Welcome to week 2 of “What on Earth Am I Here For?”. If you missed last week – like all those ladies that went to the retreat (though I think they were having more fun than we were) – I reminded you that the ultimate conclusion that we must draw from the obvious fact that God intentionally created each one of us is that He did so with a purpose in mind. Because everything intentionally created is created for a purpose. You and I were indeed created for a purpose. It is no accident that you are sucking air right now, nor is it an accident that you are sitting in these seats or listening online. There is a reason behind all of this.
And all of us know this. This is why we can’t help but question, we can’t help but wonder, from the time we are children the big questions in life:
The question of existence – Why am I alive?
The question of significance – Does my life matter?
And the question of intention – What is my purpose?
Surely, each of you have have asked these questions at some point in your life. Maybe not in those exact words, but deep within all of us there is a yearning to know the ultimate meaning of it all. And I would say that this yearning, this desire to find meaning is another evidence that there IS meaning. God put that in our hearts when He created us so that we would seek Him. But unfortunately, so many of us look everywhere else for meaning only to find that it’s not there.
The prophet Jeremiah pondered this thousands of years ago:
Why was I born? Was it only to have trouble and sorrow and to end my life in disgrace?
I imagine that many people feel about the same way. Life seems to be nothing but a series of endless trouble and sorrow with but a fleeting few glimpses of happiness. It’s no wonder that so many decide to just end it with suicide.
What’s the meaning of it all?
Someone once said: “My life has a superb cast. I just can’t figure out the plot!”
Someone else wrote, “I hope life isn’t a joke because I don’t get it!“
Many have tried to answer these questions. A quick google search reveals a plethora of interesting answers. Here are some of my favorite ones…
Psychology Today lists 6 Keys to Finding Your Purpose:
1. Elusive – It’s hard to find.
2. Evolving – It changes over time.
3. Emerges from Experience – The more you do, the clearer the purpose will become.
4. Exactly Perfectly Timed – This one didn’t make sense…
5. Eminently Qualified – Don’t let your lack of training, talent, or experience stop you from doing what you really love!
6. Enjoyable Adventure
Don’t get too stressed about this or put too much pressure on yourself about clarifying your purpose. Your purpose might indeed be something grand and complicated, or it may be as simple as dispensing love and kindness wherever you go. Remember to be present in the moment, and delight in watching it all unfold. Life really is beautiful.
CNN.com posted an article in November of last year titled “How to Find Your Purpose – and live it”
Here’s their advice:
To define your personal purpose, start with these questions:
- How will the world be better off, thanks to you having been on this earth?
- What are your unique gifts and superpowers?
- Who have you been when you’ve been at your best?
- Who must you fearlessly become?
At the intersection of these four questions lies your personal purpose.
Huffington Post from April of last year “Three Unexpected ways to find your life purpose”
1. Get More Action
You can’t think your way into finding your life purpose; you have to do your way into it. Take a mental note from Nike and Just Do It. The experience is the reward; clarity comes through the process of exploring. Action is where you get results.
2. Drop From Your Head to Your Heart
Your heart is your best tool to access your true purpose and passion. Ask yourself what you love? Start taking steps to do what you love. When you are inspired and connected to your happy self, inspiration floods your heart and soul. When you lead from your heart, you are naturally more joyful and motivated to explore. By doing what you love, you will be inspired and gain insights into what brings you the most joy.
3 Break up with the “ONE”
Many of us struggle because we try to find that ONE thing that we are meant to do; but trying to find only one thing is the reason why we feel like something is missing. The notion that we have only one thing we are meant for limits us from fulfilling our greatness.
To lead a purposeful life, follow your passions. When we live a passion-filled life we are living on purpose, and that is the purpose of life. That feeling that something is missing goes away when you lead a passion-filled life.
The need to seek our purpose comes from a lack of passion. When you don’t feel connected to your life, you lack purpose and passion. To fix this emptiness simply add more passion. To boil it down, remember this simple equation:
Passion + Daily Action = Purposeful Life
wikiHow goes into more detail and even has pictures!
