Today we are going to look at choosing purpose over popularity and while it seems like this might be an easy choice, if we are honest with ourselves, it is not. In so many ways, being popular is driving our culture. People are consumed with how many friends they have on facebook, how many people have liked a picture on instagram or how many times their video or post has been shared. If you spend any time at all on social media then you know how this works. Under every post and picture we see how many people have liked it, how many people have commented on it and how many people have shared it. If the picture or post isn’t liked or shared enough, we feel insecure and inferior. Why hasn’t anyone liked it? Why hasn’t anyone shared it? Don’t people like me? Don’t people think I’m funny and witty? I must not be popular. People must not like me. Maybe I need to post something else. When our sense of value and self worth is being determined by the number of likes, loves, shares, hashtags and comments we get then we are choosing popularity over purpose. When we live to please others at all costs, we are choosing popularity over purpose.
Most of us want to be popular, we want to be liked and loved and we work hard to please other people. How many of us might define ourselves as people pleasers, but popularity is fleeting and it does not bring lasting and ultimate fulfillment. Choosing to be popular is a constant chasing after the wind because fads and tastes change and we have to be constantly comparing ourselves to others in order to make sure we measure up and keep in step and end up on top. The other problem with choosing to be popular above all things is that we often do this at the expense of a greater purpose in life and let me be clear – our purpose in life is not to be popular. While there are some people who make this their purpose in life, simply being popular is never a God given purpose.
When I talk about our God given purpose this morning, I am not talking about our BIG purpose in life, like what I am supposed to do with my life, I am talking about the daily purpose of our lives. As followers of Jesus, our purpose is to love God and love others. Our purpose is to pray for people and encourage those around us. Our purpose is to lift people up and not tear them down and anywhere and everywhere we are our purpose is to center our hearts and minds on God through worship and prayer. Our purpose is to please God in all the little daily choices that we make.
Moses was a man who chose purpose over popularity and it made all the difference for him and for the people of God. Moses was born as a Hebrew slave but was brought up as the grandson of Pharaoh. Moses grew up with all the rights and privileges of royalty and he could have chosen pleasure, power and popularity as the focus of his life but at some point he realized that God had created him for something more and he chose that purpose over being popular. Hebrews 11:24-26.
For Moses, to stay popular in the courts of Pharaoh would have meant denying God and the life God was calling him to live and this is often the choice we have to make. We were created to live in relationship with God and to love God and to serve God but when the world doesn’t love God and when the world tells us it’s ok to serve ourselves, then being popular and living with purpose won’t go hand in hand. At school, at work, in sports and among our friends and at times even in our family, we often have to choose between being popular and living with the purpose of walking with Jesus.
When we do choose purpose over popularity, three powerful things happen in our lives because living with purpose:
1. diminishes distractions
2. pushes us through pain
3. empowers us to please God.
Choosing purpose over popularity diminishes distractions. One of the biggest distractions in life is the time and energy we spend comparing ourselves to others. Are my grades as good as my friends? Are our children excelling in sports, music and dance at the same pace as others? Am I am keeping up at work? Does my family look like others? Are my clothes as fashionable? My finances as solid? We spend so much time and energy comparing ourselves with others that we fail to live the life God has for us. We trade following Jesus for following the Jones and that leads to anxiety, stress and a worry that consumes us.
One of the other big distractions in life when we choose popularity comes with social media. While there is a time and place for sharing our lives with others through facebook, instagram, snap chat and all the other social networks, trying to keep pace with everyone and comparing our lives with the lives of those we see online can consume huge amounts of time, time that could be spent fulfilling our purpose as followers of Jesus. An hour less on facebook can be an hour more with family, with Jesus in the word, with God in prayer, serving in the community. So the more we focus on our purpose the less we allow our lives to get pulled away into things that don’t matter or won’t move us forward.
We see the power that comes with this kind of focus in the life of another Old Testament leader – Nehemiah. Nehemiah’s big purpose in life was to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem after they had laid in ruin for years. With a laser like focus, Nehemiah went to Jerusalem with a plan to rebuild the walls and he put people to work, but not everyone wanted the walls rebuilt. Those who opposed Nehemiah came to him and asked if they could meet together outside of the city. They were trying to distract Nehemiah and pull him off the wall and away from his work but Nehemiah stayed focused on his purpose. He said, I am doing a great work and can’t come down. 4 times the opposition came to Nehemiah and each time he said, I am doing a great work and can’t come down.
The opposition didn’t quit; they tried to distract Nehemiah in other ways and this is the story of our lives. Many things try to pull us away from God and the life God wants for us and the life we want to live and the power of choosing purpose is that it helps diminish these distractions by focusing us on the great work we are doing. That great work might be working hard in school and that needs to be our focus when friends are calling us to go out and have some fun. The great work may be getting out of debt and that needs to be our focus when others are saying buy now, spend now, go out to lunch with us now and worry about the debt later. The great work may be sticking with a marriage when others are saying move on. The great work may be spending time in Bible Studies and Small Groups and Worship when others are saying those things won’t help you get far in life and they aren’t much fun anyway, so don’t bother.
