Discovering Life's Purpose

Part 1 of 4: "It's Not About Us"

Have you ever asked yourself, what is my purpose, why am I here, why was I born, why was I created? Many folks ask these questions, if not publicly certainly privately. And I think most people at some point throughout the course of their lives have asked questions such as these, I know I have.

Today we begin a four-week series of messages focused on helping us discover our life's purpose. I believe if we better understand what God's purpose is for us as individuals, and then as a community at large, it will be easier for us to follow Christ, it will be easier to deal with the things of this world, it will bring a new excitement to our lives, and it will keep the fire of hope burning in our spirit.

Today I want to begin this 4-week journey by stating up front, that life is not about us. The past couple of weeks you've heard me use the phrase a couple of times, "It's not about us." Well today I want to explore that a little more as we begin to discern what our life's purpose really is then.

Rick Warren has written a book entitled, The Purpose Driven Life, which I have read and will use as one of my resources throughout this sermon series.

So lets begin with the idea that life is not about us, meaning life is not about our personal gratification, our peace of mind, or our happiness. Life isn't about our family, our professions or jobs, our goals, or our dreams. My goodness, what else is there? Why were we created and what is our purpose?

The quick answer to this question is that God created us, and we are created for God's purpose. Nobody asked us if we wanted to be born, but in his infinite wisdom God has created a mosaic of his kingdom, and in that mosaic there is a hole, a hole for each of us, a hole God created for us to fill. God created you and me to fill this special hole, thus making his kingdom more complete. You might remember two years ago the confirmation class created a mosaic, a puzzle if you will, that was incomplete unless they each fit their piece of the puzzle in the special slot designed specifically for them. Well the same is true of the kingdom of God, we each have a special hole to fill, we each have a purpose.

We heard in our reading from Colossians this morning these words, "For by God all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible…all things were created by God and for God."

So to find our true purpose in life we need to stop looking within ourselves to find the answer, but rather turn to God, the God who created us. It's only in God that we discover our origin, our identity, our meaning, our purpose, our significance, and our ultimate destiny. Trying another path to obtain this understanding leads to a dead end, or at best short-term satisfaction.

Many people try to use God for their own self-actualization, but that's just the opposite of the natural order. We were made for God, God wasn't made for us. So life isn't about using and asking God to help us with what we feel is our purpose, rather life is about letting God guide us and use us for his purpose.

So if this is the case, how do we discover the purpose for which we were created? And to further complicate this process we are all different so my purpose is probably different than your purpose. Also, throughout our course of life our purpose may change, God may have multiple plans for us.

To begin, we have two options we can choose from to accomplish this task. Our first option is speculation, which is the option most people choose. We speculate on what the meaning of life is based on books, discussions with friends, our own reflections, and so on. And sometimes we deal with our life on a trial and error basis. We try something, if it doesn't work or seem right we try something else.

We all probably know people who live their life trying different things, simply seeking their purpose in life. Or perhaps, some of us here have tried different things trying to figure out how we belong in this creation. I know I have been on several journeys myself seeking purpose and understanding.

The second option we have for discovering the purpose of life is revelation. We can turn to what God has revealed about life in the Bible. The truth is the easiest way to determine how something works, or what its purpose is, is to ask the creator of it. Well the same is true of discovering life's purpose; we need to ask God, our creator, what our purpose is. The Bible is our owner's manual and explains why we are alive, how life works, what to avoid, and what we can expect in the future. And the Bible is very clear that there are five purposes to our lives. Today we will explore the first one, which is we were planned and created for God's pleasure.

The moment we were born into this world, God was present to witness his miracle. God wanted us alive, and our birth gave him great pleasure. The truth is God didn't need to create us, but he chose to for his own enjoyment. We all exist for God's benefit, his glory, his purpose, and his joy.

Now intellectually I understand this, but the one thing I struggled with is that it also sounds self-serving, and I never envisioned God as a self-serving being. God creating us for his pleasure sounds so self-serving, doesn't it? Somehow it makes God sound like a slaveholder, or a caustic ruler. But as I reflected on this a while, I realized I was letting my human understanding of providing pleasure define what God was doing.

In reality by being created for God's joy and purpose, God is telling us how important and valuable we are to him, not as servants or puppets, but as beings able to have a relationship with God. If God wanted slaves or puppets God would have created robots with no ability to reason or think.

The fact we were created for God' joy, benefit, and purpose tells us that to God we are significant and are valuable enough that God wants to keep us for all eternity. The Bible says, "God destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will." (Eph 1:5)

One of the greatest gifts God has given us is the ability to enjoy pleasure. He wired us with 5 senses and many different emotions so we can enjoy life to its fullest, not just to endure and experience it. We are created in the image of God, God enjoys life, and so as his creation we also are created to enjoy life.

You know God has emotions too. The Bible tells us that God gets jealous, he grieves, he feels our deepest pain, and he feels compassion, pity, sorrow, and sympathy. God also feels joy, rejoices, laughs and gets pleasure. So as God expresses emotions we too, by virtue of being created in God's image, are able to experience emotions.

The act of bringing pleasure to God is called worship. Anything that we do that brings pleasure to God is an act of worship. And worshiping God takes many different forms. Worship isn't just music, it's every aspect of a worship service and beyond, it's anything done to bring God glory and praise. Martin Luther once said, "A dairymaid can milk cows to the glory of God."

