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Living According to God’s Purposes
Last week we looked at seizing those opportunities God places in our lives. To follow up on that teaching today I’d like to look at living our lives according to God’s purposes, and I’d like to do so by starting out with a statement made about King David that has been one of my life verses.
It’s the one verse I’d like to have written on my tombstone.
It’s a scripture that defines what it means to live a great life for the Lord, and it’s found in the book of Acts and what the Apostle Paul’s tells to those at the church of Antioch.
“For David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell asleep.” (Acts 13:36a NKJV)
I don’t believe this is a morbid statement in any way; rather it’s a scripture that defines a life that should move and motivate us. Can you imagine this being said about us; that we served God’s purpose for this generation and in this community; that we served God’s eternal purpose in a way that changed the lives of those around us?
However, to serve God’s purpose we first need to find out what is God’s purpose.
Throughout the centuries, during times of war, prison commandants have been known to periodically take prisoners and assign them the task of digging a great big hole. They gave them shovels and gunnysacks to dig and carry the dirt to the other side of the compound, often during the heat of the day.
The prisoners would work for months on this project. Finally when the job was completed, and the prisoners were feeling a little satisfaction, the commandant would give them new gunnysacks and told them to refill the hole with the dirt they just dug out.
It’s been recorded that some prisoners went insane. They couldn’t handle it. If they had been moving dirt for a reason that would be one thing, but moving dirt arbitrary, working for months without any purpose had, and still has, the capacity of driving people insane.
As humans we weren’t built like this. We desire a sense of purpose in what we do. So living without purpose is insanity.
Did you know there’s actually a book in the Bible devoted to the insanity of moving dirt piles, that is, the madness of living life without purpose? It’s the Book of Ecclesiastes written by Solomon under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
Solomon, the wisest human to have ever lived, tried living his life in various ways trying to give his life purpose.
• He tried living life for possessions, so he went out and accumulated great wealth. He was actually considered the wealthiest person to have ever lived, but he found living life for the purpose of possessions a wasted life.
• Next Solomon tried living life for prestige and power, and he became the most powerful man in the world. Kings and Queens came from around the world just to hear what he had to say, but he found living life for power unfulfilling.
• Finally he tried living life for pleasure. Nothing was withheld from him. He had over 300 concubines and he had built entire cities just to hold his sport cars, which in that day were chariots and horses. But again he found it all without value.
Solomon had lived for everything, but he had no purpose, and so in his book of Ecclesiastes he talks about what happens when we don’t know what the real and true meaning of life is, that is, what is God’s purpose. To his end Solomon gives us five tragic consequences of living a life without purpose.
Five Tragic Consequences
1. Without Purpose Life Seems Useless
Read Ecclesiastes 1:2-4
This word “vanity,” is not what many think. It has nothing to do with having excessive pride in self or appearance. Rather, in the Hebrew the word means, “useless,” or “meaningless.” What Solomon is saying is that living life without purpose is useless and without meaning.
But many people simply want to get by. Their philosophy is to let someone else do it. But this sort of philosophy gives life no purpose and Solomon says that living like this is useless. We need to find God’s purpose and make it our purpose so we can make our lives count, not only for right now, but also for all eternity.
2. Without Purpose Life Seems Tiring
Read Ecclesiastes 1:5-7
Life without purpose is a life that goes around in circles. Solomon gives us three examples of this sort of circular living.
• First is the rotation of the sun. It just keeps coming up and going down.
• Next is the swirling nature of wind and how it blows in a circular pattern.
• Finally there are the waters that flow into the sea, but the sea is never full because of evaporation, where it comes down as rain or snow only to flow back into the sea via rivers and streams.
To say this another way, by the time the Christmas lights come down, it’s time to put them back up again. It’s like we’re on this great big treadmill using a whole lot of energy but getting nowhere.
Business Week found that the number one answer as to how people are doing is that they are tired. And the number one reason why people are tired is because they have no purpose, so they are floundering, and floundering is tiring work.
3. Without Purpose Life Seems Unfulfilling
Read Ecclesiastes 1:8-10
Solomon is saying that without purpose we’re never going to be satisfied or content, that is, eye is not satisfied with seeing nor ear filled with hearing. History just keeps repeating itself, that there is nothing new under the sun.
