What Did God Put Me Here To Do?
So these three guys said to themselves: “Cool. We can do this.” The first one sneaks outside, slices all the branches off a tree limb, comes back in and says to the guards: “Chuck Wagon. Canada. Javelin.” The guards inspect his “javelin” and hand him a bulging envelope with his athletic pass, room keys, meal ticket, everything. This was pretty lax security—probably pre-9/11. The second guy goes down an alley, pries loose a manhole cover, marches up to the front gate and announces himself: “Dusty Rhodes, Australia. Discus.” Welcome to the Olympics, Mr. Rhodes. So these two guys who have impostered themselves into the inner sanctum loiter around the gate to see if their third beer-drinking buddy can weasel his way in. A couple of minutes later, he walks up to the front gate with a huge roll of barbed wire painfully tucked under his arm. “Who are you?” the guards ask. “Foster Bean,” he says. “Vermont, USA. Fencing.”
Uh, nice try, but not too convincing.
Well, it’s good to at least try to link our jokes to our sermon topics, so let me do that. I have personally sat and watched Olympic contests and thought to myself: “Why not me?” We watch a really clumsy or silly sitcom on television and think to ourselves, “I could write something better than that. Why am I not a millionaire?” Some real clunk of a preacher is assigned to a church where they have a thousand members. “Why not me?” And we wonder: “Why was I put here? I don’t seem to be on the fast track to anything.”
Previously, we explored the idea of a wasted life, and realized that God wants us. He wants our life. He wants to be in relationship with us. That’s number one. Number two, in order to come into this full relationship, it takes discipline. Time devoted to the connection, the friendship. And number three, we owe God this because of Calvary.
Why Am I Here?
Today I’d like for us to focus on this all-important question: why was I born? A second question of significance is: does my life matter? And a third question of intention: what is my purpose?
People have fretted over these three questions ever since the beginning of time. In fact, I understand Eve, in the Garden of Eden, was insecure about whether her life had any meaning. Adam had to constantly reassure her: “You’re the only woman for me. There’s no one else; trust me.” But this is our first Question of Existence: why am I alive? In Jeremiah 20:18, we find this lament: Why was I born? Was it only to have trouble and sorrow, to end my life in disgrace? I went back and read this entire passage, and Jeremiah is just emotionally lost. He’s irrevocably called to be a prophet, a messenger of doom, and it’s a thankless task. His friends have betrayed him; his enemies are on his tail 24/7. The message God gives him to share is a wretched one, falling on deaf ears. So even one of God’s chosen few can wonder about the purpose of life.
Rick Warren, who preaches often on this topic of Christian purpose, quotes from a couple of modern-day philosophers and writers. One admitted: “My life is a superb cast, but I can’t figure out the plot.” A man named Jack Harley put it this way: “I hope life isn’t a joke, because I don’t get it.” Warren complains about watching an Oprah Winfrey program where she promised to reveal the purpose of life. This is it. So he had the VCR going, the Tivo, everything. But it turned into one of those endless-delay network-type tricks where they always say, “Now, coming up, right after this commercial break, we’ll tell you.” Kind of like news programs do when they lead into the 11:00 news, and then right before every commercial: “Next up: the Playboy bunny video scandal. Never-before-seen footage.” And they keep putting it off, putting it off, and finally at 11:29.5, they have eight seconds of nothing.
So all through this Oprah show, the tease was on. “What’s your purpose in life? Stay tuned. Right after these messages.” And when the whole hour was over, and Oprah hadn’t said a blessed thing about it, she looked into the camera, gave a little shrug and said: “Well, the purpose of life? You’ve got to figure that out for yourself. Look within.” And Rick Warren began throwing his purpose-driven shoes at the TV screen. Look within? The human race has been doing that unsuccessfully for six thousand years now.
Some people fall into a materialism mind-set and begin spending their entire lives at Best Buy or on E-Bay. Gadgets. Things. Fun. Or hedonism: pleasure, sex, vacations, drugs, gourmet food. King Solomon went down that road. Rock stars who have all of those things in abundance often are found dead in a hotel room with a rope around their neck.
