• David Schrader, PhD

You've Got a Purpose in Life


Think about the last time somebody asked you what you did for a living. How did you describe the type of work you did? Did your language and tone reflect a sense of purpose or a sense of monotony–"I do this job to simply pay the bills"? Or, maybe you said something like this: "I have ten more years before retirement; and I can hardly wait." When you gave your response to someone, were you secretly thinking, “if they only knew, I just live for Fridays", or did you respond with an overarching sense of purpose and fulfilment – “I love my job and it gives me a real sense of purpose?”

The life and work of Jesus was defined by an inner sense of purpose in words like, "I came", and "I was sent". For example, in John 6:38 Jesus says, "I came down from heaven to do what God wants me to do, not what I want to do," and in John 10:10 he states, "A thief comes to steal and kill and destroy, but I came to give life—life in all its fullness." Luke records Jesus saying this about his purpose, "For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost (Lk. 19:10)," and Mark also records Jesus’ words like this, “It is not the healthy people who need a doctor, but the sick. I did not come to invite good people but to invite sinners (Mk. 2:17)."

These statements are not from the lips of some aimless drifter or dreamer. These statements reflect Jesus’ laser-like focus about his purpose and mission in life. They leave no doubt as to why he came. Over and again Jesus asserted in the gospels that he came to earth: "to call...sinners to repentance" (Lk. 5:32); "to give his life as a ransom" (Mk 10:45); "to preach the good news of the Kingdom" (Lk. 4: 43); "to seek and to save what was lost" (Lk. 19:10); and "to testify to the truth" (Jn. 18:37).

In spite of the many unsettling things that Jesus dealt with in his earthly ministry – Pharisees criticizing him and plotting to kill him, Sadducees trying to trip him up and followers often defecting – he never lost sight of his purpose.

Like Jesus, Christians also have a purpose in life. Unfortunately, many have not found that purpose. Instead, they wander about aimlessly, living their lives in a befuddled and perplexed state. They act like they have no clear sense of direction and purpose. This is not how our Lord meant for us to live.

Many Christians might think of their jobs as their real purpose in life, but in reality, our jobs are but a small part of our purpose. It’s not that our purpose cannot be lived out in our places of employment, but our purpose is all-encompassing.

Paul states our purpose in Ephesians 2:10, "For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." In other words, whenever someone becomes a Christian –"created in Christ Jesus" through a new birth experience or being born again (Jn 3:3) – they are given a purpose. That purpose is to do good works.

Good works can never make someone a Christian. In fact, Paul says in Ephesians 2:10, "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God–not by works, so that no one can boast."

Obviously, it's not by works. And yet, countless people will continue to spend their lives trying to earn God's favor through their good works. Paul elsewhere said, "It was not because of good deeds we did to be right with him. He saved us through the washing that made us new people through the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:4-5)."

But once we become Christians, then everything changes. Good works matter then and here's why. Jesus points out the necessity of doing good works as our life's purpose when he said, "In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven (Matt. 5:16)." Our Lord intended for us to make a difference in our world by doing good works. It was how he expected us to witness. He saw our good works as a means to help people connect with His Father.

The Apostle Paul underscores this same purpose in Titus 2:7. He says, “Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works.” In Titus 2:14 he says Jesus redeemed us, “to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works", and again, in Titus 3:8, he says, “that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works.”

So, if doing good works is our life's purpose as Christians – then how well are we doing? Is our purpose being lived out where we work or in our community? If we can begin to live out our life's purpose in doing good works, it will change how we view everything. It will also change the perspective that others may have of us as Christians.

For example, Roy Hattersley is a columnist for the U.K. Guardian, and he is an outspoken atheist. Hattersley watched the Salvation Army lead several other faith-based organizations in the relief effort after Hurricane Katrina. He said:

"Notable by their absence," he says, were "teams from rationalist societies, free thinkers' clubs, and atheists' associations—the sort of people who scoff at religion's intellectual absurdity." According to Hattersley, it is an unavoidable conclusion that Christians "are the people most likely to take the risks and make the sacrifices involved in helping others."

"The only possible conclusion," says Hattersley, "is that faith comes with a packet of moral imperatives that, while they do not condition the attitude of all believers, influence enough of them to make [Christians] morally superior to atheists like me."[1]

Our world could obviously use more Christians making this kind of impact – Christians like Dorcas in the Bible, “who was always doing good and helping the poor” (Acts 9:36).

Will everybody be receptive to your good works? I wish I could say yes. Even Jesus had difficulty with some people. In John 10:31-32 we read, "Once again the people picked up stones to kill him. Jesus said, “At my Father’s direction I have done many good works. For which one are you going to stone me?”

Jesus could certainly say to all of us, "Look, I had mixed results. Some talked about stoning me, some dismissed me, some ignored me, some laughed at me, and some opposed me. Some followed me for a brief time. Some stuck with me, and their names will go down in the history." So, I think Jesus could rightfully say to all of us – "don't get discouraged when there is indifference, apathy or opposition – just keep doing good works. It's what you were created for."

Over the centuries, the impact of the church's good works has been inestimable. The teachings of Jesus have helped the church to be strong advocates for human rights and the welfare of people. Long held Christian teachings on sexuality and marriage and family life have also been influential. Christianity played a role in ending practices such as human sacrifice, slavery, infanticide and polygamy. Christianity in general affected the status of women by condemning marital infidelity, divorce, incest, polygamy, infanticide (female infants were more likely to be killed), and abortion. In addition, Christians have often been at the forefront of disaster relief efforts and humanitarian aid initiatives, not to mention the creation of hospitals, orphanages, adoption agencies and seniors’ homes.

John Wesley, the great Methodist preacher laid out an all-encompassing charge to all of us concerning our life’s purpose: “Do all the good you can, By all the means you can, In all the ways you can, In all the places you can, At all the times you can, To all the people you can, As long as ever you can.”

Letting Jesus’ light shine through us is not an option. It is a necessity. Without our witness, governments can become like gods and the church can easily lose its influence in the world. We must never let this happen.

The late Chuck Colson had observed that when the Communists took over Russia in 1917, they did not make Christianity illegal. Their constitution, in fact, guaranteed freedom of religion. But they did make it illegal for the church to do any "good works." No longer could the church fulfill its historic role in feeding the hungry, educating the children, housing the orphan, or caring for the sick. What was the result? After 70 years, the church was largely irrelevant to the communities in which it dwelt.

What communism did to churches by edict, some churches have done to themselves by apathy and indifference. Let us resolve to never let this happen in the CCCC.

It's not illegal at present for churches to do good works in Canada. So, let's make a difference in our communities. Let’s live out our purpose. Yes, we can do this in our jobs and so we should. But let’s do it everywhere we can where Christ’s light is needed. Let’s shine by doing good works in Jesus name!

[1] as cited in the UK Guardian.

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