By Ay Nee Ng
Normally when we ask this question, we have either come to a cross-road in our lives or hit rock bottom and are experiencing some navigation problems. We start searching for meaning to life and want quick answers and immediate directions, hoping to understand our purpose in life.
We have been doing life our own way and don’t want to listen to any advice, thinking we are always right until something hit us. Suddenly, we want immediate answers. Everything has to be done instantly; otherwise, we end up depressed.
There’s an old story about a pilot who came over the intercom and said, “Good news, ladies and gentlemen: We’ve got a very strong tailwind and are making excellent time. The bad news is that our navigation equipment has gone down, so we have no idea where we are.”
Perhaps this is a fitting analogy for many of us. Some of us may be able to identify with this situation. We are making great time on a road to nowhere—destination unknown. We are on the fast track, but we do not really know where we are headed. When we finally get to our destination or get what we have wanted all these years, we discover that it was not really what we wanted after all. Our joy is but for a fleeting moment and the feeling of emptiness and dissatisfaction is back once again.
So we hop on for another job, another train ride, but it leads to the same disillusionment. How far do we have to travel before we turn around, go back to that last intersection, and ask for directions again, hoping against hope that this time round it will lead us to a better life?
Church, what are you searching for? What are we here for? Why are you here at all? Sometimes we move through life, feeling that we are missing something or thinking that we cannot miss that something. The next turn will be so obvious. There cannot be any doubt which way to go at the next junction because this time round we asked for directions and read the signs. But how many times have we discovered, to our chagrin, that we’re completely lost and should have taken the other fork 20-30 miles back?
It has been an interesting week for me looking after Ayden. He tries so had to crawl forward, but at this stage of his young life, despite all his effort, he only moves backwards. That is his learning phase now. He tries hard every day to make head way, yet it is the same; he ends up further back than his starting point. Then on last Thursday, he made such a launch forward and fell flat on his face. The sudden burst of energy brought out a good cry. He launched forward, but the unexpectedness and different movement brought a sudden fear in him. His launch forward was not to his expectation because he fell on his face, and it was not a smooth safe landing. Only once did his effort bring him forward, but the rest of the time he moved backwards instead of forwards.
His effort is no different from how we might feel when changes come to us and we need to launch forward to the unexpected terrain. Does it bring fear? Definitely! We felt this at first when we came over to Sydney. The fear of “what if we are rejected”, “what if the job or relationship doesn’t work out” or “what if the people don’t like us”. So many “what ifs” in our lives will hold us captive in one place.
Sometimes, the sudden strength to move forward comes, and we succeed but momentarily. Like Ayden, we try again but we seem to regress. We need help. We need to trust someone. May that someone be our loving Saviour. Put on trust and hope in Jesus Christ today and stop the “what ifs” in your life. As we continue to trust in our Lord Jesus Christ, we learn to trust that God will work “it” out for us. However difficult or impossible the situation may seem, God’s hand is on us.
“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God. And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:26-28).
Church, take a good look at your own life, searching within, and ask yourself: “What have you become from that young man/woman looking for his/her first job, looking for the right girl/boy to settle down, and/or finding the right church you want to serve? Sometimes things don’t go according to our plans. Do your plans align with our Lord Jesus Christ’s?
“There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death. Even in laughter the heart may ache, and rejoicing may end in grief. The faithless will be fully repaid for their ways, and the good rewarded for theirs” (Prov. 14:12-14).
Psalm 37:23 says:
“The LORD directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives.” (WEB)
“A man’s goings are established by Yahweh. He delights in his way.” (NASB)
“The steps of a man are established by the LORD, and He delights in his way.” (NLT)
So what are we here for? What is your purpose in life? Does it align with what God has in mind?
The Great Purposes of a Great God
1. His eternal purposes for us. God’s eternal purposes reflect His perfect and eternal wisdom. He designed the world in such a way that we are most happy when He is glorified in our lives. For reasons that are incomprehensible to us, God has a passion for intimacy with his people, and we participate in His eternal purposes when we pursue Him with an undivided heart. Sometimes we just read over the Word of God like that last one and fail to be struck by just how profound and breathtaking it is. God has a passion for intimacy with his people. When we are stirred by His Word, we draw into His presence, where there is truth and revelation.
One of the greatest English Classic Hymns “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross”, written in 1707 by Isaac Watts based on Galatians 6:14, sums how great is the depth of our God’s love.
When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of Glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.
Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.