Many times we seek fulfillment through success and achievement. We’d like to get an Olympic gold medal, because for the rest of your life, that defines you. Gold medalist. You have a World Series ring. You’re an Ironman.
If you ever chat with a writer, they will tell you that a successful author is guaranteed to have four good days in his life. First is the day that you finally finish your manuscript; you format the book, you insert page numbers, you compose a title page, and you hit the “PRINT” button on your laptop. Half an hour later, you have this beautiful, clean manuscript in your hands. And you bounce it up and down on your desk, straightening the pages, just savoring the feeling. Such-and-such book, by X. That’s Good Day #1. The second day is when the publisher sends you that letter saying, “Congratulations! We want your book. You are a worthwhile person. You are a valued part of our stable of writers.” Good Day #3 is when the advance royalty check comes, of course. And finally, best of all, the day when there’s a package on your doorstep as you come home from work. There they are: ten brand new comp copies of the book you wrote. Nobody may ever buy your book; your own mom may stammer and blush years later when you ask her what she thought of it. But a writer does enjoy those four days when you think: “I am somebody. I made a contribution. I am real.”
But the truth is this: four good days are not enough. Sometimes books are rejected. Teams lose in the World Series, or win . . . and then tumble to last place the following year. If we find fulfillment from things, there are just never enough things.
There was a cute Everybody Loves Raymond episode years ago, where Ray thinks his little girl is trying to find out where babies come from. That scenario is good for some cute fumbling. Actually, Ally wants to know a much deeper thing: why are there babies? Why does God keep causing new children to show up in this world? What is their purpose of existence? For you and for me, I think we all know how babies get here. But why is our question too. Why does God place us in this precarious world? Why are we here?
If you’ve ever read through the popular mega-hit, The Purpose-Driven Life, you discover by the second chapter a huge paradigm shift. The whole argument is turned around. We’re not here for ANY purpose of ours! None at all. Instead, “I Was Created For God’s Purpose.” He put us here for His reasons, for His purposes, to meet needs and goals and objectives that are His, not ours. To ask, “Why am I here?”, and be thinking of myself as I ask the question is simply beside the point.
We Were Created for Him
Here’s our foundational verse for today: Proverbs 16:4. The Lord has made everything for His own purpose.
God’s Word tells us, in Psalm 139, that we are not an accident. God has never made anything without a purpose. God planned you. He planned everything about you. God knew how and when and where you would be born. And He also is fully aware of the length of your days, including the exact time of your birth and death.
That doesn’t mean that God predestines the good and bad things that come to us. Good people are killed all the time, and our loving heavenly Father is not the creator of those tragedies. Babies come into this world every day, conceived outside of the framework of God’s perfect will, and people leave this world under tragic circumstances every single day too. But faithful, born-again Christians, committed, loyal children of God, are ready to live in this kingdom or the next one. And so I believe God, in His master design, does allow some sad events to be among the random-appearing tragedies that the Body of Christ has to bear. We have freedom of choice, and God has His loving will, and we do have the enemy who comes in at midnight and sows the weeds in God’s garden . . . and somehow those blend together in a way we just have to accept. I do know that hit-and-run drivers don’t hit God’s people without God’s reluctant permission.
In the meantime, we’re here for God’s purpose, not ours. Five of them, really, as we’re going to study together.
But now let’s get to the heart of why we’re here. It’s very simple. Ephesians 1:4 tells us the whole story: Long before He laid down the earth’s foundation, He had us in His mind and settled on us as the focus of His love to be made whole and holy by His love. I think moms and dads make babies so that they can love them; but in a much greater way, God does that here. We are here for His purpose, and His purpose is to lavish His love on us. To flood us with His love, bath us in it, redeem us through it, restore us through it. He made us in order that we could be the objects of His divine love.
