What does released purpose look like in a man or woman? We can see three major stages:

1) Released identity and assignments: the person comes to a mature understanding of the Word’s revelation of who he or she is in Jesus, personally identifies as a follower redeemed and sustained by Him, walks with God in everyday life, receives clear direction from the Holy Spirit, understands individual assignments from God, and faithfully walks in them. This person bears fruit, and so many Christians think this realization is the maximum level of maturity. However, we can read in the Bible about people like David who pioneered so much intimacy with the Lord at a national level, or like Nehemiah who somehow got the wall built, and we say to ourselves that these were just somehow extraordinary men who God created and dealt with differently, never wondering if God has such a destiny in store for us if we desire more. Fruit is produced at this stage, and some converts and disciples might be made, but one’ own children may or may not continue the faith, and there’s a frustrating lack of power. That’s because there’s more to release.

2) Released alliances and community: the person comes to a mature practice of being discipled and discipling others to greater depths and heights of experiencing the love of Christ. This person understands God’s purpose for the church, experiences being His bride, and lives in spiritual and material unity with other disciples on a regular basis beyond his or her own family. It comes naturally to serve another man’s vision, or to unlock spiritual gifts in others, or to work together to gather the harvest, or any other particular assignments God gives to pairs, triplets, or other small groups to fulfill together. Released alliances are not about working on projects together so much as to be empowered by God to live as one person with respect to bearing a particular fruit in a particular place. Marriages and deep friendships are common manifestations of a divine alliance, but God’s spiritual unity at this intimate level can operate for a time among near-perfect strangers who are themselves empowered by the Holy Spirit to bear fruit even before they know one another in the natural. The power to achieve what God put on one’s heart so long ago is realized in community and being a part of the real, universal church of God’s people. The very wise and mature often say that they didn’t fully understand themselves until they understood God and His heart and purpose for the church. God works through the whole church, the bride He is preparing.

3) Released purpose, calling, and design: the person comes to a mature fulfillment of what God always had in mind when He was excited to see you born for such a time as this. One can say as David did, “I have fulfilled the purposes of God in my generation.” Or as Paul, “I was not disobedient to the heavenly calling.” Or as Jesus, “I glorified You on earth, having accomplished the work that You gave me to do.” While these specific quotes were spoken by men near the end of their times on earth, the kind of men they were in the years prior were the kind of men who would do the works needed to be able to make these statements. They knew without hesitation what the Creator of the Universe prepared in advance for them to do and pursued it with violent hope, faith, and love. The mature passionately pursue that for which Christ pursued them and can name it. They may not have words to fully express it, and even if they did, hearers probably wouldn’t understand it, but they know that they know specifically what Jesus yearns for in them.