The Purpose of Life
God’s apparent silence has been very challenging for Christians and believers in all ages. I often ask myself, why is God at times so silent? It seems to me that it would solve so many problems if God were only more visible and audible. Many times, I’ve found myself wishing that he would sometimes show his face, or speak in an audible voice as it would strengthen my faith, and that of those around me.
A Christian brother once told me a strange story of how he became a Sabbath-keeper. He was walking to work one Saturday when from a tree above his head he heard a voice calling out, “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy!” He looked up but there was no one to be seen. He concluded that God spoke to him, and this was the first step in him becoming a Sabbath keeper.
The only experience I ever had which could be considered to be something similar, goes back to the time when I first became a Christian and I made a habit of waking up at 4:00 o’clock in the morning to pray. Every morning at 4:00 I would awaken without an alarm clock. Sometimes my eyes would just snap open, I would look at the clock and it would be 4:00. Once or twice, while sleeping, I was certain that I heard someone call my name, I even thought that it was my wife, so I sat up and looked at her, but both times she was sleeping soundly. I looked at the clock and it was exactly 4:00. I was also awakened at least three times by what sounded like somebody banging on the bedroom door so hard that everyone in the house should have been awakened by it. Each time I jumped out of my sleep to realize that everything was dead quiet. There had been no slamming doors, but it was exactly 4:00 o’clock.
In a sense I could say that in those moments I heard God speaking, but I have never heard his voice while being wide-awake and conscious. So, I still find myself thinking at times, “God, why are you so silent?”
The more experienced I become in my Christian life, the more I understand that there is a great reason why God operates on the basis of faith. Faith in the Christian life is so important that God has veiled his face and silenced his voice so that we his children don’t usually see or hear him except by faith. Understanding this helps me, because when passing through the really critical periods of life, when it seems that God has abandoned me at the moment I need him most, it is a vital lesson to remember. For example, my most painful experience was when my brother died. Losing my parents was not as bad, because they were both old when they died, and the expectation was that they would pass on. My brother’s death was difficult for me to deal with because I had believed that God was going to intervene in his illness and that he wouldn’t die, but he did. However, it helped me to understand the importance of faith. If a Christian never has testing situations, is there a need for faith? If there are never those experiences that put you over the barrel or cause you to walk through the fire, is faith necessary?
Faith in the Bible
Bible stories that thrill us often tell ofhow people overcame trials and how their faith came shining through. Job’s tests, Abraham’s offering of his son, David facing a lion and a bear, and later on Goliath, Jonathan taking on the Philistines at Michmash, Daniel in the lions’ den, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the fiery furnace and of course, Jesus on the cross! Every story that impresses us is always outstanding because the characters involved pass through situations where it seems as though God is silent and turns his face away from them, allowing them to enter into the greatest danger and most terrifying predicaments, and yet very often they overcome. Even when there is no miraculous event and the individual suffers or dies, the resolve of these stalwarts and their faith in God takes our breath away. Jesus did die, Paul was beheaded, James was beheaded, Peter was crucified upside-down, Isaiah was put into a hollow log and sawn in two, Jeremiah was stabbed to death – these situations show that faith doesn’t always save your life.
Still, I realize that there is some fundamental reason which necessitates that our lives be based on faith. Here we will try to propose some answers to this great question relating to the Christian experience.
At this moment we are in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic. I have lost an aunt and a cousin to the virus, and yet I’m not too concerned about my own health. When I go into the town-center, to shops or banks I will wear a face-mask because I am asked to. However, I have faith that if I get the virus I will recover, but even if I don’t recover it also doesn’t matter because I don’t live my life on the basis of chance or luck, and I don’t live in fear of death. I believe that because my life is in God’s hands even if the whole world died, I could still live, I will only die when God says that it is time for me to sleep. We need to have this confidence and not live in fear like the rest of the world.
As we see the end of the world approaching, as we anticipate the changes that will take place, the Mark of the Beast being enforced on us, not being able to buy or sell, losing our employment, not having food to eat or a place to live, we need to have confidence in our Heavenly Father, and we need to ask him for that faith and confidence now.
Faith is extremely important and is the most significant element in the experience of every Christian. We can never fulfill the purpose for which we were created if we do not have faith in God. However, I would like to shift the focus a bit to examining the subject of this article, which is, “The Purpose of Life.” Understanding this is the first step in helping us to have a correct relationship to the world around us.
