The Purpose of Our Life

The Purpose of Our Life

When I was 12 years old, I worked during the summer on a crew that mowed grave yards. I was fascinated with the old tombstones and I liked to read the epitaphs (if they were still visible).

Consider this, when time has passed and people struggle through the weeds, pull back the moss, and read the inscription on our tombstones, what do we want it to say--‘He made his car payments?’” We were designed for more than that. God has a purpose for our life, and until we discover His purpose – and follow through – we will feel unfulfilled.

There’s one individual in Scripture who illustrates this better than anyone else. His name was Nehemiah. In 587 B.C., the Babylonians invaded and destroyed the city of Jerusalem. Some eighty years later, the Jews had returned to Jerusalem, but the place was in shambles. The temple was destroyed. Sacrifices had ceased. The Jews had adopted the lifestyle and culture of the surrounding nations. The spiritual and social conditions in Jerusalem were deplorable.

Nehemiah was still living in Persia as a slave to the king. The news of Jerusalem’s condition burdened Nehemiah greatly. Through his anguish and concern for Jerusalem, He was about to discover and live out God’s purpose for his life. Therefore, from his experience, we can discover three actions that we must take to fulfill God’s purpose for our life.

First, a life of purpose begins with a concern or burden that God gives you to serve others.

Nehemiah 1:1-4 The words of Nehemiah son of Hacaliah: In the month of Kislev in the twentieth year, while I was in the citadel of Susa, Hanani, one of my brothers, came from Judah with some other men, and I questioned them about the Jewish remnant that survived the exile, and also about Jerusalem. They said to me, "Those who survived the exile and are back in the province are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire." When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven.

Nehemiah’s concern over Jerusalem consumed him. He couldn’t get it out of his mind. For days, he mourned and fasted and prayed. It changed the way he looked so much that the king noticed his countenance. Since Nehemiah was a cupbearer to the king, any look of discomfort or illness in his cupbearer concerned the king’s health. This was risky behavior because the king had the power to punish you if he thought you were a threat or not performing your job well. Neither the king nor anyone else could understand why Nehemiah was troubled. “Snap out of it!” is about all the response Nehemiah could expect. From Nehemiah’s experience, there are several things we can learn about discovering our purpose.

God’s purpose for us will always begin as a God-given concern or burden to serve others. I’m not talking about a passing concern. I’m talking about something that sticks with you. You will hear or see something that gets your attention. Something will bother you about the way things are or the way things are headed. Unlike many passing concerns, this one will stick with you. You will find yourself thinking about it in your free time. You may lose sleep over it. You won’t be able to let it go because it won’t let you go.

A few observations about concerns or burdens: NOT EVERYONE WILL SHARE YOUR CONCERN. Did you notice that nobody else seemed to be concerned about the wall? For years, the walls of Jerusalem had been broken down. But when I read Nehemiah, I get the impression that no one else was crying about the broken-down walls. Nehemiah’s concern was Nehemiah’s alone.

It’s possible that God has given you a concern, but you haven’t cultivated it because nobody else seems to share that concern. Stop waiting for other people! God has given you that burden for a reason. It’s up to you to begin to pray about that concern.

A second observation: NOT EVERYONE WHO HAS A CONCERN WILL DO ANYTHING ABOUT IT. Many people saw the condition of the wall. They lamented its condition. It is possible that many had the concern and had done nothing about it.

Third observation: GOD OFTEN GIVES A CONCERN BEFORE HE GIVES A SOLUTION. Perhaps you have God-given concerns, but you haven’t done anything about it, because you can’t see yourself as the solution to the problem. Nehemiah was a slave, a cupbearer to the king. He was responsible for ensuring the safety of the king’s food and drink. Nehemiah wasn’t really in a position to do anything about the broken-down wall. He didn’t have the authority to go and rebuild the wall of Jerusalem. Many times God will give you a concern, and it won’t be immediately obvious that you can do anything about it, except pray, and that is exactly what you should do.

It may be something that you have ignored. The concern God has given you might be completely unique. There may be nobody else who shares the same passion as you do, at least to the same extent. Nevertheless, your job is to cultivate that concern. Pray about it. Fast over it. Bring it before God.

God-given concerns all have one characteristic in common: they focus on the eternal. God-given concerns are never really about us. There is always a correlation between what God wants to do in the individual and what God is up to in the world. God-given concerns always center, in some way, on the eternal. Therefore, the second action to fulfill our purpose is to center on the eternal.

Ecclesiastes 3:11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.

We were made to last for eternity. A life of purpose, as a servant of God, always centers on making an eternal contribution in the lives of people who will spend eternity in heaven or hell.

There’s a big difference between good ideas and God ideas. God ideas always center on the eternal. What made Nehemiah’s concern a God idea? Listen to his prayer:

Nehemiah 1:7-11 We have acted very wickedly toward you. We have not obeyed the commands, decrees and laws you gave your servant Moses.  "Remember the instruction you gave your servant Moses, saying, 'If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the nations, but if you return to me and obey my commands, then even if your exiled people are at the farthest horizon, I will gather them from there and bring them to the place I have chosen as a dwelling for my Name.' "They are your servants and your people, whom you redeemed by your great strength and your mighty hand. O Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of this your servant and to the prayer of your servants who delight in revering your name. Give your servant success today by granting him favor in the presence of this man." I was cupbearer to the king.

