Born for a Purpose
He once thought he had no future, but today Nick Vujicic’s passion is to convince as many people as he can that their lives matter to God
By Erin Gieschen
Nick Vujicic was okay with having no arms or legs—until he started to think about his future.
When he was ten years old, he decided he could no longer be a burden to his family, so he tried to drown himself in the bathtub. Surrounded by a Christian family who supported and loved him unconditionally, Vujicic had been a confident, spunky child who’d always found ways to manage without limbs. But as he began to compare himself with other kids and thought about the life of limitations that lay ahead, new thoughts plagued his heart: How will I ever lead a normal existence with a job, a wife, and kids? If God really loves me, why didn’t He give me arms and legs? If there’s no purpose for me in this life and I’m here only to experience rejection and loneliness, maybe I should just end it now.
Today, the 30-year-old Australian evangelist is amazed that he once believed his life had no purpose. He has since graduated from university, started his own company, married his wife Kanae, and just became a father. And he’s preached the gospel and shared his message of hope with millions around the world.
Yet as an adolescent, Vujicic couldn’t imagine a meaningful future without God drastically changing his situation. Every night the boy would pray that he’d wake up with a freshly-grown limb—even one at a time would be enough. He figured that God had made him this way for the purpose of doing an earth-shattering miracle. He recalls praying fervently, “If You give me arms and legs, I’ll go around the world and share the miracle to prove to them Your power and love!”
But it seemed God wasn’t going to answer his prayer, and the boy despaired that his life was never going to change.
Hope and a future
Vujicic gradually came to recognize that God truly did destine him for “hope and a future” (Jer. 29:11), and he gave his life to Christ at age 15 after reading the story of the man who was born blind (John 9:1-38). Vujicic realized he’d been making the same assumption that Jesus’ disciples made about the blind man—that God had allowed him to born this way because he or his parents had done something wrong.
When he read Jesus’ words—“Neither . . . this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him” (John 9:3 KJV)—the revelation hit Vujicic: “For the first time I realized that my inability to understand why I had no limbs didn’t mean my Creator had abandoned me. I wasn’t healed, but my purpose would be revealed in time. I had no way of knowing my lack of limbs would help me offer a message of hope in so many nations and to so many diverse people.”
Even now, though, some still assume that the miracle he prayed for as a child would be the ultimate way for God to glorify Himself. “They’ll come up to me and tell me, ‘God says you’re going to get arms and legs,’” says Vujicic. “But what if I just waited for that? What if that became the pinnacle of my relationship with God? What if my hope and joy depended on my situation changing? That’s a distraction. Do I have a pair of shoes in my closet? Absolutely. But that’s not my focus. My focus is Jesus. I often tell people that if God doesn’t give you the ‘miracle’ that you want, you need to become a miracle for others. When you serve someone else, your heart gets healed as well.”
A story to tell
One day Mr. Arnold, the janitor who led a lunchtime discussion for Christian kids at Vujicic's high school, asked him to share his testimony with the group. Initially, the 16-year-old said, “I don’t have a story to tell.” But after three months of pestering, he gave in to the request.
Vujicic nervously spoke for ten minutes about what his life had been like, and how he’d come to realize that God had a plan for him, even if he still wasn’t sure what it was. By the time he’d finished, most of the teens—even the boys—were in tears, and he couldn’t understand why.
Then two of the students asked Vujicic to come speak to their youth group. In his final years of school, he not only accepted invitations but also went from school to school asking if he could share his story. Some turned him down; at others, he was so nervous he stumbled through his talk. But the realization that God might be able to communicate truth and hope to others through him took root, and eventually the young man sensed a clear call to become a public speaker and evangelist.
Now based in Southern California, Vujicic has traveled extensively throughout South America, Asia, Eastern Europe, and Africa. He has spoken in slums, prisons, and schools and shared the good news with government officials, celebrities, and former brothel workers. He’s preached to a crowd of 110,000 people in India and spent one-on-one time with AIDS orphans, widows, and people with disabilities. His DVDs have been translated and widely circulated—even on the black market—in places where Christians are persecuted. He’s received a generous welcome in Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, and communist countries alike, and been given almost startling opportunities to share his faith on secular television talk shows broadcast to 40 million homes.
Whether his audience is a small classroom of students or a stadium crowd, the response is often similar. If you watch some of Vujicic’s YouTube videos (many of which have been viewed millions of times), the most common thing you’ll observe is him being hugged by someone whose eyes are streaming with tears.
People are drawn to Vujicic initially because of what they perceive as a limitation they can’t imagine living with day after day—but which seems to have no impact on his ability to live what he calls “a ridiculously good life.” They see he has no arms or legs, yet the man is full of joy and telling them the good news that they’re loved and their lives have purpose. They’re moved to listen because his story is compelling, but even more so because the gospel is compelling.
Changing the world
The more Vujicic travels (in 2013 alone he’ll visit 27 countries), the more he witnesses the growing hunger for the hope of knowing Christ. “I can tell you, God is moving around the world,” he says, “even when we can’t send missionaries and Bibles to places like Iran. A few years ago around a million people there reported that Jesus appeared to them in a dream, and with such conviction and passion and love that they were willing to risk their lives to follow Him. China now has a minimum of 100 million Christians; others say 200 million. And they know exactly what evangelism and discipleship are. Ten years ago, Americans were praying for China; now China is praying for America. It’s exciting to see things changing.” [Editor’s note: The Chinese government debates these numbers, but they represent the estimates of some Christian and human rights advocates].
Yet while Vujicic has been a catalyst for movements of God’s Spirit around the world—including events where tens of thousands at a time respond to his message with a decision to follow Christ—he knows it’s not “his ministry” that’s saving people. Nor does he feel overwhelmed by the magnitude of the responsibility. “By the grace of God,” he says, “I pray for humility to know that it’s not me; I’m not greater than anybody else in this world. No one is bigger than the other or more important to God. So the moment I think I’ve done something on my own, I’ve fallen flat on my face. And evangelism can’t go without discipleship. What we need is for the body of Christ to come together.”
For a man who once believed his life had no purpose and yet has now made such a clear mark on the world stage, Vujicic could be tempted to define himself by his ministry. But he often recalls how the renowned evangelist Billy Graham told him that he wished he’d spent more time with his wife and kids—and more time at the feet of Jesus, expressing how much he loves Him.
“The greatest purpose of all is knowing God,” says Vujicic. “Christians often tell me, ‘I’ve been going to church my whole life, but I’m still looking for my purpose. I don’t know what God wants me to do.’ I say, ‘What are you talking about? Your number one purpose is knowing and loving God, and then loving your neighbor as yourself.’ My ministry might be preaching around the world to five million people, but before that, my ministry is to love my wife and son. And if you don’t know what else to do, read the Bible—Jesus says to go visit those who are sick or in prison, help the poor, the widows, the orphans. We’re the hands and feet of Jesus on earth, and for me, that means touching as many lives as I can by reflecting the love of Christ. And when you step outside of yourself to reach out to others, it will change you.”
Read more about Nick Vujicic in his books Life Without Limits and more recently, Unstoppable: The Incredible Power of Faith in Action.