What is Our Purpose?
“One Sunday morning when the young Robert Blair had stayed home from church he looked out of the window to see ‘the sun brightly shining, and a cow with a full udder.’ Blair remembered that the sun was made to give light and the cow to give milk, which made him realize how little he understood the purpose of his own life. Shortly thereafter, he was converted while listening to a sermon.”
Have you ever felt like you didn’t have a purpose in your life, a reason for waking up each day, a sense of direction of what you were should be doing with your time? To wonder these things is not to suggest that there is something wrong with you but to say that each of us has a longing in us to fulfill something, to carry out a task, to find direction in our lives. The reason that so many of us struggle to find the answer to this question, to me, suggests that the answer cannot come from ourselves, but that it needs to come from above, from the One who made us.
What is my purpose? Young Robert Blair, a Puritan living during Colonial times, wondered this as he stared out his window one morning — the sun has a purpose, the cows have a purpose. Now the focus came to him — if all these were made to serve a function, to do something, then surely I was made to have a function in this world. But what is that? The question led him to God, to His creator.
Perhaps the best place to start for an understanding of our purpose is to look to the book of Genesis, the start of it all. After He created the earth and everything in it, the Lord said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all creatures that move along the ground.” (Genesis 1:26) From this passage we see that God’s intention for our lives was that we would be just like Him and that we would take care of the creation that God had made (Genesis 2:15).
In the freewill that God gave to us, however, we chose not to act like Him — we listened to the temptation of the evil one and chose to disobey the will of God for our lives. How can two things that are evil produce something good? How can two red apples create a green apple? The answer is, they can’t. Adam and Eve’s offspring all struggled with a predisposition to turn from the ways of God, and that includes us. Adam and Eve couldn’t clean themselves; only God could clean them. Jesus said to the disciples, “Unless I wash you, you have not part with me” (John 13:8). Jesus came to restore us all to the true image of God: “Yet to all who did receive Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God — children not born of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God” (John 1:12). God said that through His new covenant made through Jesus, He will put a new heart in us and a new spirit within us, that He will remove our heart of stone and give us a heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 36:26).
God’s transforming work in us shows itself in many ways: in new attitudes and Godly responses; in healing of relationships and physical ailments; in a peace of mind and thankfulness in our hearts that lets us know that we are “God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10). God has things for us to do!
As new creations made through God, we realize that we no longer belong to ourselves but that we live for the Lord (Romans 14:7). We see that we are vessels given light by God to shine before others so that they too might know God (Matthew 5:16). We are told that in whatever we do, whether collecting garbage or serving food to those who can’t feed themselves, we are to “work at it with all [our] heart, as working for the Lord and not human masters” (Colossians 3:23). Our purpose, unlike those who built the tower of Babel “so that they could make a name for [themselves]” (Genesis 11:3), is to make God’s name known. Our purpose is to serve God, as we realize, as King David did, that everything in heaven and earth is God’s. “Yours, Lord, is the kingdom, and earth is yours” (1 Chronicles 29:11). We are but stewards. We are stewards of all the earth to love it and take care of it as God originally commanded us in Genesis. We are also stewards life-giving words given to us through the Bible (1 Corinthians 4:1-2) and stewards of the grace given by the Holy Spirit to interpret those words and to serve one another and God (2 Timothy 1:14). God’s counting on us to spread our knowledge of and love for Him.
What is our purpose? I wonder what Robert Blair truly discovered as he came to know God, but perhaps it was this: Perhaps he realized that he was a special creation meant to praise and serve a loving creator, but that somewhere along the way he, as we all do, stumbled. He came to know that through Jesus, he could turn his life back to God. And he came to experience the joy of being in fellowship with His Creator once again, and the simple joy of living for Him each day.
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself” (Luke 10:27). May this be theme and purpose to all our lives. Amen.