I recently had the honor of being a Thesis Review Judge for Classical Conversations West Broward’s Senior Class. The paper below was a MUST SHARE written by a stellar 18-year-old young lady.

Her choice of topic, excellent way it was written, and orally presented was quite impressive, very inspiring, and worthy of note-taking! Enjoy…

Pursuing Purpose

By: Veronica Byrd / Senior Thesis Essay / April 30, 2020

Pursuing purpose that the Lord has established for our lives is far more important than having stability in this world as measured by being successful by our society.  “Unless you assume a God, the question of life’s purpose is meaningless.” (Bertrand Russell, atheist).  The search for the purpose of life has puzzled people for thousands of years.  We typically begin by asking self-centered questions such as: What do I want to be? What should I do with my life? What are my goals and what is in it for me?  Focusing on ourselves will never reveal our purpose in life.  God created the earth and everything in it including you, so if you want to know why you were placed here you must start with God.  The Bible says, “It is God who directs the lives of his creatures; everyone’s life is in his power.”

There are two words commonly used when discussing one’s future: purpose and success. Purpose is the reason for which something is done or created or for which something exists.  The Hebrew definition states that it means to advise, consult, give counsel, devise, or plan.  Success is the accomplishment of an aim or purpose.  Some define failure as a lack of success, while the Latin word, fallere, means to cheat, deceive, or disappoint.  “Success has become one of the most perverted words in our society’s vocabulary because it is most often equated with money, social standing, mansions, and prosperous business empires” (O.S Hawkins).  Fancy foreign cars, Rolex watches, and yacht club memberships are considered symbols of success.  If you do not achieve these things, you are seen as a disappointment since you have failed to reach something considered to be of earthly worth.

“Do what you love,” is a well-known phrase that is heard quite often these days.  Interestingly, it is also commonly said that if what you love does not help you to advance, choose something else that will deliver that same benefit.  Statistics show that approximately 22% of  Americans say they have their dream job, compared to 2%-8% of people around the world fulfill their true desired goals.  People seem to become content with the life they are living, causing them to never chase their purpose.  Contentment is the state of happiness and satisfaction which seems to be a good thing, but it has also become a blind spot.

There are 5 major reasons that prevent people from pursuing their dreams: fear of the unknown, lack of self-confidence, unwillingness to take a risk, laziness and procrastination, and not wanting to change.  Fear is the world’s worst enemy but it is also a gift, a precious instinct.  Too many have lost sight of reality because they have a fearful spirit.  The definition of fear is an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain or a threat.  Why would something you want seem dangerous or cause you pain?  As humans, we know where there is a threat so we do our best to avoid those feelings or places.  Constantly living in fear will cause you to never seize your creativity and accomplish your goals.  Instead, follow the fear.  Lean into it.  Allow it to empower you.  When you choose this path and stay on it, you learn that you will have to overcome different circumstances and events. People are afraid to be themselves, to have an unusual personality, or to share their dreams with others.  The vulnerability can seem scary, but it can also open doors to what God has in store for you.

Another reason that people are hesitant is that they do not believe they are good enough.  For instance, if someone wishes to be a professional baker looking at the success of others in that field can be intimidating.  Although there are many people that are probably more fortunate, more profitable, or have more experience, these are not necessarily valid reasons to hinder a person from giving it their best shot.  This is their path and their journey, so they should be willing to follow their dream.  Confidence comes in to conquer this fear, but only if they take hold of their potential and apply it to their everyday routine.  On the other hand, some do not have enough self-esteem because it feels uncomfortable so instead, they sabotage themselves by allowing doubt to overtake them.  “If you haven’t confidence in self, you are twice defeated in the race of life.  With confidence, you have won even before you have started” (Marcus Garvey).

There are numerous reasons why some are unwilling to take risks in life.  When people talk about traveling to the past they worry about radically changing the past by doing something small but barely anyone in the present really thinks that they can radically change the future by doing something small.  If the little things in life will shape the reality of our future, why don’t we try our best to make the most out of everything we have.  Creativity requires risk, so something has to be at stake for it to matter to you.  If you know the outcome before it ever happens, how will you learn a lesson or grow from it?  Mistakes are essential to learning and they will even hurt sometimes.  If you are truly pushing yourself and tackling significant challenges, then you will have made mistakes along the way, which is a normal part of the process.  You will soon realize that it will be much more destructive to not take any risks by letting your life just pass you by.  People respect a wrong move made with confidence, far more than a correct one made without conviction.