Love & the commandments
Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. (Eccl 12:13)
This Bible verse suggests that we have no other reason for existing than to keep God’s commandments. It sounds good, but let’s look at the matter a little deeper. The text tells the truth, but perhaps the truth for a certain time period and not for now – there’s more to the life offered by God than what is expressed here.
Some people have pets, and they love their pets. Why? What’s the purpose of having a pet? Some people even train their dogs to do tricks or even to ‘pray’ before allowing them to eat. Ultimately, while one intention may be to impress others, the true objective is to teach the dog obedience, so that they don’t wreak havoc in the house or so that they behave in a socially acceptable way. There is always a purpose behind the training. But why get a pet in the first place?
What if someone said, ‘I believe that all dogs should wait before they eat.’ Would it make sense to buy two dogs just to teach them to wait before they eat? What would be the purpose of buying the dogs? Just to teach them the rule? No, certainly not! The dogs were not made for the rule, but the rule was made for the dogs. The perspective that some people have is that God created humanity to keep certain rules, as though the rules are the most important aspect of his divine will in the universe.
Jesus encountered the same reasoning among the Pharisees. They seemed to think that the whole purpose of life was to keep rules, and that God had called the Jews to defend the rules, and that the Jews were just appendages to uphold and keep the rules. But Jesus put things in the right order when he said,
The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath! (Mark 2:27)
The Pharisees gave the Sabbath a higher importance than the person. It was as if somewhere in the universe there had been the concept called ‘the Sabbath’ and since it was most important, God wondered what he could do to exalt the Sabbath, so he got the idea to create humans so that they could worship the Sabbath. So, the Sabbath became the important thing, and the people became the means by which the Sabbath could be glorified. Even today, people seem to believe that they were born to keep rules. God forbid! Isn’t there more to my existence than this?
Other people may reason differently. They believe that they were born to attain eternal life. That means that they were given life, in order to seek life. Their purpose in life is then firstly to obtain life, (and often there is the belief that that the way to do this is by keeping the commandments.
But what does God really want from us? That is the great question. Let’s see what the Bible says
Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created. (Rev 4:11)
Your true place in life
Does this mean that when God created all things, his motive was his own glory and his own pleasure? Is God obsessed with self-seeking.
There is a story told by Philip Keller in a book entitled, Lessons from a Sheepdog. It tells the story of a city dwelling family who was given a puppy dog. The little dog was a constant nuisance for them – chasing cars, tearing up the house, completely hyperactive. They tried all they could but were not able to train the dog to behave as they wanted. One day a man came to visit, and as they told him about their struggles with the dog, the man asked if he could take the dog from them. Of course they were more than happy to get rid of it. It so happened that this man was a shepherd and he immediately recognized the dog as a Collie, a sheepdog. So off the dog went with his new owner to his new home: a farm. The dog had not been born to be a house-bound pet, but to be a working dog. When the little animal saw the sheep for the first time it was as though he suddenly came to life and ultimately, he became the best sheepdog the shepherd had ever had. The dog came alive, he was in his element, he had found the meaning and purpose of his life.
We can also never understand the purpose of our lives, experience true joy, fulfillment and peace until we find our place in life. This is why God needs to be the center or our lives. God is not seeking his own happiness when he requires us to focus on him, he is not obsessed with himself. It is for our sakes that we need to be God-obsessed, we can never be truly happy until we turn to him and find the purpose for which we were created – fellowship with God.
I listened to a pastor who gave a verse-by-verse explanation of the book of Galatians, and while I was greatly blessed by a lot of what he said, I had to disagree with one thing. He stated that the beginning of the gospel is repenting for one’s sins. Then after that you believe that because of what Jesus did God will forgive you for your sins, and then you have to accept Christ and that means that you’ve been born again. But I understand the gospel, the good news, differently.
The foundation and fundamental truth of the good news is that the God of the universe is a God of love, that he loves you more than you can understand. Once you accept this, even if you’re still a sinner, even if you haven’t accepted Christ, this realization will make you want to turn towards this God of love. Why would anyone choose to repent of their sins otherwise, why would a sinner respond to a God who is a tyrant? The beginning of the good news has to be the news of this love, then one starts to seek for their place in God. That is primary, the purpose of life.
Think of marriage in the purest form. Two people want to spend their lives together because in each other’s presence they find a place where they can be happy. It would be selfish to get into a relationship or marriage for financial, social or status benefits. However, this does happen and could be one of the greatest reasons for the divorce rates today. Those who marry for money could divorce and remarry for more money, the quantity may never be enough.
