Everyone in your congregation wants to know if life really matters. Members, visitors, even your staff want to know, “What on earth an I here for?”
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 this question, “Why was I born? Was it only to have trouble and sorrow? To end my life in disgrace?”
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 asked, “I remember how short my life is [in other words, it’s not that long]. Why did You create us? For nothing?”
Job asked the question, “Why should I work so hard for nothing?” If there’s no meaning and purpose, why am I even doing this?
Solomon even questions the significance of pleasure. He says, “Laughing and having fun is crazy. What good does it do?” 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 all seems so useless! I have spent my strength for nothing and for no purpose at all.”
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 that we teach our people that God made each one of them for a purpose. They need to know 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, it’s never too late to discover our God-ordained purpose. They need to understand God makes everything with a purpose. Every plant has a purpose, every animal has a purpose, and if you are alive, that means God has a purpose for your life.
The Bible teaches that God had five purposes in making us. These five purposes are explained by Jesus in the Great Commandment and the Great Commission. They’re demonstrated by the early Church in Acts, chapter 2. They’re explained by Paul in Ephesians, chapter 4, and they’re prayed about by Jesus in John, chapter 17.
Number 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 love him. Everything else is secondary to that. He wants you to know him, and he wants you to love him.
There is a word for expressing love to God: WORSHIP. Worship is expressing your love to God. And worship is living a life pleasing to God.
You know, there is a big myth today in most of Christianity. Today the word “worship” in most people’s mind 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. Worship is everything you do that brings pleasure to God. Your whole life is to be a life of worship.
Number 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 ‘belongers.’” You belong in the family of God.
Did you know that the words “one another” are 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, and that’s the second purpose for your life.
Number 3: Created to Be Like Christ
You were planned for God’s pleasure; that’s called worship. And you were formed for a family; that’s called fellowship. Here’s the third reason God made you: You were created to be like Christ. That’s called discipleship. God made you to transform you into a likeness of his son, Jesus Christ.
God is far more interested in what you are than in 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?” You know what? You could probably have a dozen different careers, and God would say “That’s fine.” God is more interested in your character, and I’ll tell you why: You’re not taking your career into eternity, but you are taking your character.
There is no problem you can’t grow from if you’ll learn the right response. You become like Jesus. This is God’s third purpose for your life. Becoming like Christ is called discipleship.
Number 4: Shaped for Service
The fourth purpose God created you for 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. 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? Ministry is any time your use the abilities God has given you to help someone else in Jesus’ name. The Bible teaches that God uniquely wired you in a certain way for a purpose. God gave you your abilities — not for your benefit but to bless other people.
Number 5: Made for a Mission
The fifth reason you were put on this Earth is that you were made for a mission.
Paul was extremely passionate about this particular purpose. He says in Acts 20:24, “The most important thing is that I complete my mission, the work that the Lord Jesus Christ gave me.” And what is that work? To tell people the good news about God’s grace. There’s a word for fulfilling my mission in the world — it’s called “evangelism.” That 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 died a few years ago of cancer. The last week of his life he was delusional, and my wife and I were sitting beside him. He was very frail, and he’d lost all this weight from cancer. One night he became agitated and tried to get out of bed.
Kay said, “Jimmy, you can’t get out of bed. Lie back down; you’re very weak. You’re dying.” But he tried to get back 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 she said, “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 maybe 100 times. “Gotta save one more for Jesus.”
As I sat there by his bedside, I put my head down and prayed, tears coming down my cheeks. My dad reached up and put his hand on my head — like a blessing — and he 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.
Now, I have 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?
The Bible says, “David served God’s purpose in his own generation.” I can’t think of a better epitaph. That’s what I want for my life — that when I die people will say, “He served God’s purpose in his generation.”
And that’s what I want people to say about you, that you served God’s purpose in your generation.
Rick Warren is the founding pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California, one of America’s largest and most influential churches. Pastor Rick is author of the New York Times bestseller The Purpose Driven Life. His book, The Purpose Driven Church, was named one of the 100 Christian books that changed the 20th century. He is also founder of Pastors.com, a global Internet community for pastors.