The great work in our lives isn’t always the big purpose but the daily purpose and we need to choose that purpose over popularity. I invite you this week to identify the great work God has called you to. It might be something big, but I would invite you to identify all the little daily things that make up the great work you are doing, like reading God’s word, attending a small group, working hard in school and putting kids and family first. The more we choose these daily purposes the more we will end up where we want to be now and these choices will shape our lives for the future.
Choosing purpose over popularity also pushes us through pain. There will be pain in all of our lives and what will help us move through the pain won’t be our popularity but the power God gives us when we are following Jesus. The Bible is full of people who experienced great pain and obstacles as they followed the purpose God had for them but by following that purpose they found the strength to carry on.
When Moses left Pharaoh’s court and led the people of Israel out of Egypt, through the Red Sea and into the wilderness for 40 years, it was not easy. Moses faced daily struggles, but with each one he found the strength and power to keep going. Nehemiah faced challenges but by staying focused on his purpose he made it through and rebuilt the walls which helped rebuild the city of Jerusalem and the nation of Israel. Think about Mary, the mother of Jesus. She chose purpose over popularity and while it wasn’t easy, she found strength and power to make it through all the challenges of life. So did Jesus. Time and again Jesus chose his purpose as the Christ, the savior of the world, and that was the motivation that pushed him through the pain of the cross to the power of new life.
Pain and obstacles will come into all of our lives and if every day we choose our purpose we will find the strength and motivation to move forward. Things will get hard in school and at work and in our families but we won’t give in or give up because we have given ourselves to the great work laid before us. A sense of purpose and living for someone and something larger than ourselves gives us strength and power to overcome. The power doesn’t come from us, but from God who gives us the purpose. The Bible says, I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.
Choosing purpose also empower us to please God. Since God’s purpose for us is to love Him and to love others, when we give ourselves to that purpose we know that we are pleasing God. Giving ourselves to the daily purposes God has for us will help us please God and that in turn gives us more power to live out the small and big purposes God has for us. The disciples show us this.
After Jesus rose from the dead and ascended into heaven, the disciples were given a purpose, make disciples of all nations. They were to talk about Jesus and share his message, love and power with others, but the world around them was still very hostile to Jesus and his way so to live this way and make this choice, was not easy. The disciples faced opposition and persecution but they chose purpose over popularity. They choose purpose over comfort and safety and each time they did they received more power to live in ways that pleased God. Both Peter and John had been arrested for preaching about Jesus but because they remained faithful and committed to the purpose of sharing Jesus, they were set free from jail and said to their opposition, We must obey God rather than men! (Acts 5:29)
And they did. Peter and John continued to live out the purpose God had for them, they pleased God and not the world. They put purpose before popularity and their lives were changed and the world was changed through them. When we are willing to choose purpose over popularity, our lives will be changed and through us the world is changed. Maybe not in big earth shattering ways, but in very small and yet profound ways we bring life to others. I got a sense of this the summer I worked in Rocky Mountain National Park.
My purpose in being there was not just to work at a job but to be part of ACMNP and provide worship services on Sunday. Everyone knew I did this because I was one of only three people who got Sunday’s off. Since everyone knew I was a Christian. I knew there were times I had to choose that purpose over popularity. I chose purpose over going out to get drunk. I chose purpose over hooking up with different people all summer. I chose purpose in how I treated people and responded to different situations at work and at the end of the summer a woman who, let’s just say choose being popular, came up to me and said, don’t let anyone ever change you. I hadn’t realized she had seen anything different in me, but she had. My choices had made a difference, maybe not a big difference, but a difference.
When we choose purpose over popularity we not only live the lives God wants us to live, find power to get through the pain and please God, but we are shaping the lives of others and pointing them to Jesus. While there is value in being liked by people, there is greater value in being loved by God and living in response to that love. Choose purpose over popularity. Choose Jesus and choose life.
Purpose Over Popularity
1. What choices have shaped your life?
• Best choices I’ve made:________________________
• Bad choices I’ve made:________________________
2. In what ways do you seek to be popular? How might this keep you from God’s purpose and from living out your faith?
3. What is the BIG purpose of your life?
4. What is the DAILY purpose of your life?
5. Purpose diminishes distractions. Read Nehemiah 6.
What is the great work God has given you to do in this season of your life?
6. Purpose pushes you through the pain. What obstacles and pain are you facing today? How does living for Jesus help?
7. Purpose empowers us to please God. Identify one daily purposes of your life that is a blessing to others and is pleasing to God. Commit to that purpose each day this week.
Prayer for the week: God, there is power in purpose – especially Your purpose. I am asking You to refocus my attention to the passions and plans You’ve placed in my life. Help me to make pleasing You the main thing. AMEN