We all feel that there is a purpose that we are all supposed to live.It’s that thing you feel you’re supposed to do or that dream we are supposed to chase. It just feels like something was placed inside of us that drives us towards what we should be. But have you ever had a moment when you thought your purpose was lost. That job fell through. That relationship didn’t work out. That business didn’t launch. Most of us have experienced a loss of purpose. That has been true for humanity for thousands and thousands of years. Most of us have had things that have led us to give up and not believe in purpose. Some of us have experienced this in our faith. We have tried to live out our faith expecting success, yet what we found was failure. We thought that we would experience the utmost joy in living out the laws in the Scriptures, but somehow those things never quite turned out in our favor. The people who followed God in the Bible were no strangers to this feeling, especially when Jesus arrives. Take a look in Mark 1:1-8.
This is the Good News about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God. It began just as the prophet Isaiah had written: “Look, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, and he will prepare your way. He is a voice shouting in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the LORD’s coming! Clear the road for him!’” This messenger was John the Baptist. He was in the wilderness and preached that people should be baptized to show that they had repented of their sins and turned to God to be forgiven. All of Judea, including all the people of Jerusalem, went out to see and hear John. And when they confessed their sins, he baptized them in the Jordan River. His clothes were woven from coarse camel hair, and he wore a leather belt around his waist. For food he ate locusts and wild honey. John announced: “Someone is coming soon who is greater than I am—so much greater that I’m not even worthy to stoop down like a slave and untie the straps of his sandals. I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit!
Israel was a nation that struggled with its purpose. Israel was once great. It had land, money, and some power. Israel had a reputation. Fast forward to the date that this passage was talking about, Israel was in a rut. They had no land of their own because someone came in and took it from them. Wealth was not quite what it used to be because they were taxed heavily. Israel just was not in their glory days anymore. As a matter of fact, most Israelites were asking, “How long do we have to wait for God? Where is God? Is God even aware of what’s going on?” It was not a good time. This nation that was brought out of slavery by great acts of God was brought so low that they wondered if God would ever show up again. They tried so hard to follow their purpose by turning to their law to get back to their greatness. Many had decided they had waited on God long enough and started to take matters into their own hands. Great revolutions were organized to bring back the greatness Israel once had. But all of them failed. Israel was feeling let down. They felt dead. Without a purpose, people can feel dead and defeated.
John the Baptist came into this reality. He came delivering a familiar message. Someone was coming who would free everyone. He was declaring “Get ready. Someone is coming who will make us all free.” Have you ever noticed those people that are way to optimistic? These people had heard it all before. Someone coming to rescue and fighting off all the bad guys. The ending of the story they experienced many times over was a tragedy. The men who tried to fight off the bad guys would always end up dead and their movements would always scatter. What was John so optimistic about? Didn’t he remember the last guy? But John kept spreading His message of hope. In dark moments, we have to struggle with hope to get to purpose. John knew about the years of disappointment. He too struggled with not seeing freedom break through and bring purpose. But John knew that hope was coming and was bringing purpose with Him. Someone so great was on His way and there had never been anyone quite like Him before. John was going around getting people to turn away from sin and be baptized with water. He was preparing them to find their purpose again. The one who was coming after him was going to baptize in the Holy Spirit. He was going to baptize them in power, freedom, peace, etc. John wanted to see freedom pour into his life along with everyone else he knew and he wanted everyone to have hope that it could happen again.
It’s hard to hope when we have lost our purpose. Our culture does not help us find much hope. We are driven to succeed. If we don’t, we’re told that there is no point in hoping for a new purpose. We become pessimists. Optimism is left to dreamers who never come to reality. John shows us that is not true. John lived in the same dark reality that everyone else was living in. He knew what the pessimistic people knew. He just chose to accept that the future could be better. The real difference between pessimist and optimist is not if they are connected to reality. Both of them can see that the glass is half empty. The difference is that the pessimist says I’m half-way out of water, but the optimist says we need a water source to make the glass full. Optimist know that there has to be a source where things can be made better. It says in Jeremiah 29:11 “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the LORD. ‘They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.’” This is the vision of an optimist. In the middle of disaster or heartbreak, you can know that there is a future and a hope for you. It’s hard to buy into that sometimes. It’s hard to think there is a bright future when all the evidence seems to point in the opposite direction. But know this, God is continually seeking ways to bring good things to His creation. He made all things good and wants us to fully experience that goodness. He would go to extreme measures to bring us that good which would show us our purpose. To see that, let’s finish this passage in verse 9-11:
“One day Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee, and John baptized him in the Jordan River. As Jesus came up out of the water, he saw the heavens splitting apart and the Holy Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice from heaven said, “You are my dearly loved Son, and you bring me great joy.”
So it turns out the person that John was talking about was Jesus. He was the hope that came to bring purpose back to everyone. Even God Himself split open the sky to say, “This is my guy. This is the one who will bring back your hope and will guide you back into your purpose.” Note here that there is not some great moment where the people who invaded Israel just disappeared and the Israelites automatically got their old glory back. The never quite reach those glory days again. We have a tendency to want our old glory days back. We want things the way they were, but God seems to have different plans for us. Purpose is never about going back to the way things were. It is about finding the better future that could be and going towards that. Purpose takes us to new places. As we continue in the Mark, we will see that Jesus is not what everyone expected. His vision of freedom and purpose went far beyond what anyone else was dreaming of. He brought hope that things could be better than they were. We need to come to a point where we no longer think that the way things were are the way things need to be now. We don’t need to go backwards. If we keep trying to go back and relive the old ways, we are going to keep being disappointed. In Jesus, there is newness, hope, and purpose. There is a future waiting and ready to be created with God for us.
Some of you might think there is no way God is near. You might not even believe in God. You think this whole Christ following thing is nonsense. But somewhere deep inside you, something has been drawing you to a purpose. We all know that feeling of something calling us to better moments and to deeper meaning. I believe that that is God reaching out to you and calling you to better things. In all my experience, I have never found peace in trying to get back to something that I once was and thought I should be. I have found that God is not in the business of leaving us as we were. He loves us too much. So stop trying to fulfill your purpose by looking back to what you once were. Your purpose is who you will become and where God will take you. And He will take to the most amazing places. C. S. Lewis once talked about experiencing God in this way. He said, “…it is sort of (like the) Rubicon. One goes across; or not. But if one does, there is no manner of security against miracles. One may be in for anything.” If you go on this journey with God, you will find your purpose, a grand and yet unexpected purpose. You will be in for transformation that will be eternally for the better.