How is it possible to do everything to the glory of God? The answer is, by doing everything as if you were doing it for Jesus and by having a continual conversation with him while your doing it. This is also the secret to a lifestyle of worship - doing everything as if you're doing it for Jesus. Think about a time when you fell in love with someone, I mean head-over-heels-I -can't-live-without-you kind of love. Didn't you think of that person constantly? A minute didn't go by that you didn't think about or talk about that person. You just knew they were created to be with you. And you made sure everyone else knew that to, whether they wanted to know or not. You know what I'm talking about don't you?

Well by constantly thinking and talking about this person you were abiding in their love. We need to fall in love with Jesus in the same way, and abide in his love as well. Then you can't help but be in constant worship of God.

Next time you're folding clothes, making a meal, cutting the grass, or tending the garden, talk to Jesus, or sing a favorite hymn. Worship God in what you do in a way that appeals to you. And you know what when your worshiping God in this manner the task your performing seems to go all the faster, no matter how tedious it was when you started.

Have you ever wondered what makes God smile? Well since the first purpose of our life is to please God, than one of our most important tasks is to figure out how to make God smile. The Bible says in Ephesians "find out what pleases the Lord and do it." (Eph 5:10) And fortunately the Bible gives us a great example of a life that pleases the Lord, in the story of Noah.

In Noah's day the world had become an immoral mess. Folks were living to please themselves rather than God. God was really ticked off because he couldn't find anyone interested in him; they were only interested in themselves, so he began to regret creating humanity. But finally one person did emerge as the one who could make God smile, Noah.

So God basically said, I'll start all over again with Noah's family. The truth is, because Noah and his family brought pleasure to God, you and I are here today. Without Noah we may never have been created. Noah was blessed because he made God smile. And from Noah's life we learn the five acts of worship that brings a big 'ol smile to God's face. ˘ Loving God more than anything else ˘ Placing our whole trust in God ˘ Obeying God in the details of our life ˘ Using our God given gifts and talents in a Christ-like way in all aspects of our lives ˘ Giving thanks and praise to God always because we know our purpose in life

In the days following Noah, God also brought forth a remnant of good and faithful people several times and saved them from the wicked world. We see this played out again in the words of Jeremiah, which were read this morning. God declares that he will gather a remnant of the faithful, he will place shepherds over them and they will no longer be afraid. Those, whose purpose is to love the Lord, and to please him, will be protected for all eternity.

Another way we bring pleasure to God is by becoming good friends with God. God wants a relationship with us. Yes God is our creator, redeemer, sustainer, judge, savior, and so on, but mostly God wants us to be our friend. I reminded of the hymn, "what a friend we have in Jesus." "All our sins and grief's to bear! What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer." As we receive Communion this morning Rachel (Shiela) will play this hymn for us. And I invite you to reflect on the music as you wait or as you receive the bread and juice, the body and blood of our friend Jesus.

In the Garden of Eden we get a first glimpse of what God's ideal relationship with humanity was meant to be. Adam and Eve enjoyed an intimate relationship with God. They walked and talked with God. There were no religions, rituals, ceremonies, or worship services, just a simple loving relationship between God and the people he created.

We were created to live in God's continual presence. But after the fall, that ideal relationship was lost. And we can see in the Bible, during the Old Testament times, where only a few people had the privilege of friendship with God: Abraham and Moses were called friends of God, David was called a man after God's own heart, and Job, Jacob, and Noah had intimate friendships with God. But as you read the Old Testament, fear of God was more common than friendship.

Well our friendship with God today is made possible only because of the grace of God and the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Knowing and loving God is our greatest privilege, and being known and loved is God's greatest pleasure.

So how do we foster a relationship, a friendship with God? We need to be in constant conversation with God. We will never grow close to God just by attending church once a week, or by doing devotions every day. These are all important experiences, but a friendship with God is only developed by sharing all our life experiences with him. Everything we do can be quality time with God if we invite him to participate, and if we stay aware of his presence.

Prayer is one of our key conversational tools. Pray as often as possible, not some formal prayer, just have a conversation. I find myself talking to God in the car, when I'm cutting the grass, or just walking around the neighborhood. Sometimes as I seek conversation with God I come up with an idea for a ministry, a vacation, resolutions to a problem, or I get help making a decision.

It's not uncommon for me to say, "Well God what do you think?" And when I feel I have the answer I thank God for helping me resolve the question. But ensure your motive is to communicate with and honor God, not to control or manipulate God for your purposes, and this is an important distinction. This discipline, continually communicating with God, takes time to develop, so early on you may need to have some reminders posted all around the house.

I have little notes posted in places that say things like: "Remember it's not about you" "Did you thank God today" "Your breathing, give God thanks," and other similar notes. And I try to have some fun with it.

Now having a friendship with Jesus does require us to do several things: ˘ Being honest with God about our faults and feelings. God doesn't expect us to be perfect, but God does expect us to be honest. ˘ Choosing to obey God in faith, whether we completely understand where God is leading or not, we are to obey and be faithful. ˘ Desiring to have a friendship with God above anything else. A friendship with God is not one of convenience but one of devotion and commitment.

There is nothing more important in life than developing a friendship with God. It is a relationship that will last forever. Paul in affect told Timothy, "Some of these people have missed the most important thing in life - they don't know God." (1 Tim 6:21) I know one thing I am a much happier person knowing I have a friend in Jesus! So know that one purpose of you life is to please God. It's not about us, it's about God.

Over my life I have traveled the world and have met many people from all walks of life. And I can say that the happiest people I saw were NOT "Professing Christians," but rather were "spirit-filled Christian's" who lived to please God.

As you receive Communion today seek God's friendship, begin a relationship, make pleasing God your purpose in life, and feel the radiating joy of God's smiling face come upon you.


Read Part 2 of Discovering Life's Purpose: "We are Family"