2. You are not an accident
I am your Creator. You were in my care even before you were born.
Isaiah 44:2a (CEV)
God doesn't play dice.
You are not an accident. Your birth was no mistake or mishap, and your life is no fluke of nature. Your parents may not have planned you, but God did. He was not at all surprised by your birth. In fact, he expected it.
Long before you were conceived by your parents, you were conceived in the mind of God. He thought of you first. It is not fate, nor chance, nor luck, nor coincidence that you are breathing at this very moment. You are alive because God wanted to create you! The Bible says, "The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me."
God prescribed every single detail of your body. He deliberately chose your race, the color of your skin, your hair, and every other feature. He custom-made your body just the way he wanted it. He also determined the natural talents you would possess and the uniqueness of your personality. The Bible says, "You know me inside and out, you know every bone in my body; You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit, how I was sculpted from nothing into something."
Because God made you for a reason, he also decided when you would be born and how long you would live. He planned the days of your life in advance, choosing the exact time of your birth and death. The Bible says, "You saw me before I was born and scheduled each day of my life before I began to breathe. Every day was recorded in your Book!"
God also planned where you'd be born and where you'd live for his purpose. Your race and nationality are no accident. God left no detail to chance. He planned it all for his purpose. The Bible says, "From one man he made every nation,... and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. " Nothing in your life is arbitrary. It's all for a purpose.
Most amazing, God decided how you would be born. Regardless of the circumstances of your birth or who your parents are, God had a plan in creating you. It doesn't matter whether your parents were good, bad, or indifferent. God knew that those two individuals possessed exactly the right genetic makeup to create the custom "you" he had in mind. They had the DNA God wanted to make you.
While there are illegitimate parents, there are no illegitimate children. Many children are unplanned by their parents, but they are not unplanned by God. God's purpose took into account human error, and even sin.
God never does anything accidentally, and he never makes mistakes. He has a reason for everything he creates. Every plant and every animal was planned by God, and every person was designed with a purpose in mind.
Long before you were conceived by your parents, you were conceived in the mind of God.
God's motive for creating you was his love. The Bible says, "Long before he laid down earth's foundations, he had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of his love."
God was thinking of you even before he made the world. In fact, that's why he created it! God designed this planet's environment just so we could live in it. We are the focus of his love and the most valuable of all his creation. The Bible says, "God decided to give us life through the word of truth so we might be the most important of all the things he made." This is how much God loves and values you!
God is not haphazard; he planned it all with great precision. The more physicists, biologists, and other scientists learn about the universe, the better we understand how it is uniquely suited for our existence, custom-made with the exact specifications that make human life possible.
Dr. Michael Denton, senior research fellow in human molecular genetics at the University of Otago in New Zealand, has concluded, "All the evidence available in the biological sciences supports the core proposition ... that the cosmos is a specially designed whole with life and mankind as its fundamental goal and purpose, a whole in which all facets of reality have their meaning and explanation in this central fact." The Bible said the same thing thousands of years earlier: "God formed the earth.... He did not create it to be empty but formed it to be inhabited."
Why did God do all this? Why did he bother to go to all the trouble of creating a universe for us? Because he is a God of love. This kind of love is difficult to fathom, but it's fundamentally reliable. You were created as a special object of God's love! God made you so he could love you. This is a truth to build your life on.
The Bible tells us, "God is love." It doesn't say God has love. He is love! Love is the essence of God's character. There is perfect love in the fellowship of the Trinity, so God didn't need to create you. He wasn't lonely. But he wanted to make you in order to express his love. God says, "I have carried you since you were born; I have taken care of you from your birth. Even when you are old, I will be the same. Even when your hair has turned gray, I will take care of you. I made you and will take care of you."
If there was no God, we would all be "accidents," the result of astronomical random chance in the universe. You could stop reading this text, because life would have no purpose or meaning or significance. There would be no right or wrong, and no hope beyond your brief years here on earth.
But there is a God who made you for a reason, and your life has profound meaning! We discover that meaning and purpose only when we make God the reference point of our lives. The Message paraphrase of Romans 12:3 says, "The only accurate way to understand ourselves is by what God is and by what he does for us."
This poem by Russell Kelfer sums it up:
You are who you are for a reason.
You're part of an intricate plan.
You're a precious and perfect unique design,
Called God's special woman or man.
You look like you look for a reason.
Our God made no mistake.
He knit you together within the womb,
You're just what he wanted to make.
The parents you had were the ones he chose,
And no matter how you may feel,
They were custom-designed with God's plan in mind,
And they bear the Master's seal.
No, that trauma you faced was not easy.
And God wept that it hurt you so;
But it was allowed to shape your heart
So that into his likeness you'd grow.
You are who you are for a reason,
You've been formed by the Master's rod.
You are who you are, beloved,
Because there is a God!"
THINKING ABOUT MY PURPOSE
Point to Ponder: I am not an accident.
Verse to Remember: "I am your Creator. You were in my care even before you were born." Isaiah 44:2 (CEV)
Question to Consider: I know that God uniquely created me. What areas of my personality, background, and physical appearance am I struggling to accept?
3. What drives your life?
I observed that the basic motive for success is the driving force of envy and jealousy!
Ecclesiastes 4:4 (LB)
The man without a purpose is like a ship without a rudder-a waif, a nothing, a no man.
Everyone's life is driven by something.
Many people are driven by resentment and anger.
They hold on to hurts and never get over them. Instead of releasing their pain through forgiveness, they rehearse it over and over in their minds. Some resentment-driven people "clam up" and internalize their anger, while others "blow up" and explode it onto others. Both responses are unhealthy and unhelpful.
