Focusing on Your Primary Purpose

By Dr. Mark D. Roberts 

But Jesus replied, "We must go on to other towns as well, and I will preach to them, too. That is why I came." (Mark 1:38)

Shortly after Jesus began his ministry in Capernaum, he arose early one morning to find an isolated place where he could pray without interruption. That didn't last too long, however, because his disciples looked for Jesus to tell him what they surely believed to be happy news: "Everyone is looking for you" (1:37). An expanded paraphrase might read, "Jesus, you've made it. You're a hit! Everybody wants more of you. Congratulations!"

Naturally, the disciples assumed that Jesus would leave his solitary place of prayer in order to please the masses. But then he said a strange thing: "We must go on to other towns as well, and I will preach to them, too. That is why I came" (1:38). Jesus understood that he was not sent only to Capernaum and the immediately surrounding region. Rather, his mission would take him across Galilee, and ultimately to Judea and Jerusalem. Along the way, he would disappoint the crowds who wanted more of him.

Nothing can distract us from our true purpose in life quite like popularity. Even when we know God has called us to some particular work, we can be tempted to focus our energies on some other venture if that's what people like. Many pastors, for example, find it easier to preach on what people like than on what they need spiritually. Business leaders sometimes work long hours because the praise they get at work is much more pleasing than the challenges of family life. Popularity is not necessarily bad, of course. But it can be a poor measure of what God wants us to do with our lives.

Jesus did not let his popularity distract him from his true purpose. Rather, he remained faithful in his calling. So he left behind the adoring and needy crowds in Capernaum in order to preach the good news of the kingdom in other places.

Questions for Reflection: When have you been tempted to focus on what is popular rather than what you're really supposed to do with your life? What helps you to fulfill your calling in life, even when it is hard, even when it is unpopular?

Prayer:  Lord Jesus, when I read this story from Mark, I'm reminded of how easily I can become distracted from my primary purpose in life. When people want me to do something for them, when I am even popular, I can be led astray, not so much into sin, as into activity that isn't consistent with what you have called me to do.

Help me, Lord, to do in my work that which is most important, whether or not it is the thing that brings the most praise.

Help me, Lord, to be faithful in my closest relationships, especially with my family. Keep me from getting so wrapped up in work that I forget the relational dimension of my calling.

Above all, may I give first place in life to my relationship with you. May I live for your pleasure most of all.  Amen.

Mark D. Roberts, as Senior Director and Scholar-in-Residence for Laity Lodge, is an advisor and frequent contributor to A Presbyterian pastor, Mark earned his Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard University. He has written six books, including No Holds Barred: Wrestling with God in Prayer (WaterBrook, 2005). He blogs daily at, and the meditations he writes for The High Calling will be featured here every Thursday.

See a video interview of Dr. Roberts here and here.

10/30/2009 4:00:00 AM
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    About Mark Roberts
    Mark D. Roberts is Senior Director and Scholar-in-Residence for Laity Lodge, a retreat and renewal ministry in Texas. He blogs at Patheos and writes daily devotionals at, and he can also be followed through Twitter and Facebook.