What does it mean to have a purpose without power? Are we talking about having power or having a purpose? Or is there power in purpose? Sounds a bit confusing, does it not? There is an old story from roughly over 20 years ago about an elementary teacher. I do not know who the author is, so let me tell you my interpretation of the story and then we will go from there.
His name was Mr. Ed, and as he stood in front of his fifth-grade class on the first day of school, he told the children a lie. Like most teachers, he looked at his students and said that he loved them all the same. But that was impossible, because there in the front row, slumped in his seat, was a little boy named Tommy Sullivan.
Mr. Ed had watched Tommy the year before and noticed that he did not play well with the other children. His clothes were messy, and he constantly needed a bath. Tommy could be a bit unpleasant at times. It had gotten to the point to where Mr. Ed would actually take delight in marking his papers with a broad red marker, making bold X’s, and then putting a big red ‘F’ at the top of his papers.
At the school where Mr. Ed taught, he was required to review each child’s past records and he put Tommy’s off till last. However, when he reviewed his file, he was in for a surprise.
Tommy’s first-grade teacher wrote, “Tommy is a bright child with a ready laugh. He does his work neatly and has good manners…he is a joy to be around.”
His second-grade teacher wrote, “Tommy is an excellent student, well like by his classmates, but he is troubled because his father has a terminal illness and life at home must be a struggle.”
His third-grade teacher wrote, “His father’s death has been hard on him. He tries to do his best, but his mother doesn’t seem to show much interest and his home life will soon affect him if some steps aren’t taken.”
Tommy’s fourth-grade teacher wrote, “Tommy is withdrawn and doesn’t show much interest in school. He doesn’t have many friends and sometimes sleeps in class.”
By now, Mr. Ed realized the problem and he was ashamed of himself. He felt even worse when his students brought him Christmas presents, wrapped in nice ribbons and colorful paper, except for Tommy’s. His present was clumsily wrapped in the heavy brown paper that he got from a grocery bag. Mr. Ed took pains to open it in the middle of the other presents. Some of the children started to laugh when he found a rhinestone tie clasp with some of the stones missing. But he stifled the children’s laughter when he exclaimed how nice the tie clasp was as he put it on his own tie.
After the children left Mr. Ed sat solemnly with tears in his eyes for at least an hour. On that day, he quit teaching the basics and instead began really teaching the children. He paid particular attention to Tommy. As he worked with him, Tommy’s mind seemed to open up. The more encouragement he gave, the more Tommy’s mind seemed to come alive. By the end of the year, Tommy had become one of the smartest pupils in the class. And despite what he said about loving them all the same, Tommy had become one of the teacher’s pets.
A year later, Mr. Ed found a note on his desk from Tommy, telling him that he was still the best teacher he ever had in his life.
Six years passed before he received another letter from Tommy. In this letter, Tommy wrote that he had finished high school, and that he was still the best teacher he had ever had.
Four more years passed, then he received another letter. It said that although things have sometimes gotten rough, he stayed in school and that he would soon graduate from college with high honors. He assured Mr. Ed that he was still the best teacher that he had ever had.
Four more years passed and then another letter came. This time it explained that after he had finished college, he went further. It still read that Mr. Ed was the best teacher that he had ever had. It was signed, Dr. Thomas Sullivan.
The story does not end just yet. You see, there was another letter that came. Tommy said that he had met a young lady and was to be married. He explained that his mother had died recently and was wondering if Mr. Ed would sit at the seat that was usually assigned to the parents of the groom. And of course, Mr. Ed did, while wearing the tie clasp with the missing rhinestones.
Dr. Sullivan gave Mr. Ed a hug and thanked him for believing in him and making him feel important and showing him that he could make a difference.
Mr. Ed replied, “Tommy, it was you who taught me that I could make a difference. I was not truly teaching until I met you.”
Now this story may sound a bit outlandish but there is a point to it. You see God has a purpose and a plan for all people. Though we may face problems that may go against God’s plan, there should not be walls to prevent us from believing in his Word (Ecclesiastes 3:1).
God’s purpose cannot be defeated. Regardless of if we choose to admit it, do not use what we do not understand as an excuse for not trusting in God (Job 42:2).
God’s purpose endures. Man will make plans based upon decisions and motives that he has determined for himself. Many times, these will lead us toward the wrong direction. Regardless of whether we choose to or not, God’s plans are what prevails in our lives (Proverbs 19:21).
Every Christian has a purpose. When we accept Christ as our personal Savior, a purpose for us is planted. We may not know and understand what it is. But as we grow in the knowledge and in faith in Christ, that purpose will be revealed (Proverbs 20:5).
God’s purpose is brought to fruition. To transform our desires to be more like to Christ, we need the power of the Holy Spirit (1:19), the impact of loyal Christians, dutifulness to God's Word, and to serve sacrificially (Philippians 2:13).
God’s purpose is fulfilled regardless of the situation we may face. The Christian’s goal is to be like Christ (1 John 3:2). As we become increasingly more like him, we will find our true selves. We can be seen in his image by the reading and the studying to his Word, by examining his life on earth through the Gospels, by being filled with the Holy Spirit, and by performing the Lord’s work here on earth (Romans 8:28).
Paul changes from the suffering for the gospel to the blessed life to which Christians are called. Both Paul and Timothy had been saved and were given a calling to serve others in ministry. Salvation is not based on our extraordinary deeds, yet by God’s power (Ephesians 2:8-9). This is also true for those for a calling to serve others in the ministry: it is not due to the aftereffect of our efforts. The calling of each individual who serves in a ministry is backed by God’s grace and purpose (2 Timothy 1:9).
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