As we prepare for a New Year, many of us are contemplating life — the big questions. Have you ever struggled with having a sense of purpose in life? Psychologists agree that deep within every human being is the pursuit of meaning, purpose, and self-validation. There’s nothing wrong with this. Since we’re made in the image of God, we need rock-solid meaning upon which to build our life (Jeremiah 29:11; Psalm 138:8). It is in the person of Jesus Christ that we find true purpose (Ephesians 1:11).
The Many Paths of Purpose
People turn to a variety of different things to find purpose. Such pursuits range from the foolish and destructive to the sophisticated and refined.
- Drugs or drunkenness. One of the easiest ways to quench the thirst for purpose is to forget about it altogether. Mind-altering behavior gives the body a quick exit, numbing the need that we all have to possess true meaning.
- Violence. Recent events are a sad testament to the fact that deeply troubled individuals turn to the most abhorrent acts of violence and destruction. Harming other people or property may give a sudden rush of excitement, but will never satisfy the need for meaning.
- Appetites. Some people think that by indulging other bodily appetites, they will somehow meet their need for meaning. Binge eating and sexual escapades are some of the most common ways — ways which often leave someone less fulfilled than before.
- Possessions. Amassing stuff seems to be the answer for millions of people in affluent situations. Yet few people have ever come to the end of their lives thinking that their possessions truly satisfied them.
- Power. Power comes in many forms. Whether it is physical beauty, athletic prowess, political influence, business savvy, or simply personal charm, the pursuit of power makes the world go round. Again, such a pursuit is a dead-end path to purpose.
- Religion. All throughout the ages, people have realized that there must be meaning beyond the here-and-now. Therefore, they have invented religions — systems of self-condemnation, or self-exaltation, or god-pleasing, or whatever it is that their specific religion prescribes.
People can pursue one of these wholeheartedly, or they may dabble in all of them. Ultimately, however, none of these by itself can satisfy the deep drive for purpose and meaning.
True Purpose. True Meaning.
There is one solution alone to humankind’s desire for purpose. His name is Christ. Read these descriptions of him, found in Colossians 1:15-20.
He is the image of the invisible God
He is the firstborn of all creation.
By him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.
He is before all things.
In him all things hold together.
He is the head of the body, the church.
He is the beginning.
He is the firstborn from the dead.
In everything he might be preeminent.
In him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.
There it is. That’s purpose. The passsage describes in sweeping statements the grand purpose of all of life, and points to the source of that purpose in Jesus Christ.
An Example of Purpose
Let’s look at an example of this kind of life. Let’s look at the person whom God used to write down those words that we read above.
Paul wasn’t the kind of guy you’d pick to be the world’s most important missionary. If the stories are true about him, Paul was short, bow-legged, and perhaps a bit strange-looking. He had some life weakness that he struggled with, but was never relieved of. He had been one of the most cruel and violent persecutor of Christians. But God wanted to use him to preach Jesus all over the world.
What happened to Paul was a reversal in purpose. He had been seeking meaning and purpose in power, religion, and violence. He experienced a massive life reversal. What happened instead? He was overwhelmed by the jaw-dropping grace of the God he never knew. He experienced intense physical suffering and persecution.
Purpose for You
Was Paul someone special? Of course he was. God used him in a great way. But each one of us is called to proclaim Jesus, too. We may not travel to strange-sounding cities, get stoned, or suffer shipwreck, but we can bravely tell others about Jesus. He is worth it. Life is too short to let it slip by without using it up for God. Let’s throw ourselves into a life of passionate, gospel-preaching, risk-taking and God-glorifying behavior.
Life with purpose doesn’t require martyrdom. It doesn’t require moving overseas to work in an orphange, though that would be good and admirable. It does not require rule-keeping or tithe-giving or tract-distribution, or Sunday school-teaching, though all of those things are fine. People do not find purpose by doing more for God. The Christian finds purpose through identity in Christ. There is where we find true meaning, true purpose, and a life of joy.