It didn’t happen overnight. Simon Peter took many missteps along the way, but God changed him from an ordinary fisherman into a dynamic preacher. His story inspires us to discern God’s purpose for our lives. We can step out in faith, even though we, too, may stumble along the way.
Simon’s brother, Andrew, introduced him to Jesus, who immediately dubbed Simon as Cephas, translated “Peter” and meaning “stone” (John 1:42). The brothers were fishermen, and when Jesus invited them to fish for people, they left everything and followed Him (Luke 5:11).
Peter experienced failures on the road to finding his purpose. Before obeying, he balked when Jesus told him to row out farther and let down his net (v. 5). Then when Jesus invited Peter and two other disciples to join him in Gethsemane as He prayed, they fell sound asleep (Matthew 26:40). And Peter flatly denied any association with Jesus when he was questioned before the Crucifixion (Luke 22:57).
Even so, Peter was the first to profess Christ as the Son of God. And Jesus indicated that “on this rock” — Peter’s revelation from God and his confession of Christ — the church would be built (Matthew 16:16-18). After the Holy Spirit fell at Pentecost, this man preached such a powerful sermon that three thousand people joined the community of believers (Acts 2:14-41).
Peter later wrote to persecuted believers, urging them to keep the faith and use their spiritual gifts: “As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God” (1 Peter 4:10). This apostle had discovered his spiritual gift and his purpose, and he wanted all believers to find their niche in building the kingdom.
The journey to finding purpose takes trial and error and time. My journey began as a young woman teaching an after-school Bible club in my home. Twenty-some neighborhood kids trudged into my living room each Wednesday. After cookies and drinks, the children settled down to sing songs, hear Bible and missionary stories, and play a game.
In time, I recruited a neighbor to host our meetings, and another woman joined us to tell the missionary story. I treasure the well-rounded Bible education I received in teaching curriculum that led through the Bible over five years. But as a high school teacher, I did not feel I related best to children other than my own.
Then my pastor suggested I earn a master’s degree in Christian education and join our church staff. As a director of Christian education, I began teaching adults and doing administrative work to keep a growing congregation learning. There I found my purpose, and I especially enjoyed helping others find theirs.
After ten years, I left that position to devote myself to writing, and after publishing a book, I enjoyed a speaking ministry. Like Peter, my audience, role, and purpose changed through the years.
Spiritual gifts and talents
We find listings of spiritual gifts in Scripture:
Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness
Online inventories abound where Christians can discover their spiritual gifts. We may have personal preferences that point to them, or friends might tell us the gifts they see in us. We may discover our gifts through activities we enjoy. For instance, someone who enjoys sharing the gospel may have the gift of evangelism.
Not all spiritual gifts put you in the limelight or even in front of a class of wiggly youngsters. Many devoted Christians serve behind the scenes. Think of the man whose name was Joses but was dubbed by the disciples as Barnabas, meaning “Son of Encouragement.”
We first meet Barnabas in Acts 4:36, 37 when he sold a parcel of land and gave the money to the apostles. He later traveled with Saul to Antioch: “When he came and had seen the grace of God, he was glad, and encouraged them all that with purpose of heart they should continue with the Lord” (Acts 11:23). Barnabas’ spiritual gift and purpose was to encourage others.
Then there are our talents. Musical skills and aptitudes can be used within congregations, and people who are good with numbers might serve as financial advisors. Even our workplace training might be utilized for the Lord. Perhaps we’ve developed computer or technology skills. Christian organizations need people in those fields.
Your purpose may lie in raising godly children or touching your family for God. Christiana Tsai of China led fifty-five relatives to find new life in Christ after she chose to live at her family’s apartment complex rather than accept positions in the workplace.
“Pay careful attention to your own work, for then you will get the satisfaction of a job well done, and you won’t need to compare yourself to anyone else” (Galatians 6:4, NLT).
Every Christian has a spiritual gift or a talent to offer the Lord that defines our purpose in life. Step out in faith and find it. And in exchange, the Lord will fill your heart with peace, joy, and a deep feeling of satisfaction.