What on Earth Are We Here for?
Or as Herbert Armstrong would often pose the question, “Why Were You Born?”
Of course, we’ve since come to find out that his answer wasn’t exactly from the Bible. His assertion that we were created to “become God as God is God” was a bit of a stretch, to say the least. The very definition of God as one who always has existed and always will exist precludes us from ever becoming God. We can have a fantastic relationship with God, however – now and forever – a close family relationship, but we will never be a god or equal to God.
Herbert also twisted God’s plan and purpose for mankind from its intended outgoing, “loving others” focus to an introspective, “it’s all about me – am I keeping the law perfectly enough?” approach. Thus Herbert planted within the religion he created the seeds of its own destruction – the deadly seeds of legalism. Legalism always slowly but surely strangles the life, hope and joy out of those who adhere to its tenets because it presents a distorted image of God’s truth.
Armstrong was right, however, in predicting that we do have a fantastic future in store for us. If we are willing to accept Christ as our savior, and all that that decision entails, our future is almost unbelievable. But it will not be achieved by following Herbert’s road map.
There is a book out in bookstores that does, in a very real sense, lay out a road map that can help one discover why they were created. That book is “The Purpose Driven Life” by Rick Warren. This book does such a great job of explaining our purpose in God’s plan that I’ve read it twice. It’s no accident that this book has sold over 20 million copies and is used by church study groups throughout the world. This book is easy to read, as it is broken down into 40 short chapters of just 6 or 7 pages each. The author recommends that we read just one chapter a day, to let it all sink in.
In the balance of this article I will cover (mostly verbatim) some of the high points of this inspiring, uplifting book. This is just a summary of several sections of this 334 page book. I would highly recommend that you either purchase or borrow this book from the library and read it personally. My article, although it covers some of the more important points in the book, is meant mainly as a teaser to get you to actually read the book and experience the impact it can make on your life. Enjoy!
It All Starts With God
The search for the purpose of life has perplexed people for millennia. Christians realize that we are not an accident. But we still find ourselves stymied when it comes to nailing down our real purpose for being put on this plant earth at this particular time. Mankind remains puzzled about the meaning of life because we typically begin at the wrong starting point – ourselves. We ask self-centered questions like What do I want to be? What should I do with my life? What are my goals, my ambitions, my dreams for my future? But focusing on ourselves will never reveal our life’s purpose.
But it’s not about you!
The purpose of your life is far greater than your own personal fulfillment, your peace of mind, or even your own happiness. It’s far greater than your family, your career, or even your wildest dreams and ambitions. If you want to know why you were placed on this planet, you must begin with God. You were born by his purpose and for his purpose.
Contrary to what many popular books, movies and seminars tell you, you won’t discover your life’s meaning by looking within yourself. You’ve probably tried that already. You didn’t create yourself, so there’s no way you can tell yourself what you were created for! If I handed you an invention you had never seen before, you wouldn’t know its purpose, and the invention itself wouldn’t be able to tell you either. Only the creator or the owner’s manual could reveal its purpose.
You cannot arrive at your life’s purpose by starting with a focus on yourself. You must begin with God, your creator. You exist only because God wills that you exist. You were made by God and for God – and until you understand that, life will never make sense. It is only in God that we discover our origin, our identity, our meaning, our purpose, our significance, and our destiny. Every other path leads to a dead end.
Many people try to use God for their own self-actualization, but that is a reversal of nature and is doomed to failure. You were made for God, not vice versa, and life is about letting God use you for his purposes, not your using him for your own purpose. The Bible says, “Obsession with self in these matters is a dead end; attention to God leads us out into the open, into a spacious, free life.” Romans 8:6 (Msg)
I have read many books that suggest ways to discover the purpose for my life. All of them could be classified as “self-help” books because they approach the subject from a self-centered viewpoint. Self-help books, even Christian ones, usually offer the same predictable steps to finding your life’s purpose: Consider your dreams. Clarify your values. Set some goals. Figure out what you are good at. Aim high. Go for it! Be disciplined. Believe you can achieve your goals. Involve others. Never give up.
But being successful and fulfilling your life’s purpose are not at all the same issue! You could reach all your personal goals, becoming a raving success by the world’s standard, and still miss the purposes for which God created you.
How, then, do you discover the purpose you were created for? You have only two options. Your first option is speculation. This is what most people choose. They conjecture, they guess, they theorize.
Fortunately, there is an alternative to speculation. It’s revelation. We can turn to what God has revealed in his Word. God has not left us in the dark to wonder and guess. He has clearly revealed his five purposes for our lives through the Bible. It’s our Owner’s Manual, explaining why we are alive, how life works, what to avoid, and what to expect in the future. It explains what no self-help or philosophy book could know.
God is not just the starting point of your life; he is the source of it. To discover your purpose in life you must turn to God’s Word, not the world’s wisdom. You must build your life on eternal truths, not pop psychology, success-motivation, or inspirational stories. The Bible says, “It’s in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for. Long before we first heard of Christ and got our hopes up, he had his eye on us, had designs on us for glorious living, part of the overall purpose he is working out in everything and everyone.” Ephesians 1:11 (Msg) This verse gives us three insights into your purpose
1. You discover your identity and purpose through a relationship with Jesus Christ. If you don’t have such a relationship, I will explain how to begin one later.
