Chapter OneDAY 1
Understand the Power of 40 Days
Perfecting Your Purpose offers a solution to a problem that you may
have been complaining about and you've finally decided to do
something about it. Great! You have taken the first step, a powerful
step, toward a solution to the problematic question: How do I
perfect the purpose for which God has created me?
Throughout the Bible people were weighed down by that same question.
To answer it, they chose to enter into a 40-day period to seek God
in a unique way.
Sociologists look for patterns in human activities to make
predictions about society, culture, and human behavior. Likewise,
theologians look for patterns in God's behavior or His Word-the Holy
Bible-to predict human outcomes when people adhere to those divine
patterns. Without such prescriptive advice life would become more
unpredictable, yielding greater uncertainties, and leading to
increased depression, instability, and the lack of fulfillment in
people's lives. Thankfully, these patterns exist, and we can explore
In looking for a biblical pattern regarding one's purpose, I found
ten biblical references to a period of 40 days. In each instance
incredible benefits befell the men and women who practiced a 40-day
habit of pursuing God in order to discover and perfect their
40 Days: The Transforming Interval
In the Scriptures, the number 40 symbolizes a fresh start,
deliverance, freedom, salvation, a firm foundation, completion, and
healing. On each occasion when the biblical character practiced the
required habit for 40 days, the result was a personal or national
transformation. For instance, the Ten Commandments-God's moral code
for humanity-were handed to Moses following a 40-day period of
fasting. And Joseph-an exciting Old Testament character-gave orders
for his deceased father, Jacob, to be embalmed over a span of 40
days. Embalming symbolized laying aside the pain of the past. Before
launching His public ministry, Jesus went into the desert for 40
days. During that time He fasted and prayed, thus crystallizing in
His heart the eternal mission of bringing salvation to humanity.
Since this 40-day period is so results-oriented, I call it the
Transforming Interval, and I hold this Transforming Interval high as
a pattern for modern-day people to follow. The assurance of a
transformed life through practicing a 40-day habit is not another
human effort that promises unrealistic results. Practicing a habit
for 40 days is a classic theological observation that can guarantee
a result-the perfecting of your purpose. And as you advance in your
purpose, you are pursuing your God-given dream, turning it into a
Using the Next 40 Days to Transform Your Life
The way in which you use the next 40 days is extremely important. At
stake during this Transforming Interval of 40 days are your
life-altering decisions-decisions about your marriage, or perhaps
whom you marry; decisions about your children and issues that will
shape the kind of people they will eventually become; decisions
about your business or career. These issues are critical to your
life and require God's wisdom. In perfecting your purpose, you
obtain God's wisdom by following the pattern established in
Scripture-the 40-day Transforming Interval.
In the book of James we read that a double-minded person is
"unstable" in all his ways (1:8). Despite your intellect, your
wealth, your talent, or your area of gifting, being double-minded
about right decisions in the major areas of your life leads to
instability in every area of your life. Right decisions come from
being focused, purpose-driven, and in tune with God's wisdom. That's
why James tells us that if any of us lack wisdom-in living,
business, money management, parenting, any significant area-let him
ask God, "who gives generously to all without finding fault" (1:5).
There's no fault in conceding that God has the precise answers
regarding the critical areas of your life. Rather, I commend you for
your willingness to set aside the next 40 days to gain clarity about
where your life is headed.
Setting aside 40 days is like taking a journey in which you are
focused on a destination. Two years ago, my wife and I took a cruise
from Washington State to Alaska. Everything we needed was provided
on that ship-food, entertainment, fitness, night life, you name it,
it was there. The staff provided impeccable service. Marlinda and I
didn't have to lift a finger. All we had to do was focus on our
destination, and it was an unforgettable experience. I want you to
focus on the destination of perfecting your purpose during this
40-day journey. It, too, will be an unforgettable experience. This
journey will direct you to the destination that God intended you to
reach from the foundation of the world.
