We might wish for more but we only get one life. Someone said, ‘If only we have two lives. The first in which to make one’s mistakes…..and the second in which to profit by them.’ But there are no dress rehearsals for life; we are on stage straightway. Time is our most valuable possession. The pressure on time tends to increase as life goes on and as we become older.
Moses reminds us that ‘A thousand years are like a day’ to God (Psalm 90: 4, quoted in 2 Peter 3: 8). Realizing that life is short helps us to use the time we have more wisely and for eternal good. Because of this brevity of life; we are told to ask the Lord to teach us to number our days so that we may get a heart of wisdom (Psalm 90:12). And because our days are numbered, we want our work to count, to be effective and productive.
We desire to see God’s eternal plan revealed now to reflect His eternal purposes. If we feel dissatisfied with this life and all its imperfections we must remember our desire to see our work established is placed there by God. Regardless of where you are in life-on good or bad days -we all wrestle with our purpose.
Solomon the writer of Ecclesiastes spent pretty much the entirety of the book wrestling with his purpose. He was the King of Israel! He had money, power, fame, love and unlimited resources-but these were some his conclusions:
He (God) has made everything beautiful in its time. He also has planted eternity in men’s hearts and minds a divinely implanted sense of a purpose working through the ages which nothing under the sun but God alone can satisfy, yet so that men cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end (Ecclesiastes 3:11).
All has been heard; the end of the matter is: Fear God revere and worship Him, knowing that He is and keep His commandments, for this is the whole of man the full, original purpose of his creation, the object of God’s providence, the root of character, the foundation of all happiness, the adjustment to all inharmonious circumstances and conditions under the sun and the whole duty for every man (Ecclesiastes 12:13 AMP).
A person can be very clever, very rich, very attractive, very gifted, very powerful—and still be very foolish! Real wisdom is not first of all a store of accumulated knowledge or experience; the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 1:7).
It means revering and worshiping Him…obeying His commandments. “For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it is good or evil” (Ecclesiastes 12:14). Judgement will be individual, each person accountable to the Lord for his or her entire life. Lest any of us should think that God does not understand the pressures of living in this world, He has delegated the responsibility of judgment to one Man, Jesus Christ (Acts 17:31).
There so many commands in the Bible that should be obeyed but Jesus sums them succinctly:
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind (intellect). This is the great (most important, principal) and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as you do yourself. These two commandments sum up and upon them depend all the Law and the Prophets (Matthew 22: 37-40 AMP).
Communion with the Lord
We spend much of our lives seeking something that will give meaning and purpose to our lives. But in this passage, Jesus says our purpose is not rooted in ourselves-it is rooted in God. Our recognition of Who is He is and obedience to what He has said will always unlock our life’s purpose and meaning.
Your fulfillment as a human being flows out of communion with God. All things find their true meaning for existence in Him. For in Him we live, move and have our being (Acts 17:28). When we separate ourselves from Him, the purpose for which He created us is denied.
When you fulfill your purpose by spending time with Him, everything you need in order to accomplish your assignment in life is released. Fellowship with God was Adam’s purpose; tending the Garden was His assignment. Out of communion with the Lord comes creativity.
The Search for Meaning and Purpose
Bernard Levin, who was not a Christian once, wrote an article called ‘Life’s Great Riddle, and No Time to Find Its Meaning’. In it he spoke of the fact that in spite of his great success as a columnist for over twenty years he feared that he might have ‘wasted reality in the chase of a dream.’ He wrote:
To put it bluntly, have I time to discover why I was born before I die?… I have not managed to answer the question yet, and however many years I have before me they are certainly not as many as there are behind. There is an obvious danger in leaving it too late…why do I have to know why I was born? Because, of course, I am unable to believe that it was an accident; and if it wasn’t one, it must have meaning.
Countries like ours are full of people who have all the material comforts they desire, together with such non-material blessings as a happy family, and yet lead lives of quiet, and at times noisy, desperation, understanding nothing but the fact that there is hole inside them and that however much food and drink they pour into it, however many motor cars and television sets they stuff it with, however many well balanced children and loyal friends they parade around the edges of it…it aches.
The Russian novelist and author of War and Peace Leo Tolstoy put it this way, “What is life for? To die? To kill myself at once? No, I am afraid. To wait for death till it comes? I fear that even more. Then I must live. But what for? In order to die? And I could not escape from that circle.’’
Tolstoy later wrote a book A Confession in 1897, in which he tells the story of his search for meaning and purpose in life. He had rejected Christianity as a child. When he left University he sought to get as much pleasure out of life as he could. He entered the social world of Moscow and Petersburg, drinking heavily, living promiscuously, gambling and leading a wild life. But it did not satisfy him.