Restoring the walls of Jerusalem was a God-idea because God had made a promise to His people. God said that if His people returned to him, then He would restore their fortunes. He would bring them back from exile and make them even more prosperous than their ancestors. Nehemiah’s concern wasn’t really about a wall. His concern was about God’s people taking their rightful place in God’s eternal plan. So he prayed and God moved on the heart of the king to repair the walls of Jerusalem. More than that, the king sent Nehemiah with all the supplies and authority he needed to accomplish the task.

There’s only one thing that will last into eternity. Your career won’t. Your reputation won’t. Your bank account won’t. Only one thing will last into eternity: people. Our job is to use our money, time, and abilities in God’s service to influence people eternally. Nothing else matters.

The Bible teaches that everything we have is a trust from God. Trustees own nothing, but they are legally accountable for everything. A trustee doesn’t ask, “What percentage should I give away?” Trustees are responsible to use all they have to do the most good. We are not an owner of our time, our money, or our abilities. We prove that the moment that we die. The reason God has given us our time, our money, and our abilities is so we can make an eternal difference as we serve Him and other people.

1 Timothy 6:18-19 Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.

When we use our time, money, and abilities for eternity, we not only make a safe investment, we also gain the benefit of living a fruitful life here as well. To center our purpose on the eternal, consider these questions:

WHAT PEOPLE CAN I INFLUENCE? Take a look at the people around you – your family, your neighbors, your co-workers. The reason why God has put these people into our life is so we can serve and influence them. We are not living where we are because of some co-incidence.

A second question we should consider is WHAT MONEY CAN I INVEST? If we’re to live a life of purpose, it will completely change the way we look at money. A lot of us think, “If I give God 10%, then everything is fine.” We give God a little and keep the rest to ourselves.

However, Jesus said in Luke 16:9 I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.

Industrialist Andrew Carnegie said, “The man who dies…rich, dies disgraced.” His goal was to leave nothing behind, which may be why he established a philanthropy. We are not rich, but we have many opportunities to invest our money in people for eternal purposes.

One more question to consider is WHAT CHARACTER CAN I DEVELOP? The best way to build a life of purpose is to build our character. The more we are like Jesus, the more God can use us.

Jesus said in John 15:4, Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

We must establish a relationship with Christ, and be filled with the Holy Spirit. Then the fruit of the Spirit, which is the character of Jesus Christ, will be built into our life.

So, how do we fulfill God’s purpose for our life? Cultivate a concern for service. Center on the eternal, and there’s one more action we need to take: (3) CONCENTRATE YOUR ENERGY.

In Nehemiah 6, the wall was almost complete. Nehemiah was only days away from completing the project. But Nehemiah’s enemies were stirring up trouble.

Nehemiah 6:1-2 When word came to Sanballat, Tobiah, Geshem the Arab and the rest of our enemies that I had rebuilt the wall and not a gap was left in it--though up to that time I had not set the doors in the gates--Sanballat and Geshem sent me this message: "Come, let us meet together in one of the villages on the plain of Ono." But they were scheming to harm me;

Sanballat and company invited Nehemiah to a meeting. Their plan was to get him off the project, away from all his supporters, and kill him. Listen to Nehemiah’s response:

Nehemiah 6:3 I sent messengers to them with this reply: "I am carrying on a great project and cannot go down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and go down to you?"

This is a verse that all of us need to keep in front of us: “I am carrying on a great project and cannot go down.” Nehemiah knew that if he was going to fulfill God’s purpose for his life, he would have to deal with the greatest enemy of purpose—distractions.

Every day of our lives, opportunities have a way of coming up that have the potential to distract us from the main things that God has called us to do. Many of these distractions aren’t bad things. We can be out six nights a week taking advantage of good opportunities. At the same time, we could be making less and less progress toward the purpose God has for our lives. To live a life of purpose, we have to learn how to say no to some good things. We need to live with this verse etched on our mind: “I am carrying on a great project and cannot go down.”

I wrestle with this as much as anyone. Many things compete for my attention. Sometimes I get tired and want to rest from the “great project.” Keep in mind that we are always saying ‘no’ to something. If it isn’t to the apparent, urgent things in our life, it is probably to the more fundamental, highly important things. Even if the urgent is good, the good can keep us from our best. We must stay focused on the purpose of God for our life.

God has given all of us a burden, a concern, or a passion. And He’s calling us to invest our life in the service of others for eternity, and to concentrate all our energies on that task. That is what Jesus did and we are to do the same.

Mark 10:42-45 Jesus called them together and said, "You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."

The most important step that you can take to fulfill God’s purpose for your life is to give your life to Jesus Christ, who is eternal life. After all, He gave His life for you. You can begin fulfilling the exciting God-given purpose for your life today by confessing Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, repenting of your sin, dying to self by following Jesus in baptism, and being born again of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit will lead you in a fulfilling life of service that accomplishes God’s purpose for your existence. There is great joy in knowing your life has a purpose.

If you’ve already given your life to Jesus, what’s your next step? What are you going to do to fulfill God’s purpose for your life? How are you going to center your time, your money, your abilities, in service to others to influence their eternity? Whatever concern the Holy Spirit has given you, begin praying about it today. Let Him lead you, and wait for Him to open the doors to fulfill His purpose for you. As He does this, concentrate all your efforts on His “great project” for you. This is your purpose.