Let me admit up front that I don't claim to know the details of God's purpose for your life -- but I'm sure he has one. Since 90% of success is just showing up, I thought it might be valuable to explain the basic, overarching themes that will inevitably form the foundation of God's purpose for you. God will reveal the details to you himself through various means, but I can guarantee that they will be consistent with the framework below.
We all want to know why we exist, and when I talk with children (and many adults) they often have extremely self-serving, shallow understandings of what God wants to use them for. Among the common claims are that God wants them to, e.g., help animals, be an artist, raise their children, be a teacher, be happy, and so forth. None of these things are bad, but if they are components of God's will for a person's life they are very small ones. Most of these things are entirely unimportant and have no eternal value whatsoever, and even raising kids is often done with very little conception of how it is that God wants children to be raised. Most of the things that people think are important parts of their purpose in life are, in fact, completely worthless garbage (Psalm 14:1-3).
So then, what is important? What things have eternal value? Well there isn't much that's going to be around for eternity (Revelation 21), but we will be. Each and every human being was created for eternity, which is a concept that's hard to grasp. Eternity means more than "for an unlimited amount of time", because time has no meaning in eternity -- we are spiritual beings who exist outside time itself, and are only temporarily bound to this present creation (Philippians 3:20-21). We are all destined for eternity, and God has given us the choice of how we want to spend it. Despite the evil we do -- and the eternal death we earn by it -- God offers us eternal life instead, if we are willing to accept it (Romans 6:23). Lest anyone think God to be cruel or unjust, this eternal life is offered to everyone as a free gift that does not have to be earned by human goodness (Ephesians 2:8-9). How? It's amazingly simple: we must admit our evil to God (1 John 1:9) and accept Jesus Christ's death as a substitutionary payment made on our behalf (Hebrews 10:14). Those things that are of eternal value all relate to this most critical decision.
Let's consider the Great Commandments and the Great Commission to see what things Jesus considered important enough to command us to do. First, the Great Commandments:
Matthew 22:24-40Next, the Great Commission, the last known words that Jesus spoke before returning to Heaven:
Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question:
"Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" Jesus replied: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."
Matthew 28:18-20From these two passages we can glean five important purposes that undergird the plan God has for your life. By aligning yourself to these principles you will fulfill the "showing up" that is 90% of success.
Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in[to] the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."
First and foremost, we were created to woship and love God. It is the first commandment. Our relationship with God is completely individual and does not depend on any other human. God deals with us each personally, and unlike the Jews of the Old Testament we do not require priests to act as intermediaries for us -- Jesus Christ now serves as a permanent high priest, bridging the gap between a perfect God and sinful men (Hebrews 7:11-28). We worship God through a life of love, praise, humility, service, intimacy, hope, and faith. As the primary building block of our created purpose, worship is interleaved with the others pieces I'll consider below.
The second principle is fellowship, between God and man and among men. The idea of fellowship is fundamental to both the Great Commandments and the Great Commission, as it's impossible to love either God or men without knowing them, and it's likewise impossible to go and teach. We are brought into fellowship with God when we accept Christ's death as payment for our evil actions and thereby obtain forgiveness, and we are brought into fellowship with other men when we are taught by other Christians and we in turn teach others. The Bible calls the church (and local churches individually) "the body of Christ", and every Christian is designed to be a part of it and to thrive in a particular role (1 Corinthians 12:12-27). Just as an eye or an ear alone is worthless without the rest of the body, a lone Christian cannot fulfill the purpose God has for his life. Therefore, if you want to be used by God you must be a part of a church and in fellowship with both God and other believers. In fact, it is impossible to be right with God if you are not right with men (1 John 4:20).
Third is commonly referred to as discipleship -- that is, teaching and learning. We are commanded to "go and make disciples", and in order to do that we must be disciples ourselves. God reveals truth to us -- we do not "discover" it ourselves or create our own conception of what truth is -- as an act of the Holy Spirit (John 14:26), who is God. The Holy Spirit generally reveals truth through study of the Bible (2 Timothy 2:15, 2 Timothy 3:16), through other members of the church (Proverbs 19:20), through prayer, and through our experiences. It's easy for us to project our own desires onto any of these and thereby allow ourselves to believe that whatever we want is also what God wants for us, but when we're honest with ourselves we can generally discern the difference. Furthermore, we have a responsibility to understand what we believe and to be able to explain it to others (1 Peter 3:15). The single best advice I can give to anyone who wants to grow in their relationship with God is to read the Bible daily and to be frequently in prayer. Don't expect messages written in the sky if you're presently neglecting the most straightforward way God has created to speak with you: his written Word.
Fourth is service -- that is, we are designed to serve each other. This service falls into two major categories: evangelism and ministry. Evangelism is targetted at unbelievers, to whom nothing is more important than hearing about and believing in Jesus Christ. Ministry is service to other believers, and generally revolves around fellowship and discipleship -- although, for example, playing music can be a form of ministry that facilitates worship through song. As eyes, ears, hands, feet, and so forth in the body of Christ, we each have a purpose to fulfill within the fellowship of believers (the church), and we've each been given different abilities (1 Corinthians 12:4-11). When we use these abilities to support each other, teach each other, protect each other, provide for each other, and encourage each other to do good (Hebrews 10:24-25) we fulfill an essential part of God's purpose for our lives.
Fifth and finally, the second component of service is evangelism. Jesus commands us to "go and make disciples", and there's no such thing as a secret Christian. It's impossible to please God if you're unwilling to obey him, and in fact most people who struggle don't really have an obedience problem, they have a love problem (1 John 5:2-3) -- that is, they don't really love God as much as they may think they do. We can say anything we want, but the truth is revealed by our actions. Likewise, we claim to love our unbelieving family and friends, but we're then hesitant to share the truth with them about their eternal destiny and their one hope for escape through Jesus Christ (John 14:6). We don't want to offend, we don't want to risk friendships, and in the end we'd prefer to be comfortable than to do the work God has commanded us to do. Consider the fact that God loves our family and friends far more than we do, and when we refuse to share the Good News with them we are deliberately thwarting God's purpose and acting as his enemies rather than his children. We are commanded to love our fellowman, and Jesus said that:
John 15:13He gave up his life to restore us to fellowship with God, and yet we are often so reluctant to sacrifice the tiniest bit of convenience to share his love with others. God's purpose for your life will absolutely encompass a mission field and a group of people God intends to save through you.
Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.
The rest is just details. Where does God want you to live? Where does God want you to work? Who does God want you to marry? What does God want you to eat for lunch? Mere trivia. Once you structure your life around the five principles above all these other decisions will fall into place as God reveals his day-to-day plan for your life. Do you want to do something "big" for God? Then start by doing these "small" things (Matthew 25:21). Each task builds upon what came before it as God prepares you not just for the rest of this life, but also for eternity. God doesn't intend his plan to be a mysteryto you, and he is constantly working to reveal himself despite the clouds of distraction that tear our gazes away from him. As Jesus exhorted his followers:
John 15:9-17(See also: The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren.)
As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit--fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. This is my command: Love each other.