Then he became ambitious for money. He had inherited an estate and made a large amount of money out of his books. Yet that did not satisfy him either. He sought success, fame and importance. These he also achieved. He wrote what the Encyclopaedia Britannica describes as ‘one of the two or three greatest novels in the world literature’. But he was left asking the question, ‘Well fine…so what?’ to which he had no answer.
Then he became ambitious for his family—to give them the best possible life. He married in 1862 and had a kind, loving wife and thirteen children (which, he says, distracted him from any search for the overall meaning of life!).
He had achieved all his ambitions and was surrounded by what appeared to be complete happiness. And yet one question brought him to the verge of suicide:
Is there any meaning in my life which will not be annihilated by the inevitability of death which awaits me?
He searched for the answer in every field of science and philosophy. The only answer he could find to the question ‘Why do I live?’ was that ‘in the infinity of space and the infinity of time infinitely small particles mutate with infinite complexity.’
As he looked round his contemporaries he saw that people were not facing up to the first order questions of life: , ‘Who am I?’’Why am I here?’’‘Where did I come from?’, ‘Where am I heading?’ ‘What is life about?’ ‘What was I made to do? ‘What am I doing wrong?’
Eventually he found that the peasant people of Russia had been able to answer these questions through their Christian faith and he came to realize that only in Jesus Christ do we find the answer.
Our Hearts are Restless
Have you noticed how hard it is to turn our thoughts to God when everything is going well with us? We have all we want is a terrible saying when ‘all’ does not include God. We find God to be an interruption. As Augustine says, ‘God wants to give us something, but cannot, because our hands are full-there is nowhere for Him to put it’ Or as C.S Lewis said,
God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world….We regard God as an airman regards his parachute; it’s there for emergencies but he hopes he’ll never use it…. Now God who has made us, knows what we are and that our happiness lies in Him. Yet we will not seek it in Him as long as He leaves any other resort where it can even plausibly be looked for…What then can God do in our interests but make ’our own life’ less agreeable to us, and take away the plausible source of false happiness?’ I call this Divine humility because it is a poor thing to strike our colors to God when the ship is going down under us; a poor thing to come to Him as a last resort, to offer up ‘our own’ when it is no longer worth keeping.
Freddie Mercury, the lead singer of the rock group Queen, who died at the end of 1991 realized that his fame, fortune, and talents were no longer enough to sustain him; that beyond the darkness if his fears, shines a light far brighter than the star he was on Earth. He decided to seek redemption before a God unimpressed by his celebrity. He wrote in one of his last songs on The Miracle album, ‘Does anyone know what we are living for?’
In spite of the fact that he had amassed a huge fortune and had attracted thousands of fans, he admitted in an interview shortly before his death that he was desperately lonely. He said,
You can have everything in this world and still be the loneliest man, and that is the bitterest type of loneliness. Success has brought me world idolization and millions of pounds, but it’s prevented me from having the one thing we all need-a loving, ongoing relationship.
He was right to speak of an ‘ongoing relationship, as the one thing we all need. Yet no human relationship will satisfy entirely. Nor can it be completely ongoing. That is because we were created to live in a relationship with God.
It was Augustine who said, “O God! You have created us for Yourself and our hearts are restless unless they find rest in You.” The ultimate purpose of life is to know the one true God. To know Him means we perceive, recognize, become acquainted with, and understand Him intimately. Out of this knowledge, there comes eternal and divine life. Jesus said,
And this is eternal life: it means to know (to perceive, recognize, become acquainted with, and understand) You, the only true and real God, and likewise to know Him, Jesus as the Christ (the Anointed One, the Messiah), Whom You have sent” (John 17: 3 AMP). Jesus said “I am the Way and the Truth and the Life; no one comes to the Father except by (through) Me” (John 14:6).
Jesus is the only one who can bring us into that relationship that goes on into eternity. And again it was C. S. Lewis who wrote:
God made us: invented us as a man invents an engine. A car is made to run on petrol, and it would not run properly on anything else. Now God designed the human machine to run on Himself. He Himself is the fuel our spirits were designed to burn or the food our spirits were designed to feed on. There is no other. That is why it is just no good asking God to make us happy in our own way without bothering about a relationship with Him. God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing.
Paul’s Determined Purpose
The apostle Paul’s determined purpose was to know Jesus Christ….to become more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him perceiving and recognizing and understanding the wonders of His Person more strongly and more clearly, and that he may in that same way come to know the power out flowing from His resurrection which it exerts over believers, and that he may so share His sufferings as to be continually transformed in spirit into His likeness…. (See Philippians 3:10-11).
Paul understood his purpose and mission, which should be the personal mission of every believer in Jesus Christ. It can be reduced to three important characteristics:
- To know Christ
- To know and experience His power
- To identify with His Suffering
It is the one summary statement that best describes the purpose of our existence on earth and the goal of our Christian experience.