The Purpose-Drive Life by Rick Warren has sold 24 million copies. That's a lot of books and probably explains why the employee benefits at publisher Zondervan now include a free polo pony. Why was this book so successful?
I think it's because we all crave a sense of purpose.
Our ancestors had plenty of purpose.
Their goal was to get through the day without being eaten by wolves.
But modern life is different. You can go all week without realising a higher purpose than finding a cheap petrol station.
I admit that some people have noble purposes. They wake up in the morning with the goal of rescuing people from burning buildings or putting a stop to global warming or beating back the plague of toenail fungus.
But the rest of us are absorbed in ventures such as getting the cellophane wrapper off our new Yanni CD.
It's hard to feel that you're fulfilling a special destiny when your biggest accomplishments of the day include putting new staples in the stapler and flossing.
That's why I envy my four-year-old son, Reef. He has a passion and a pur pose. That purpose is the pursuit of sugar. The sound of opening a packet of biscuits can bring the boy running from the farthest reaches of the house.
If someone offers him a lolly, he stands up as if a choir has begun the “Hallelujah Chorus.”
The other day Reef was at the point of tears because he had been denied a new toy. He looked up with big liquid eyes and asked, “Can I have a biscuit to comfort me in my sadness?”
Who doesn't like biscuits? I'm thinking of my friend Bill, who came home to see a tray of freshly baked bikkies.
Some had a thick layer of frosting.
Others had very little. He had picked up one with a thin layer of frosting when his grandson stopped him. “You can't eat the ones without frosting— they're for Cameron,” said the grandson, referring to his little brother.
“Oh, yeah?” replied Bill, popping the biscuit into his mouth. He was the head of the household. He would decide which biscuit to eat. Bill was soon informed that the reason certain biscuits were reserved for Cameron was that the two-year-old had licked the majority of the frosting off of them.
Frosting holds such a powerful attraction for children that most of them would probably try to lick it off a porcupine.
Yet as his parents, we try to rein in Reef 's sweet tooth because we've heard that sugar is the least healthy foodstuff next to deep-fried nuclear waste. On the other hand, we are not blind to the fact that sugar is a powerful motivating force when used as a treat. I believe that if we gave the boy a small shovel and used a large package of M&Ms in a judicious way, we could get him to dig an inground swimming pool.
Sugar has been a motivating force since its discovery by the great explorer Captain Crunch. But it's not the only one. I suppose the time will come when my son will move beyond his interest in sugar and become obsessed with gokarts.
Then in a few more years it will be female companionship. And a few years after that he will be focused on finding a good fibre supplement.
Our goals come and go. I remember those times when I purposed in my heart to start a vigorous exercise program.
Those moments were immediately followed by a purposeful trip to see what was in the refrigerator. I learned that if you want to start an exercise program, you need a partner who will motivate you to stick with it. Preferably an army drill sergeant.
If our attention is always wandering, where can we get a real sense of purpose?
The apostle Paul has an answer.
He says: “It is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose” (Philippians 2:13).
To me, that means that if I let Him, God will fulfil a purpose in my life that is more sublime and more lofty than any of the goals I can come up with on my own. Sweet, huh?
Reprinted with permission from Women of Spirit.