I saw a statistic the other day that I thought was fascinating. High school students (not Christian students, by the way) were given a list of possible goals and asked which three were the most important to them.

Surprisingly, only 18 percent listed “achieving fame or public recognition,” and only 25 percent said “working in a high paying job.”

So what scored high on the list? Among others, making a difference in the world (96 percent), having one marriage partner for life (82 percent), and having a clear purpose for living (77 percent).

I think most people, regardless of their age, want to know what their divine purpose is—and that they are fulfilling it. The Apostle Paul explains, in his letter to the Romans, that he had found just that. And while his calling may not be identical to yours, he lays out the path for how you can discover yours.

Paul says, “I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me to bring the Gentiles to obedience—by word and deed, by the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God—so that from Jerusalem and all the way around to Illyricum I have fulfilled the ministry of the gospel of Christ; and thus I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone else’s foundation, but as it is written, ‘Those who have never been told of him will see, and those who have never heard will understand’” (Romans 15:18-21 ESV).

By this point in his life Paul had narrowed his life down to a specific ministry focus: to personally take the gospel where people had never heard it. But how did he get to that conclusion?

Paul’s understanding of his purpose came from two things—a two-part path of discovery we all must go down.

1. We must understand the purpose of God in the world.

Notice how Paul grounds his understanding of his purpose in what God had declared to be his purpose—God’s own purpose—in Scripture: “As it is written, ‘Those who have never been told of him will see, and those who have never heard will understand’” (v. 21).

I would have expected Paul to have started his explanation of his purpose with the Damascus Road experience. After all, that’s where Jesus said, “Paul, preaching to the Gentiles is I what I want you to do.” If the resurrected Jesus had shown up and literally talked to me, I would probably lead with that. But that’s not what Paul does. He starts with Scripture.

God’s purposes in Scripture are the foundation for Paul’s purposes in life.

Many people are trying to figure out the will of God for their life, but they have not stopped to ask what God’s purpose is in the world.

When I ask people what they want to do, I hear things like: “I want to be one of the best heart physicians in the world,” or “I want to own my own business,” or “I just want to make a good living—maybe six figures one day—and retire nicely.”

Those things are fine. But when I ask them what their agenda has to do with God’s agenda, I get blank stares.

We talk about finding God’s will. But it’s not really lost. God is doing something on earth, and he has told us about it very clearly in Scripture. Our understanding of our ambition has to begin with his.

If your life is not part of God’s grander purpose, then it is a purpose-less life, a wasted life—even if you do some really good things with it.

2. We must sense the gifting of God’s Spirit in us.

After Paul recognized the overarching purpose of God, spelled out in Scripture, he developed an ability to be led by the Spirit of God and learned from the Holy Spirit his specific role in the mission of God. You’ll never know your specific role in the mission of God until you understand the unique ways God has shaped you and the distinctive gifts he has given you for the mission.

So, how do you figure out what your specific role is in God’s mission in the world?

  • Practice whatever spiritual gifts you believe you have.
  • Be in discipling relationships. One of the best ways to figure out your spiritual giftings is by having others who can identify them in you and call them out.
  • Go on mission trips. It’s like the microwave version of learning these truths.
  • Lastly, think through this statement: Whatever you’re good at, do it well to the glory of God and do it somewhere strategic for the mission of God.

Whatever gift you have, interpret it in light of the bigger picture of God’s purposes stated in his Word—to get the gospel to the ends of the earth.

For more, be sure to listen to the entire message here.