Maybe another way to put the question is: “Why are you here?” And I am not asking: “Why have you come to Rekindle?” Because the answer is obvious, you were tricked by a vague link or misleading social media post. The questions I am asking are: why do you exist; what is your purpose; why are any of us here? These are heady considerations with many odd, dissatisfying and more perplexing answers. So at the start of 2019 I hope to convince you that you do have real purpose and value, given by God. This purpose will not change over time, or year to year, and functions as the foundation for everything we do.
In Douglas Adam’s Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy there are numerous memorable moments; one of those is the moment when, against all probability, a fully grown sperm whale comes into existence in the outer atmosphere of the planet Magrathea. Adams writes, “Since this is not a naturally tenable position for a whale, this poor innocent creature had very little time to come to terms with its identity as a whale before it then had to come to terms with not being a whale any more.” He goes on to list a few of the whale’s thoughts from the moment it began its life until the moment its life ended: “Ah! What’s happening? Er, excuse me, who am I? Hello? Why am I here? What’s my purpose in life?” Much like Adam’s confounded sperm whale, all of us are thrown into life and, between birth and death, have to come to terms with our identity and purpose. What does a life well spent and lived with purpose look like? To get a satisfactory answer to that question we must turn to the one who made us: the Creator God.
God does all things for his glory
I realise this seems like a strange place to begin and hope that you will shortly see why there is no other starting point. Whatever God does is to display his greatness, to bring him glory. His works are designed to move people to adore and delight in him, to worship him. When you read the first fourteen verses of Ephesians this becomes patently clear: not only does Paul introduce this section by praising God (1:3), but we are told three times that all God does should end in the praise of his glory (1:6, 12, 14). We bristle at this point, for numerous reasons. But I think the real reason we struggle with this truth is that we are self-centred, “glory thieves” (John Piper). We do not want our lives to be God-centred because we want them to centre on us. However, as we read in Ephesians, we learn that God works all things for his own glory.
Therefore you exist for God’s glory
Following from our previous point, if God does all things for his glory then it is not hard to see where we fit in. The purpose installed in each person is the glory of God. But the grand narrative of the Bible teaches us that we are more concerned with smaller glories than God’s. Therefore, in Ephesians 2:1-7 we are told that everyone’s status before God is separation and spiritual death. However, Paul goes on, “It is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourself, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (2:8-10). Do not miss in those quoted verses that the Christian is remade or recreated, by and for God. Why are any of us here? To bring glory to our Creator. Why does God save? So that his people and church might bring him glory (3:20-21).
So live in a way that brings God glory
Becoming a Christian means discovering what you were made for. It follows then that being a Christian involves doing what we were made for (2:8-10). Before you grumble that those works have not been revealed to you, read through Ephesians 4-6 where we are repeatedly told how to walk, or live. It is this obedience, godliness and faith in whatever situation we find ourselves that brings God’s glory. All of us will accomplish a wide range of things in our lives. The trap to avoid is evaluating success and fulfilment by the world’s standards. What makes a life of purpose and meaning is not one that is strewn with worldly triumphs and plaudits but a life lived in constant pursuit of God’s honour and fame. So Paul urges Christians, later in Ephesians, “To live a life worthy of the calling you have received” (4:1).
I do not know what you should do in 2019. But one thing is clear: a life spent in pursuit of God’s fame is not wasted but worthy. Living for God’s glory has less to do with what we do and everything to do with how we live. God created us with purpose and faith in Christ involves the rediscovery of that purpose. I do not doubt that you have goals and ambitions for this year. However, if bringing glory to God wherever he places you is not both at the top of your list and the desire undergirding the remainder of the items you will waste your year.