Louie Giglio: Finding Purpose

louie-giglioThree years ago, I heard Pastor Louie Giglio speak at a college chapel service. I summarized his message below.


Giglio considers apologist Dr. Ravi Zacharias a church resource. However, he does not care about apologetics because we should not have to answer every argument. Giglio’s apologetic is “I’m in love with Jesus and you can’t stop me or argue me down.” His father is Catholic, his mother Southern Baptist. But Giglio does not have an argument with the church of old, so his life is not “the church has let us down.” It is full of broken people, so someone will let us down. We cannot pick a fight with the church or the past. Instead, we must move forward with Jesus and spend our passion on him. Jesus is the sure thing.

Giglio’s life verse is Colossians 3:17: “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”[1] He found freedom from the age-old question, “What am I going to do?” People today put high value on church planters to unreached people groups. Others like the fine arts. Where do they fit in God’s kingdom? Some think nowhere, as though there will be lines in heaven based on vocation. Church planters will be at the front, musicians next, etc. Yet God says we must do whatever we love and be good at it. Steve Jobs was wired to do his job, even if he missed heaven. So what matters is our motive, not the job we do.

Maybe we want to design women’s shoes. So how do we make it “Christian”? We should not over-spiritualize it. In other words, we should not call the company “His soles” or put a fish on the bottom of each shoe. We should not put a fish on our cars or anything else we do either. Instead, we must put the power of Jesus Christ under the hood. Does Ravi Zacharias have a fish on his car? No. He is exceptional at what he does and this is enough. The world wants great, not a fish. Daniel and the three Hebrew boys had tact and wisdom, which they needed in Babylon.

We are living in modern-day Babylon. We need tact and wisdom too. So we must lead with excellence, not a testimony. We cannot be half-hearted. “Can a Christian do it well?” This is what the world wants to know. Our fish is doing our jobs well. How will the world know about Jesus? We can run our businesses and treat our employees well, invest our earnings in God’s kingdom, and partner with local churches. We must replicate this model in everything we do.

We must dream big dreams and aim for the A grade, if we are capable of A-level work. C work does not make God look good. But if we are capable only of C, then we must produce C-level work for the glory of God. We must still not turn in shoddy work. Shoddy and shabby are not godly. We must let God shape us in each season of our lives. If we sacrifice, yield, and humble ourselves in certain areas now, then we will reap a reward in other areas later. God will help us every step of the way. He wants exceptional and extraordinary, and only he can make us that.

mount-rainierGiglio concluded his message with an extraordinary anecdote. He loves maps and studied geography at Georgia State. In one project, he had to study Mount Rainier in Washington state. So he learned everything he could about the mountain and told his teacher everything he knew on an exam. Giglio felt like an expert on Mount Rainier, yet he had never been there.

One year later, Giglio and a friend were backpacking in Washington. They ferried east to Seattle and began the trek to Mount Rainier. The next day, they stood in a meadow near Paradise Point. The weather was perfect. Giglio was excited about telling his friend what he knew about the mountain. When they stood in the meadow, he started crying because of its beauty. That night, the friends camped near Mount Rainier. God told him, “That was awesome, wasn’t it?” Giglio said he learned the difference then between knowing about something and knowing it, between knowing about Jesus and knowing him. A real change occurred in his relationship with God. So the only way to do our divine task is to fall in love with Jesus, the greatest apologetic there is.

My Impressions

I first heard the name Louie Giglio when I learned about the molecule laminin. He is an excellent speaker who connects with audiences well. I once liked Giglio’s advice: “The world wants great, not a fish.” In other words, we must aim for excellence, regardless of our individual calling. Our fish is doing our jobs well; this is how we tell the world about Jesus. I see now that this advice was worldly wisdom and it is leading people astray. Three years ago, I asked God to make my words like fire and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces (Jeremiah 23:29). I thought I had to learn to write well, which takes time, so that God could use me. But this was a lie. I was deceived.

william-wilberforce abolition slavery ioan-gruffudd amazing-graceGiglio is right about one thing. The church sees evangelism, medicine, preaching, singing, teaching, and writing as “sacred” vocations. All others are “secular.” Yet Paul was a tentmaker, William Carey a cobbler, and William Wilberforce a politician. I know a preacher (with no church salary) and a musician whose day jobs are painting and working at IBM, respectively. These men are 21st-century tentmakers. Still, we cannot do everything for the glory of God. Some professions are sinful and excellence is a vice – pole dancing, prostitution, making and selling harmful substances, etc. If we are born again, then we will not want to do them.

