Does God have a Purpose for my Life?

Does God have a Purpose for my Life? from Stephen Sizer on Vimeo.

Over the next few weeks we are going to discover God’s plan for his Church and your place within it.

Each week we will ask one question. As we begin the series today, the question I want us to answer is this, “Does God have a purpose for my life?” Yes he does. In fact the Bible tells us that God has at least five purposes for our lives.

  1. We were planned for God’s pleasure – to know him and love him (John 17:3).
  2. We were formed for God’s family – to find a spiritual home and family (Acts 2:42).
  3. We were created to become like Christ – revealing his character (Galatians 5:22-23).
  4. We were shaped for serving God – with a unique mix of talents, skills and passion for serving in the Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12).
  5. We were made for a mission – to introduce other people to God’s five purposes for them too – to win, build and send (Matthew 28:18-20).

Without knowing our God-given purpose we can so easily become driven by destructive influences. Here are three of the most common that drive people.

1.  People are Driven by Guilt and Fear

Many people are unable or unwilling to forget what lies behind. They are unable to hide from their past.

The Apostle Paul had every reason not to forget his past either. As we saw last week, he writes, “As for zeal, persecuting the church” (Philippians 3:6).

He had hunted down Christians, ordered their arrest, prosecuted them and even approved their execution. But, God’s purpose is not limited by our past. His purposes are not neutralized by the mess we make of life. God promised, “For I know the plans I have for you … plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11). God is concerned with your future not your past. Without a God-given purpose for the future many people are driven by guilt and fear from the past. That is why Paul insists, ”Forgetting what is behind … I press on toward the goal.” (Philippians 3:13). If you are driven by guilt or fear, forget the past and look to the future.  Secondly, many people are:

2. People are Driven by Anger and Resentment

Holding on to hurts is incredibly destructive. If we don’t forgive and forget, we will remember and resent. “Resentment driven people either ‘clam up’ and internalize their anger or ‘blow up’ and shower others with the fall-out.” Anger always hurts.  Paul writes with sadness about some who were once friends:

“For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction…” (Phil. 3:18-19).

If we do not forgive, Jesus warns, God will not forgive us. Forgiveness is at the heart of the gospel – it is the meaning of the cross. Resentment always hurts you more than the one resented. “Those who have hurt you in the past cannot continue to hurt you now unless you hold on to the pain through resentment. Nothing will change you past. You are only hurting yourself with your bitterness.” “Forgive and you will be forgiven” says Jesus. In Hebrews 10:17 we are promised “Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.” It means He forgives our past as if its forgotten. When Paul urges us to forget the past, he means that we are to break the power of the past by living for the future.

We cannot change the past, but Jesus has changed the consequences of our past. If you are driven by anger and resentment, let go and forgive.

3. People are Driven by Wealth and Materialism

The desire to acquire can so easily become a consuming passion. The drive to want more comes from the mistaken belief that ‘more’ will make me happier, more important, more secure. The truth is the very opposite. Possessions only provide temporary happiness. I know. I’ve only ever owned one new car in my life. Actually I only owned 50% of the car – the other half belonged to a charity. But at least I told myself that my half was the visible half. It was a metallic blue Nissan Prairie, with sliding doors. And it drove like a van. But I confess that it did make me feel good driving the kids to school on that first day in a shiny new car, with my arm out of the window and with a smile on my face as if to say ‘look at me…’ The fun lasted precisely 11 months and 29 days until… the new registration plate came out and my new car became just another used car. The fact is, “Self worth and net worth are not the same. Your value is not determined by your valuables.

Real security can only be found in that which can never be taken from you – your relationship with God.” That is why Paul says,

“But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ.” (Philippians 3:7-8)

Paul counted the best the world could offer as rubbish compared to knowing Jesus. His life had become purpose driven.  Three destructive things that drive many people : Some people are driven by guilt and fear, some by anger and resentment; some by wealth and materialism. In Philippians 3, Paul offers a much more worthwhile motivation : the God-given purpose driven life. This is how he describes it:

“I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,  and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining towards what is ahead,

I press on towards the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenwards in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:10-14)

There are at least five benefits from knowing our God given purpose contained in this passage.

1. Knowing your purpose gives meaning to your life

Paul writes: “I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.” (Philippians 3:12).

“Without God, life has no purpose, and without purpose, life has no meaning. Without meaning, life has no significance…” The greatest tragedy is not death.

The greatest tragedy is to live without a purpose.

That really is a life sentence. We were made to have meaning. Paul’s life had been transformed because the grace of Jesus had taken hold of him. This is why he is so emphatic “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of sharing in his suffering.” (Philippians 3:10). Jesus had shown Paul love and forgiveness in friendship. Jesus had given Paul meaning and hope, a purpose for living. “Hope is as essential to life as air and water. Dr. Bernie Siegel found he could predict which of his cancer patients would go into remission by simply asking,

“Do you want to live to be one hundred?” Yes or no? Those with a deep sense of life purpose answered ‘yes’ and were the ones most likely to survive.