2. God was thinking of you long before you ever thought about him. His purpose for your life predates your conception. He planned it before you existed, without your input! You may choose your career, your spouse, your hobbies, and many other parts of your life, but you don’t get to choose your purpose.
3. The purpose of your life fits into a much larger, cosmic purpose that God has designed for eternity. That’s what this book is about.
What Drives Your Life?
Everyone’s life is driven by something. Most dictionaries define the verb drive as “to guide, to control, or to direct.” What is the driving force in your life? Right now you may be driven by a problem, a pressure, or a deadline. You may be driven by a painful memory, a haunting fear, or an unconscious belief. There are hundreds of circumstances, values, and emotions that can drive your life. The five most common ones are: guilt, resentment or anger, fear, materialism, and the need for approval.
Nothing matters more than knowing God’s purposes for your life, and nothing can compensate for not knowing them – not success, wealth, fame, or pleasure. Without a purpose, life is motion without meaning, activity without direction, and events without reason. Without a purpose, life is trivial, petty, and pointless.
There are five great benefits of living a purpose-driven life:
-It gives meaning to your life
-It simplifies your life
-It focuses your life
-It motivates your life
-It prepares you for eternity
One day you will stand before God, and he will do an audit of your life, a final exam, before you enter eternity. The Bible says, “Remember, each of us will stand personally before the judgment seat of God…Yes, each of us will have to give a personal account to God.” Romans 14:10b, 12 (NLT) Fortunately, God wants us to pass this test, so he has given us the questions in advance. From the Bible we can surmise that God will ask us two crucial questions:
First, “What did you do with my Son, Jesus Christ?’ God won’t ask about your religious background or doctrinal views. The only thing that will matter is, did you accept what Jesus did for you and did you learn to love and trust him? Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6 (NIV)
Second, “What did you do with what I gave you?” What did you do with your life – all the gifts, talents, opportunities, energy, relationships, and resources God gave you? Did you spend them on yourself, or did you use them for the purposes God made you for?
Preparing you for these two questions is the goal of this book. The first question will determine where you spend eternity. The second question will determine what you do in eternity. By the end of this book you will be ready to answer both questions.
What is Your Life?
If I asked you how you picture your life, what image would come to your mind? That image is your life metaphor. It’s the view of life that you hold, consciously or unconsciously, in your mind. It’s your description of how life works and what you expect from it. People often express their life metaphors through clothing, jewelry, cars, hairstyles, bumper stickers, even tattoos.
Your unspoken life metaphor influences your life more than you realize. It determines your expectations, your values, your relationships, your goals, and your priorities. For instance, if you think life is a party, your primary value in life will be having fun. If you see life as a race, you will value speed and will probably be in a hurry much of the time. If you view life as a marathon, you will value endurance. If you see life as a battle or a game, winning will be very important to you.
To fulfill the purposes God made you for, you will have to challenge conventional wisdom and replace it with the biblical metaphors of life. The Bible offers three metaphors that teach us God’s view of life: Life is a test, life is a trust, and life is a temporary assignment. These ideas are the foundation of purpose-driven living.
The Reason for Everything
It’s all for him. The ultimate goal of the universe is to show the glory of God. It is the reason for everything that exists, including you. God made it all for his glory. Without God’s glory, there would be nothing.
What is the glory of God? It is who God is. It is the essence of his nature, the weight of his importance, the radiance of his splendor, the demonstration of his power, and the atmosphere of his presence. God’s glory is the expression of his goodness and all his other intrinsic, eternal qualities.
Where is the glory of God? Just look around. Everything created by God reflects his glory in some way. We see it everywhere, from the smallest microscopic form of life to the vast Milky Way, from sunsets and stars to storms and seasons. Creation reveals our Creator’s glory. In nature, we learn that God is powerful, that he enjoys variety, loves beauty, is organized, and is wise and creative. The Bible says, “The heavens declare the glory of God.” Psalm 19:1 (NIV)
God’s glory is best seen In Jesus Christ. He, the light of the world, illuminates God’s nature. Because of Jesus, we are no longer in the dark about what God is really like. The Bible says, “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory.” Hebrews 1:3 (NIV) Jesus came to earth so we could fully understand God’s glory. “The Word became human and lived among us. We saw his glory…a glory full of grace and truth.” John 1:14 (GWT)
God’s inherent glory is what he possesses because he is God. It is his nature. We cannot add anything to this glory, just as it would be impossible for us to make the sun shine brighter. But we are commanded to recognize his glory, honor his glory, declare his glory, praise his glory, reflect his glory, and live for his glory. Why? Because God deserves it! We owe him every honor we can possibly give. Since God made all things, he deserves all the glory. The Bible says, “You are worthy, O Lord our God, to receive glory and honor and power. For you created everything.” Revelation 4:11a (NLT)
How Can I Bring Glory to God?