Consider the life span of Americans-men are expected to live to age
74.1, and women are anticipated to have 79.5 years of life. The
decision to take the next 40 days and work toward perfecting your
life's purpose will be a small investment compared to your expected
span of 27,047 days (for men) or 29,018 days (for women). God's
40-day pattern has proven effective over thousands of years in the
Scriptures. If you are serious about perfecting your purpose,
dedicate the next 40 days to taking strategic action that can propel
you into one of the most exciting seasons of your life.
40 Days to a More Meaningful Life
One of the men I most admire in the Bible, although he was quite
unusual, is the prophet Ezekiel. Whenever I read the book named
after him, I am amazed by his incredible prophetic antics that show
a dogged allegiance to God's instructions. He was not a sophisticate
like the statesman Daniel or an intellectual debater like the
apostle Paul, but I take my hat off to Ezekiel as a man of action.
In the fourth chapter of Ezekiel, we find the prophet responding to
the weakened, sin-ridden state of his nation, Israel. God called for
Ezekiel to communicate a word picture of the dilapidated moral and
spiritual state of the country and its people by lying on his left
side for 390 days and on his right side for 40 days (Ezek. 4:4-8).
Try explaining the prophet's assignment to someone who is
unspiritual, and not only will he think Ezekiel was crazy, but he
will consider calling the insane asylum to have you picked up should
you talk about mimicking the prophet's behavior. Despite Ezekiel's
eccentricity, you will find four specific lessons from this man's
40-day Transforming Interval with God that you can easily apply to
In exploring Ezekiel's 40-day Transforming Interval, you will learn
how to (1) gain an understanding of the power of 40 days; (2)
establish a deep conviction to fulfill your purpose; (3) solidify an
unforgettable experience with God; and (4) discover the joy of
knowing that your purpose is not hidden in some out-of-the-way
place, but was under your nose all along. By the way,
congratulations! You've already begun your journey toward a more
meaningful life. You're in your first day, and you're learning the
power of 40 days.
Spiritual Answers to Physical Problems
Most people think that every natural or physical problem calls for a
natural or a physical solution. Not so! Many physical problems can
be solved by applying a spiritual solution. Consequently, turning to
this book, which is biblically and spiritually centered, for a
solution to your natural problem of achieving a greater
meaningfulness to your life was a wise action. Ezekiel knew well the
correlation between the natural and the spiritual, and so he
answered God's call to serve the natural needs of his nation by
performing a spiritual act. This is what God said to him:
Then lie on your left side and put the sin of the house of Israel
upon yourself. You are to bear their sin for the number of days
you lie on your side. I have assigned you the same number of days
as the years of their sin. So for 390 days you will bear the sin
of the house of Israel.
After you have finished this, lie down again, this time on your
right side, and bear the sin of the house of Judah. I have
assigned you 40 days, a day for each year.
Ezekiel's act of lying on his left side for 390 days, to demonstrate
a need for the Israelite people to return to God, and then on his
right side for 40 days in further demonstration of the same need,
shows that he understood how God's spiritual solution could solve a
natural problem. The number 40 throughout Scripture means a time of
completion. Thus, closing out this prophetic demonstration by lying
on his right side for 40 days, Ezekiel was announcing that the Lord
wanted the spiritual waywardness of the Hebrew people to end. They
were no longer to live aimlessly by abandoning their call as the
people of God. They were no longer to live apart from the pursuit of
their purpose. They were no longer to live without the benefit of
Ezekiel heeded God's word, and the 40-day Transforming Interval
occurred. The people of Israel saw their weakened state, but chose
to continue in it. What about you? After the 40-day journey, will
you continue to live the way you used to? The 40-day journey toward
perfecting your purpose is designed to help you develop the habits
that can produce a lifelong change. Three main benefits produced by
this change are (1) a life of purpose overcomes aimlessness; (2) a
life of purpose focuses your energy; and (3) a life of purpose keeps
1. A Life of Purpose Overcomes Aimlessness
The first benefit is that aimless living ends when you know why
you've been created and what you've been created to do. A person
caught in a cycle of purposelessness tends to jump from one career
path to another or perhaps from one relationship to another in
search of meaning. This unpredictable pattern may be slow or fast
paced. If the movements are slow, an aimless person will participate
in some exciting activity, albeit for the wrong reasons. Conversely,
the deception associated with a fast-paced, busy lifestyle is that
it creates an illusion that progress is occurring when all along a
person may simply be going around in circles.