Laziness can affect your mindset and your ability to tackle the important things you want to accomplish.  Prioritizing goals takes much effort and motivation.  Synonyms for laziness are indolence and sloth.  Indolence derives from the Latin indolentia, ‘without pain’ or ‘without taking trouble’.  The term sloth has more moral and spiritual overtones than laziness or indolence.  In the Christian tradition, being a sloth is one of the seven deadly sins because it undermines society and God’s plan as it invites sin into our lives.  Our nomadic ancestors did not think long term for most situations due to the shorter life expectancies of their time.  Desire led to action, and action led to immediate gratification, without much need for proposing, planning, preparing, and so forth.  Poverty and failure have become linked with laziness which now symbolizes the value of that person.  For a confident or overconfident person, success comes easily to them because they are more likely to master laziness.  Unfortunately, some people are willing to receive a prophetic word but are not willing to do the hard work that follows.

Laziness can also be seen in people who are poor planners over various areas of their lives.  Things such as overeating, drinking, or anything of that nature stems from not thinking about the long term consequence.  The ancient philosopher Epicurus cautioned that not everything that is pleasurable should be pursued, and not everything that is painful should be avoided.  Jobs that serve the purpose of only paying bills have become expected, and individuals are not able to sufficiently grasp the concept that they have a purpose in making others’ lives better.  Thinking that their situation is hopeless, creates a situation where people will not work through their challenge, let alone address it.  Taking the initiative to complete a certain task or schedule future events stresses some to the point where the pain takes over their life.  Having the ability to choose plays a significant part in this matter which measures how the person procrastinates.  This also shows that they are not sure what they wish to do with their lives for there is the existence of free-will.

Change can come in the form of circumstances, people, or desires, so when it does come, we need to embrace it and not run from it.  People do not like to see change yet change is something that is inevitable.  We need constant modification which leads to growing into the person God wants us to become which is not a bad thing.  If we stand true to who we are, we will grow to be a greater version of ourselves.  No one will ever be ready to start their journey, so just begin and let transformation take over.  The saying “what is meant to be will be” only relates to the terms of friendships, relationships, as well as how the world treats you.  Too many are trying to seek out a reality that will never happen, while the saying “if you want it, go and get it” applies within the terms of your goals, desires, and work ethic.  In Ecclesiastes, it says, “For everything, there is a season and a time for every matter under heaven” for it also says in Hebrews that, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”

So how do we empower ourselves to overcome the lies that prevent us from pursuing our true purpose?  First, we must realize that we are not placed on this earth to fail.  For people who do not believe in the Lord, their main reason for not seizing the day is that they do not think they have a purpose, so what they do will not matter.  The question becomes, “What is my purpose?”  Many people will not ever choose to follow Jesus, so how will a nonbeliever discover their purpose?  Everyone in some way, shape, or form is aware that there is a God, that they have a purpose, yet they do not want to put faith into something that they cannot see.  The opposite of fear is faith, and faith is trusting in something that you cannot explicitly prove.

“You can’t see a victory if you don’t show up to the fight.” 

We are not put on this earth to simply fail, so fight!  He created us to be His hands and feet, and he directs us to do something.  It is all about action.

Another way to overcome the lies is to ask ourselves, “If I don’t do it, who will?”  Is life worth living if we are only seeking to make money?  Although death will one day touch us all, does it have to suppress our dreams?  If you do not see someone like yourself walking the stage, then you need to be the first; you be the change you want to see in the world.  One day we will all reach the end of life, so we should make the most out of every second we are given.  If you don’t do it, who will?  In John 11, Jesus said,  “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live.”  Jesus’ death gives us the possibility to have eternal life one day in heaven with Him, but only if we accept the gospel in our hearts.  He conquered death, death on a cross for us which is something He did not deserve.  Without his death, we would never know what love is.  Love is a sacrifice and He showed us the greatest act of love by allowing His crucifixion to take place.

Attending college or starting a business are two outlets by which success can be created.  Nowadays, the vast majority of people think that the only way you can further your education and make money is to attend college or university and obtain a degree.  Young graduates are valued by the world based on their college or major of choice, and society tends to either approve or disapprove accordingly.  The pressure that is put on kids to go to college straight after graduation is unfair.  While they are still in high school, students have to ask to leave class or to use the bathroom and are not given much freedom.  A month before a teenager turns eighteen they are viewed as just a kid or someone who does not have the power or authority to do something good with their life.  Upon turning eighteen, that individual is seen as an adult who now needs to make mandatory decisions to even have a chance in today’s culture.  One solid piece of advice all teenagers who are thinking about what they should do next is, “Stop asking blind people to proofread your vision.”