Part 1: Evaluating Your Interests
1. Keep a journal
Create a dedicated journal that will help you write down and explore your thoughts about your life’s purpose, you passions, and your joys
2. Question yourself
To begin assessing your life’s purpose, it’s important to assess what you love to do, what you currently do, and what needs to change to live a more purposeful life. Some questions to consider are:
- When have you been happiest in your life?
- What has made you truly proud of yourself?
- What qualities do you most admire in other people?
- What makes you feel really alive and energized?
- How happy do you feel on an everyday basis?
- If you had one week to live, how would you spend that week?
- What “shoulds” are overriding your “want tos”?
- If you could change one thing about the world, what would it be?
- What one change could make your life happier?
3. List your interests and passions.
4. Write down what you love.
5. Find your joy.
To find your joy, think about what makes you feel blissfully happy.
6. Use backwards planning.
Imagine you are at the end of you life and looking back. What does it take to get to where you hope you are at that time?
Part 2: Stepping Outside Yourself
1. Determine the purpose of humanity.
This is a weighty question, and it may take some time and reflection to decide, but if you can determine what you think the purpose of humanity is, you can scale that idea down and apply it to your own life.
2. Find people who inspire you.
Think about why these people are inspirational, and determine specific actions or characteristics they have that you’d like to emulate. .
3. Leave your bubble.
With this renewed realization of the rest of the world, you can more objectively see your place in the world and evaluate your passions and purpose.
4. Ask friends what your strengths are.
5. Stop thinking in absolutes.
Many people think that their purpose (or their career, or their interests) have to revolve around one thing. But sometimes our passions are about balancing multiple interests that fulfill different aspects of our needs and wants.
6. Set your purpose.
After you have evaluated yourself and expanded your view outside of yourself, decide what you’d like your life’s purpose to be. Remember that it’s okay if it changes in the future. It’s important to have a goal and direction now, even if you alter it later as you change and grow.
Notice a common theme?
Basically whatever makes you happy in the moment is your purpose in life. And if it changes – that’s ok, just keep looking and you will eventually find it. Just chase what makes you happy.
The sad part about that is that we all know how fleeting happiness really is. It’s totally dependent on uncontrollable external circumstances. What makes us happy now, probably won’t do so next year. Everything gets old eventually.
While all of those things may sound like good advice, and some of it actually is pretty solid in general. The major problem with all of those ways of finding purpose is that they are looking in the wrong place. They are ignoring the one glaring fact that would make finding the answer so much easier. They are beginning with an unstated assumption that throws off any possibility of there actually being some kind of meaning to it all.
They ignore or deliberately forget or refuse to believe that we are not here by chance, but that we were made.
We are not the highest level of evolution.
We are the unique creations of a very unique creator.
And the purpose of a created thing is not found within nor determined by that thing.
Rather the purpose of a product is defined by its inventor.
So, unless you and I are willing to look to our Creator for the reasons why He made us…we will be left with only empty guessing.
So let us not be fools and think we can find the answers within.
Let us look to our God, the maker of heaven and earth, and ask Him these questions.
1. QUESTION OF EXISTENCE: Why am I alive? Why do I exist? Why did God create me?
The Lord has made everything for his own purposes, even the wicked for a day of disaster.
Circle “His own”.
Not for your purpose, not for your pleasure, not for your goals and ambitions and dreams. But God made you for His purpose. God has never made anything without a purpose. He doesn’t just make stuff for no reason. Every animal has a purpose, every rock has purpose, every plant has a purpose, every human being has a purpose. If you are alive, your heart is beating and you are breathing, God has a purpose for your life. He has never made anything without a purpose.
The truth is, you were made for five purposes. During the next 40 days we’re going to look in detail at these five reasons God put you on this planet, the five reasons that give meaning to your life, five purposes for which you and I exist.
Today I just want you to understand the motive behind it. The purpose is the what. But it still begs the question: WHY? Why did God create me for His purpose?
Long before He laid down the earth’s foundations He had us in mind. And He settled on us as the focus of His love to be made whole and holy by His love.
Circle “the focus of His love.”
God says that I was created to be loved by God. (fill in)
The Bible says God is love and He created you as an object of His love. He made you to love you. He didn’t need you. He wasn’t lonely. God just wanted to create you so He made you for the motive of loving you. That’s why you were made. That’s why you are alive.