Knowing your purpose gives meaning to your life.

2. Knowing your purpose simplifies your life

Paul writes, “But one thing I do.” (Philippians 3:13).

One thing.  One. “One thing you lack” Jesus says to the rich young man in Mark 10. “Only one thing is needed” Jesus has to say to over worked Martha in Luke 10. “One thing I know” cries the man who had received his sight by the power of Christ, in John 9. Often we are involved in too “many things”. Only one thing matters. God’s purpose for you today – this moment. No athlete succeeds by doing everything. They succeed by specializing. To concentrate on “one thing,” – to be purposeful, intentional, focused. Paul is single-minded about his ambition. “One thing I do”. This does not mean he neglected every other area of his life. Rather it means that all else was subordinated to his goal. Without a clear purpose we lack the foundation on which to base our decisions, allocate our time, or use our resource. Life becomes cluttered with choices made based on circumstances, pressures, and emotions.

Not knowing our purpose leads to overwork, to stress, fatigue and tension. On the other hand, knowing your purpose simplifies your life because, “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.” I regularly remind myself that it is impossible to do everything people want me to do. I have just enough time to do God’s will. If I can’t get it all done, it means I am trying to do more than God intended for me to do or just fiddling with my computer. “Purpose-driven living leads to a simpler lifestyle and a saner schedule.” Knowing your purpose gives meaning to your life. Knowing your purpose simplifies your life.

3. Knowing your purpose focuses your life

“I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead.” (Philippians 3:13)

Paul is describing the athlete straining every muscle as he goes flat out for the finish. He brings to mind the striking image of Eric Liddell, the Olympic runner whose story was retold in the film Chariots of Fire, chest out, head held high, legs and arms pumping furiously as he tore down the back straight to win the Olympic gold. When he was criticized for spending so much time training as a runner instead of becoming a missionary, he said “I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run I feel His pleasure. Do you? Do you feel his pleasure? Then maybe you are fulfilling your purpose. Paul doesn’t say “I’ve arrived” but he does say “I don’t look back.” In a race you don’t look over your shoulder, because you will lose your balance. There’s no reason to look back. You are focused only on the finishing line. You cannot look in two directions at the same time.  Take your eyes off Jesus and you will focus on other people and what they have or have not done. Focus on Jesus and everything is put in perspective. Lee Strobel once said, “If you can’t sing ‘Amazing Grace’ with tears in your eyes–or at least in your heart–then you really don’t understand what it means.” Does the grace of God drive your life? Does it motivate you? Knowing your purpose gives meaning to your life. Knowing your purpose simplifies your life.

Knowing your purpose focuses your life.

4. Knowing your purpose motivates your life

“I press on towards the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenwards in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:14)

This is purpose produces passion. Nothing energises more than having a clear purpose. It is usually meaningless work not overwork that wears us down, saps our strength, and robs our joy. We won’t become athletes by listening to lectures, watching movies and  reading books. Athletes win by practicing hard and  aiming to win. Winning athletes are not distracted by cream buns or heckling bystanders. Hebrews tells us

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.”  (Hebrews 12:1-2)

Jesus is the author and finisher of our faith. He started the race for us and he will finish it with us. We are not alone. There is no greater motivation than knowing why we were created. Knowing your purpose gives meaning to your life, it simplifies your life, it focuses your life and it motivates your life. Finally,

5. Knowing your purpose prepares you for eternity

I press on towards the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenwards in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:14)

“Many people invest their entire lives building up a legacy on earth.” Its all for the children they rationalize. “They want to be remembered when they’re gone.” They want to be immortalized so we name roads after them. Think of the names of some of the roads in Virginia Water. Simon’s Walk, Cabrera Avenue, Wellington Avenue, Stuart Way. What ultimately matters most will not be what others say about your life but what God says… because all achievements are eventually surpassed, all records are one day broken, all reputations eventually fade, all tributes are soon forgotten, and even road names can get changed. Living to create an earthly legacy is a short-sighted goal. How much wiser to build an eternal legacy.

You were not put on earth to be remembered.

You were put here to prepare for eternity and invite others too as well. So, does God have a purpose for your life?  Do you know what it is? To worship God and enjoy him forever. We have discovered from Philippians five benefits from living a purpose-driven life.

Knowing your purpose gives meaning to your life.

Knowing your purpose simplifies your life.

Knowing your purpose focuses your life.

Knowing your purpose motivates your life.

Knowing your purpose prepares you for eternity.

So what drives your life? This is what drives mine.

“I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings… I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenwards in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:10, 14)

Lets pray.

Dear Lord, help me discover your purposes for my life so that I might know you, love you and faithfully serve you all the days of my life, so that one day I may hear you say, “We’ll done, my good and faithful servant.” In Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

 

This sermon draws on material from Rick Warren’s book “The Purpose Driven Life” (Zondervan) and is intended to motivate people to read the book and undertake the Purpose Driven Life – 40 Days of Purpose.

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