There are many ways to bring glory to God, but they can be summarized in God’s five purposes for your life. The five purposes for which God created you to bring him glory are by:
- Worshipping him
- Loving others, especially other believers
- Becoming like Christ
- Serving others with our gifts
- Telling others about him
These purposes were practiced by the first Christians in
Acts 2, explained by Paul in
Ephesians 4, and modeled by Jesus in John 17, but they are summarized in the Great Commandment and the Great Commission of Jesus.
Another, slightly different way of stating these 5 purposes is:
1. “Love God with all your heart”: You were planned for God’s pleasure, so your purpose is to love God through worship.
2. “Love your neighbor as yourself”: You were shaped for serving, so your purpose is to show love for others through ministry.
3. “Go and make disciples”: You were made for a mission, so your purpose is to share God’s message through evangelism.
4. “baptize them into…”: You were formed for God’s family, so your purpose is to identify with his church through fellowship.
5. “teach them to do all things…”: You were created to become like Christ, so your purpose is to grow to maturity through discipleship.
Right now, God is inviting you to live for his glory by fulfilling the purposes he made you for. It’s really the only way to live. Everything else is just existing. Real life begins by committing yourself completely to Jesus Christ. If you are not sure you have done this, all you need to do is receive and believe. The Bible promises, “To all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” John 1:12 (NIV) Will you accept God’s offer?
First, believe. Believe God loves you and made you for his purposes. Believe your not an accident. Believe you were made to last forever. Believe God has chosen you to have a relationship with Jesus, who died on the cross for you. Believe that no matter what you’ve done, God wants to forgive you.
Second, receive. Receive Jesus into your life as your Lord and Savior. Receive his forgiveness for your sins. Receive his Spirit, who will give you the power to fulfill your life purpose. The Bible says, “Whoever accepts and trusts the Son gets in on everything, life complete and forever!” John 3:36a (Msg) Wherever you are reading this, I invite you to bow your head and quietly whisper the prayer that will change your eternity: “Jesus, I believe in you and I receive you.” Go ahead.
If you sincerely meant that prayer, congratulations! Welcome to the family of God!
What Matters Most
Life is all about love. Because God is all about love, the most important lesson he wants you to learn on earth is how to love. It is in loving that we are most like him, so love is the foundation of every command he has given us. Learning to love unselfishly is not an easy task. Love should be your top priority, primary objective, and greatest ambition. Love is not a good part of your life; it’s the most important part. The Bible says, “Let love be your greatest aim.” Galatians 3:26 (NLT)
It’s not enough to say, “One of the things I want in life is to be loving,” as if it’s in your top ten list. Relationships must have priority in your life above everything else. Why?
- Life without love is really worthless.
- Love will last forever.
- We will be evaluated on our love.
[So far I have summarized mainly from the first 60 pages of Rick Warren’s book, which fell under the main heading of “What on Earth Am I Here for?” We have
skimmed over the first of the 6 main sections of this book. The six main sections of the book are:
What on Earth Am I Here for?
Purpose #1: You Were Planned for God’s Pleasure
Purpose #2: You Were Formed for God’s Family
Purpose #3: You Were Created to Become Like Christ
Purpose #4: You Were Shaped for Serving God
Purpose #5: You Were
Made for a
As it is not my intent to summarize the whole book, but just to whet your appetite, I will finish my summary by jumping down to the 5th section, entitled “Purpose #4: You Were Shaped for Serving God.”]
You were shaped to serve God. God formed every creature on this planet with a special area of expertise. Some animals run, some hop, some swim, some burrow, and some fly. Each has a particular role to play, based on the way they were shaped by God. The same is true with humans. Each of us was uniquely designed, or “shaped,” to do certain things.
The Bible says, “We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works.” Ephesians 2:10 (NIV) You are God’s handcrafted work of art. You are not an assembly-line product, mass produced without thought. You are custom-designed, one-of-a-kind, original masterpiece. God deliberately shaped and formed you to serve him in a way that makes you unique.
God never wastes anything. He would not give you abilities, interests, talents, gifts, personality, and life experiences unless he intended to use them for his glory. By identifying and understanding these factors you can discover God’s will for your life.
The Bible says you are “wonderfully complex.” You are a combination of many factors. To help you remember five of these factors, I have created a simple acrostic: SHAPE. Whenever God gives us an assignment, he always equips us with what we need to accomplish it. This custom combination of capabilities is called your SHAPE:
Spiritual gifts – God-empowered abilities given to believers to serve him, such as giving, serving, teaching
Heart – the bundle of desires, hopes, interests, ambitions, dreams, and affections you have
Abilities – the natural talents you were born with
Personality – your personal traits, such as introvert or extrovert, sanguine or choleric, etc.
Experience – the sum of your family, educational, vocational, spiritual, ministry and painful life history
[Hopefully you can see why I found “The Purpose Driven Life” to be such profitable and enjoyable reading. This book contains a wealth of information, and truly does make God’s purpose for our lives much easier to grasp. Take the plunge, and read the book, if you haven’t already!]