For His pursuit of fellowship with us, God went through great lengths. His desire was more than mere words; it prompted Him to enter into human history. The apostle John writes: “This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent his Son to be an atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 Jn. 4:10). God believes in intimate fellowship with us to be worth the death of His own son Jesus Christ. Who could possibly comprehend that?
God’s eternal purposes for us are then that we glorify Him (and when we do that, we are the happiest) and to have a relationship with Him, not just a relationship but an intimate relationship.
This is the God who gave his Son as a ransom for us. The God who created the universe and arranged the heavens with the ease of an interior decorator hanging curtains, desires intimacy with us to the point that He entered our world with all its limitations and allowed us to crucify Him. Life can only be truly meaningful when we find that God is glorified in our lives.
2. His universal purposes for us. While Scriptures provide us only glimpses of God’s ultimate purposes in creating the cosmos, the Word does reveal God’s two universal purposes for mankind and believers: redemption and fruitfulness.
a. Redemption. God wants us to know Christ and to make Him known. He does not want anyone to perish, but desires that everyone come to repentance and enter into a relationship with Him through the new birth in Christ. “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9).
b. Fruitfulness. Once a person is born again as a child of God, God wants that person to grow in Christ and be “conformed to the likeness of his Son”. “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters” (Rom. 8:29).
Fruitfulness is about edification (spiritual growth) and evangelism (spiritual reproduction). We need to develop an eternal perspective that will give us a passion to give our lives in exchange for the things that God tells us to endure.
Why do you get out of bed in the morning? What is your life purpose? Few people can articulate a clear purpose statement for their lives. It is ironic that people tend to put more effort into planning a two-week vacation than they do in thinking about the destiny of their earthly journey. God’s unique purpose for each of us relates to our distinctive temperaments, abilities, experiences, spiritual gifts, education and spheres of influence.
“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Cor. 4:16-18).
This passage provides the context for God’s unique purposes for our lives and reminds us to develop an eternal perspective so that we will have a passion to give our lives in exchange for the things that God tells us will endure. Biblically speaking, what are the two things on this planet that are going to endure? People and the word of God.
God’s fruitful purposes for us are to take God’s eternal word and invest it in eternal people.
Think about it. When we invest in people and their lives, we are actually sending something ahead of us into eternity. It is not what we leave behind that is important but what we send ahead that is lasting and gives God all the glory. And that brings happiness to you and me!
The obvious questions that sits still with us is: “If all this is found in the Word of God and we have a God who could create and sustain a universe as amazingly complex as ours, if that same God could put together a plan to redeem lost and fallen humanity, if that God would go to such great lengths to rescue people who do not even know they are in peril, could that God be trusted? Could it be that His purposes for our lives are better than that which we could construct on our own?” Definitely! No doubts about it!
Now, what are the implications? How are our lives reflecting this belief? Why are we still asking, “Why or what are we here?” What we believe and actually practice is another point.
Practice reveals priorities and beliefs. We can have a cognitive affirmation that God has better purposes than anything I could come up with, but do we show that in our practice? Contrary to public opinion, in releasing ourselves to God’s purposes and giving ourselves wholeheartedly and unreservedly to Him, we are not sacrificing anything other than the illusion of self-sufficiency. We are embracing something altogether wonderful.
This is not to say that our purposes eliminate all other concerns. Bills must still be paid; food and shelter do not miraculously fall from the sky. It is even legitimate for us to desire success in business and career aspirations. However, Benjamin Hunnicutt (1988, Work Without End: Abandoning Shorter Hours for the Right to Work), an authority on the history of work at the University of Iowa, notes that work has become our new religion, where we worship and give our time and energy. As our commitment to family, community and faith shrink, we begin to look to our careers to provide us with meaning, identity and esteem.
We must be ever watchful to keep our calling (something we do for God) from becoming a career (something which threatens to become god).
Church, it is no wonder this magnificent Designer of ours would tell us: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isa. 55:8-9).
“Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known” (1 Cor. 13:12).
If you have not developed a purpose statement for your life, ask God to guide you in the process of creating one that fits with your passion and gifts. A biblical purpose is an unchanging reason for being. Your purpose statement must include something transcendental (i. e., beyond or above the range of normal or physical human experience) that is eternal in perspective. Do not settle for a purpose that only includes excellence in the temporal arena.
This is something that will animate you whether you are young or old, single or married, have children or not. This is not something that ends in retirement or changes according to circumstances or season of life. Put this purpose in a transcendental context by adding a spiritual dimension to why you are doing what you are doing. Then you can be sure you are embracing the things that are worth embracing. Then you will know what you are here for and skilfully manoeuvre your life around the Word of God, His will, and His great purposes for us.