Resentment always hurts you more than it does the person you resent. While your offender has probably forgotten the offense and gone on with life, you continue to stew in your pain, perpetuating the past.
Listen: Those who have hurt you in the past cannot continue to hurt you now unless you hold on to the pain through resentment. Your past is past! Nothing will change it. You are only hurting yourself with your bitterness. For your own sake, learn from it, and then let it go. The Bible says, "To worry yourself to death with resentment would be a foolish, senseless thing to do."
Many people are driven by fear.
Their fears may be a result of a traumatic experience, unrealistic expectations, growing up in a high-control home, or even genetic predisposition. Regardless of the cause, fear-driven people often miss great opportunities because they're afraid to venture out. Instead they play it safe, avoiding risks and trying to maintain the status quo.
Fear is a self-imposed prison that will keep you from becoming what God intends for you to be. You must move against it with the weapons of faith and love. The Bible says, "Well formed love banishes fear. Since fear is crippling, a fearful life fear of death, fear of judgment-is one not yet fully formed in love."
Many people are driven by materialism.
Their desire to acquire becomes the whole goal of their lives. This drive to always want more is based on the misconceptions that having more will make me more happy, more important, and more secure, but all three ideas are untrue. Possessions only provide temporary happiness. Because things do not change, we eventually become bored with them and then want newer, bigger, better versions.
It's also a myth that if I get more, I will be more important. Self-worth and net worth are not the same. Your value is not determined by your valuables, and God says the most valuable things in life are not things!
The most common myth about money is that having more will make me more secure. It won't. Wealth can be lost instantly through a variety of uncontrollable factors. Real security can only be found in that which can never be taken from you-your relationship with God.
Many people are driven by the need for approval.
They allow the expectations of parents or spouses or children or teachers or friends to control their lives. Many adults are still trying to earn the approval of unpleasable parents. Others are driven by peer pressure, always worried by what others might think. Unfortunately, those who follow the crowd usually get lost in it.
I don't know all the keys to success, but one key to failure is to try to please everyone. Being controlled by the opinions of others is a guaranteed way to miss God's purposes for your life. Jesus said, "No one can serve two masters."
There are other forces that can drive your life but all lead to the same dead end: unused potential, unnecessary stress, and an unfulfilled life.
Our journey will show you how to live a purpose driven life-a life guided, controlled, and directed by God's purposes. Nothing matters more than knowing God's purposes for your life, and nothing can compensate for not knowing them-not success, wealth, fame, or pleasure. Without a purpose, life is motion without meaning, activity without direction, and events without reason. Without a purpose, life is trivial, petty, and pointless. Nothing matters more than knowing God's purposes for your life, and nothing can compensate for not knowing them.
THE BENEFITS OF PURPOSE-DRIVEN LIVING
There are five great benefits of living a purpose-driven life:
Knowing your purpose gives meaning to your life. We were made to have meaning. This is why people try dubious methods, like astrology or psychics, to discover it. When life has meaning, you can bear almost anything; without it, nothing is bearable.
A young man in his twenties wrote, "I feel like a failure because I'm struggling to become something, and I don't even know what it is. All I know how to do is to get by. Someday, if I discover my purpose, I'll feel I'm beginning to live."
Without God, life has no purpose, and without purpose, life has no meaning. Without meaning, life has no significance or hope. In the Bible, many different people expressed this hopelessness. Isaiah complained, "I have labored to no purpose; I have spent my strength in pain and for nothing." Job said, "My life drags by-day after hopeless day" and "I give up; I am tired of living. Leave me alone. My life makes no sense." The greatest tragedy is not death, but life without purpose.
Hope is as essential to your life as air and water. You need hope to cope. Dr. Bernie Siegel found he could predict which of his cancer patients would go into remission by asking, "Do you want to live to be one hundred?" Those with a deep sense of life purpose answered yes and were the ones most likely to survive. Hope comes from having a purpose.
If you have felt hopeless, hold on!
Wonderful changes are going to happen in your life as you begin to live it on purpose. God says, "I know what I am planning for you.... `I have good plans for you, not plans to hurt you. I will give you hope and a good future."" You may feel you are facing an impossible situation, but the Bible says, "God ... is able to do far more than we would ever dare to ask or even dream of-infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, or hopes." Knowing your purpose simplifies your life. It defines what you do and what you don't do. Your purpose becomes the standard you use to evaluate which activities are essential and which aren't. You simply ask, "Does this activity help me fulfill one of God's purposes for my life?"
Without a clear purpose you have no foundation on which you base decisions, allocate your time, and use your resources. You will tend to make choices based on circumstances, pressures, and your mood at that moment. People who don't know their purpose try to do too much-and that causes stress, fatigue, and conflict.
It is impossible to do everything people want you to do. You have just enough time to do God's will. If you can't get it all done, it means you're trying to do more than God intended for you to do (or, possibly, that you're watching too much television). Purpose-driven living leads to a simpler lifestyle and a saner schedule. The Bible says, "A pretentious, showy life is an empty life; a plain and simple life is a full life.” It also leads to peace of mind: "You, LORD, give perfect peace to those who keep their purpose firm and put their trust in you.” Knowing your purpose focuses your life. It concentrates your effort and energy on what's important. You become effective by being selective.
It's human nature to get distracted by minor issues. We play Trivial Pursuit with our lives. Henry David Thoreau observed that people live lives of "quiet desperation," but today a better description is aimless distraction. Many people are like gyroscopes, spinning around at a frantic pace but never going anywhere.