A man and his wife are supposed to go out to dinner with some friends one evening. The husband doesn’t want to go, but she refuses to cancel—they’ve postponed it twice already—so tensions are running high. She’s out by the car, all dressed up, fit to kill, while he’s still inside putting on a tie. When he comes out, she’s crying, wrecking her beautifully made-up face. “What’s the matter?” And she tells him: “I accidentally locked the keys in the car.”
Well, he just blows up. Mount St. Helens. And he shouts at her: “How could God make somebody so beautiful—so stupid?” And she comes right back at him. “God made me beautiful so that you would marry me, and he made me stupid so that I’d marry you!” But God made us us so that He could love us.
Twice in a row, Hollywood tried to capture the intriguing idea of “mechanical” wives. In the sinister city of Stepford, men formed a diabolical plot to make wives. They were constructing robot spouses who would purr around the house, purr around the grocery store, and purr around the bedroom. Someone joked later, “Thanks very much, but I really don’t want to find my life partner and lover at Radio Shack.” But the men of Stepford didn’t want to have wives for the sake of the wives. These voluptuous, empty-headed sex kittens were there to serve the selfishness of their makers. But in the case of God, He made us for His purpose . . . and His purpose is to love us.
Then we have the Question of Significance: does my life matter? If I don’t write a new book each year, or pastor a church that grows, or run a medical practice that makes me and my partners wealthy, am I a failure? It’s interesting that the prophet Jeremiah wonders, and so does his navel-gazing cousin Isaiah. Notice in chapter 49:4: My work all seems so useless. I’ve spent my strength for nothing and for no purpose at all. Elijah felt the same way after a lifetime of serving God.
Once a year, Christian broadcasters and television ministry employees gather together for a high-powered event called NRB—the National Religious Broadcasters convention. There are hundreds of ministries there, hundreds of booths, hundreds of plasma screen TV monitors and radio personalities and giveaways, ladies with huge amounts of hair, and people handing out their business cards. And you get this painful sensation that a lot of times, Christian media ministries exist to make TV shows, so that they can raise money, so that they can make TV shows, so that they can raise money . . . What’s the purpose in that?
Rick Warren tells a story from World War II where the Nazis forced prisoners to take all this rubble from a blown-up factory, and move it from Point A to Point B. The next day, they’d take the same wheelbarrows and put all the debris and bricks back at Point A. On Wednesday, back across the street to Point B. Back and forth, day after day. They were just keeping the prisoners busy, wearing them out, breaking their will. And some of the inmates, with no purpose in life, just being mocked by the Germans for the emptiness of what they had to do, got suicidal. Some of them actually tried to simply jump in front of the Gestapo guards, wanting to get shot. To live a life without purpose, without significance, was worse than death. Psychologists tell us we can exist on one of three levels. Number one is survival. Just enduring. I think about refugee kids in the camps of Darfur, in the Sudan. Virtually no food. No water. Their parents are dead. Rapists lurk everywhere. People pillaging. All they can do is hang onto a thread of life.
Level two is success. Most of us live there, because we really are the chosen people. Everyone has money; everyone has a home and a job. We’re in the top five percentile of comfort for the entire planet. But are we happy? It takes more than surviving and success to give us a purpose-driven life.
So do we matter? Well, God made us because He wanted someone to love. But there’s more than that. Notice what the Bible tells us in Isaiah 44:2: I am your Creator. You were in My care, even before you were born.
And God piles on the good news with this. His investment for us is for eternity! Psalm 33:11: His plans endure forever; His purposes last eternally.
So, God says to each of us: “You were made to last forever.” This speaks volumes to us about our value. You and I make little baby promises to each other all the time. “I’ll call you tonight.” “I’ll help set up the PA next Sabbath.” “I’ll meet you for the holidays.” I always say that the second biggest promise we ever make is on our wedding day. We tell someone: “For as long as we both shall live. As long as we’re both here, I’ll be here for you. I’ll love you that long.” The duration of purpose gives dramatic power to that purpose.
