Does your life have a purpose? Why do you exist? If ask several dozen people this question, you’ll probably get several dozen different answers, and it is a topic quite a number of philosophers have pondered, but the truth is, as always, found in the Bible.
“That we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory.” (Ephesians 1:12)
When you look up the words “who first trusted” we see that this is the Greek word, “proelpizo,” meaning “to hope in advance of other confirmation,” so this verse isn’t talking about the early Christians; it is talking about us—those who trust in Christ even though we haven’t yet seen Him as He is. Furthermore, we are supposed to be “to the praise of His glory.” But what, exactly, does this mean?
If we look up the word “praise” it means “laudation, a commendable thing, praise.” And the word “glory” is the Greek word “doxa,” which involves recognizing a person or thing for what it is. Thus, a Christian’s purpose in life—our reason for existing—is to accurately reflect God’s nature—who He really is—to others, which brings Him praise.
Rather than calling us so He can act as our own private genie and indulge our selfish sin nature, God has called us to deny our natures and live selflessly for Him. We are to be a faithful representation of Him to the world around us. The KJV Bible calls us “vessels:” we are to do our best to be so obedient to His commands of knowing what He says and loving and following Him that when others see us it is obvious we have been with the Lord.
There are basically two ways of approaching the question of purpose. The first is that your life is your own, yours to do with as you wish and to build your empire and glory—to reflect who you feel you are–here on Earth. Whether or not they succeed in accruing anything resembling an empire, people who look at life this way are completely taken aback and confused when seemingly “bad” things happen—when loved ones die, jobs are lost, and homes get repossessed. These are a disruption to their kingdom plan—to their goal of building their earthly kingdom and establishing a name for themselves.
The second way of looking at the question of what our purpose is involves recognizing that our lives are not our own, but are merely given us to wisely steward. People who understand that their lives are given for the purpose of serving God and bringing Him glory will not be surprised when uncomfortable, even painful, things happen, but rather recognize them as occasions to reflect God under trying circumstances and as ministry opportunities.
Jesus said, “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.” (Matthew 7:13-14) I am convinced that the reason few will find the narrow gate is not so much because they can’t see it, but because once having seen what they will have to give up to go through it, they choose not to. The wide gate seems so much more desireable.
Jesus also said, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross [this is frequently interpreted as suffering for Christ, and it certainly might be, but it can also involve the physical work simply involved in carrying the cross—in working for God’s purposes], and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works.” (Matthew 16:24-27)
People who give themselves exclusively to the furtherance of their glory and name and to the building of their earthly kingdoms are those who may gain the whole world, but who will ultimately lose their soul, because they have chosen to serve themselves, not Christ. They are entering by the wide gate that leads to destruction, and many accompany them because it’s the easier, seemingly more pleasant choice. Those who submit to God’s purpose of using them to further His agenda are among the few who find the narrow gate. They may seem to accomplish less for themselves in this life, but they have Christ, accurately reflect Him to others, and rather than lose their life, will ultimately find it in Him.
Help us choose the narrow gate which brings praise to You and reflects who You are to others. Amen.