Without a clear purpose, you will keep changing directions, jobs, relationships, churches, or other externals-hoping each change will settle the confusion or fill the emptiness in your heart. You think, Maybe this time it will be different, but it doesn't solve your real problem-a lack of focus and purpose.
The Bible says, "Don't live carelessly, unthinkingly. Make sure you understand what the Master wants."
The power of focusing can be seen in light. Diffused light has little power or impact, but you can concentrate its energy by focusing it. With a magnifying glass, the rays of the sun can be focused to set grass or paper on fire. When light is focused even more as a laser beam, it can cut through steel.
There is nothing quite as potent as a focused life, one lived on purpose. The men and women who have made the greatest difference in history were the most focused. For instance, the apostle Paul almost single-handedly spread Christianity throughout the Roman Empire. His secret was a focused life. He said, "I am focusing all my energies on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead.'
If you want your life to have impact, focus it! Stop dabbling. Stop trying to do it all. Do less. Prune away even good activities and do only that which matters most. Never confuse activity with productivity. You can be busy without a purpose, but what's the point? Paul said, "Let's keep focused on that goal, those of us who want everything God has for us."'
Knowing your purpose motivates your life. Purpose always produces passion. Nothing energizes like a clear purpose. On the other hand, passion dissipates when you lack a purpose.
Just getting out of bed becomes a major chore. It is usually meaningless work, not overwork, that wears us down, saps our strength, and robs our joy.
George Bernard Shaw wrote, "This is the true joy of life: the being used up for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clot of ailments and grievances, complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy."
Knowing your purpose prepares you for eternity. Many people spend their lives trying to create a lasting legacy on earth. They want to be remembered when they're gone. Yet, what ultimately matters most will not be what others say about your life but what God says. What people fail to realize is that all achievements are eventually surpassed, records are broken, reputations fade, and tributes are forgotten. In college, James Dobson's goal was to become the school's tennis champion. He felt proud when his trophy was prominently placed in the school's trophy cabinet. Years later, someone mailed him that trophy. They had found it in a trashcan when the school was remodeled. Jim said, "Given enough time, all your trophies will be trashed by someone else!"
Living to create an earthly legacy is a short-sighted goal. A wiser use of time is to build an eternal legacy. You weren't put on earth to be remembered. You were put here to prepare for eternity.
One day you will stand before God, and he will do an audit of your life, a final exam, before you enter eternity. The Bible says, "Remember, each of us will stand personally before the judgment seat of God.... Yes, each of us will have to give a personal account to God." Fortunately, God wants us to pass this test, so he has given us the questions in advance. From the Bible we can surmise that God will ask us two crucial questions: First, "What did you do with my Son, Jesus Christ?" God won't ask about your religious background or doctrinal views. The only thing that will matter is, did you accept what Jesus did for you and did you learn to love and trust him? Jesus said, 'clam the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."
Second, "What did you do with what I gave you?" What did you do with your life-all the gifts, talents, opportunities, energy, relationships, and resources God gave you? Did you spend them on yourself, or did you use them for the purposes God made you for?"
Preparing you for these two questions is the goal of our texts. The first question will determine where you spend eternity. The second question will determine what you do in eternity. By the end of this book you will be ready to answer both questions.
THINKING ABOUT MY PURPOSE
Point to Ponder: Living on purpose is the path to peace.
Verse to Remember: "You, LORD, give perfect peace to those who keep their purpose firm and put their trust in you." Isaiah 26:3 (TEV)
Question to Consider: What would my family and friends say is the driving force of my life? What do I want it to be?
Most dictionaries define the verb drive as "to guide, to control, or to direct." Whether you are driving a car, a nail, or a golf ball, you are guiding, controlling, and directing it at that moment. What is the driving force in your life? Right now you may be driven by a problem, a pressure, or a deadline. You may be driven by a painful memory, a haunting fear, or an unconscious belief. There are hundreds of circumstances, values, and emotions that can drive your life. Here are five of the most common ones: Many people are driven by guilt. They spend their entire lives running from regrets and hiding their shame. Guilt-driven people are manipulated by memories. They allow their past to control their future. They often unconsciously punish themselves by sabotaging their own success. When Cain sinned, his guilt disconnected him from God's presence, and God said, "You will be a restless wanderer on the earth” That describes most people today-wandering through life without a purpose. We are products of our past, but we don't have to be prisoners of it. God's purpose is not limited by your past. He turned a murderer named Moses into a leader and a coward named Gideon into a courageous hero, and he can do amazing things with the rest of your life, too. God specializes in giving people a fresh start. The Bible says, "What happiness for those whose guilt has been forgiven! ... What relief for those who have confessed their sins and God has cleared their record."
5. Seeing Life from God`s View
What is your life?
James 4:14b (NIV)
We don't see things as they are, we see them as we are.
The way you see your life shapes your life.
One of the best ways to understand other people is to ask them, "How do you see your life?" You will discover that there are as many different answers to that question as there are people.
I've been told life is a circus, a minefield, a roller coaster, a puzzle, a symphony, a journey, and a dance. People have said, "Life is a carousel: Sometimes you're up, sometimes you're down, and sometimes you just go round and round" or "life is a ten-speed bicycle with gears we never use" or "life is a game of cards: You have to play the hand you are dealt."
If I asked how you picture life, what image would come to your mind? That image is your life metaphor. It's the view of life that you hold, consciously or unconsciously, in your mind. It's your description of how life works and what you expect from it. People often express their life metaphors through clothes, jewelry, cars, hairstyles, bumper stickers, even tattoos.
