Purpose Driven Life has sold over 50 million copies, has been translated into over 130 languages, and landed its author on TIME Magazine’s lists of the most influential people in the world. Yet, author Rick Warren had no idea that God would use this book to reach and help so many people.
Warren is also founding pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, CA with campuses around the world including LA, Hong Kong, and Berlin.
“When I was typing this book, I had no idea that God was going to use it like this, I knew it was anointed but I didn’t know it was going to be a best seller. I knew it was anointed and tears would be flowing down.”
As the tears were flowing and the Holy Spirit was using Rick to write a book that would touch millions of people’s lives including Olympic Gold Medalist, Michael Phelps, and singer Selena Gomez among millions of others.
As Warren recalled writing Purpose Driven Life, he recollected thinking that God was really speaking to him and through him as he typed the book.
“I am not this good, I can’t say this on my own, this is the Holy Spirit here talking through me.”
As he wrote for hours each day, Warren realized this was not going to be just any book, but one that would be used by God in a special way. “I was being used differently than any book I’ve ever written or read.”
Rick recalls writing the first four words of the book, “It’s not about you.” “I had no idea how many times I would be tested on that the rest of my life. “Sometimes I think I’m tested 50 times a day on that sentence, ‘it’s not about you.’” When he’s praised by others, he remembers it’s not about him, and when he is criticized unfairly, he remembers it’s not about him.
In his usual humble self, Rick Warren took the focus off himself and put it on God when Matt and Laurie Crouch of TBN interviewed him. Warren talked about not having it all together or knowing everything, even though he wrote the book. “Even authors forget what they write. Just because you write something doesn’t mean you know it all.”
Before he wrote Purpose Driven Life, Pastor Rick explained he looked at books that have been around for 500 years or more and asked himself the question, “how do you write a book in the last 500 years?” Inspired by the desert fathers and books like The Imitation of Christ. Rick realized to make a book last 500 years you have to not be contemporary.
“If you look at this book there are no stories, which is the exact opposite of what anyone will tell you.”
Rick didn’t use any stories in The Purpose Driven Life other than the timeless stories of Scripture like Moses. Focusing on helping people is what Warren explains as his motivation and helping people answer the most fundamental questions of life, existence, and purpose.
“There is no more fundamental question than why I am alive. what am I here for? There is the question of existence, why am I alive, there’s the question of significance, does my life matter? The question of purpose what am I here for? You don’t get any more basic than that.
For Warren, it’s about fulfilling God’s will in his life and helping others do the same.
“My life verse is, ‘David served God’s purpose in his generation and then he died.’” He served God’s purpose in his generation- that’s eternal it never changes. But he did it in his generation, that’s contemporary.
This kind of global impact doesn’t come without a battle though. Warren and his wife were walking through cancer treatments when the book was at the height of its success. The book was selling millions of copies every month and Warren and his wife Kay were at home ill and going through their own trials. God proved himself faithful time and time again and brought Rick and Kay through this trial and has used the book to open doors for ministry around the world including their AIDS ministry in Africa.
The key, according to Warren was to make the book clear and the message on point. Purpose Driven Life (PDL) was written so that everyone could read it, understand it, and apply the principles.
“Jesus said profound things in simple ways. Simple doesn’t mean shallow, or simplistic, it means clear. I wrote PDL basically t a 4th-grade level that’s why it’s the most translated book because it’s easy to translate. It’s straight and to the point.”
The book has been translated into over 130 languages.
Warren explained PDL was inspired by his time ministering to people before they die. He shared with Matt and Laurie Crouch on TBN that the last things people say before they die are often very profound. People dying don’t ask for material things or their trophies or diplomas, they want people around them and eventually, they realize it’s all about love explained Warren.
Warren went on to touch on what he identifies in the book as God’s five purposes for our lives :
- You were planned for God’s pleasure
- Formed for God’s family
- Created to become like Christ
- Shaped to serve God
- Made for a mission
Backing up his teaching with Scriptures in Acts 2, Ephesians 4, and John 17, Warren’s love for the Scripture and teaching it in a clear way is evident.
Warren went on to explain the five verbs found in the Great Commission and the Great Commandment reveal the purposes for our lives and the purpose of the church.
- Love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength – that’s worship
- Love your neighbor as your self – serve – that’s ministry
From the Great Commission:
- Make disciples – evangelism
- Teach them to obey – that’s discipleship
- Baptism – a symbol of fellowship – not just a believer, a belonger
Warren’s breakthrough teaching on the purpose of our lives has touched millions of people. What’s holding you back from discovering yours?
Photo: LOS ANGELES, CA. August 11, 2016: Roma Downey & Rick Warren at Hollywood Walk of Fame Star ceremony for actress Roma Downey.