Finding joy in God
The Westminster Confession, written during the reformation when the English Church broke away from Roman Catholicism, outlines the principles of the new English religion. In answer to the question, ‘what is mans’ chief end and purpose’ they provide the answer; “mans’ chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever!” Pretty amazing! Most Christians would not include enjoying God as a reason for their faith. Many would say that they want to live forever, or escape hell or become a better person. However, this idea was locked into the Westminster Confession. The first time I read this my heart sang as I realized how it resonated with a longing deep inside me. I had been brought up in a religion where the service of the servant was the ultimate purpose, where it seemed to please God to turn his subjects into obedient dogs. As if it pleases God that when he says ‘sit’, his people sit, when he says ‘jump’, they jump. But when I read this it emphasized what was in my heart and I was overwhelmed with the truth of the statement. This surely must be number one in our purpose of life. It’s a concept that is not emphasized in the Old Testament, but still the Psalmist does express it:
As the deer pants for the water brooks, So my soul pants for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God; When shall I come and appear before God? (Ps 42:1-2 NASB)
When I read this, I know why it was said that David was a man after God’s own heart; it was because he knew God beyond the rules, formality and structure. He knew God as a person. That is what we need today.
The same reformed theologians who wrote the Westminster Confession continued,
“We were made for Him, and our souls are restless till they find rest in Him.”
We were made for God. What this is focusing on is God, and not the goods of God, not the benefits that God gives us, not the advantages that come from Christianity, but God himself.
My conversion process happened suddenly, as opposed to the slow growth experienced by many others. My advantage was that I could see the difference in my life, it stood out before me like night and day. I remember my teenage years, while running away from God. I remember that sometimes things would happen to me that I couldn’t explain. Now and then I would see something truly beautiful. I lived close to the sea and sometimes early in the morning I would observe that the sea was perfectly still, like a pristine sheet of glass, crystal clear for hundreds of yards. Or I would observe a sunset or sunrise over the ocean, or sometimes the sky was an indescribable intense blue, and something deep inside would stir in my bosom. I had a longing for something that I couldn’t explain, and I couldn’t share this with anyone. It wasn’t until I gave my life to Christ, years later, that I realized that I never had that feeling again. It disappeared and was gone. As soon as I met Christ my soul was satisfied, and I was at peace.
We need to understand why those who know God can go singing to a fiery death, they can go to the executioner’s block and they’re saying, “I’m fully ready to be offered!” They don’t care, they are happy as if they are going to their wedding with peace in their hearts and joy on their faces. It’s because they have found their true purpose in life.
If what you’re expecting is health and life, then you will try to hang on to it. If you become sick, then you will lose your peace. If what you’re looking for from God is wealth and prosperity, then if you lose your riches then you’ll start looking for another God. But the true joy of Christianity is in the Person, and not in the Person’s goods.
There’s a song sung by a group called Acapella where one line says, “Heaven is in my heart…” In truth, when you’ve found God you’ve found the real joy of heaven. Heaven is not the golden streets, it’s not the mansions or the life without cessation. No! It’s the person that we get to see face to face. We can have that joy today by having Christ in our lives right now!
This is the number one purpose in life! When our eyes are fixed on Christ, the rest will fall into place. Jesus said:
And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent. (John 17:3)
And through Jeremiah God highlighted the supreme importance of finding God to the point of committing ourselves totally to this purpose.
And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart. (Jer 29:13)
Finding God should be number one. Admittedly, this purpose is not always in the forefront in the Bible, it becomes like a precious jewel that you have to search for. If your heart is not in the right place then you can find many alternative purposes for life in the Bible; keeping the commandments, escaping from hell, spreading the gospel… All legitimate reasons, but they are side issues. However, the fundamental and primary purpose of life is to discover the place that you were made for. As it has been thus described, ‘There’s a hole in God’s heart and it’s shaped like you!’ If we don’t find this spot then God will have that gap in his heart forever. And we also have a God shaped hole in our hearts, and money, friends, possessions, wealth, even church and doctrine cannot fill it. But when we find our place in God’s heart and he finds his in ours, when we are the friends that we should be, then everything is just right.
Think of these ideas: friendship, love relationship. These are the true elements of Christianity. Don’t be confused into thinking that the faith is just about this doctrine or that particular form of behaviour. No, it’s about friendship! If the greatest truth is that God is love, it becomes important because we can understand love on a personal level. When you’re truly loved – in the true meaning of love – then even when you make a mistake that person will still be there for you, even when you let them down, and when everyone else is condemning you or if you fail yourself – that person is still there for you. Love is like that. God is love. Love will die for the object of its affection.
