Two decades ago, Rick Warren’s New York Times bestseller, The Purpose Driven Life, made its debut, and since then, has sold over 50 million copies. The topic of discerning life’s purpose struck a chord. Humanity is unique in asking questions of purpose. No other creatures have the capacity to ask self-reflective questions such as “Who am I?” or “What is my purpose?” The fact that human beings have searched for answers to these existential queries in all eras implies there are answers to be found. But how?
In search of purpose, the best thinkers have historically fallen into two ditches. The first is presuming that our purpose, like fate or destiny, is entirely predetermined—that there is a plan for our lives in which we have no agency. To fall into this error is to fail to steward our God-given free will. The second blunder suggests that we can discover our own purpose or even create our own meaning. This arrogance is the prevailing spirit of our times: believing that our life’s purpose is what we alone can make of it. These fallacies place an impossibly heavy burden on us—a weight that no one can bear. The Scriptures provide a way to discern our purpose while avoiding these two ditches.
It’s in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for. Long before we first heard of Christ… he had his eye on us, had designs on us for glorious living, part of the overall purpose he is working out in everything and everyone.
– Ephesians 1:11-12 (MSG)
Paraphrasing The Message’s rendering of Ephesians 1:11, we were designed on purpose and for a purpose. Genesis begins with the astonishing truth that humanity is created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). This reality intimates that the Designer did not slap us together haphazardly but engineered us with a purpose in mind—to reflect God’s character and love to the world. Psalm 139 proclaims that God created our inmost being and that all the days of our lives were ordained before one of them came to be. God fashioned us with an amalgam of gifts, capacities, abilities, passions, longings, and other idiosyncrasies of our personality that are not by accident but imbued by God’s own intention to accomplish His purposes.
Pursuing a purpose-designed life involves a dialogue between the Designer and the designed—between God and humanity. God has a plan for us (Jeremiah 29:11) which He is sovereignly working out, and God invites us to participate in His purposes by prayerfully leveraging our God-given gifts. By exploring the longings, passions, and capabilities God has given us, we can see that they are not ends in themselves but work in harmony with God’s purposes decisively revealed in Christ.
Thus, the Bible provides a way forward where we are not crushed under an obligation to discover or create an elusive life purpose, nor are we resigned to fate. Instead, “It’s in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for.”
by Pastor Brad Rogers