Purpose Reveals Your Potential

Phil WaldrepBy Phil Waldrep10 Minutes

Excerpt taken from Stop Chasing Happy: And Start Pursuing Your Potential by Phil Waldrep

Chapter 3
Purpose Reveals Your Potential


I am sure of this, that he who began
a good work in you will bring it to
completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
Philippians 1:6

Several years ago, I started reviewing the great leaders of the world. I wanted to find one who—better than the rest—understood the mission God gave them to glorify Him, and to see how they discovered their purpose in that mission.

I had a few prerequisites. I wanted someone who had a clear understanding of glorifying God. I wanted someone who faced difficult choices when the “why” was challenged. And I wanted someone who paid a heavy price for staying the course. I wanted someone who wrote about their feelings when they were going through those experiences. I wanted to know how they felt and what advice they would give to others.

The person who fit all my prerequisites was the apostle Paul.

Next to Jesus, Paul probably is the best-known personality in the Bible. He wrote many of the books in the New Testament. Yet, many people aren’t aware of how Paul moved from chasing happiness to living with joy by having the right mission and purpose.

Paul was born in Tarsus, a city at the mouth of the Berdan River in modern-day Turkey. His birth name was Saul. His parents were Jewish, and, like most Jewish families, ancestry was very important. They could trace their roots back to the tribe of Benjamin. Little is known about his parents except that his father was a practicing Pharisee and a Roman citizen. No one knows how or why his father became a citizen of Rome, but it gave him certain rights that many of the Jews did not have. That citizenship passed to Saul.

As a young Jewish boy, two things were expected of Saul: to develop a marketable skill and to learn the Old Testament. Saul learned to make tents from the hides of goats. And, when he was about 13 years old, he went to Jerusalem to study under an effective Jewish teacher named Gamaliel.

Saul became passionate about stopping the spread of Christianity. He saw followers of Christ as people who were dishonoring God. He was so passionate about it that he devoted his life to finding ways to arrest or kill Christians. When Saul was about 30 years old, he witnessed the stoning death of Stephen, one of the early church’s most vocal witnesses to the claims of Jesus. The brutal, painful death of Stephen did not upset Saul. Instead, it emboldened him.

Saul spent the next few years devoting his life to harassing, persecuting, and killing believers. And he made a name for himself doing it. He not only disrupted Christians’ meetings, but Saul went into their homes to hurt them. When Christians heard that he was coming to town, fear often gripped their lives.

Saul was on a mission, but it was the wrong mission. You can have a consuming drive to achieve a goal, but if the mission is wrong, your purpose will be wrong, and it will never result in joy. Saul’s actions were selfish. He became a Pharisee, and Pharisees loved the admiration of others. He wanted people to admire him. His motivation was for the wrong reasons.

Once Saul started getting recognition from influential people, he went to the Jewish religious leaders and requested permission to go to Syria to arrest professing Christians. But on a trip to the city of Damascus, he experienced something dramatic. God spoke verbally to Saul and made clear to him who Jesus was. Immediately, Saul became a believer in Jesus Christ. And as a result, Saul changed his name to Paul.

The Bible never explains the name change. In the Old Testament, God changed the names of some personalities after He gave them a new direction in life. People like Abram and Sarai had their names changed to Abraham and Sarah. And Jacob became Israel.

It is possible some of his fellow believers shared with Paul how Jesus changed the name of one of His disciples, Simon, to Peter. Perhaps, Paul wanted a new name to denote the change in his life. Or, maybe, Paul started using his new name to broaden his appeal to a non-Jewish audience. Paul was a Greek name, while Saul was a Jewish one. Whatever the reason, Paul was a different person.

As a new Christian, Paul spent several years listening and learning. He helped church leaders when they needed hlep. And along the way, he became a church leader too.

During these times, Paul grasped the source of lasting, fulfilling joy. It was glorify God in everything he did and everything he was. He expressed his life’s mission statement in Philippians 1:20: “It is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death.” Understanding his mission, Paul was ready for God to reveal his role in God’s plan, his purpose for living.

Seeing the need to spread the message of Christ, the Christians at Antioch appointed Paul and another church leader, Barnabas, to become missionaries. As missionaries, Paul and Barnabas stayed in one place long enough to share the gospel, teach new believers, and establish a church. Later, Paul teamed with another church leader names Silas. In all, Paul would spend the rest of his life preaching, teaching, and mentoring believers.

It was during these missionary adventures that Paul saw the need of writing to the churches he’d helped start. Some of them had questions, and some needed encouragement. Many of these letters—inspired by the Holy Spirit—are part of the New Testament today.

You might think Paul had a life filled with excitement and rarely had problems. But these years were hard. Civic authorities and Jewish leaders conspired to kill Paul, just as he had done before he discovered his purpose. He often was beaten and left for dead. He spent weeks in nasty jails because of the impact that he was making. Paul often was emotionally drained. He never accumulated much money, and he was often dependent on churches to provide for his basic needs. Yet, through it all, Paul maintained a joy that was the envy of everyone around him.

It is hard for us to imagine Paul having joy when life was difficult. It is easy to understand it when everything is exciting. But how could Paul or anyone have joy when things are rough?

Paul’s secret to deep, fulfilling joy was settling what his mission in life was and willingly accepting God’s assignment—Paul’s purpose for being born.

Paul didn’t write an autobiography like people in the modern age. But he came close. He wrote a letter to a church he helped start—the church at Philippi. Today it is included in the Bible as the book of Philippians. In this letter, Paul gives details about his life’s journey and how he stopped chasing happy and started pursuing his purpose.

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