And here’s a point. We’re on this earth for God’s purposes, for God to love. We’re also here to learn these five specific purposes he has for us: Worship, Fellowship, Discipleship, Ministry, Mission. And all of these are designed with the idea that we’re going to live for eternity.
Every time a believer attends a funeral, he or she is reminded of the promise of everlasting life. For a child of God, death is just that briefest of flickers, just a moment, the twinkling of an eye, and then life in God’s kingdom continues. Not only will you and I live forever, but we will never know anything else but life. There’s no such thing for the Christian as being dead and knowing that you’re dead. In terms of your soul and your awareness, you will always be alive. There’s nothing to fear. “Death, where is thy sting? Grave, where is thy victory?”
But what this means is that our life here on earth, our purpose here, is just the briefest of warmup acts. We will be God’s love, His treasure, His trophy for eternity! Here, and there too. Rick Warren says, “This is kindergarten. This is preschool. This is just spring training.” C. S. Lewis calls this entire journey on planet earth one small, false step – one misstep as we start out. One tiny stumble. Then we pick ourselves up, thank God for caring for us . . . and begin the real, glorious journey. Our whole life here is just that first baby step.
But we learn about our several purposes here so that we can please God by living them throughout the ceaseless ages. We Adventists love to put up pictures on the screen of that image in Daniel 2. Head of gold, arms of silver, etc. These great world empires, lasting hundreds of years. But then comes the stone cut out without hands, and it fills up the universe. God’s kingdom lasts forever, and we’re a part of it. So this is hugely significant. You are hugely significant. You are more significant than a nation. The United States of America has existed for less than 250 years. You’re going to live for 250 billion years. You’re going to achieve things in that life span, and have a place in God’s heart during that life span, that can’t be calculated.
I like what it says in II Corinthians 5:1: When this tent we live in—our body here on earth—is torn down, God will have a house in heaven for us to live in, a home He Himself has made, which will last forever.
I’ve gone on mission trips with people, and a couple of weeks with them—that was plenty. I’ve lived in dormitories at Adventist colleges, and four years was way more than enough. I’ve had roommates where a few months was all I wanted, and then some. (They likely felt the same way!) But God tells us He is eager to have us with Him, and to have us living in His presence, forever. If we believe that to be true, then life does have significance. Here’s Proverbs 9:6: Leave your impoverished confusion and live and walk up the street to a life with meaning.
By the way, this tells us how to look at one another. C. S. Lewis talks about how we just bump up against other people. We work with them, we play with them, we say this or that to help or hurt them. What’s the big deal about that? Well, that person is going to be forever in one of two kingdoms: Christ’s or Satan’s. It gives cosmic hugeness to our daily encounters. We are significant, and so are our neighbors. You and I play a formative and critical role in the lives of others every single day of our lives.
Now, question number three is about intention: what is my purpose? That’s what King David asked God one day. Psalm 89:47: Why did You create us? For nothing? Deep down, a number of the most well-known shake-the-fist-at-heaven atheists out there have admitted: If there isn’t a God, our lives really have no purpose. Frederick Nietszche spent the last 11 years of his life insane once he realized that. Bertrand Russell, one of the most renowned, from England, confessed in these words: “Unless you assume the existence of God, the question of life’s meaning and purpose is irrelevant.”
Atheism takes away the significance—because the 70 years are now the cosmic drop in the bucket we get—and also the purpose, because there’s no design. We’re just DNA collections, an accidental meeting of sperm and egg.
When we don’t know something’s purpose, that’s when we are prone to use it wrongly. Can anyone tell what this is? (*** Hold up the inner part of a trombone slide.***)
Put this in a trombone, and it can make beautiful music. Not played by me, but someone in this world could coax some nice notes out of it. And we might use something wrong, or even abuse it, when we don’t know its purpose. Children are abused, young girls are raped, because someone doesn’t see them as God’s pure treasures.
And if we want to know what our purpose in life is, we have to ask the One who made us. We have to look in the owner’s manual, and go to the Word of God for answers. “In the beginning, God created us.” Proverbs 9:10: Knowing God results in every other kind of understanding. So we find our purposes by getting to know God. He wants to love me. I find my purpose by placing myself under the umbrella of that love.