Your unspoken life metaphor influences your life more than you realize. It determines your expectations, your values, your relationships, your goals, and your priorities. For instance, if you think life is a party, your primary value in life will be having fun. If you see life as a race, you will value speed and will probably be in a hurry much of the time. If you view life as a marathon, you will value endurance. If you see life as a battle or a game, winning will be very important to you.
What is your view of life? You may be basing your life on a faulty life metaphor. To fulfill the purposes God made you for, you will have to challenge conventional wisdom and replace it with the biblical metaphors of life. The Bible says, "Do not conform yourselves to the standards of this world, but let God transform you inwardly by a complete change of your mind. Then you will be able to know the will of God.'
The Bible offers three metaphors that teach us God's view of life: Life is a test, life is a trust, and life is a temporary assignment. These ideas are the foundation of purpose-driven living. We will look at the first two in this chapter and the third one in the next.
Life on earth is a Test. This life metaphor is seen in stories throughout the Bible. God continually tests people's character, faith, obedience, love, integrity, and loyalty. Words like trials, temptations, refining, and testing occur more than 200 times in the Bible. God tested Abraham by asking him to offer his son Isaac. God tested Jacob when he had to work extra years to earn Rachel as his wife.
Adam and Eve failed their test in the Garden of Eden, and David failed his tests from God on several occasions. But the Bible also gives us many examples of people who passed a great test, such as Joseph, Ruth, Esther, and Daniel.
Character is both developed and revealed by tests, and all of life is a test. You are always being tested. God constantly watches your response to people, problems, success, conflict, illness, disappointment, and even the weather! He even watches the simplest actions such as when you open a door for others, when you pick up a piece of trash, or when you're polite toward a clerk or waitress.
We don't know all the tests God will give you, but we can predict some of them, based on the Bible
You will be tested by major changes, delayed promises, impossible problems, unanswered prayers, undeserved criticism, and even senseless tragedies. In my own life I have noticed that God tests my faith through problems, tests my hope by how I handle possessions, and tests my love through people.
A very important test is how you act when you can't feel God's presence in your life. Sometimes God intentionally draws back, and we don't sense his closeness. A king named Hezekiah experienced this test. The Bible says, "God withdrew from Hezekiah in order to test him and to see what was really in his heart." Hezekiah had enjoyed a close fellowship with God, but at a crucial point in his life God left him alone to test his character, to reveal a weakness, and to prepare him for more responsibility.
When you understand that life is a test, you realize that nothing is insignificant in your life. Even the smallest incident has significance for your character development. Every day is an important day, and every second is a growth opportunity to deepen your character, to demonstrate love, or to depend on God. Some tests seem overwhelming, while others you don't even notice. But all of them have eternal implications.
Character is both developed and revealed by tests, and all of life is a test
The good news is that God wants you to pass the tests of life, so he never allows the tests you face to be greater than the grace he gives you to handle them. The Bible says, "God keeps his promise, and he will not allow you to be tested beyond your power to remain firm; at the time you are put to the test, he will give you the strength to endure it, and so provide you with a way out."
Every time you pass a test, God notices and makes plans to reward you in eternity. James says, `Blessed are those who endure when they are tested. When they pass the test, they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him."
Life on earth is a Trust. This is the second biblical metaphor of life. Our time on earth and our energy, intelligence, opportunities, relationships, and resources are all gifts from God that he has entrusted to our care and management. We are stewards of whatever God gives us. This concept of stewardship begins with the recognition that God is the owner of everything and everyone on earth. The Bible says, "The world and all that is in it belong to the LORD; the earth and all who live on it are his."
We never really own anything during our brief stay on earth. God just loans the earth to us while we're here. It was God's property before you arrived, and God will loan it to someone else after you die. You just get to enjoy it for a while.
When God created Adam and Eve, he entrusted the care of his creation to them and appointed them trustees of his property. The Bible says, "[God] blessed them, and said, `Have many children, so that your descendants will live all over the earth and bring it under their control. I am putting you in charge."'
The first job God gave humans was to manage and take care of God's "stuff" on earth. This role has never been rescinded. It is a part of our purpose today. Everything we enjoy is to be treated as a trust that God has placed in our hands. The Bible says, "What do you have that God hasn't given you? And if all you have is from God, why boast as though you have accomplished something on your own?"'
Years ago, a couple let my wife and me use their beautiful, beach-front home in Hawaii for a vacation. It was an experience we could never have afforded, and we enjoyed it immensely. We were told, "Use it just like it's yours," so we did! We swam in the pool, ate the food in the refrigerator, used the bath towels and dishes, and even jumped on the beds in fun! But we knew all along that it wasn't really ours, so we took special care of everything. We enjoyed the benefits of using the home without owning it.
Our culture says, "If you don't own it, you won't take care of it." But Christians live by a higher standard: "Because God owns it, I must take the best care of it that I can." The Bible says, "Those who are trusted with something valuable must show they are worthy of that trust.' 8 Jesus often referred to life as a trust and told many stories to illustrate this responsibility toward God.
In the story of the talents,9 a businessman entrusts his wealth to the care of his servants while he's away. When he returns, he evaluates each servant's responsibility and rewards them accordingly. The owner says, "Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness."
At the end of your life on earth you will be evaluated and rewarded according to how well you handled what God entrusted to you. That means everything you do, even simple daily chores, has eternal implications. If you treat everything as a trust, God promises three rewards in eternity. First, you will be given God's affirmation: He will say, "Good job! Well done!" Next, you will receive a promotion and be given greater responsibility in eternity: "I will put you in charge of many things." Then you will be honored with a celebration: "Come and share your Master's happiness."
