It’s early June and for many students and parents summer is in full swing. For college students it’s time for a break from studies for internships or times of reflection. For many High School students it means tutoring, SAT prep or summer camps. For parents it means kids at home and for older folks it means hotter weather.
Regardless of age or station in life, I’d like to spend some time reflecting on our purpose in this life. For many young people, they are asking, “What should I do with my life?” For parents of children in their teens and twenties, they’re asking, “what should my child do with his or her life?” For working people, it may seem like a question already answered with a career. For retirees, the question may now be, “what should I do now?”
At the heart of all these questions is a bigger ultimate question: “What is the purpose of life?” For a lot of people this question has not been asked or carefully thought through. Many have just simply assumed what culture or those around us have been taught. Others assume that greatness must look a particular way. In the East, many are taught that value and purpose in life is found in what the community thinks of you. In the West, the assumption is that it is up to the individual to discover for him or herself what the purpose of life is.
Answering the question of the purpose of life is not an insignificant question. Many have given up on their lives because they could not answer this question. Others have spent years pursuing vanity only to find out too late that their lives have been wasted. It is also the very reason why many have found God. They sensed that something about how they were operating in the world was wrong or misaligned.
In order to answer this question we must establish some parameters to be able assess whether we are answering this question adequately.
First, the answer must be true regardless of what age or station we are in life. The purpose of our lives must be true whether we are sixteen or sixty. It must be true whether we are starting our careers or retiring. It must be true no matter what stage we are in life.
Second, the answer must be able to hold weight whether we are experiencing joy or sorrow. Everyone knows that everyone experiences joy or sorrow in this lifetime. It must be able to withstand the storms of life as well as the peaceful moments of life.
Third, the purpose of life must hold true in spite of the measurements of culture. People and society change in their assessments of what is popular or not. People change in their assessment of what success means.
Lastly, the purpose of life is something that has to be revealed from Scripture. If this is true, then the purpose of life is not something that is derived from us. If it is derived from us, we can take it away; we can destroy it. But if the purpose of life comes from the Creator, it is something beyond us. That means that no one and no circumstance can take it away.
Over the next few weeks, we will be examining what the Bible tells us our purpose should be. We will be discussing what the mission and vision of our lives should be.
To start, it’s helpful to know that the Bible is not just a book of instructions. The Bible is at the heart a story of what God has done in history. This is helpful. Because whether we realize it or not many of us live in the context of a story. The question is whether we live in a story where God is the center or we are the center. In the first chapter of the first book of the Bible, the answer is given in these words: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” We are not the center. God is.
In this one sentence is a deep and profound revelation of who we are and why we are here. God made us. We are not the results of time and chance or impersonal fate. We are created. With this understanding, let us begin our journey.