Monday, November 11, 2013

Purpose of Life and God's Plan

All my life I have heard this question asked. "What is the purpose of life?" When asked that question thirty-eight years ago, my answer was "pleasure". I was an Atheist and believed there was no real meaning to life. Our being here was purely a series of accidental events over a vast continuum of time and our existence amounted to little more than a hiccough, a mere moment in eternity. We came, we saw, we died and then we were nothing but someone else's memory and even that would eventually fade. Therefore, as a beer commercial once touted, we should grab all the gusto we could and have fun. I believed in the mantra of the time, "If it feels good, do it".

And to that end is how I lived. I didn't live to work, I worked to live and my definition of living was wine, women and song. I didn't see the illogic of that saying because I didn't like wine and I didn't grab the gusto of that beer, because I didn't like beer, and I was true to only one woman and I can't carry a tune. My motto then was whiskey, rum, vodka, bourbon and gin, sex-sex-sex and whistling a happy song even if the key shifted often. The real illogic was it didn't bring me joy nor keep the sorrow away. It did not matter how franticly I practiced pleasure in my nights and on my weekends, death, disaster and disease remained a reality.

But thirty-nine years ago all that changed. I got salvation, not in bars or bedrooms, but in the quiet of an evening on my knees. Now, as a Christian, if you ask that question I can tell you with absolute faith what is the purpose of life.  "And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength." 

That particular quote comes from Mark 12:30, but it is not just a Christian bromide; it is the over riding command of God known to Christian, Jew and Muslim for it first appears in the Books of Moses such as Deuteronomy 6:4, as well as throughout like in Joshua 22:5 - "But take diligent heed to do the commandment and the law, which Moses the servant of the Lord charged you, to love the Lord your God, and to walk in all his ways, and to keep his commandments, and to cleave unto him, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul."

Now the cynic will ask does this fidelity to God and following Christ prevent death, disaster and disease? No, of course not, but those things are not from God, but because of human will turned away from God. The troubles of this world are due to sin, not necessarily our own in every case, but both the good and bad among us must share in the consequences. Being Christian does not shield me from moments of sadness or tragedy, but it takes away the constant sorrow and replaces it with continuous joy because my eyes are on Jesus and my heart on God's promises. The endurance to the end of the slings and arrows of a cursed and sinful world is the proof of our love for God and that we can endure it to the end is the proof of his love of us. 

If you think the Christian lives in a La-la Land where birds always sing and lightning never strikes, then you haven't read the Bible. Point me to a faithful follower of God who lived a life of ease never touched by stress or pain. Our life is not never to suffer, but to experience that inner joy of knowing God has us in his hands even when we hurt.

But what of God's plan for us. Isn't that the other thing we often hear, especially if you are a Christian?  God has a purpose and plan for every person. You begin to ask, what is God's purpose and plan for my life? Perhaps, as I once did, you begin to worry that you missed it or you somehow rejected it.

Oh, can you refuse God? The obvious answer is, yes, you do so when you reject Christ, but I believe you can also reject God's call to a purpose in his plan. It will not stop God's plan, don't flatter yourself in thinking that, but it will certainly bring you sorrow. I cite Esther 4:13-14 for my opinion: "Then Mordecai told them to reply to Esther, “Do not think to yourself that in the king's palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews. For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father's house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?

And do not worry that you have missed God's purpose and plan for your life somehow. See, here is the problem of why we get to thinking that. We want to be another Moses or Ruth or Mary or Paul or Billy Graham of even another Esther. Wanting to be those things is not God, it is ambition and ego. We do not choose how God uses us, we can only be willing to be used. I believe the reality is that God might be using me in someway right now and I don't even know it. Our purpose is not to obtain glory, but to reflect the glory of God. If you think this must be by some great achievement, effort or leading accomplished by you, then think upon this in John 9:

As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him." 

But you do have a command to keep you busy in the meantime so you don't fret about how God will use you. You are to tell others the Gospel, and who knows, maybe that is your purpose. 

You also have another command second only to loving God, "The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:31.  Do these two things and you'll not have to worry about being used by God and what your purpose is in life.


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