What is the purpose of your existence? Philosophers and college students have debated this question to no end, but the truth is that the answer is found in the Word of God.
“For the equipping of the saints [all followers of Christ] for the work of ministry [God’s work], for the edifying [building up, strengthening] of the body of Christ [His church].” (Ephesians 4:12)
The purpose of our lives is ministry. Period. It is what we sign on for when we commit to following Christ, and it is the goal of our existence. Christ gave the mandate “Go…and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you…” (Matthew 28:19-20), and it is our duty to do so. But not everyone is a pastor or missionary. What about the rest of us—how are we to fulfill this command?
First of all, we must understand that the terms “ministry,” “making disciples…baptizing…teaching,” and “serving God” mean the same thing. They refer to a life of obedience to Christ, an emptying out of self for the benefit of others to the glory of God, because Jesus said, “These things I command you, that you love one another. (John 15:17) In other words, they describe the Christian life.
Our family just got back from seeing the movie “Les Miserables.” It reminded me that while not everyone serves in an officially ordained capacity within the church, we are all to reflect Christ in whatever way He presents us with to others. Colossians 3:17 tells us, “whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus.” Just as the protagonist of the movie, Jean Valjean, did right as the opportunity revealed itself, those of us who really love Christ must too. But in what ways can we do this?
On a most basic level, we can give of ourselves in our personal lives. All of us are presented with numerous opportunities to act one way or another. Just as Valjean raised little Cossette as his own after her mother died, saved a man from being crushed to death, and went to protect the man his daughter had fallen in love with from almost certain death, we can also do the right thing. We may never be presented with these particular situations, but rest assured that God will provide situations tailor made for us, in which a decision must be made to choose selfishly or do right. Jesus Himself established the condition for following Him, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.” (Matthew 16:24) In each decision we make we must always choose to do good, even if it is hard, rather than what we know is wrong.
We can also serve God in our professional lives. Comparably few of us are pastors or missionaries. Most of us have secular work—something that that seems to be totally unrelated to the work of God on its surface. Yet when you begin to see that “…you are not your own…[that] you were bought at a price” (I Corinthians 6:19b-20a), we also recognize that we are to “therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.” (I Corinthians 6:20b) Our entire lives belong to God. We are not to compartmentalize our existence into personal, professional, and religious; all of it is to be used emptying ourselves for God, furthering His purposes, serving Him—“declar[ing] the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” (1 Peter 2:9b) So how can we do this with our work?
If you write fictional novels, you can write Les Miserables, like Victor Hugo. If you compose music, you can provide the incredible score for it. Alternatively, you can write and perform popular music that draws us to Christ like The Newsboys, Steven Curtis Chapman, and others do. If you are an architect, you can design low cost, energy efficient housing that will improve the standard of living for many. If you are a video game designer, you can design award-winning, best-selling games in which the characters do the right thing. The opportunities God provides are many, and are limited only by our creativity and willingness to do so. So why, again, should our lives be spent giving of ourselves? Why, indeed?
Our lives should be spent living for God because Scripture warns that, “And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear.” Not because it will save us, because only the shed blood of Christ on the cross can cover the penalty of our sin, but because it is evidence that we are the redeemed. Ultimately, it is because we love Him. Jesus said, ““If you love Me, keep My commandments.” (John 14:15)
Thank You that You emptied Yourself for us. Help us to live our lives giving ourselves to You. Amen.