Meeting needs or pursuing God’s purpose?

On Thursday May 19, I had the joy of hearing Steve Hawthorne teach at the office of Frontiers, a mission organization located here in the Phoenix area.

Like many others who have been through Perspectives, I owe a great debt to Steve for his writings and work. What an inspiration!

Below are some thoughts based on some of Steve’s teaching that morning.

“I have glorified You on the earth, having finished the work that You gave Me to do.” –John 17:4 NAS

With regard to this verse, Steve said,

“Jesus references his life purpose in terms of what he did for God. … The Bible usually frames [missions / the story of redemption] in terms of what God gains for himself. Jesus wasn’t just meeting needs. Jesus was finishing. There was work. There was an actual task. He was not just keeping busy. Jesus had a task. He was able to say No to this and No that—because he knew his task.”

“He did not do everything that needed to be done. He could have said, I need more time. But Jesus was not framing his mission around his capacities. Nor around the needs of the world.”

There’s a difference between mission that is done to meet needs, and mission that is inside of God’s specific eternal, relational purpose, which Steve Hawthorne calls a “purpose-pursuit.”

While human needs are met along the way of this “purpose-pursuit,” at the core, this pursuit, this mission does not begin with human needs. Rather, the purpose of God is to gain glory for himself, for the sake of his name. He does this through his plan to bless all the peoples of the earth through Christ and Christ’s followers.

For they have gone out for the sake of the name, … –3 John 8 ESV

For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen. –Romans 11:36 ESV

What a profoundly relational enterprise! The final words of our Lord’s Great Commission are:

… And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age. –Matthew 28:20

The work of our calling and mission is not only “from him” and “to him”, but also “through him.” No wonder Jesus said, “I am with you always.” He is with us in an intimately collaborative work unto a wondrous fulfillment—“the end of the age.”

This specific fulfillment is rooted in the ancient purpose of God to bless all the peoples of the earth (Genesis 12:3). Ours is a supreme fellowship with a supreme global purpose—unto a supremely good and loving God.

Steve Hawthorne is the editor of the book, Perspectives on the World Christian Movement. He also wrote the article, “The Story of His Glory,”  which is lesson 2 in Perspectives, and which is the basis for the biblical component of Operation WorldView.

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