This article was written by Andrew Ripley and published by Faith Driven Entrepreneur.
It’s been almost two decades since the release of Pastor Rick Warren’s landmark book, The Purpose Driven Life, and the purpose movement is deeply indebted to Pastor Rick for shifting the conversation, grounding it in scripture, and bringing it to our collective consciousness.
But people are still struggling to understand and live their purpose, and the purpose movement has continued to unfold over the last 20 years.
In my own work, with the Fruition Project and other endeavors, I am driven by these three insights:
Purpose is a divine journey not a destination.
True purpose isn’t something out there to be found—some elusive “X” on the treasure map of life. It’s not really about “that one job” you’re supposed to have or “that one thing” you’re supposed to do. It’s a way of being—a daily process, guided by God. 2 Thessalonians 1:11 calls this process fruition. It draws on your God-given gifts, calls you out of yourself, and invites you to reimagine your purpose in the light of God’s purposes.
Knowing your purpose doesn’t mean much if you don’t live
Even if they have a sense of purpose, most people don’t really know how to live it on a daily basis. If purpose isn’t practiced daily, it’s a nice-sounding idea that goes nowhere. The good news: Christian scripture and tradition offer the deepest well of spiritual practice and habit formation resources the world has ever known.
Purpose is a *we* thing.
Most people assume purpose is an individual thing. This is a mistake because it’s in and through Christ-centered community that purpose comes to fruition.
The Hero Model of Purpose
Most people in the western world—consciously or subconsciously—ascribe to a “hero model” of purpose. Life is a movie, and I want to be the star. The clouds part, a spotlight shines down from heaven, a drumroll rises from the deep, God waves a magic purpose wand, and in a great crescendo of trumpets and light, my purpose is revealed. The world sees me there on my pedestal, and behold, I am very good!
Sure, I want to make the world better for people, but if I’m being honest, I want some credit, too. And I want to be paid well. And I want it to be fun—and not too hard.
When many people talk about purpose, they’re talking about “that one thing”—that one pursuit or job that makes everything make sense and makes their lives fit together in perfect, harmonious bliss.
In the hero model, purpose is shaped in our image. We want purpose that…
- Comes quickly and clearly
- Makes us happy and comfortable
- Wins us the admiration and respect of others
But purpose that fits all your wants and desires probably isn’t your deepest purpose. You can live with purpose today, but it may take years to unfold fully. It may be hard at times and even a little uncomfortable. It may not look very impressive to others. They may not notice at all.
Wait, doesn’t Jeremiah 29:11 tell us that God is preparing a future of perfect blessedness for us? Yes! But we forget that it’s a blessedness on God’s terms—not our terms. And “us” doesn’t just mean “me”—this passage wasn’t written to Bill in Babylon. It was written to the people of Israel in Babylonian captivity. And when we read verse 11, we like to skip over verse 10: “Only when Babylon’s seventy years are completed will I visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place.
Jeremiah 29 probably didn’t sound like good news to the captives in Babylon because it meant they probably wouldn’t make it back to Jerusalem. Their children probably wouldn’t make it back. Ah, but their children’s children…
None of this feels like good news if we want the magic wand of instantaneous, heroic purpose. But it is good news because there’s something better. It all starts with God’s purposes.
Scripture makes God’s purposes clear: to save the world…to draw a lost, broken world home into His arms. We see it in God’s covenantal relationship with Israel described in the Old Testament, and it finds full expression in Jesus. The opening chapters of the New Testament speak of Christ’s purpose: to embody God’s saving presence—to make it visible, tangible, and personal.
And it’s in Him that we find our purpose.
True purpose is shaped in the image of Christ. In Christ, we come alive, remade and set free…yes, from the power of sin but also for the power of purpose.
God is doing something big in and through you, after all. It just has nothing to do with what the world thinks is “big.” How much money do you make? How big is your house? How many social media followers do you have? Fruition has nothing to do with any of these things.
Your purpose has nothing to do with being celebrated by the world…nothing to do with maximizing your comfort and your sense of self-worth…nothing to do with building a lasting legacy in your name. In the grand scheme of things, your life is a breath—a vapor—here and gone (James 4:14). Your name will someday be forgotten to the world, and even if it weren’t, what good would that do you?
True purpose isn’t about all that. It’s harder and messier—and better.
True purpose has everything to do with becoming part of something bigger than you. God has a vision for the world, and He wants your help in making that vision real. God stitches you into community for the purpose of sharing life and faith. He calls you to sacrifice for the betterment of others. He gives you gifts and trusts you to put them to work.