Giglio never mentioned this, but he did say something troubling: “Don’t worry or pray about finding your life’s purpose. The time is wasted. Just do what interests you and what you believe God has put in your heart to do” (not exact quote). In other words, “follow your heart.” This is bad advice! We do not know our deceitful, wicked hearts (Jeremiah 17:9). So how can we trust them to lead us into our calling? God alone knows our hearts because he formed them, so he knows what we should do with our lives – lives that belong to him. The Christian life consists of total dependence on God. We must submit our desires and plans to him like everything else. If we go our own way, then we are acting independently of God’s will, which is sin. The word “thoughts” in Isaiah 55:8-9 and Jeremiah 29:11 means “device, plan, purpose, invention … that which anyone meditates, purposes, or plots.” God’s thoughts are higher than ours. He planned world history. Cannot God also plan and direct our lives? We will not know unless we pray. Therefore, praying to God about life purpose and direction is not a waste of time.

“God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and … the weak things of the world to put to shame the … mighty, and the base things of the world and the things which are despised … and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence.” – 1 Corinthians 1:27-29

christian_fishThe worst part of Giglio’s message is his saying that “the world wants great, not a fish.” Jews wanted a sign and Greeks wisdom, not Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 1:22). Now the world wants greatness, a human striving for excellence. Yet giving it what it wants is sin. We must give the world what it needs instead. Not only that, the church’s task is being a witness to Jesus Christ in word and deed. Her one duty is evangelism, seeking souls for God’s kingdom (Matthew 28:18-20, Mark 16:15-16, Luke 24:46-49, Acts 1:8). Early believers shared the gospel using the Greek fish (icthys): Jesus Christ, God’s Son, Savior. The world desperately needs this fish, not greatness.

Greatness is enough to succeed in this world, but not in eternity. Only faith in Jesus Christ will lead us through the narrow gate to heaven. If we give the world greatness instead of Jesus, then what will happen at the Great White Throne Judgment (Revelation 20:11-15)? Will sinners see us and say, “You didn’t tell me about Jesus or warn me about hell”?

We must glory in Jesus rather than our sinful flesh. The church cannot operate in the flesh or seek greatness. If she did, then she would fail. The church is failing now because she strives for excellence through formal education, which wastes time. What we need instead is an instantaneous anointing, the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus, his disciples, and the apostles operated in the Spirit, so why not us? God does not want a human striving for greatness, which leads to glorying in self. It is also pointless toil, as the disciples experienced in a storm (Matthew 8) and as Peter experienced after he fished all night and caught nothing (John 21). If we work like them, then we will get nowhere fast.

God wants faith, obedience, submission, and sacrifice. When we give these things, receiving anointing after total surrender, then we will be like Peter and Stephen when they confronted the unbelieving Pharisees. The latter “marveled” that these “uneducated and untrained men” were bold witnesses because “they had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13). Neither were the Pharisees “able to resist the wisdom and the spirit by which [Stephen] spoke” (Acts 6:10). Their secret was not a human striving for greatness or an earned degree, but a Holy Spirit anointing.

Let us pray God gives sinners a hungry soul, seeking heart, and questing spirit and then leads these sinners to us. Let us also pray that he anoints our lips of clay to speak, sing, preach, and pray the truth in love with the divine power that alone will save souls. Finally, let us pray for God to anoint what we say and do in order to lead sinners to Jesus – the books and articles we write, the art and films we create, the songs we sing, the sermons we preach, and the prayers we pray. Imagine a sinful man watching a Christian film and feeling conviction as the credits roll. Or a sinful woman reads a Christian book and understands the truth of “it is finished.” Or a Christian burdened for her wayward child listens to an anointed version of “Through the Fire” and receives divine strength to pray. Can we imagine these scenarios?

holy-spirit-fireThe church needs divine anointing, not human excellence. The Holy Spirit alone will help her finish the task of evangelism. We must pray for anointing so that fire from heaven falls on us. We can receive this anointing only by sacrificing everything to Jesus. Only through total surrender will we have divine salt and aroma to attract sinners and repel the self-righteous (2 Corinthians 2:14-16). This is the secret of Abraham and Isaac (Genesis 22), the angel with Samson’s parents (Judges 13), Elijah on Mount Carmel (1 Kings 18), and the cross of Jesus Christ.

We must not let the sacred / secular division deter us from our divine calling. But we must pray and receive spiritual power for it. So please do not listen to Louie Giglio on this issue. Be a witness for Jesus. Give the world a fish.


[1] New King James Version (NKJV), unless otherwise noted

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