The more God gives you, the more responsible he expects you to be
Most people fail to realize that money is both a test and a trust from God. God uses finances to teach us to trust him, and for many people, money is the greatest test of all. God watches how we use money to test how trustworthy we are. The Bible says, "If you are untrustworthy about worldly wealth, who will trust you with the true riches of heaven?"
This is a very important truth. God says there is a direct relationship between how I use my money and the quality of my spiritual life. How I manage my money ("worldly wealth") determines how much God can trust me with spiritual blessings ("true riches"). Let me ask you: Is the way you manage your money preventing God from doing more in your life? Can you be trusted with spiritual riches?
Jesus said, "From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.' Life is a test and a trust, and the more God gives you, the more responsible he expects you to be.
THINKING ABOUT MY PURPOSE
Point to Ponder: Life is a test and a trust.
Verse to Remember: "Unless you are faithful in small matters, you won't be faithful in large ones."
Luke I6:l0a (NLT)
Question to Consider: What has happened to me recently that I now realize was a test from God? What are the greatest matters God has entrusted to me?
How you define life determines your destiny. Your perspective will influence how you invest your time, spend your money, use your talents, and value your relationships.
6. Life is a temporary assignment
LORD, remind me how brief my time on earth will be. Remind me that my days are numbered, and that my life is fleeing away.
Psalm 39:4 (NET)
I am here on earth for just a little while.
Psalm 119:19 (TEV)
Life on earth is a temporary assignment
The Bible is full of metaphors that teach about the brief, temporary, transient nature of life on earth. Life is described as a mist, a fast runner, a breath, and a wisp of smoke. The Bible says, "For we were born but yesterday.... Our days on earth are as transient as a shadow."'
To make the best use of your life, you must never forget two truths: First, compared with eternity, life is extremely brief. Second, earth is only a temporary residence. You won't be here long, so don't get too attached. Ask God to help you see life on earth as he sees it. David prayed, "Lord, help me to realize how brief my time on earth will be. Help me to know that I am here for but a moment more."
Repeatedly the Bible compares life on earth to temporarily living in a foreign country. This is not your permanent home or final destination. You're just passing through, just visiting earth. The Bible uses terms like alien, pilgrim, foreigner, stranger, visitor, and traveler to describe our brief stay on earth. David said, "I am but a foreigner here on earth," and Peter explained, "If you call God your Father, live your time as temporary residents on earth."
In California, where I live, many people have moved from other parts of the world to work here, but they keep their citizenship with their home country. They are required to carry a visitor registration card (called a "green card"), which allows them to work here even though they aren't citizens. Christians should carry spiritual green cards to remind us that our citizenship is in heaven. God says his children are to think differently about life from the way unbelievers do. "All they think about is this life here on earth. But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives." Real believers understand that there is far more to life than just the few years we live on this planet.
Your identity is in eternity, and your homeland is heaven. When you grasp this truth, you will stop worrying about "having it all" on earth. God is very blunt about the danger of living for the here and now and adopting the values, priorities, and lifestyles of the world around us. When we flirt with the temptations of this world, God calls it spiritual adultery. The Bible says, "you're cheating on God. If all you want is your own way, flirting with the world every chance you get, you end up enemies of God and his way.'
Imagine if you were asked by your country to be an ambassador to an enemy nation. You would probably have to learn a new language and adapt to some customs and cultural differences in order to be polite and to accomplish your mission. As an ambassador you would not be able to isolate yourself from the enemy. To fulfill your mission, you would have to have contact and relate to them.
But suppose you became so comfortable with this foreign country that you fell in love with it, preferring it to your homeland. Your loyalty and commitment would change. Your role as an ambassador would be compromised. Instead of representing your home country, you would start acting like the enemy. You'd be a traitor.
The Bible says, "We are Christ's ambassadors." Sadly, many Christians have betrayed their King and his kingdom. They have foolishly concluded that because they live on earth, it's their home. It is not. The Bible is clear: "Friends, this world is not your home, so don't make yourselves cozy in it. Don't indulge your ego at the expense of your soul."8 God warns us to not get too attached to what's around us because it is temporary. We're told, "Those infrequent contact with the things of the world should make good use of them without becoming attached to them, for this world and all it contains will pass away.”
Compared with other centuries, life has never been easier for much of the Western world. We are constantly entertained, amused, and catered to. With all the fascinating attractions, mesmerizing media, and enjoyable experiences available today, it's easy to forget that the pursuit of happiness is not what life is about. Only as we remember that life is a test, a trust, and a temporary assignment will the appeal of these things lose their grip on our lives. We are preparing for something even better. "The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can't see now will last forever"
The fact that earth is not our ultimate home explains why, as followers of Jesus, we experience difficulty, sorrow, and rejection in this world. It also explains why some of God's promises seem unfulfilled, some prayers seem unanswered, and some circumstances seem unfair. This is not the end of the story.
Your identity is in eternity, and your homeland is heaven. In order to keep us from becoming too attached to earth, God allows us to feel a significant amount of discontent and dissatisfaction in life-longings that will never be fulfilled on this side of eternity. We're not completely happy here because we're not supposed to be! Earth- is not our final home; we were created for something much better.
A fish would never be happy living on land, because it was made for water. An eagle could never feel satisfied if it wasn't allowed to fly. You will never feel completely satisfied on earth, because you were made for more. You will have happy moments here, but nothing compared with what God has planned for you.
Realizing that life on earth is just a temporary assignment should radically alter your values. Eternal values, not temporal ones, should become the deciding factors for your decisions. As C. S. Lewis observed, "All that is not eternal is eternally useless." The Bible says, "We fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”
It is a fatal mistake to assume that God's goal for your life is material prosperity or popular success, as the world defines it. The abundant life has nothing to do with material abundance, and faithfulness to God does not guarantee success in a career or even in ministry. Never focus on temporary crowns.