Academics at the college level can lead students to not thinking for themselves, strictly memorizing information, while not developing interpersonal relationships.  Getting an education is not necessarily a bad thing, but it has become a diversion and has led many down the wrong road.  School can be such a valuable resource, and it has many important opportunities for those who attend.  Far too many people go to school simply to ensure that they obtain a job someday.  “Without a learning path, you’re lost” (Chase Jarvis).  Colleges have become terribly overpriced, and most people do not have the financial means to attend.  “A study showed that 45% of students showed no real improvement in learning after 2 years of college, and 36% of students showed no real improvement in learning after 4 years in college.”  Some dropouts who are known as some of the most financially successful people today include Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, James Cameron, and Michael Dell.

Fortunately, success can also come from the amazing opportunity everyone has access to, which is to start their own business.  This can be either online, in your own home, or elsewhere, the possibilities are endless.  We live in the 21st century, so we are fortunate to have the internet at our fingertips.  To illustrate, my friend has her own lash and makeup business, while another works with a health and wellness company that is online.  If someone wishes to travel for a living, they could become a photographer, which offers a flexible schedule, as people are always looking for their own photos to be taken.

“People can often do more, change more, and learn more – often far more-

than they ever dreamed possible.  Our potential is hidden in plain sight all around us.”

There are some unfortunate stereotypes of women in the business world.  “More good women have been lost to marriage than to war, famine, disaster; you have talent, don’t squander it.”  As a woman, we are continually seen as less of a contribution to this world.  The pressure from society for girls to hurry up, get married, and start a family has gotten way out of hand.  Too many goals have been put off or sacrificed because they are constantly told to be more realistic and to “get their head out of the clouds.”  Research showed that “less than three percent of venture-capital-funded companies had female CEOs, and 48 percent of female founders’ report that a lack of available advisers and mentors limits their professional growth.”  Another study recorded that when men apply for jobs or promotions, they would meet 60 percent of the qualifications while women would apply only if they met 100 percent of them.  In Proverbs 31, it says, “She is far more precious than jewels…strength and dignity are her clothing…a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised…let her works praise her in the gates.”  A woman who fears the Lord will succeed in all they do and will surpass all expectations from this world because her true reward is in heaven.

Sometimes it will be difficult to do what God has created you to do, and you may experience failure as you learn to use your talents.  Failure is far more helpful than one would expect, and it can be a valuable learning tool.  Life is not easy.  If we only thrive how will we grow?  Think of it this way, what is a hero without a villain?  The hero becomes unnecessary.  So then what is a villain without a hero?  The villain becomes successful.  There will be times when things in life will try to stop you, drag you down, but you cannot let that overcome you.  Those who stand for nothing fall for everything.  In the same way, the darkness and evil in this world will prevail over the good if there is no one to deter it.  Our job is to stand up for what we believe in and chase after what we want to accomplish.  If you feel called by the Lord to become a missionary you must do so, because there is an evil force in this world that needs to be confronted.  Use opposition as a motivator to further succeed.  How can you grow without conflict?  You will accomplish more if there is something to rise above.  Success only comes by overcoming failure, for some failure is inevitable.  People are afraid to fail because it hurts, but the pain is only temporary, quitting lasts forever.  Be the hero of your own life.

You can always find an area to succeed in, but it is harder to find purpose within it.  Sometimes God will ask us to do something that we do not want to do.  We are created for more than just happiness, and we all have talents and gifts that he wants us to use.  Think of a time when you felt invigorated.  It could have been when you designed something beautiful, or when you achieved a seemingly unattainable goal.  This joy comes from the push and thrill of taking that risk, which is exactly what God wants you to do.  It will seem scary and uncomfortable at first, but that is sometimes how God has you grow.  Christ himself often spoke about the significance of discomfort.  Jesus called those “Blessed” who are grieving, bearing persecution for His sake, hungry or poor in the spirit, for He came to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.

