessly, and experience eternal life.
So let's sum up. You need a compelling motive if you're going to develop an unfolding plan for moving forward in your life. You need the "Why". You discover your "Why" by totally presenting yourself to God and understanding that he made you uniquely for a unique work. You have a God-given responsibility and you need to pursue it. You need to stay in the Scripture daily, serve others selflessly. Jesus said it this way: "I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of my hand". That's what everyone is looking for: the kind of life that is both abundant and eternal.
The Israeli statesman, Abba Eban, wrote about a conversation he had with Edmund Hillary, the first man ever to climb Mount Everest. Eban asked the explorer what he felt when he reached the top. Hillary said, "The first sentiment was ecstatic accomplishment but then", he said, "there came a sense of desolation. What was there now left for me to do"? Jon Krakauer trekked to the same summit years later but the trip was tragic. Twelve of his companions were killed in the descent. Later, in his book, "Into Thin Air", Krakauer described how it felt at the top of Mount Everest. He said, "I had been fantasizing, dreaming about this moment and the release of emotion that I would feel when I finally stood at the top. But now that I was finally here, actually standing on the summit of Mount Everest, I just couldn't summon the energy to care. I snapped four quick pictures, turned, and headed down. My watch read 1:17 p.m. All told, I spent less than five minutes on the roof of the world".
Only the experiences of people like that help us illustrate the emptiness of our lives without God. If they only knew the truth of 1 John 5:12: "He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life". God's ultimate purpose for us is to experience, enjoy, and embody the eternal life Jesus died to bestow on us. He fills our emptiness with himself and with his glorious will for each of us. He fills us with the certain hope of eternal life. Let me ask you a question. When does eternal life begin? When you die? No, you're living in eternal life the minute you believe in Christ. Jesus said, "And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent".
Your eternal life begins the moment you put your trust in Jesus. Did you know that? Did you realize that you're not waiting for eternal life, that you're actually living in eternal life? From that moment, you will never die and when you accept Christ, you get life: life abundant and eternal and it begins the moment you believe. It's not something you're waiting for, it's something you're living in. And to get out of emptiness and into purpose, you have to go through Jesus. He's the way, the truth, and the life, and when you receive him as your Savior, eternal life begins at that moment. It begins right then and it brings with it a sense of purpose for the rest of your days.
It's impossible for me to finish this message without thinking of a hero of mine. His name is William Borden. He died before I was born but his biography moved me like few other books. And I want to live by the six famous words that are attributed to him. Here's his story. Borden grew up on Chicago's Gold Coast where his family owned the Borden Dairy Farm and business. He was bright, good-looking, and athletic. He was also a young man who loved the Lord Jesus Christ and had grown in Christ under the influence of his pastor, Dr. R.A. Torrey. Borden's graduation present was a trip around the world, and that's where he developed a passion for spreading the gospel to the regions beyond, especially to China. Later, at a missionary conference, he was deeply moved to give his life to spreading the gospel, including his fortune which was valued at $50 million. That was his if he would just wait.
Borden's family supported him in every way and the day came when he left home and sailed to Egypt for language studies. Everyone who met him was charmed by his humility, his joy, and his love, and most of all, his passion for Jesus Christ. Yet, within a month, Borden contracted spinal meningitis. He lingered for two weeks and he passed away at the age of 25. The sacrifice wasn't wasted. Borden's story was proclaimed in newspapers around the world, in books and biographies and from a thousand pulpits and lecterns. Even today, over 100 years later, the story of William Borden grips everybody who reads it. No one knows how many young people inflamed by his sacrifice, gave their lives to missions.
In the best known biography, "Borden of Yale", Mrs. Howard Taylor wrote: "No reserve, no retreat, no regrets had any place in Borden's consecration to God". No reserve, no retreat, no regrets. Many people believe those six words were inscribed in Borden's Bible which has been lost to history. One thing we do know, we do know that those were the words that drove him forward. Those were the things that caused him to pursue his goal. They were inscribed maybe not in his Bible, but certainly in his heart.
That's the way he lived. He lived with no reserves. In other words, he didn't take his family's money. He lived in such a way that he would never return to his home. No retreats. He didn't go to the mission field just to find out if it worked and if it didn't, come back to his fortune. I want that to be the way I pursue my life. No reserve, no retreat, no regrets. When you find Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, you accept him as the one who has a plan for your life. You understand your uniqueness, you begin to pursue everything God has for you. You begin to find that core of who you are and when you find it, no reserves, no retreats, and no regrets. I pray that God will let that be the message of your life and mine.