Paul was faithful, yet he ended up in prison. John the Baptist was faithful, but he was beheaded. Millions of faithful people have been martyred, have lost everything, or have come to the end of life with nothing to show for it. But the end of life is not the end!
In God's eyes, the greatest heroes of faith are not those who achieve prosperity, success, and power in this life, but those who treat this life as a temporary assignment and serve faithfully, expecting their promised reward in eternity. The Bible says this about God's Hall of Fame: "All these great people died in faith. They did not get the things that God promised his people, but they saw them coming far in the future and were glad. They said they were like visitors and strangers on earth.... they were waiting for a better country-a heavenly country. So God is not ashamed to be called their God, because he has prepared a city for them. "14 Your time on earth is not the complete story of your life. You must wait until heaven for the rest of the chapters. It takes faith to live on earth as a foreigner.
An old story is often repeated of a retiring missionary coming home to America on the same boat as the president of the United States. Cheering crowds, a military band, a red carpet, banners, and the media welcomed the president home, but the missionary slipped off the ship unnoticed. Feeling self-pity and resentment, he began complaining to God. Then God gently reminded him, "But my child, you're not home yet." You will not be in heaven two seconds before you cry out, "Why did I place so much importance on things that were so temporary? What was I thinking? Why did I waste so much time, energy, and concern on what wasn't going to last?"
When life gets tough, when you're overwhelmed with doubt, or when you wonder if living for Christ is worth the effort, remember that you are not home yet. At death you won't leave home-you'll go home.
Earth is not our final home; we were created for something much better.
THINKING ABOUT MY PURPOSE
Point to Ponder: This world is not my home.
Verse to Remember: "So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." 2 Corinthians 4:18 (NIV)
Question to Consider: How should the fact that life on earth is just a temporary assignment change the way I am living right now?
7. The reason for everything
Everything comes from God alone. Everything lives by his power, and everything is for his glory.
Romans 11:36 (LB)
The LORD has made everything for his own purposes.
Proverbs 16:4 (NLT)
It's all for him.
The ultimate goal of the universe is to show the glory of God. It is the reason for everything that exists, including you. God made it all for his glory. Without God's glory, there would be nothing.
What is the glory of God? It is who God is. It is the essence of his nature, the weight of his importance, the radiance of his splendor, the demonstration of his power, and the atmosphere of his presence. God's glory is the expression of his goodness and all his other intrinsic, eternal qualities.
Where is the glory of God? Just look around. Everything created by God reflects his glory in some way. We see it everywhere, from the smallest microscopic form of life to the vast Milky Way, from sunsets and stars to storms and seasons.Living for God's glory is the greatest achievement we can accomplish with our lives.
Creation reveals our Creator's glory. In nature we learn that God is powerful, that he enjoys variety, loves beauty, is organized, and is wise and creative. The Bible says, "The heavens declare the glory of God.'
Throughout history, God has revealed his glory to people in different settings. He revealed it first in the Garden of Eden, then to Moses, then in the tabernacle and the temple, then through Jesus, and now through the church.2 It was portrayed as a consuming fire, a cloud, thunder, smoke, and a brilliant light.' In heaven, God's glory provides all the light needed.
The Bible says, "The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light."
God's glory is best seen in Jesus Christ. He, the Light of the world, illuminates God's nature. Because of Jesus, we are no longer in the dark about what God is really like. The Bible says, "The Son is the radiance of God's glory." Jesus came to earth so we could fully understand God's glory. "The Word became human and lived among us. We saw his glory ... a glory full of grace and truth."
God's inherent glory is what he possesses because he is God. It is his nature. We cannot add anything to this glory, just as it would be impossible for us to make the sun shine brighter. But we are commanded to recognize his glory, honor his glory, declare his glory, praise his glory, reflect his glory, and live for his glory.' Why? Because God deserves it! We owe him every honor we can possibly give. Since God made all things, he deserves all the glory. The Bible says, "You are worthy, 0 Lord our God, to receive glory and honor and power. For you created everything."
In the entire universe, only two of God's creations fail to bring glory to him: fallen angels (demons) and us (people). All sin, at its root, is failing to give God glory. It is loving anything else more than God. Refusing to bring glory to God is prideful rebellion, and it is the sin that caused Satan's fall-and ours, too. In different ways we have all lived for our own glory, not God's. The Bible says, "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God."
None of us have given God the full glory he deserves from our lives. This is the worst sin and the biggest mistake we can make. On the other hand, living for God's glory is the greatest achievement we can accomplish with our lives. God says, "They are my own people, and I created them to bring me glory," so it ought to be the supreme goal of our lives.
HOW CAN I BRING GLORY TO GOD?
Jesus told the Father, "I brought glory to you here on earth by doing everything you told me to do.' I' Jesus honored God by fulfilling his purpose on earth. We honor God the same way. When anything in creation fulfills its purpose, it brings glory to God. Birds bring glory to God by flying, chirping, nesting, and doing other bird-like activities that God intended. Even the lowly ant brings glory to God when it fulfills the purpose it was created for. God made ants to be ants, and he made you to be you. St. Irenaeus said, "The glory of God is a human being fully alive!"