Yes, I know that is a simple answer. But as I like to say, God’s ways are simple. Would it really be more satisfying if it were really complicated?
The truth is that God made you to love you. It’s not all that different from why a married couple decides to have a child – to love. Do you know where we get that desire? Whose image are we made in?
So, the answer to the question of existence: Why do I exist?
To be loved by God.
2. QUESTION OF SIGNIFICANCE: Does my life matter? Of all the billions of people, how can I be of any significance?
Maybe God made me to love me but does my life matter? Is there really any meaning in my existence?
My work all seems so useless. I have spent my strength for nothing and for no purpose at all.
Without a purpose, life seems trivial, life seems petty and life seems pointless. You and I were made for meaning.
In World War II there were some prisoners in a Nazi concentration camp in Hungary. They worked in a factory that processed human sewage. One day the Allies came along and blew up that factory which left the prisoners with nothing to do. So the guards had the prisoners take the rubble of that factory and move it to a nearby field just for work. The next day they reversed it and had them take the rubble and move it back to the original site. The next day they reversed it and had them take the rubble and move it back to the next site. They did this over and over and over. No meaning to it. No purpose. Just work without meaning. An amazing thing began to happen. The prisoners began to go crazy. They lost hope and many lost their minds. They began to throw themselves in front of the guards in order to be shot, committing suicide because death was more preferable than living life without meaning.
We are each born with a deep sense of meaning, a deep sense of the need to be significant, to matter. It’s what gives us hope. When all meaning and significance are stripped away, hope is gone. And without hope, life is not worth living.
So how much do you matter? Maybe you matter to some of your friends or family. But at the end of your life, what you will really want to know is if your life mattered ultimately.
And the answer is yes because you matter to the one who MADE matter, which is ultimately all that does matter…
And how do you matter to God?
I am your Creator. You were in My care even before you were born.
What do we as human beings do with things that matter? We care for them. People that matter to us. We care for them. Physical objects that matter to us. We care for them. This is not just a feeling, but something that we do. God is saying that before you were even born, He was taking care of you. You matter.
You…scheduled each day of my life before I began to breathe. Every day was recorded in Your book.
What else do we as humans do with things that matter? We pay attention to them. The things that matter to us. We have great attention to detail. Like a brand new car. You know every inch of it and would instantly notice a scratch. Like your time. Time matters to us because we have such a limited amount of it, so we pay attention to every minute of the day – marking the hours down in our calendars. The people that matter to us. We pay attention. We remember birthdays. We stalk them on Facebook and make sure to like everything they post. And the people who really matter to us, we arrange our calendars around to be with. God made you, but before He did, he planned out every day of your life.
You know the marriage between our free will and God’s sovereignty is one that we as humans cannot fully understand. How is it that God is totally in control AND you and I can choose what we do? Somehow both are true. Therefore, God planning out my days was not Him taking away my free choice. But since He is all knowing, He knows what I’m going to do before I do it.
I like to imagine God planning my life long long ago and in a sense that means He watched it happen before it really happened. He paid attention to every detail, every inclination of my heart, every good choice and every bad choice. And in all of that, He planned how HE would interact with me to bring me to where He wanted me to be. And He did the same with you. He loved you before he made you, and I imagine that as He watched your and my life unfold that love only grew stronger, even as I disobeyed Him, even as I rejected Him. Because also long before I was born, long before He even made the world, He also determined to sacrifice His son for me so that He could have me despite all my bad choices.
If that does not say that you matter, I don’t know what does. To imagine that God would have done all of that even if it had only been just for me, or just for you. It’s unfathomable how much you and I matter to the one who made matter.
His plans endure forever. His purposes last eternally.
What else do we humans do with the things that matter to us? Especially the people that matter to us? We make plans with them. With our spouses and children we make plans like vacations, and school, and places to live and retirement. With our friends we make plans for fun things to do together. God made plans with you. And unlike the plans that we make, God’s plans last forever.
We make plans with people we like and love to spend a certain amount of time with them. The more a person matters, the more time we plan to spend with them. God made plans to spend eternity with you.
