lthough I cannot remember it well, Oprah Winfrey tells of a conversation that she had with the great Maya Angelou. According to Oprah, she was grappling about how her legacy on earth would end up like. Oprah had just built up a school in South Africa and she was pegging her legacy on that event. I think it is when Maya Angelou advised Oprah by telling her that she would never know how her impact will turn out. She said that you can never really tell the extent of your faithful pursuit of purpose will turn out.
Now that is a paradox. Reading from scriptures, there are records of quite a number of people who knew that their days on earth were gone, and that they had lived to serve the purpose for their existence.
I came across the following write up in a journal:
Apart from Jesus Christ, it is hard to think of historical figures whose dying words were, “It is accomplished!” Alexander the Great conquered Persia, but broke down and wept because his troops were too exhausted to push on to India. Hugo Grotius, the father of modern international law, said at the last, “I have accomplished nothing worthwhile in my life.” John Quincy Adams, sixth President of the United States-not a Lincoln, perhaps, but a decent leader-wrote in his diary: “My life has been spent in vain and idle aspirations, and in ceaseless rejected prayers that something would be the result of my existence beneficial to my species.” Robert Louis Stevenson wrote words that continue to delight and enrich our lives, and yet what did he pen for his epitaph? “Here lies one who meant well, who tried a little, and failed much.” Cecil Rhodes opened up Africa and established an empire, but what were his dying words? “So little done, so much to do.”
So it begs the question: If Maya Angelou correctly says that we cannot fully know the extent of the impact that our pursuit of purpose will bring, then how can we know that at least we were impactful?
In my mind, I feel like this question has already been answered by the passage above. Jesus and Paul used the word “Finished” in reference to their purpose on earth. It is the rarest thing ever. The single test of a life of purpose is when the visionary can say those words, “It is finished”. Now, don’t get me wrong. You need not to say those words for the world to record, but you can know in yoru heart and spirit that this was what you were born to do…and you did it to the very end. Between you and God, you can know. That is the test. However, before you can get there, I believe that there are three things that need to happen
Interestingly, most of the people who passed on content of the life they had lived had one thing in common: they all knew their mandate here on earth. They knew their purpose. Jesus himself had I believe more than 16 references to his purpose, starting with the words “I am…”
He said he was the door, the Good Shepherd, the Way, the Truth, the Life, the Resurrection, and the True Vine and so on. Granted, some of these descriptions were metaphors describing his sole purpose when he declared: “I came to seek and save that which was lost”. His forerunner Jon the Baptist was so clear who he was that he was so clear who he was not. They likened him to many people but he rejected those labels totally and declared his purpose: “I am the voice crying in the wilderness, ‘Prepare ye the way of the Lord.’ Amazing stuff.
The point is that all those who said “it is finished” knew exactly what the “It” was in the first place. I read a powerful quote by Eleanor Roosevelt yesterday that made me think. She said:
[ictt-tweet-inline]“Life is like a parachute jump. You’ve got to get it right the first time”[/ictt-tweet-inline]
Stop and think about it. Do you know what to do on earth? What is that single thing that if you accomplished you would be happy when “it is finished?” It is there. Seek it. Find it and move to the next level.
This is obvious. Finding what to do is important. Doing it is where the revolution begins. Perhaps the most frequently quoted person in this blog his Abraham Lincoln. He said,
“If I was given 6 hours to chop down a tree, I would probably spend 4 hours sharpening my axe”.
The four hours in my view are normally in locating the “what to do”. The two hours are for doing it. In other words, once we have found out what to do, the littlest time we spend on it and it only will be the most rewarding time on earth.
Now, doing it will never be a smooth ride. Look at the catalogue of Paul’s obstacles as he pursued his purpose:
I’ve been flogged five times with the Jews’ thirty-nine lashes, beaten by Roman rods three times, pummeled with rocks once. I’ve been shipwrecked three times, and immersed in the open sea for a night and a day.
In hard traveling year in and year out, I’ve had to ford rivers, fend off robbers, struggle with friends, struggle with foes. I’ve been at risk in the city, at risk in the country, endangered by desert sun and sea storm, and betrayed by those I thought were my brothers.
I’ve known drudgery and hard labor, many a long and lonely night without sleep, many a missed meal, blasted by the cold, naked to the weather.
And that’s not the half of it, when you throw in the daily pressures and anxieties of all the churches.
When someone gets to the end of his rope, I feel the desperation in my bones. When someone is duped into sin, an angry fire burns in my gut.
If I have to “brag” about myself, I’ll brag about the humiliations that make me like Jesus.
The eternal and blessed God and Father of our Master Jesus knows I’m not lying.
What a man! My point is that pursuing your purpose will open you up to great disappointments. In general, you will have to overcome “Pressures within” and “Pressures without”
Why would you not finish your purpose? Well, chances are that you could be derailed. Chances are that you could get overwhelmed. Chances are that you could even rebel and walk away from it altogether. There are numerous examples of this. Finishing is actually one of the most important aspects of purpose. I have this firm belief that people who have discovered their reason for being are kind of invincible. Until they have successfully delivered that which they were called to, they won’t die. Why? Because when you look at it carefully, it is the Almighty that wants that purpose done. Just because you know your purpose does not mean that you will finish it. Just because you are doing it does not make finishing obvious. Finishing must be planned and protected at all costs.
You have no idea what joy it brings to a visionary when at the end of their life they say, “It is finished”, and you know what, it is possible for all of us. Let’s think about that end and start working towards it today.