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40 Days of Purpose

Purpose In Life

Purpose in Life


(Note: this series was prepared as an accompaniment for the “40 Days of Purpose” campaign. The errors remain those of this author).

Man and Purpose

The World’s View

There are many Christians who will tell you that “at heart, Christianity is basic common sense.” In no area is this statement more false than in examining the purpose of man. The world’s view is based upon the evolutionary viewpoint. Since we cannot allow God any role in our public life (religion is best kept silent, you know) it obviously follows that the creation or evolution of man is simply a biological accident. Accidents cannot have purpose, therefore asking things like “what is the purpose of man”” is to pose a meaningless question. The view (contemporary opinion to the contrary notwithstanding) is an ancient one; Solomon expresses it rather well in Ecclesiastes.

To this modern assertion there are three common reactions:

  • There is the “intellectual” approach. You tell yourself there is nothing you can do about it, and base your life on “unyielding despair.” Life is meaningless; more than that, it could never have a meaning. The result is the bitter cynicism and lack of nobility we see today. If life is meaningless, then there is no right or wrong – just that which is beneficial.
  • There is the do it yourself approach. This covers a wide variety of thoughts; New Age philosophy, bioethics, and any number of self-made religions. One particularly humorous (unintended) example is Scientology. We are all recycled Thetans (another planet); all our problems come from our past lives on this planet. Our mission is to spread Scientology. (The guy who invented this, L. Ron Hubbard, was a science fiction writer. Does it show?)
  • The third reaction is rather ancient. You check with God on the subject.
God’s POV

It stands for “point of view”. Your creator has indeed made you for a purpose:

  • There is the grand purpose of mankind as a whole – to serve God and enjoy him forever. He is given stewardship of this world – but the aim of God is that we will be in a deep and personal relationship with him.
  • Of course, that purpose applies to all of us. But for each of us, God has devised an individual purpose. We are not to be mass produced identical parts; we are to be (like Him in whose image we were made) a person. And a person has an individual purpose in the kingdom of God.
  • So that we might fulfill that purpose, God is pleased to give us the various gifts of the Holy Spirit. It is by discovering these that we often discover our purpose, just as you discover the purpose of a tool by seeing what it is fitted for.
Forever Eyes

The curious thing, to modern observers, is that the longing for a purpose in life is so strong. They explain it in evolutionary terms; people with a sense of purpose tend to make it to reproductive age more so than those who don’t have such a sense of purpose. There is an older explanation, never disproved. It is simply this: if you have a longing, there exists a satisfaction of that longing. You long for sex; it exists. You long for purpose, it exists too.

But – unlike the biological view – this purpose might not be fulfilled in your lifetime. You are designed to love God and enjoy Him forever – not just for your threescore and ten. That’s a chief difficulty with the New Age methods; they must be accomplished in your lifetime. Or at least look like they can be. But those who see with “forever eyes” see things differently. A solid example is this: the Gothic cathedrals of the Middle Ages often took two or even three lifetimes to complete. By our test today, this could not be a purpose for man. But in the age of Faith, it was more than satisfactory.

The purpose which God gives to man is, like God himself, eternal. Which is fitting to the creature God designed to live forever.

God and your purpose

He has done great things

God did not simply declare that man has a purpose. Nor did he simply write down the purpose of your life. He has taken actions beyond the capability of man so that his purposes for us might be achieved. He sent his Son to die for our sins – and in the process has established the church as his body on Earth. Why?

  • First, so that we might fulfill His purposes! You are too small to have such purposes – but in his great purposes your own purposes will fit quite snugly.
  • In the process, he has designed the human species to be specifically capable of fulfilling those purposes. We are the species that reasons about God.
  • Most of these purposes boil down to this: that we should know Him. Knowing Him, we should adore Him. Adoring Him, we should imitate Him. Our purposes come to this: the imitation of Christ, the perfect human being.
He has provided the church

It is seldom noted, but the church provides the arena in which most of us will find our specific purposes. He has provided the church to us, and that church assists us in fulfilling our specific purposes:

  • First, for our understanding. We are like actors with a role to play. Without the other actors in the play, our part would make no sense – even to us.
  • Next, so that we might be encouraged. For the teacher, this is most welcome. Often discouragement comes; it helps then to have your brothers there to encourage you.
  • Finally, so that we might be part of something bigger than ourselves individually. As our efforts mesh with others, we see accomplishment beyond our own ability.

Indeed, God has also shown us the future – in that veiled method known to us as prophecy. By this method God has shown us how his purposes will end up in victory:

  • Of ourselves, we cannot defeat evil in this world. But God assures us that our efforts are not in vain, even in the most trying of circumstances. Victory belongs to the Lord.
  • We can see forward in this – but also backwards in time. We can see how prophecy has been fulfilled, thus increasing our faith One thing in particular we can see: the church as she really is. We see her weak and tentative – but we can see the church in the past and in the times to come as being the stalwart ambassador of God. Even the martyrs knew this; the blood of martyrs is the seed of the church.
  • Greatest of all is this: we see the combat now; but we can also see the victory ahead. When your cause is sure, your efforts are stronger, for they are never in vain.

God and Man

All well and good, teacher, but how do I work this out in practice?

Discovering your purpose

God will be quite pleased to show you the purpose of your life – if you will ask, and then listen. How?

  • First, consider the gifts of the Spirit he has given you. Some are those in general, but others are specific to you, individually. Is there something you’ve discovered that you’re really good at – of which you had no idea? It points to your purpose; what he calls you to do, he equips you to do. God’s provision is always available for God’s supply.
  • Next, what answers has he given to you? Well, first – did you ask him to show you the purpose in your life? He will answer. Listen to him in prayer; he wants you to hear. Listen to him in song; often one hymn sticks to you like none other. Is there a Scripture that your heart leaps to hear, that your faith is anxious to claim? Indeed, has He opened certain doors, and closed others?
Testing and Forging

It should not be necessary to remind you that in this life you will have trouble. If you haven’t, I question whether you’ve been paying attention. Trials, suffering, testing – all these are guaranteed to the child of God. Usually, he is either testing you or forging you:

  • Testing you: he wants to demonstrate just what you can do – and what you won’t do. Like any good teacher, when the exam is over, he lets you see your paper – so you can learn from your mistakes. Most students don’t think that a test is part of learning. It is. Often, it’s the large part.
  • Forging you: other times he knows exactly what’s going on – because he is forging you for the circumstances to come. He is preparing you as an instrument for his purposes – which, therefore, tells you more about your purpose in life. Sometimes it’s beat to shape, trim to fit, paint to match. Be patient, and see his work in you.
Accepting your purpose

There is a reason why we pray, “thy will be done.” Our purpose is not ours to pick and choose; it is his to give. Ultimately, it’s either “thy will” or “my will” that is done. Upon that choice lie heaven and hell.

Which means, of course, that we are not to be picky about the purposes he gives us. In particular, it means we are not to be choosy about the people with whom he surrounds us. Some of us are purposed to work with some unlovely people. Thank God for it

Thank God for it – and work heartily at it. You have found the right thing to do; now do it in the right way.

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