Colossians 1:16: For everything, absolutely everything, above and below, visible and invisible . . . everything got started in Him and finds its purpose in Him. Ephesians 1:11: It’s in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for . . . part of the overall purpose He is working out in everything and everyone.
I want to tell you something. I know I’m a rookie at that. I’m a novice too. Yes, I read here and there and I’ve waded into the shallow end of the theological pool. But I struggle with prayer. I struggle to get around to reading the Bible. I’m as prone to talk about baseball or new cars during a foot-washing service as anyone here. But the more I do know about God, the more sure I am of my purpose as his child. The more I know, the more I like. I am more in love with the Christian message every single day.
And if we want to know God’s purpose for us, we have to get to know him. I can’t make it easier than that, because that’s what it is. Marriages prosper when we know each other; it’s the same here. We may wish there was some other plan besides what we already know—worship, Bible reading, prayer, fellowship—but the simple truth is that this is how we come to know and love someone. That always has been the formula, and it always will be the formula.
I'm Just Too Busy
I have often had someone say to me, “Pastor, I’m just too busy to do all of this.” And you know, I can relate to that feeling. A full day looms—I don’t want to lose the first 15 minutes of it reading some book. I’ve had a long week too; I don’t want to toss out one whole Friday evening driving over to a member’s house for a fellowship Bible study and a bunch of rowdy children under my feet.
But I know myself well enough to know that when I think that way, I’m thinking small. I’m thinking about right now. I’m not thinking cosmically; I’m not thinking about God’s love for me. I’m not thinking about His eternal purposes.
Sometimes when my wife’s heading out to work, and she kisses me goodbye, it lasts for about five seconds. I’m hugging her, and instantly, her body English is in a mode of escape, of putting up the roadblocks. Now, I don’t expect her to stop and kiss me for half an hour—although I suggest that probably half the time, at least—but it’d be nice to just get a lingering hug and kiss that last a total of fifteen seconds. And she says: “Honey, let me go. I don’t have time. I’ll be late.” And I say to her, “You mean your entire schedule today hinges on these extra ten seconds? It’s that precise? Your whole space-time continuum will collapse if you give me one more teeny-tiny kiss?” I want you to pray for my wife, that the Lord will reorder her priorities.
But if God is really real, and if what the Bible says Jesus did on the cross, He really did, and if God’s purpose is to love me forever, than it is foolish of me to think that everything revolves around my free fifteen minutes. That thinking is totally upside-down, and it doesn’t matter if you say it or if I say it. When we say that, we’re wrong. God love us, but we’re wrong.
Rick Warren must have had people wave their Palm Pilots in his face too, because he calculated the actual time it would take to do all of things he and his church family recommend in their “40 Days of Purpose” events. Read a study book, go to small groups for two months, come to church those eight times, attend a nationwide simulcast, be a part of a discipling mission fair and ministry fair. And the total time elapsed: less than 48 hours. Not even two calendar days in order to discover and embrace the entire scenario of what God wants to do by loving us and shaping us for His family.
Here’s the last thing. You might be a seasoned, Seventh-day Adventist Christian. Born and bred. You might know it all already.
Or: you might be new to this. You’re on the fringes.
You might be what we call a “stumbler.” Your Christian life has just been wiping out in recent years, either with a lot of sin, or bad habits, or just plain messing up through neglect.
No matter where we are on this spectrum, God has something special for us. If you’re a seasoned Christian, He has a whole new deep experience, more than you ever imagined. If you’re a seeker, just checking it out, that’s great. There’s no obligation. Come and see that the Lord is good. If you’ve been crashing and burning, welcome home. God has a special place of honor for His prodigal sons and daughters.
Acts 10:35: It makes no difference who you are or where you’re from—if you want God and are ready to do as He says, the door is open.
This is part 2 of a 8-part series: 1 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8
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