At some point we’ve all questioned why we’re alive. Whether you or someone you know is struggling to find their life mission, here are five specific purposes for which God created us.
Everyone in your congregation wants to know if life really matters. Members, visitors, even your staff want to know:
What on earth am I here for?
Essentially, they’re asking three basic questions. First, there’s the question of existence: Why am I alive? For thousands of years people have asked this question. Many people of the Bible did. Jeremiah asked: “Why was I born? Was it only to have trouble and sorrow, to end my life in disgrace?” (20:18, GNT).
Second, there’s the question of significance: Is there some meaning and purpose to my life? Is all that I’m doing just a waste of time and energy? Is my life significant?
In Psalm 89, David remembers how short his life—and every human life—is and asks God: “Why did You create us? For nothing?” (see v. 47).
Job also asked the question, “Why should I work so hard for nothing?” (see Job 9:29). In other words, if there’s no meaning and purpose, why am I even doing this?
Solomon, in all his wisdom, questioned the significance of pleasure. In Ecclesiastes 2:2, he says: “Laughing and having fun is crazy. What good does it do?” (CEV). We all want to know: “Is there any significance to what I do? Why keep going?” Without meaning, life is petty, trivial and pointless.
Third, there’s the question of intention. Is there a purpose for my life? Isaiah said this: “My work seems so useless! I have spent my strength for nothing and to no purpose” (49:4, NLT).
The British philosopher, Bertrand Russell, who described himself as an atheist, said, “Unless you assume a God, the question of the purpose of life is meaningless.” In other words, if there is no God, there is no grand scheme or significance to anything. If there is no God, your birth was an accident. You simply represent a random chance. If there is no God, there is no right or wrong and no heaven or hell.
This is why it is so important for us to teach our people that God made each one of us for a purpose. They need to know that nothing matters more than knowing God’s purpose for their lives, and nothing can compensate for not knowing it—not success, wealth, fame or pleasure.
We need to teach that without purpose life is motion without meaning, activity without direction and events without reason—yet underscore that it is never too late for any of us to discover our God-ordained purpose. People need to understand God makes everything with a purpose. Every plant has a purpose; every animal has a purpose.
Our people need to grasp the same truth about their lives. We should teach them: “If you are alive, it means God has a purpose for your life.”
The New Testament teaches that God created each of us for five purposes. These are explained by Jesus in the Great Commandment (Matt. 22:35-40) and the Great Commission (Matt. 28:19), were demonstrated by the early church in Acts 2, explained by Paul in Ephesians 4, and prayed about by Jesus in John 17. Here they are, briefly summarized:
1) Planned for God’s Pleasure
The first purpose of your life is this: You were planned for God’s pleasure. I think the two words that best describe the Christian life are love affair. God wants you to know Him and to love Him. Everything else is secondary to that purpose.
There is a word for how we express love to God: It’s called worship. Worship is both expressing love to God and living a life that’s pleasing to Him.
You know, there’s a big myth in Christianity. In the minds of most Christians the word worship is a synonym for “music.” We say things like, “Well, I liked the message, but I really liked the worship”—as if the message wasn’t worship.
Worship is more than music. It is everything you do that brings pleasure to God or glorifies Him. Your whole life is to be a life of worship.
2) Formed for God’s Family
Just as worship brings God pleasure because He wants us to love Him, fellowship with other believers brings God pleasure because we’re formed for God’s family.
One of the most misunderstood ideas about the Christian life is that it’s just a matter of believing. But God says: “No, you’re not just ‘believers’; you’re also ‘belongers.’”
You belong in the family of God.
Did you know that the term one another is used 58 times in the New Testament? Love one another, care for one another, pray for one another, exhort one another, encourage one another, greet one another, and on and on and on. God wants you to care for other people. That’s called fellowship. Enjoying God’s family is called fellowship. It’s the second purpose for your life.
You were planned for God’s pleasure (worship), and you were formed for God’s family (fellowship).
Here’s the third reason God made you: You were created to be like Christ. It’s called discipleship. God made you in order to transform you into a likeness of His son, Jesus Christ. God is far more interested in what you are than what you do. He’s far more interested in your “being” than in your “doing.”
A lot of people ask, “What is God’s will for my life in my job or my career?” Know what? You probably could have two dozen different careers and God would think that’s fine. He is more interested in your character, and I’ll tell you why: You are not taking your career with you when you die; but you are taking your character into eternity.
There is no problem you have that you can’t grow from if you’ll learn the right response for it. If you respond to it the way God wants you to, then you become like Jesus. This is God’s third purpose for your life.
4) Shaped for Service
The fourth purpose is this: You were shaped for service. God made you to serve Him. You’re planned for God’s pleasure; that’s worship. You’re formed for a family; that’s fellowship. You’re created to be like Christ; that’s discipleship. And you’re shaped for service; that’s called ministry.
Every Christian is created to serve—called to ministry, created for ministry, saved for ministry and gifted for ministry. The Bible makes it very clear that every Christian is a minister (see 2 Cor. 5:17-19). Not every Christian is a pastor, but every Christian is a minister because to be Christ-like is to be a minister. You can’t be like Jesus Christ without serving others.
What is ministry? It is any way you use the abilities God has given you to help someone else in Jesus’ name. God uniquely wired you in a certain way for a purpose. God gave you your abilities—not for your benefit, but to use to bless other people.
5) Made for a Mission
The fifth reason you were put on this earth is that you were made for a mission. The apostle Paul was extremely passionate about this particular purpose. He says in Acts 20:24, “I only want to complete my mission and finish the work that the Lord Jesus gave me to do” (GNT). And what did he say that work was? To tell people the good news about God’s grace.
Fulfilling your mission in the world—there’s a word for that in the Bible. It’s called evangelism. And it is the fifth purpose God has for your life.
My dad was a man on a mission. He was a pastor for 50 years, but a few years ago he died of cancer. The last week of his life he was delusional, very frail and had lost all this weight from cancer. One night he became agitated and tried to get out of bed.
My wife, Kay, said: “Jimmy, you can’t get out of bed. Lie back down, you’re very weak. You’re dying.”
But he tried again to get out of bed, and my wife said again, “No, please, lie back down in the bed.” She forced him back down in the bed and then asked him, “What is it you need?”
He said: “Gotta save one more for Jesus. Gotta save one more for Jesus. Gotta save one more for Jesus.” He said this over and over and in the next hour must have repeated it 100 times. “Gotta save one more for Jesus.”
As I sat there by his bedside, I put my head down, praying, and tears were running down my cheeks. My dad reached up and put his hand on my head—as if he were blessing me—and said: “Save one more for Jesus. Save one more for Jesus.”
I intend for that to be the theme of the rest of my life. And I invite you to make it the theme of your life. You were made for a mission.
The Bible says that David “served God’s purpose in his own generation” (Acts 13:36, NIV). I can’t think of a better epitaph. That’s what I want said about my life—that when I die people will say of me, “He served God’s purpose in his generation.”
And that’s what I want people to say about you. In this article I’ve shared from God’s Word what it means to live a life of purpose, a purpose-driven life. What are you going to do about it?
Rick Warren is a global strategist, philanthropist, pastor and author. His book, The Purpose Driven Life, is the best-selling hardback in American history. In 1980, Warren founded Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif.