What’s our purpose in life? Why are we here? What are we supposed to do each day, each month, each year? Do all of us have a purpose, or only some of us?
Throughout history people have pursued transcendent purpose in life.
Aristotle, a Greek philosopher from 3rd century B.C. said, “Happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence.” Happiness? How do we define happiness? That seems to miss the mark.
Ralph Waldo Emerson, a 19th century American poet, disagreed with Aristotle. Emerson suggested, “The purpose of life is NOT to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.” This sounds good, but it remains vague.
Paul David Hewson, a musician, songwriter, and philanthropist, was born in 1960. You may know him as Bono, the frontman for the Irish band U2. Bono shared his view on purpose: “When you align yourself with God’s purpose as described in the Scriptures, something special happens to your life.” Aligning ourselves with God’s purpose––God’s will. THIS describes how we set our compass toward purpose-filled life.
As we journey through life, where would our path take us if we set our compass toward purpose-filled life?
In my “BC” years (“before Christ”), I lived with a desperate need for purpose. I did everything I could to generate lofty goals, outperform expectations, and fill my emptiness with activity. Even though my life looked shiny and bright on the outside, I languished in a dark pit. I struggled with depression because nothing I did brought me any closer to finding my purpose.
Then a friend gave me the book Purpose Driven Life. As I read it, I started down a new path that brought me to Jesus. I set my compass to what God promised would bring purpose to my life.
One of the first Scriptures God led me to was 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18: Be joyful always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
This IS God’s will for you. This IS God’s will for me. FINALLY! This is where we find our purpose. Paul’s message to the Thessalonians is the same message for us today:
Choosing Christ unveils our path to purpose.
In three short verses, Paul tells us how to find the path to purpose in our life. View these as stepping stones across a creek which allow us to cross into the richness of God’s will. Paul gives three specific stepping stones in our path to purpose:
- Be joyful always. Be glad, be delighted, be full of joy! You would think that for someone like me named “Joy” being joyful would be easy. Unfortunately, all of my life I have struggled with being joyful. Psalm 37:4 says, “Delight yourself in the LORD and He will give you the desires of your heart.” This doesn’t mean, “Delight in God and He will give you what you want.” It DOES mean, ”Delight in God, and He will place His desires upon your heart, and they will become your desires.” This is how the Holy Spirit works in us to bring joy. Paul’s command “be joyful” means “choose Christ and His joy”. Our response is either “yes I will” or “no I won’t”.
- Pray continually. Prayer doesn’t come naturally for most of us. We learn to pray. And one thing we have to learn: Prayer is a two-way conversation between us and Jesus. In two-way conversation, we show interest in the other person, ask them questions, and allow them to respond. God wants us to connect with Him in prayer, and choosing Christ in prayer means we believe He hears our prayers, we expect that He will respond, and we give Him the opportunity to respond by waiting and listening. And Paul takes it one step further by saying, “Pray continually.” Pray moment by moment. Cultivate a dialogue with God throughout the day. This is something I’m still learning. God wants to be a part of our thought-life, but it’s easy to get wrapped up in busyness. Sometimes we need to hit pause and pray.
- Give thanks in all circumstances. Paul says we’re to be thankful IN all circumstances, not FOR all circumstances. Not all circumstances are good. We live in a fallen world with fallen people. Understanding the difference between “thankful in” versus “thankful for” has helped me to persevere. Storms will come. For all of us. You may be in the middle of a dark storm right now. You don’t have to be thankful FOR that storm. But, in the midst of our storms and our fears, we can find peace and hope when we turn to God. He will redeem our storms as He shepherds us forward in purpose.
Friends, God has created a path of purpose for each one of us. As we continue moving forward with Jesus step-by-step, God transforms us to be more like Christ. He wants us to live in the fullness of Christ in all circumstances.
You can live in the freedom that comes through choosing joy regardless of circumstances.
You can take hold of the strength that comes through learning to pray continually.
You can bear witness to Christ by giving thanks in all circumstances.
And you can get excited about living a high-impact life in God’s will.
This is God’s will for you today!
You have an incredibly important purpose in life, marked out by God Himself. Choosing to walk with Christ unveils the steps in our transcendent purpose. More on this next time.