There are many ways to bring glory to God, but they can be summarized in God's five purposes for your life. We will spend the rest of this book looking at them in detail, but here is an overview:
We bring God glory by worshiping him. Worship is our first responsibility to God. We worship God by enjoying him. C. S. Lewis said, "In commanding us to glorify him, God is inviting us to enjoy him." God wants our worship to be motivated by love, thanksgiving, and delight, not duty. When anything in creation fulfills its purpose, it brings glory to God.
John Piper notes, "God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him." Worship is far more than praising, singing, and praying to God. Worship is a lifestyle of enjoying God, loving him, and giving ourselves to be used for his purposes. When you use your life for God's glory, everything you do can become an act of worship. The Bible says, "Use your whole body as a tool to do what is right for the glory of God.”
We bring God glory by loving other believers. When you were born again, you became a part of God's family. Following Christ is not just a matter of believing; it also includes belonging and learning to love the family of God. John wrote, "Our love for each other proves that we have gone from death to life."' Paul said, "Accept each other just as Christ has accepted you; then God will be glorified."
It is your responsibility to learn how to love as God does, because God is love, and it honors him. Jesus said, "As I have loved you, so you must love one another: By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."
We bring God glory by becoming like Christ. Once we are born into God's family, he wants us to grow to spiritual maturity. What does that look like? Spiritual maturity is becoming like Jesus in the way we think, feel, and act. The more you develop Christlike character, the more you will bring glory to God. The Bible says, "As the Spirit of the Lord works within us, we become more and more like him and reflect his glory even more."
God gave you a new life and a new nature when you accepted Christ. Now, for the rest of your life on earth, God wants to continue the process of changing your character. The Bible says, "May you always be filled with the fruit of your salvation-those good things that are produced in your life by Jesus Christ for this will bring much glory and praise to God."
We bring God glory by serving others with our gifts. Each of us was uniquely designed by God with talents, gifts, skills, and abilities. The way you're "wired" is not an accident. God didn't give you your abilities for selfish purposes. They were given to benefit others, just as others were given abilities for your benefit. The Bible says, "God has given gifts to each of you from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Manage them well so that God's generosity can flow through you.... Are you called to help others? Do it with all the strength and energy that God supplies. Then God will be given glory.”
We bring God glory by telling others about him. God doesn't want his love and purposes kept a secret. Once we know the truth, he expects us to share it with others. This is a great privilege-introducing others to Jesus, helping them discover their purpose, and preparing them for their eternal destiny. The Bible says, "As God's grace brings more and more people to Christ, ... God will receive more and more glory."
WHAT WILL YOU LIVE FOR?
Living the rest of your life for the glory of God will require a change in your priorities, your schedule, your relationships, and everything else. It will sometimes mean choosing a difficult path instead of an easy one. Even Jesus struggled with this. Knowing he was about to be crucified, he cried out: "My soul has become troubled; and what shall I say, `Father, save Me from this hour'? But for this purpose I came to this hour. Father, glorify Thy name.'
Jesus stood at a fork in the road. Would he fulfill his purpose and bring glory to God, or would he shrink back and live a comfortable, self-centered life? You face the same choice. Will you live for your own goals, comfort, and pleasure, or will you live the rest of your life for God's glory, knowing that he has promised eternal rewards? The Bible says, "Anyone who holds on to life just as it is destroys that life. But if you let it go, . . . you'll have it forever, real and Eternal.”
It's time to settle this issue. Who are you going to live for yourself or God? You may hesitate, wondering whether you will have strength to live for God. Don't worry. God will give you what you need if you will just make the choice to live for him. The Bible says, "Everything that goes into a life of pleasing God has been miraculously given to us by getting to know, personally and intimately, the One who invited us to God.'
Right now, God is inviting you to live for his glory by fulfilling the purposes he made you for. It's really the only way to live. Everything else is just existing. Real life begins by committing yourself completely to Jesus Christ. If you are not sure you have done this, all you need to do is receive and believe. The Bible promises, "To all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God." Will you accept God's offer?
First, believe. Believe God loves you and made you for his purposes. Believe you're not an accident. Believe you were made to la: forever. Believe God has chosen you to have a relationship with Jesus, who died on the cross for you. Believe that no matter what you've done, God wants to forgive you.
Second, receive. Receive Jesus into your life as your Lord and Savior. Receive his forgiveness for your sins. Receive his Spirit, who will give you the power to fulfill your life purpose. The Bible says, "Whoever accepts and trusts the Son gets in on everything, life complete and forever!" Wherever you are reading this, I invite you to bow your head and quietly whisper the prayer that will change your eternity: `Jesus, I believe in you and I receive you." Go ahead.
If you sincerely meant that prayer, congratulations! Welcome to the family of God! You are now ready to discover and start living God's purpose for your life. I urge you to tell someone about it. You're going to need support.
THINKING ABOUT MY PURPOSE
Point to Ponder: It's all for him.
Verse to Remember: "For everything comes from God alone. Everything lives by his power, and everything is for his glory." Romans 11:36 (LB)
Question to Consider: Where in my daily routine can I become more aware of God's glory?
8. Planned for God`s Pleasure
You created everything, and it is for your pleasure that they exist and were created.
Revelation 4:11 (NLT)
The Lord takes pleasure in his people.
Psalm 149:4a (TEV)
You were planned for God's pleasure.
The moment you were born into the world, God was there as an unseen witness, smiling at your birth. He wanted you alive, and your arrival gave him great pleasure. God did not need to create you, but he chose to create you for his own enjoyment. You exist for his benefit, his glory, his purpose, and his delight.
Bringing enjoyment to God, living for his pleasure, is the first purpose of your life. When you fully understand this truth, you will never again have a problem with feeling insignificant. It proves your worth. If you are that important to God, and he considers you valuable enough to keep with him for eternity, what greater significance could you have? You are a child of God, and you bring pleasure to God like nothing else he has ever created. The Bible says, "Because of his love God had already decided that through Jesus Christ he would make us his children-this was his pleasure and purpose.'
