What’s My Magnum Opus?

Most famous people we admire produced for the world some main contribution as a result of their brain work. Take for example:

  • Newton’s Principia.
  • Handel’s Messiah.
  • Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.

In Latin this is called a magnum opus. In a day of personal branding, pop-up shops, viral hits, and Internet sensations, it’s easy for young adults to want to be something great.

But often we gaze at heroes’ lives through the perfect rearview mirror of hindsight and forget what a limited view they had looking out the windshield and living their daily life.

The reality is: most notable people labored through many years of preparation without knowing exactly what their great contribution would be.

For some it was clear in a general sense what God wanted them to do. William Wilberforce said, “God Almighty has set before me two great objects, the suppression of the slave trade and the reformation of manners.”But for many others, the clarity was only a general sense of duty and a desire to be ready.

Abraham Lincoln said, “I will prepare and some day my chance will come.” His opportunity came, and he was ready because he had prepared ahead of time.

James Parton was a famous 19th century biographer of famous Americans. Among the books he penned were the life stories of Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and Horace Greeley. He wrote, “I cannot call to mind a single instance of a man who achieved success of the first magnitude, who did not at first toil long in obscurity.”

Are you obsessing over what your big life work is? Maybe your efforts could be better spent on learning who God is, being faithful to Him, pursuing your purpose and serving the church well. Then you could let others look through the rearview mirror and point to your magnum opus.

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