The Bible identifies the great element of God’s character and it simply says,
“God is love.” 1 John 4:8.
I once challenged someone with the thought that if God is love then how does he roast people forever and ever. The response was that God’s concept of love and my concept were different. This was a frightening thought to me because, if I could not understand what God means when he says that he loves me, then where would I be? If God’s love is the kind of love that roasts his enemies forever and ever, then that type of love means nothing to me. Or maybe I should understand this type of love as what I describe as hate. Thankfully this is not the kind of God we see described in the Bible. When you consider the love of God in the face of Jesus Christ, he is eminently attractive, and it makes it easy to respond to his love and to want to become his friend.
The Great Controversy
The concept of the great controversy takes us beyond this planet and up to heaven where Satan in his former state as Lucifer rebelled against God, and we understand that there is something happening in the universe that is greater than our salvation. God has given us a part to play in this controversy. This is why the judgement and how we represent God is so important. When I become a friend of God, then I’m ready for part two of the purpose of life. Then I become a soldier in his army. Not only to represent him, but to take on the forces of the enemy, to attack the enemy’s strongholds and to take captives out of his kingdom and put them in the kingdom of our Father. Our Father is in a battle, and because we love him, we also feel under attack. You attack my Father, you attack me! I take personally any attack against my Father. My heart is fully invested God’s family.
In this conflict, my faith is to be tested, to demonstrate the faithfulness of my Father. That makes enduring the tests much easier. I remember the story of Job and how our Father’s character and integrity were under attack. What Job went through was ultimately for the glory of God, his character and his purpose. So, when life doesn’t work out the way we expect, as Christians we must remember that we’re living in a place called the “Valley of Tears”(Psalm 84:6) where sorrow is the order of the day. We must endure and bear it when we remember that we are ambassadors for our Father’s kingdom. What he does, allows his name to be glorified and advances his kingdom, depending on how we respond because we are called by his name.
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. (Isa 43:7)
Ye are my witnesses, saith the LORD, and my servant whom I have chosen: that ye may know and believe me, and understand that I am he: before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me. (Isa 43:10)
Don’t be confused into thinking that God only created us as his witnesses. Contemplate the following texts.
The LORD hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee. (Jer 31:3)
Like as a father pitieth his children, so the LORD pitieth them that fear him. (Ps 103:13)
God wants us firstly for ourselves – for love, but secondarily we are his witnesses, just as I am a witness for my parents and my children and grandchildren are witnesses for me. Whatever my offspring do will either honour or dishonour my family. This is why God also asks us to live by a moral code. The way we live our lives enhances our Father’s character and his kingdom, and it makes our Father’s kingdom attractive. Our lifestyle should be one of dignity, discipline and power – mastery and control over ourselves. Compare this to one of the greatest evils in the world – men having no control over themselves.
We can do anything with God! There is nothing we cannot do. With God as the source of our life and our strength! The only reason for our limitations is if we try to live our own lives. The greatest problem we have is ourselves. Our arrogance, our disdain of advice, our lack of self-control. When we lose ourselves in Christ we can achieve anything. We can do without food for 40 days, study anything and master it, give up any pleasure because these things only mean something when I am alive for myself. When I ‘die in Christ’ I give myself away to the Lord, I can do anything for him. God says: you are my witnesses. He asks us in his strength to live by a certain standard to elevate our God, the one we love and live for. It elevates us too. In contending for the kingdom of God we contend for the kingdom of which we are citizens. In witnessing for God, we witness for our ourselves, us and him, as heaven is our place, God is our father, God’s kingdom is our kingdom, God’s business is our business. We are not appendages to God’s story, no, we are a part of him!
Living the Christian life is not merely a duty, but a instead a privilege and a pleasure of finding our place in God.
In summary, our purpose in life, in this order is to:
1. Find and live in God – friendship, love relationship, marriage.
2. Reveal the character of God by loving as he loves, and keeping the commandments, but still bigger than just the commandments – representing him aright.
3. Induce others to change sides – winning Satan’s subjects out of his kingdom of death so that they move over to the kingdom of God and to life.
And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God. (2Cor 5:18-20)
We are first reconciled to God, and once that has happened then we are to be his ambassadors. Indeed, this is the purpose for which we live. When we have found that purpose, we have finally found our place in life, the reason for happiness and the way to happiness.
(Source: David Clayton - Restoration Ministry)