I was surprised in the middle of my counseling session with a
precious couple when the wife blurted out her annoyance with her
husband's lack of focus with his life and construction projects at
their home. According to her descriptive words amidst her sobs, her
husband had started numerous projects, but completed none of them.
In his defense, he said that all of his projects were great ideas
that would drastically improve the quality and appearance of the
house, even increasing the property value. There was such a great
difference of opinion, I did what I had never done before in a
counseling session. I said, "Let's go for a ride to see this house."
Once we arrived, I was speechless. The husband had started at least
ten different projects over the years. There was a big hole in the
backyard where a swimming pool was to be located. A half-completed
pantry in the kitchen, an opening in the walls of the master bedroom
for a shower that had no shower, a circular driveway that had only
one opening, and a number of other construction jobs "in progress"
showed me that the wife was right. Her husband was full of wonderful
ideas, but he lacked the follow-through to finish them so he jumped
from idea to idea, leaving frustration in the home and in her heart.
He was deceived. His busyness in starting projects had blinded him
from the need to complete them.
2. A Life of Purpose Focuses Your Energy
The second benefit is that your energies will become focused like a
laser beam when you're living a life driven by purpose. A scattered
life speaks of purposelessness. But a focused life conveys that your
aim is sure and your life has continuity.
If you are always trying your hand at fifteen different things
simultaneously hoping that something sticks, your energy level is
probably depleted, and it's likely that you've had very little
success. The benefit of working in harmony with your life's purpose
is similar to installing an energy conservation device in your home.
You will achieve a great output of energy with minimal loss in
Recently, the local gas company sent workers to my neighborhood to
check the energy efficiency of all the homes it serviced. At my
house the workers wrapped the hot water tank and the five feet of
exposed ductwork in the boiler room with a fire retardant material
to contain the energy within the unit. As a result, my monthly bill
dropped by a few dollars, and the gas company reduced the energy
requirements stemming from the Ireland household. Admittedly, this
reduction was small, but when the energy savings from all the homes
in my neighborhood were added up, the company gained a significant
savings. Similarly, when you redirect your energies toward your
purpose you will gain greater efficiency in every area of your life.
The more you distance yourself from aimless living, the closer you
come to living a life directed toward your purpose.
3. A Life of Purpose Keeps You Observant
The third benefit of living according to your life's purpose is that
it keeps you observant. You can miss your life's purpose by thinking
that it's too obscure. Your purpose may be near, but you overlook it
because you're not paying attention to the opportunities obscured by
your emotions, both good and bad. Your network of friends can be
doorways that lead you closer to your destiny or walls that hinder
you from reaching it. Even your trials and disappointments can lead
to untold opportunities if you are observant.
In the Atlanta Yellow Pages under the listing of restaurants, there
is an entry for the Church of God Grill. The peculiar name arouses
much curiosity, and Charles Paul Conn, author of the book Making It
Happen, tells the story about when he dialed the number:
A man answered with a cheery, "Hello, Church of God Grill!" I
asked how his restaurant had been given such an unusual name, and
he told me: "Well, we had a little mission down here, and we
started selling chicken dinners after church on Sunday to help pay
the bills. Well, people liked the chicken, and we did such a good
business, that eventually we cut back on the church services.
After a while we just closed down the church altogether and kept
on serving the chicken dinners. We kept the name we started with,
and that's Church of God Grill."
Imagine if the proprietor had raised his nose in the air and
presumptuously said, "God called me to be the director of a mission.
And I am going to do it even if it kills me."