What is the Meaning of Life?
What does it take to be successful at something? What makes a business successful? What about a sports team? A family? A career? No matter the realm of success, there are several answers we can give that seem to be key ingredients to success. We commonly say that success requires hard work, determination, skill, help, preparation, etc. Most people would quickly agree with a list like this, and perhaps add a thing or two, demonstrating that there are certain common practices considered to be essential for success in any field. However, we often forget that for anyone or anything to be successful, the most basic requirement is that there must first be a goal; a purpose. To say it another way, we generally must know what success is before we can achieve it.
Let me give you some examples. If you owned a company, you probably would not produce random items for a random market and sell those items for random amounts. Instead, companies generally have a specific product line for a target demographic, which they sell for calculated prices that enable them to earn a profit. The purpose of owning a company such as this, is to make a profit. The goal of a profit guides your other actions in this instance.
Or, perhaps you hope to earn a college degree for the sake of getting a job. If so, it would be unusual to make a habit of taking courses outside of your major, or to do homework for classes for which you were not even registered. You would, or at least should, be putting your efforts toward mastering and completing whatever degree plan you are on, so that you can graduate with the degree or credits you need in order to get a job. Thus, the purpose of attending college in a situation like this is to earn the necessary degree or credits required to get a job. In this instance, earning a degree to help you get a job is the goal, and this goal guides your other actions. In fact, the idea of a purpose guides most fields and most walks of life in a similar way. If you are a teacher, your purpose is to help your students learn a specific subject or think critically, to help prepare them for life. If you are part of a sports team, the purpose of forming or joining a team is to win, or get exercise, etc.
Do you see where I’m going with this? In pretty much all areas of life, people have a purpose (goal) that guides them. Our efforts are directed toward achieving these goals. We measure success by completion of these goals. I’m not making this point to contradict the possibility of happiness, contentment, or resiliency in the face of failure, or anything like that, so don’t get side tracked. My only point so far is that in pretty much any area of life, if we do not have goals, then our efforts are aimless. They do not have purpose. A sports team that does not work toward winning a game is simply an exercise club – which would, in fact, still have a purpose; exercise. A company that does not work toward earning a profit would cease to be a company and would instead become a charity organization – which still has a purpose; conducting charity. Purpose guides our efforts. It is the finish line we are reaching for. Think of your own job and reflect on the purpose of your company, agency, or organization. Is it to make a profit? To raise money or awareness for charity? To complete a mission, perhaps? I would be shocked if your job does not have some sort of purpose.
I say all of this to build up to my next set of questions. What do you think success looks like for a church? What does a win look like? Why do you come to church? I mean, if every other area of life has a purpose, then shouldn’t church have a purpose? When we show up each Sunday or Wednesday (or whenever you attend), why are we there? We might have our own personal and, frankly, subjective answers, but to get a biblical answer, shouldn’t we really ask the question, “For what purpose does God intend church to fulfill?”
Let’s get even more personal: What about your life…what would a successful life look like for you? You might say, “to get to the top of my field,” or “to provide for my family,” or “for my kids to turn out ‘right,'” but I want to go deeper than that. I want you to think of what you really want out of life, beyond the normal successes that we all want. Meaning, at the end of your life, what would make you look back and say, “I fulfilled my PURPOSE in life?” This is different than simply doing something we enjoy, something we are good at, or something that makes us money. This attempts to answer our most fundamental question, Why do I exist? What is my purpose? There is a difference between our common view of success and success that is filtered through our purpose in life. As an example, if I were a professional pitcher in baseball, then I might think success is winning a world series, making the all star team, or being inducted into the hall of fame. However, if I thought of success as fulfilling my purpose in life, then would I seriously believe that I was created and placed here on earth for the purpose of being inducted into the hall of fame? Don’t get me wrong, that’s a great achievement, but would that really be my purpose in life? Is that why I exist? Would I really be no more than a ball player? For us non-professional athletes, though, we need to ask ourselves if a promotion, a good retirement, a lofty title, fame, comfort, or anything of the sort are really our purpose in life? I would hope not. I would hope you were meant for something more than temporary, earthly, achievements.
And so, similar to what I said about church, if virtually all other aspects of our life are governed by purpose, then for our lives to truly be successful, we need to ask, what is my purpose in life. Why am I here? To answer this question, let’s take a look at Scripture. The prophet Isaiah says…
But now thus saith the Lord that created thee, O Jacob, and he that formed thee, O Israel, Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine.
Notice all of the areas highlighted in red above. In this verse, God makes a statement about His role in the life of the nation of Israel. God created them, redeemed them (on more than one occasion), formed them as a nation, and called them His people (cf. Gen. 1:26; 12:1-3; 15:3-6; 12:1-3; Ex. 1:1-7; 13:17-22, Lev. 26:12, ect.). Interestingly, all of these things can be said about Christians. God created and formed us in our mother’s womb (Psalm 139:13-18). God sent His Son to redeem us from our sins, reconciling us to Him (Gal. 4:4-6; 2 Cor. 5:18-19). And when we accept Christ, God makes us His (1 pet. 2:9; John 1:12; Rom. 8:14-17; 1 Cor. 6:19-20). Here’s the thing: If I create or form something, if I save something, if I claim something as my own, I do those things for a purpose. So, if God took the time to create something, to form it, to redeem it, and to call it His own, you can bet that He did it all for a purpose. We are not here for an arbitrary, temporary reason. We are here for a purpose! So what is that purpose? Why did the God of heaven do those things for Israel in the past, and why does He do them for Christians in the present. Well, Isaiah answers this question just a few verses later,
Even every one that is called by my name: for I have created him for my glory, I have formed him; yea, I have made him.
– Isaiah 43:7
Notice the part in red, again. God created human beings for His glory! Some have said that this passage does not apply to Christians, although I have shown God did all the same things for Christians that He did for Israel (i.e. create, form, redeem, and call His own). However, if you fall into that camp who disagrees, check out these passages:
For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him.
– Colossians 1:16
Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.
– 1st Corinthians 10:31
There are undoubtedly a multitude of ways in which we can bring glory to God, but there is little doubt that bringing glory to Him is our purpose. Old Testament or New, Israelite or Christian, every single human who has lived, does live, or every will live is created for the express purpose of bringing glory to God. Future posts will focus on what bringing glory to God looks like, but the purpose of this post is to help us all realize that our life has a purpose. You were created for a reason. You are not here by accident. God has a purpose for your life, and that purpose is to bring Him glory. There are many other excellent pursuits in life – family, fun, success, etc. – but if we fail to bring glory to God with our life, then we have missed out on our ONE created purpose! As it says above, “whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” Are you a professional athlete? Great! Bring glory to God. Do you work in an office? Own a business? Work at home? Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. If you do these other things without bringing glory to God, then you will never be fully satisfied, because nothing else is why you were made.
There are many great things in this world for you to pursue, but when you get to the end of your life you will not be able to take any of the temporary things with you. Solomon had all the money, power, and fame he could ever want, and yet he found everything under the sun meaningless, because it was temporary. It couldn’t last. He couldn’t last. We work toward a purpose in nearly everything else we do. What about your life? In the end, the things we do for God are all that will ultimately matter. If you don’t know Jesus Christ, then you have been created and formed by God, but you have not yet been redeemed by Him. Your first step in living for your purpose is to be born again through faith in Jesus Christ. If you have already been saved by Jesus, then starting today, make your life about bringing glory to Him. Don’t live your life aimlessly. Live for purpose. Live to bring glory to Him.
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