And the here and now, this life is preparation for that eternity.
That is the meaning of life. God put you on earth to prepare you for what you’re going to do the rest of eternity with Him. His plans and purposes for you are eternal.
The biggest mistake that people make in western culture today is here and now thinking – thinking that all that matters is what happens in the 50, 60, 70, 80 maybe 90 years that you’re going to live on earth. One day your heart is going to stop beating. That’s going to be the end of your body. That’s not going to be the end of you. You were made to last forever.
God says I was made to last forever. (fill in)
You matter so much to God that he wants to spend eternity with you.
2 Corinthians 5:1
When this tent we live in, our body here on earth, is torn down, God will have a house in heaven for us to live in, a home that He Himself has made which will last forever.
God’s intentions for you are not like the fruit fly – which only lives for 24 hours. God has purposes and plans for you that last forever. This is the key to the meaning of life. When you understand first, God made you to love you and second, you were made to last forever and that this life is preparation for that, then that gives meaning to your life.
3. QUESTION OF INTENTION: WHAT IS MY PURPOSE?
So, God made me to love me. And I matter immensely to God so much so that He made me to last forever. But what am I supposed to do with my life?
David asked this same question in
Why did You create us? For nothing?
The Naturalist would answer and say the purpose of life is to perpetuate itself. Perpetuate the species. Keep evolution going. Quite motivating…
The Hedonist would say the purpose of life is to have pleasure, be happy, have fun. Think positive thoughts. Do whatever feels good. Find your passion. (sound familiar?)
The Materialist would say that the purpose of life is to acquire lots of things, to pile up wealth, to “leave it to the children.”
The Dictator would say the purpose of life is to gain power.
But all of us know that these purposes are unsatisfying. They don’t fulfill. Maybe for a short while, but the bubble pops eventually.
Fortunately, David wasn’t asking any of those people. He was asking the right person. Because there are only two ways to figure out the purpose of something:
1. Ask the inventor.
2. Read the instruction manual.
Some would probably say a third option would be to ask Google. This is true in a sense, but Google is just going to point you to the inventor or some form of the owner’s manual or someone who read it and wrote their own version. Take for instance those Facebook things where someone of more advanced years puts a picture of some ancient device from the 40’s or 50’s and asks if anyone knows what it is. For those of us of less advanced years, some of these object can seem quite strange with their purpose not readily obvious. But fortunately, a quick Google search may yield some results or I just wait around until someone answers the question. The best way NOT to figure out the purpose is to just keep looking at the picture and trying to guess.
LIKEWISE THE BEST WAY TO NOT FIGURE OUT YOUR PURPOSE IS ASKING THE PERSON IN THE MIRROR WHAT HE/SHE THINKS!!
Anyway, I hope you get the point. To know the purpose of something that YOU DIDN’T MAKE, you have to ask the maker or look at the instruction manual.
Fortunately in our case we get to do both!!
And within that instruction manual a very wise man once observed…
Knowing God results in every other kind of understanding.
The more you know God, the more you’re going to understand the meaning and purpose of your life.
I find my purpose in knowing God. (fill in)
Notice how this is pretty much the exact opposite of what all those other “find your purpose” things said. They all said “The more you know yourself, the more you will understand your purpose.”
But the Bible doesn’t begin with “In the beginning YOU” or “In the beginning I” – no it begins with “In the beginning God”
Colossians 1:16 (the Message paraphrase)
For everything – absolutely everything – above and below, visible and invisible, everything got started in Him and finds its purpose in Him.
It all starts with God. It’s all sustained by God. Someday the world is going to end with God and it’s going to go on in eternity with God. It’s all about God.
It’s not about you.
It is in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for, part of the overall purpose He is working out in everything and everyone.
If you want to know your purpose you’ve got to know Christ.
It’s not about you.
It’s ALL about Him.
So, now we have answered the questions:
Why am I alive? To be loved by God.
Does my life matter? Yes, it matters to the one who made matter.
What is my purpose? Well, I didn’t exactly answer this yet, other than IT’S NOT ABOUT YOU. That is what we are going to spend the next 40 days doing.
Here on Sunday mornings I will give you a preview of this week’s reading.