One of the greatest gifts God has given you is the ability to enjoy pleasure. He wired you with five senses and emotions so you can experience it. He wants you to enjoy life, not just endure it. The reason you are able to enjoy pleasure is that God made you in his image.
We often forget that God has emotions, too. He feels things very deeply. The Bible tells us that God grieves, gets jealous and angry, and feels compassion, pity, sorrow, and sympathy as well as happiness, gladness, and satisfaction. God loves, delights, gets pleasure, rejoices, enjoys, and even laughs!
Bringing pleasure to God is called "worship."
The Bible says, "The LORD is pleased only with those who worship him and trust his love.'
Anything you do that brings pleasure to God is an act of worship. Like a diamond, worship is multifaceted. It would take volumes to cover all there is to understand about worship, but we will look at the primary aspects of worship in this section.
Anthropologists have noted that worship is a universal urge, hard-wired by God into the very fiber of our being-an inbuilt need to connect with God. Worship is as natural as eating or breathing. If we fail to worship God, we always find a substitute, even if it ends up being ourselves. The reason God made us with this desire is that he desires worshipers! Jesus said, "The Father seeks worshipers."
Depending on your religious background, you may need to expand your understanding of "worship." You may think of church services with singing, praying, and listening to a sermon. Or you may think of ceremonies, candles, and communion. Or you may think of healing, miracles, and ecstatic experiences. Worship can include these elements, but worship is far more than these expressions. Worship is a lifestyle.
Worship is far more than music.
For many people, worship is just a synonym for music. They say, "At our church we have the worship first, and then the teaching." This is a big misunderstanding. Every part of a church service is an act of worship: praying, Scripture reading, singing, confession, silence, being still, listening to a sermon, taking notes, than music, giving an offering, baptism, communion, signing a commitment card, and even greeting other worshipers.
Actually, worship predates music. Adam worshiped in the Garden of Eden, but music isn't mentioned until Genesis 4:21 with the birth of Jubal. If worship were just music, then all who are nonmusical could never worship. Worship is far more than music.
Even worse, "worship" is often misused to refer to a particular style of music: "First we sang a hymn, then a praise and worship song." Or, "I like the fast praise songs but enjoy the slow worship songs the most." In this usage, if a song is fast or loud or uses brass instruments, it's considered "praise." But if it is slow and quiet and intimate, maybe accompanied by guitar, that's worship. This is a common misuse of the term "worship."
Worship has nothing to do with the style or volume or speed of a song. God loves all kinds of music because he invented it all-fast and slow, loud and soft, old and new. You probably don't like it all, but God does! If it is offered to God in spirit and truth, it is an act of worship.
Christians often disagree over the style of music used in worship, passionately defending their preferred style as the most biblical or God-honoring. But there is no biblical style! There are no musical notes in the Bible; we don't even have the instruments they used in Bible times.
Anything you do that brings pleasure to God is an act of worship.
Frankly, the music style you like best says more about you-your background and personality-than it does about God. One ethnic group's music can sound like noise to another. But God likes variety and enjoys it all.
There is no such thing as "Christian" music; there are only Christian lyrics. It is the words that make a song sacred, not the tune. There are no spiritual tunes. If I played a song for you without the words, you'd have no way of knowing if it were a "Christian" song.
Worship is not for your benefit.
As a pastor, I receive notes that say, "I loved the worship today. I got a lot out of it." This is another misconception about worship. It isn't for our benefit! We worship for God's benefit. When we worship, our goal is to bring pleasure to God, not ourselves.
If you have ever said, "I didn't get anything out of worship today," you worshiped for the wrong reason. Worship isn't for you. It's for God. Of course, most "worship" services also include elements of fellowship, edification, and evangelism, and there are benefits to worship, but we don't worship to please ourselves. Our motive is to bring glory and pleasure to our Creator.
In Isaiah 29 God complains about worship that is half-hearted and hypocritical. The people were offering God stale prayers, insincere praise, empty words, and man-made rituals without even thinking about the meaning. God's heart is not touched by tradition in worship, but by passion and commitment. The Bible says, "These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men."
Worship is not a part of your life; it is your life.
Worship is not just for church services. We are told to "worship him continually" and to "praise him from sunrise to sunset." In the Bible people praised God at work, at home, in battle, in jail, and even in bed! Praise should be the first activity when you open your eyes in the morning and the last activity when you close them at night. David said, "I will thank the Lord at all times. My mouth will always praise him."
Every activity can be transformed into an act of worship when you do it for the praise, glory, and pleasure of God. The Bible says, "So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.' Martin Luther said, "A dairymaid can milk cows to the glory of God."
How is it possible to do everything to the glory of God? By doing everything as if you were doing it for Jesus and by carrying on a continual conversation with him while you do it. The Bible says, "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men."
This is the secret to a lifestyle of worship-doing everything as if you were doing it for Jesus. The Message paraphrase says, "Take your everyday, ordinary life your sleeping, eating, going-to work, and walking-around life-and place it before God as an offering. Work becomes worship when you dedicate it to God and perform it with an awareness of his presence. This is what real worship is all about -falling in love with Jesus.
THINKING ABOUT MY PURPOSE
Point to Ponder: I was planned for God's pleasure.
Verse to Remember: "The LORD takes pleasure in his people." Psalm 149:4a (TEV)
Question to Consider: What common task could I start doing as if I were doing it directly for Jesus?