Our life’s purpose is found in how we maximize our gifts and passions for the people around us, and for causes larger than ourselves.
By Brian Liu, Yeo Zhi Qi & Yong Yung Shin
On a clear, starry night in rural Zambia, Africa some years ago, Dr Robi Sonderegger was trying to explain the concept of rockets, telescopes and satellites to a “primitive” bushman, who then asked what they were looking for in outer space. When Sonderegger replied that they were “searching for the meaning of life”, the bushman replied, “You mazungo (white people) are so primitive! You don’t look for the meaning of life out there, you look for it in here,” pointing to his heart.
With his gift for animated role-play, it was a hilarious recount that had the congregation in guffaws, but there was a profound message at the center of it—the meaning of life is not found in things in far and distant places, but in one’s heart and its knitting with that of others through relationships.
Over the second session on the Saturday evening of Feb. 4, Sonderegger peeled back the layers of the big question: “What is my purpose here on earth?” while addressing issues of identity and self-worth.
“Everything in this universe was designed for a purpose and a relationship, such that everything plays a role in contributing to something else outside it,” he said.
In order to determine our value or worth, we first need to identify why we are here—our purpose. But to identify our purpose, we need to identify who we are, and to do that, we need to know the One who created us, God Himself.
There is a difference between gifts and skills, said Sonderegger. While the former is something we are born with, the latter is something we acquire through practice and effort, which then leads to talent—being exceptional at something.
As in Jesus’ parable of the talents, believers are to diligently “multiply our talents”, i.e responsibly developing the natural gifts we have in order to make a meaningful contribution in the lives of others. To those who have a tendency to compare their gifts and skills with others, he says, “It’s not about what you’ve got but what you do with what you’ve got.”
Addressing the lack of confidence many people have with using their talents, Sonderegger used the analogy of a spotlight. Just as we cannot see around us clearly when there is a spotlight shining on us in an otherwise dark room thus causing us to be unsure in our steps, we lack confidence when our thoughts are centered on ourselves; it is only when the spotlight is directed away from us onto others, that we can see clearly and take action confidently.
One’s purpose in life, therefore, is found in developing and investing in our gifts to achieve talent, and combining that talent with passion (issues beyond our self-interests which capture our heart and engage us emotionally) so as to make an effective and valuable contribution in the lives of others.
To wrap up, he gave five pointers for channeling one’s gifts, skills, interests and passion wisely:
- Whatever gifts you have, invest in it wisely and develop it to a degree of mastery in order to make a meaningful contribution in another’s life.
- Do something nice for a friend or family member for no reason.
- Do something nice for somebody you don’t know so well, for example, a neighbor or an acquaintance.
- Do something nice for somebody you don’t like. There is a gift that is returned to you even though it is not the objective, and that gift is confidence.
- Do the right thing because it’s the right thing to do and not for praise or accolades.
Read about Dr Robi Sonderegger’s other sessions: