One Friday morning recently an amazing 87-year-old father took a walk with his Christian-worldview teaching son. The Arizona sun was beautiful, as it often is in the middle of winter. They walked along the desert trails north of Tempe Town Lake. The father asked his son about his continuing mission in life and what should get him up in the morning.
A Man on a Mission Loses His Mission
You see, this father had lost his wife and the mother of his son, a few months back after 65 years of marriage. For the last few years, his primary mission was taking care of her. Before that he worked almost his whole life in order that people from all backgrounds could access higher education.
A former community college president, he was now a professor emeritus of two universities. He was always a man on a mission. That mission was education, then caring for his wife, but now what? He was wondering if anything is left at his stage of life. He was asking why God still has him here on earth, a question that all of us should revisit from time to time.
The Mission: God’s Kingdom, Not Heaven
Well into the second mile of the hike, the rambling reflections of the son about purpose and mission led him to broach the subject of God’s kingdom and what a great purpose and compelling mission the kingdom is for anyone’s life. The father was quiet for a while. He seemed to be listening intently, but often when theological ideas arise, something gets lost in translation.
Apparently, that was the case here. When they started the third mile of the hike, the father shared what he heard when the “kingdom of God” was mentioned. For him, the kingdom of God was perhaps where his wife had gone, and where he might join her soon. So, it wasn’t particularly relevant to his daily life, much less his mission here and now.
“But the kingdom of God has nothing to do with the afterlife!” the son blurted out. This was an overstatement, but an understandable one. Equating “heaven” and the “kingdom of God” distorts so much of what is so important to God.
The “kingdom of God” is about God getting his way here and now, not just after people die. People get to partner with the God of the universe in his great kingdom purposes on earth! That is good news, a central part of the gospel. People get to be part of answering Jesus’ prayer, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10).
The Mission: Simply Doing God’s Will
Our lives have meaning and purpose. We are on a God-given mission. This is perhaps the most compelling reason for getting up in the morning, no matter the age or stage of life. Once we enter into God’s grace by faith through Jesus Christ, we will discover the good works God prepared in advance for us to do if we are attentive (Ephesians 2:8-10).
Mission Found: God Connects and Confirms the Mission
After the hike, over the next couple of days, a couple of God-things seemed to happen to the father in this story. What came up in the father/son conversation was confirmed and expanded on by the father’s pastor two days later in a Sunday sermon. And then he remembered a recent phone call with a close friend.
The friend’s wife was dying, and God gave the father a special role to comfort and be present in the friend’s life during that time. It was like God himself was speaking, first when he heard his son on the hike, then in his pastor’s sermon, and last in the phone call with his friend. God made it clear that he still has good works to do.
The Mission Is Still God’s Kingdom Come
The kinds of good works God calls us to do may change over time, but we are still on a mission. We can always be part of answering Jesus’ prayer, “your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). It seems the father in the story saw quite clearly that he could still do God’s will, that there was a reason that he was on earth, a reason that could still get him up in the morning.
And it seems to go without saying, God’s kingdom mission endures for each of us, wherever and whenever we are in life. So, it might just be worth it to get up in the morning to join God in his kingdom purposes.
Grand Canyon University has been training Christians in ministry since its inception. If you are interested in pursuing a career in ministry, GCU's College of Theology has many degree programs, including Bachelor of Arts in Christian Ministry and Bachelor of Arts in Christian Studies.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University.