Let’s see what the Bible has to say about purpose versus success.  “Our world has strayed so far from God’s will for us that we have made ourselves wretched by measuring ourselves in terms of race or power or progress or learning.” (Ravi Zacharias)  Sadly, the world does not want to see people thrive and be happy.  There is not much encouragement being spread to those who are going after their passions.  There are many stories from artists, athletes, and celebrities, who started at the bottom with no support but made it to where they want to be.  As Christians, we believe in a Savior who was born from a virgin, performed miracles such as healing the blind, died, and then resurrected three days later, yet we do not try to believe someone else’s dreams.  Wanting to become the best soccer player of all time, the world’s most renowned artist, or the highest politician in America can cause others to laugh at those ambitions.  The general public wants to see you making money.  Many people want to make a living, but is that really living?  God has created us to be more than just known for a successful job.

Another thing we need to remember about purpose and success is that as believers, the Lord is guiding us.  “Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed.”  When we first convert to Christianity it’s like living in the honeymoon phase.  After a while, we can lose the excitement that we initially had in the beginning.  We have become content with Christianity and our purpose because we have heard the gospel many times.  One cannot fulfill their true purpose if one does not have faith in the Lord.  Only God can properly direct and lead us down the path we choose.  There are people of this world that do not know the power of the name of Jesus, so they will never seek out their purpose.  We are all put on this earth for a reason so if there wasn’t one, there would be no point to live.  If you believe, then when your time on this earth is done God’s will for your life will be also.  The Bible says that faith without works is dead, so once you accept God as Lord of your life, you will actively be alive in Him.  For instance, being awake and being asleep are two completely different states; the one sleeping simulates a dead man walking and once they see Jesus, they have an awakening.

God also instills in us certain passions and desires.  “For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.”  This Bible verse is so remarkable because it instructs us to turn away from the world and turn to Him.  Many people are bothered by the fact that they are not 100 percent sure what they are passionate about or what the future holds.  God bluntly tells us to live godly lives and to live for His glory.  We can devote our lives to him by praying every day, having by faith through actions, and loving Him and others.  Not only does living this way glorify him, but it also fulfills the main reason for our existence.

God cares about our desires, but notice in His word that we must do our part first.  In Psalm 37:4, it says, “Delight in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.”  The Lord has given each of us different talents and gifts which he wants us to use.  Nothing is too small when it is in the hands of the Lord.  More often than not, we limit God by thinking “addition” to our lives, while God, on the other hand, produces multiplication.  Reading God’s word reveals many different things, and since He is such a loving Father, He exposes areas that we need to grow in while showing us His will for us.  “Purpose always produces passion.”  Having the need to worship God brings Him glory and brings us fulfillment.  If someone calls themselves a Christian, a follower of Christ they should want to praise Him in all they do, which allows God to fulfill our heart’s desire.

It is extremely important to establish how we define our identity.  First, we are children of God, we are royalty, his princes and princesses who sit at His table.  What is our identity?  “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”  He is the King of Kings, Lord of Lords, and He sits on the throne above all.  The Lord wants even more than we can imagine for ourselves, and He says if you seek first the kingdom of heaven everything else you need will follow.  Too many people try and find their identity in careers, others, money, status, and popularity.  When someone does not have the Bible to turn to, they look for truth in other people’s opinions, which is very dangerous.  There are those in this world who have lost themselves, trying to become something they are not, just to impress someone else.  We are told lies about who we are by those who do not even know anything about us.  Many do not search for the truth because they have become so accustomed to the status quo, so they simply try to blend in.  “You weren’t put on earth to be remembered. You were put here to prepare for eternity” (Rick Warren).

It is important to understand the identity of Jesus and His background.  People always ask you where you’re from and what you do for work.  That is how people usually determine who you are, and what your worth is.  Jesus is identified as the chosen one who saved all of humanity by dying on the cross for our sins.  There are not many ancient artifacts from Jesus’ time or pieces of His actual belongings, but we do know that He was from Nazareth.  Nazareth was known as a small village in Israel, and in John 1, Nathanael asks, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”  In later verses, it follows, “Is this not the son of Joseph the Carpenter?”  How could the Messiah come from a town of such low regard and from a family of such simple professional status?  Jesus answers the question for Andrew and Peter as to where he is from with, “Come and see.”  They followed him to where he was staying and spent the night.  The next day, Phillip, who was from the same city as they were, told Nathanael to come and see also.  God chose these circumstances for Jesus to live in, to show that it is not necessarily important where you come from, but who you truly are.