What tends to happen when we don’t see any point to something is that we become restless. Consider the TV remote. It’s said that the average person will change channels 325,000 times in their life. But for some of us that’s more like a weekly average.
If we don’t see the point to life, then we’ll get restless and life will be unfulfilling.
4. Without Purpose Life Seems Insignificant
Read Ecclesiastes 1:11
Fame is fleeting. What use to be 15 minutes of fame has been downgraded to 5 minutes, if they’re lucky! Break a record and it will be broken not long afterwards, that is, if anyone remembers the record at all.
It’s called the surety of obscurity.
Regardless of what we’ve accomplished, most of it will be forgotten over time. Consider the names that grace various building or schools. Most of us have no idea, and really don’t care, who these people may have been.
Life without purpose seems insignificant when compared to eternity.
5. Without Purpose Life Seems Uncontrollable
Read Ecclesiastes 1:14-15
There is always the inevitable, that is, those things that are going to happen that we have absolutely no control over. We can’t control when we were born, or when we are going to die. And truthfully, there are a whole lot of things in between that we have little or any control over as well.
We cannot control what another person does. We cannot control when sickness or illness strikes, nor when our employers say we’re fired because of an economic downturn. This is just the stuff that happens in life, and there is nothing we can do to change it.
And here’s the point, that while life seems out of control, the reality is that God is in control, and He has His hand outstretched saying we can either move dirt piles or join Him to effect this community and generation for all eternity.
Wouldn’t it be great to know that when our heads hit the pillow at night that our life counted for eternity; that we teamed with God in His purpose for this generation and for the world?
Most people, however, don’t have the slightest idea that God has a purpose for their life. They don’t understand that God has carved out a special niche, a purpose that fits their personality, experience, giftedness, and mentality.
We’ve been created for doing more than moving the dirt piles of life, and it’s never too late to figure out God’s purpose. That’s what David did; he stopped moving dirt piles and began to serve the purposes of God in his generation.
And here’s the sum total of it all.
Life Without Purpose Is Pointless
Listen to some depressing responses to those that we would consider had a purpose in life.
• Isaac Asimov (A prolific science fiction writer) – “As far as I can see there is no purpose to life.”
• Karl Jung (Famous psychiatrist) – “I don’t know what the meaning or purpose of life is, but it looks as if there were something meant by it.”
• Albert Ellis (Psychiatrist and inventor) – “As far as I can tell, life has no special or intrinsic meaning or purpose.”
• Thomas Nagle (Economist) – “I’m afraid the meaning of life still eludes me.”
Is it any wonder then that our culture has turned its back on God? When we remove God, the options for the meaning and purpose of life become extremely slim.
• Bertrand Russell (Philosopher and atheist) – “Unless you assume a god, the question about life’s purpose is meaningless.”
• Sigmund Freud (Psychotherapist and psychoanalysis) – “The idea of a purpose stands or falls with the religious system.”
If I were to paraphrase what we have just looked at by all these men who should understand purpose is, “If you don’t accept that God exists, then you’re on a dead end street.”
The conclusion of what our society is saying is that if there is no God then we are nothing more than an evolutionary accident. If God does not create us, then life really doesn’t matter. Basically, the world’s approach to life and finding purpose is bankrupt.
Where then do we find purpose? The Bible has quite a lot to say about purpose and the Bible has been found to be the most reliable book ever written, and that’s because it has been inspired by and came through the inspiration of God.
Let’s look at a couple of verses given by the Apostle Paul to the Ephesian church and what they say about God’s purpose.
“Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will.” (Ephesians 1:4-5 NKJV)
Even before the world was formed, God was thinking about us and about His purpose for our lives, which is
To Be A Part Of His Family
God made us to have a relationship with Him. He made us according to His image and likeness because He loves us and wants us to be a part of His family. Now, if we don’t get this part, we’ve missed the whole point as to why we were even born.
We haven’t been placed upon this earth to get married, raise a family, make money, retire, and die; rather God created up so that we could have a loving relationship with Him.
Further, contrary to popular opinion, not everybody is a child of God. Yes, God has created everybody, but not everybody is a child of God. The only way we become a child of God is to ask God to join His family. And we do so by inviting Jesus Christ into our hearts and lives.
Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6)
Now, the second verse I’d like for us to look at is what Paul goes on to say
“In the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth–in Him.” (Ephesians 1:10 NKJV)
What Paul is saying is that God’s purpose is for us…
To Spend Eternity With Him
History is moving toward a climax; and there is a destiny, a grand and glorious scheme where God will take all who believe in Jesus into eternity to be with Him.
Most of us have heard of “The Circle of Life.” It was made popular in Disney’s “The Lion King,” along with “Hakuna Matata.” However, neither are biblical, especially “The Circle of Life.”
Life is not circular; rather it’s linear. It’s constantly moving toward a focus, a purpose, a climax, and Jesus Christ is returning to complete that purpose.
God made us to last forever, contrary to popular belief, and that this life is a preparation for eternity. However, seeing that re-incarnation, that is the circle of life, is invalid, that leaves us with a linear existence where eternity is lived in one of two places, heaven or hell.
So knowing that God has plans for our lives, and has made this life a preparation for eternity, how do we prepare.
How Do We Prepare For Eternity?
The Apostle John says, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.” (John 1:12 NKJV)
This is actually the first thing we need to do to prepare ourselves for an eternity in heaven. But outside getting to know Jesus as our Savior and Lord there are three things we need to use in view of eternity.
With eternity in view, we are to use our time wisely.
“Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time.” (Colossians 4:5 NKJV)
In Ephesians 5:16, Paul says we are to redeem the time we have for the Lord because the days we live in are evil.
Time is our most precious commodity. It’s more precious than money or possessions, because while we can always get more money and possessions, we cannot get more time. We only have a certain amount of time, and we can’t beg, borrow, or steal any more. All we can do is to use the time we have wisely.
Here’s a good question to ask, “How much of what I am doing is going to count for eternity?”
And so as we talked about last week, let’s take advantage and seize the day for God.
With eternity in view, we are to use the talents God has given.
“For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.” (1 Corinthians 6:20 NKJV)
Paul is telling us to use our God given gifts and talents in a way that will give God the glory.
In Jesus’ parable of the talents, he reveals that the two servants who wisely invested the monies their master gave to them were commended, but the one servant who hid what he was given was condemned and cast out to a place Jesus described as a place of weeping and gnashing of teeth, Luke 13:28.
Jesus is speaking of spiritually reaping what we have sown, investing wisely what the Lord has given us, and when we do we’ll reap heavenly rewards.
Where is the safest place to invest?
Let me give you the following scenario.
Suppose Congress voted to replace the dollar with the Euro as the official American currency, and once the time deadline for this conversion is over, all U.S. money would be worthless. Now add on top of this that the exact date for the deadline is secret.
What would you do? Smart money says to take what is not needed for immediate needs and convert it over to the Euro.
In the same way, there’s going to be an exchange day coming for each of us, and we don’t know when that’s going to be. But everything we have left over is going to be worthless. How are we going to invest? Smart money says to begin converting it to heavenly currency.
This is what Jesus meant when He said, “Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.” (Matthew 6:20 NKJV)
To Timothy, Paul gives this advice.
“Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share, storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.” (1 Timothy 6:18-19 NKJV)
Since none of us know when we’re going to trade in this mortal life for immortality, we need to convert our time, talents, and treasures into the currency of eternity. We cannot take it with us, but we can send it ahead, and we do so by investing in God’s program here.
Let’s not trade our lives for temporary things. Outside the decision to receive Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord, the most important decision we can make centers around this question: “Am I going to live for the here and now, or am I going to live in light of eternity?”
Will we be like David who after he served his generation by the will of God go into an eternity with God? Will we hear the words of the Lord saying, “Well done good and faithful servant, enter into the joy or your Lord?”
Or will we hear God say, “Depart from me you worker of iniquity, I never knew you?”
Today let’s determine within our souls that we’ll start living for God’s purposes using what He has given so that in the end we’ll hear His say, “Well done good and faithful servant, enter into the joy or your Lord.”
When we start living our lives for the purpose of God, that is when we will fulfill our mission of making a difference in our community for Christ.
Wednesday Evening Bible Study