The film “Chariots of Fire” was released to great acclaim in 1981. It is the heart-warming story of China missionary and Olympic runner Eric Liddell. There are many memorable moments in the film, but my favorite is when Eric is trying to explain to his sister Jenny why he continues to run of which she doesn’t approve.
He says this to Jenny:
“I believe God made me for a purpose: for China. But He also made me fast and when I run I feel His pleasure.”
Eric eventually did go back to China (where he was born to missionary parents) in 1925, after the 1924 Olympics where he won both a bronze and gold medal. He died in a Japanese civilian internment camp in 1945 at the age of 43. It was a life well-lived, both as a runner and as a missionary.
I recently watched the movie again for the umpteenth time and watched/rewatched him deliver those insightful words to his unhappy sister. I want to continue to ask myself (and encourage others I know and coach to ask) these questions:
- Do I know what gives Him pleasure?
- Do I have a clear sense of purpose in my life?
- Am I truly enjoying what He gives me to do or am I simply enduring it?
I didn’t honestly consider having a strong and compelling purpose until I was in my early 40’s. Since then it’s become very clear to me after thinking, praying and writing a number of drafts:
My purpose is to help develop, equip and empower leaders in local churches so that they finish their race well!
I’m a leader-developer and spend most of my time working with leaders as I coach, write and teach. When I invest in developing, equipping and empowering leaders, I feel His pleasure and, by His grace, it’s making all the difference in the world to me and to them!
In my book, “Leaders Who Last” I devote an entire chapter to the leader’s purpose.
Experience is teaching me that lots of people (including many leaders) don’t have a clear sense of purpose in their lives.
I recently finished a book entitled “The Men We Need.” I noticed this, “A recent headline in a UK paper about sixteen-to-twentynine year-olds reads, “Nine in ten young Brits believe their life lacks purpose according to a shocking new study ‘Millennial Melancholy’ The Sun, 2019.” I think the situation is similar in the US.
When a leader begins coaching with me, one of the first things I ask them to do is take some hours away for a personal retreat. Among things I ask them to do on that retreat is to write a first draft of a purpose statement.
A life purpose is like a roadmap, a compass, a blueprint for how to live my life and stay focused on what gives Him pleasure as I’m staying true to how He made me. As Eric said, “He also made me fast and when I run, I feel His pleasure.”
A verse I often return to is:
“Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. Don’t be impressed with yourself. Don’t compare yourself with others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life.” Galatians 6:4,5 (The Message)
Knowing who I am (my life purpose) can then lead to the work He has in mind for me which flows out of that purpose.
How are you doing? Does what you’re devoting your time and talents to giving Him pleasure? Is it giving you pleasure knowing that you are pleasing Him?
It was said of Enoch: “…for before he was taken up, he was known as a person who pleased God.” Hebrews 11:5 (NLT)