Part of your identity stems from what you hold in your heart.  We should not communicate just to make a point, but to make a difference; it is yours to choose.  Our words have power and should be used intentionally in whatever we say.  The best communicator in all of history is Jesus Christ because he knew exactly how to connect to people in a way that only the Savior could.  Communication happens to be one of the most credible ways to learn about a person.  The way we present ourselves says a lot about who we are and what we stand for.  In 2 Timothy 2:16, it says, “But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness.”  Another verse in Colossians states, “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.”  People will ultimately know the true identity of our hearts as they hear the words that flow from our mouths.

One of the most popular stories in the Bible, besides the narrative of Jesus Christ himself, is known as “The Fiery Furnace.”  In Daniel 3, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego’s faith is put on trial because King Nebuchadnezzar made an image of gold to worship.  It was declared that whoever does not fall down and worship at the sound of the music, will be thrown into a blazing hot furnace.  These three men did not do so, as they only glorified the one true God, so answered the King, “Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king.”  Nebuchadnezzar then ordered the furnace to be heated seven times more than usual and cast them inside.  All of the witnesses saw a fourth man inside which was described as the Son of God and then Shadrach, Mesach, and Abednego walked out unharmed.

We don’t know the exact talents, gifts, or abilities of those three men, but we can discern something about their identity in God.  Remarkably, God did not have to use their skills to glorify Him, He just needed their faith.  What can God produce through one little seed planted in faith?

“Our purpose is God’s preference, but to have His preference be our experience,

He needs to have our participation” (Dharius Daniels). 

We do not have to be the best at everything for God to use us.  Most stories in the Bible are based on the person’s faith, not what they do for a living.  We do not need a Ph.D. to spread the love of Jesus or to glorify him with our lives.  Rahab was a prostitute, Moses had a stutter, Paul was a murderer, Martha was a worrier, Jacob was a cheater, Sara was impatient, and David committed adultery, yet God did not call the qualified, he qualified the called.

Another story in the Bible is about two brothers, Jacob and Esau.  As they grew up Esau became a skillful hunter while Jacob was a quiet man.  One day, Jacob was cooking and his brother came in exhausted asking for some stew.  He replied commanding that he would give him some if he would sell his birthright to him, and so Esau said, “I am about to die; of what use is a birthright to me?”  For he despised his birthright, he hated it.  As the older brother, Esau was entitled to have leadership over the family, as well as to receive the inheritance.  God allowed Esau to inherit the birthright, and Esau let Jacob steal it because it became so cheap to him that he thought the food was more valuable.  We should not let the favor of God become something that we just push aside or disregard as we look towards our future.

It is more important to pursue the purpose that the Lord has for us than to seek out success as defined by the world.  People choose not to pursue their purpose for many reasons: fear of the unknown, lack of self-confidence, unwilling to take a risk, laziness, and procrastination, and not wanting change.  These are all evil excuses that are very challenging to overcome.  Choosing success without purpose can be a justification to walk with the world.  For the one that does choose to continue persevering down the path of purpose, they will be the ones to succeed the most, with the deepest contentment.  God has set plans for those who accept his word and believe in Him.

“And out of that hopeless attempt has come nearly all that we call human history – money, poverty, ambition, war, prostitution, classes, empires, slavery – the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy.” (C.S Lewis)

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Works Cited

ESV: Study Bible: English Standard Version. Crossway Bibles, 2016.

Warren, Rick. The Purpose-Driven Life: What on Earth Am I Here for? Zondervan, 2016.

Jarvis, Chase. Creative Calling: Establish a Daily Practice, Infuse Your World with Meaning, and Succeed in Work-Life. HarperBusiness, 2019.

Hawkins, O. S. Clues to a Successful Life. Broadman Press, 1982.

Lewis, C. S. C. s. Lewis Classic Collection: Mere Christianity. Harper One, 2009.

Zacharias, Ravi K., and Kevin Johnson. Jesus among Other Gods. Thomas Nelson, 2017.

Burton, Neel. “The Psychology of Laziness.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 2014

Rittenberry, Erik. “College Is a Bad Idea for Most Young People.” Medium, Student Voices, 19 June 2018

Gourani, Soulaima. “Why Most Women Give Up On Their Dreams.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 30 July 2019

“When God Wants You to Grow, He Makes You Uncomfortable.” When God Wants You to Grow, He Makes You Uncomfortable, 2016

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