You will spend each day reading this book and your Bible.
(IF YOU ARE NOT IN A GROUP, YOU CAN BUY A BOOK FOR $10)
In your groups throughout the week you will discuss together what you’ve learned.
Trust me, this is a journey that is well worth taking. I strongly encourage you to sign up for a group today if you haven’t already because we will all begin our reading tomorrow.
If you are in the groups, and even if you are on your own and have the book “What on Earth Am I Here For? The Purpose Driven Life.” Tomorrow we need to all begin by reading day 1. It is laid out as a daily reader over 40 (actually 42) days. Each day’s reading is about 10 minutes long. At the end of each reading there are three things that if you take them seriously, could really help you truly find your purpose.
1. A point to ponder. Usually a single sentence that is just something you can think about the rest of the day. It kind of encapsulates that day.
2. A verse to remember. A key verse from that day that you would do well to memorize if you can.
3. A question to consider. This is really good. It’s a good question that brings the message you read and heard on Sunday morning right into your lap and calls you to action. If you only do one of these, this is the one I would focus on.
There is also a video from Rick Warren that you can watch for each day. They are actually full sermons on audio and each are about an hour long. I haven’t taken the time to watch them, but you can if you wish. I’m sure they are good.
I encourage you that as you read each day – in addition to your bible reading – that you make a point to think about what you’re learning throughout the day. Maybe write the point to ponder and the bible verse on a note card so you can glance at it throughout the day, or mull over in your mind the question to consider. The more effort you put into this, the more you will get out of it.
And then, aside from your daily personal devotion, make a point to be engaged in your Life Group. Ask questions. Discuss the material. Get to know each other and make the most of the time.
I truly believe that the next 40 days can and will be a life changing event for our church and for your individual lives. Don’t waste it. Don’t just go through the motions. As I pointed out last week in no uncertain terms…If you are a Christ Follower then you do not have permission to waste your life.You do not have the option to just ignore your purpose. You do not have the right to live your life for yourself. You were bought at a price. You are not your own.
And the amazing and wonderful thing about our God is that the more you get to know Him and the more you find out what his plans are for you, the more you begin to see that His ways truly are better than your ways. That the life He has planned for you is WAY BETTER than you could have ever imagined on your own.
I for one can tell you this with absolute certainty. My life today is NOTHING like what I had planned years ago. And for that I am so thankful! God got ahold of me while I was in the Navy shortly after I moved here. Before that I was a miserable materialistic man. Though I was raised in church, I chose to chase after things only to find that the more you have the more you want. It’s never enough. But through a series of events that I know God orchestrated, He brought me to my knees in the engine room of a submarine and I made Jesus my Lord. Not just my forgiver, not just my savior, but my Lord and my master. I had found that trying to do life my way was not working. Over the course of the next few years God started changing me. And a huge part of that transformation was going through this book. My Mom gave it to me back in 2003, four years earlier and it sat on a shelf. But then I picked it up and took it with me on deployment. You can see the crease on the side where it got worn from keeping it in the side of my rack. As I went through this journey on my own, doing the daily readings and reading my bible as well, God started showing me a life that I so desperately desired but was trying to get it by all the wrong means.
Here is a quote that I have highlighted from day 6:
It is a fatal mistake to assume that God’s goal for your life is material prosperity or popular success, as the world defines it. (what I desired above all else at the time) The abundant life has nothing to do with material abundance, and faithfulness to God does not guarantee success in a career or even in ministry. Never focus on temporary crowns.
That last part really nailed it for me. My friends, everything we can do on this earth without God as the focus is chasing after temporary crowns. It’s chasing after things that will not go into eternity with us. This life truly is an instant compared to what eternity will be like, yet we spend all of our time and effort moving rocks from one pile to another only to have them moved right back after we are gone.
God has eternal crowns for you. God has eternal plans for you. This life is not even close to all there is, but what we do on this life matters in that long eternity. You and I were made for a reason and a purpose and if we decide to only chase after the temporary crowns, then we have missed the whole point and God forbid end up like the wicked and lazy servant I talked about last week. Don’t be that. Be the good and faithful servant. Make this study a priority in your life. Because it matters more than you can imagine.