Kingdom: A Beautiful and Mysterious Tension
God has a beautiful vision for the world. Jesus calls it “the kingdom of God.” It’s what God wants the world to look like, and it’s a vision that WILL come to be.
This plan, which God will complete when the time is right, is to bring all creation together, everything in heaven and on earth, with Christ as head. (Ephesians 1:10)
God’s vision has been planned since the beginning of time, but it’s not yet fully here. It will be completed “when the time is right.”
And yet…it is here. When Jesus Christ came to earth, kingdom—God’s beautiful vision for the world—came with Him. Jesus made this clear when He said to the Pharisees, “The kingdom of God is among you.” (Luke 17:20-21)
Everything Jesus did…everything He said…everything He was…demonstrated kingdom, and everything He touched—every life, every relationship, every tradition—echoed with the imprint of kingdom. He was “the Way,” meaning that He was both the roadmap for and the driving force behind kingdom building.
All creation will someday come together in the peace and wholeness of Christ. We long for that day. And this union is emerging, even now. Both can be true. And God’s purposes are revealed in both. God wants to build something, but God wants to build it a certain way.
This, then, is our destiny and our purpose: not to find our place in the spotlight…not to lift our names high but to be a small part of this unfolding process, rooting our purpose in God’s purposes and doing everything we can to lift high the name of Jesus.
The Fruition Model of Purpose
When we think of the word “fruition,” we think of the end goal, and that’s not wrong. But “fruition” also speaks to the process of getting there. Kingdom is both here now and coming soon, and this is also true of personal purpose. In fact, the emergence of kingdom and the emergence of purpose are connected.
We ask our God to make you worthy of the life he has called you to live. May he fulfill by his power all your desire for goodness and complete your work of faith.
– 2 Thessalonians 1:11
At the deepest level, your purpose is to glorify God by becoming a purposeful person. Yes, you will accomplish things. But ultimately, GOD accomplishes God’s kingdom purposes, so fruition isn’t just about what you accomplish. It’s about how you live and who you become in the process.
We invite you to stop worrying about “that one thing you’re supposed to do with your life.” Fruition is a way of being—in all aspects of life. It happens when you:
- Root yourself in God’s kingdom vision
- Look beyond yourself to the needs of others
- Use what God gives you to the best of your ability
- Build the habits that make purpose part of your daily life
As you work those four pursuits in your life, your efforts will help bring kingdom fruition. The process will also change you, and this change IS kingdom fruition.
Will this process help you find your “dream job”? Maybe. But God might want to work on your dreams a little bit first. And the perfect job for you might not even exist yet. AND it’s possible to live purposefully in just about any job. AND fruition isn’t just about your career; it’s about everything you do, from job to family life to volunteering to how you interact with strangers and shop for groceries. This study is designed to help you be purposeful in all aspects of life, whether you’re 15 or 85.
Not Easy, But Good
Oliver was 3, with curly black hair and a smile brighter than a thousand suns. When I learned he had been diagnosed with muscular dystrophy, I was so heartsick I couldn’t move. A few days later, Oliver’s dad rocked my world with his testimony as we grieved together on a bench outside our church:
“I’m sad for the loss of the life I thought Oliver was going to have, but I’m learning that my vision for his life isn’t the measuring stick of his worth. He’ll be who God created him to be. He will be enough. And I’m going to do everything I can to help him live the fullest, most beautiful, most joyous life he possibly can.”
Yes, brother. This reminded me of an old quote from Martin Luther: “Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.”
Oliver will need lots of help in this life, and someday his physical life will end…which makes him exactly the same as you and me. But we’ll plant in Oliver’s life, and he’ll plant in ours. We’ll teach him about the love of Christ through deep presence, as Jesus did. And he’ll teach us, too—that struggle isn’t the end of joy but the beginning.
If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom and yet renounce controversy are people who want crops without plowing the ground.
– Frederick Douglass
As my friend and I sat together that day, he looked at me and said, “I choose faith.” And in the days since, I’ve witnessed fruition happening in Oliver’s father’s life. He’s always been a great dad, but now he loves being a dad, even when it’s messy and hard. He has become a strong leader in our church, reminding us of what’s important and what’s not. And—maybe because of his greater appreciation for the beauty of creation—his career as a designer has really taken off.
Oliver’s life may not be comfortable, but it will be good. He and his family will plant and water their apple trees. And their abundant God will work fruition in them.
In Matthew 13, Jesus compares the kingdom to a mustard seed—tiny but full of potential. And in the eyes of God, the future tree promised by the seed is just as real now as it will be then. Where we see seeds, God sees a forest.
God simply asks that we lean in with love and work the process. God desires fruition. Our purpose isn’t just to be the tree; our purpose is to become the tree.