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Why Am I Here?

Why Am I Here?

By David Jeremiah

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I read of a national survey in which a randomly selected number of people were asked this question: “If you could ask God one question, what would it be?” When the survey results were tallied, the most often expressed question was not about how to become wealthy or why innocent people suffer. The number one question people said they would ask God if they had the opportunity was, “Why am I here?” Everyone wonders about the purpose of life—what we should be doing with the days of our lives while on earth.

To address that point years ago in my own life, my father preached from a particular verse at my ministerial ordination service, Acts 13:36: “David... served the purpose of God in his own generation.” My father said, “You can’t serve the generation before you because you weren’t there. You’ll never be able to serve the generation that’s after you because you won’t be there. You have to serve the generation in which you live, and you must do it by the will of God.” And I’ve never forgotten those words.

Then my father reminded me that there is only one thing God can ever ask of us: that we do what He tells us to do—that we live our lives on purpose for Him.

In this lesson, we will explore the subject of living a purposeful life—a life that is lived according to God’s purpose for us. An excellent time every year to review the principles we’ll cover in this lesson is at the beginning of a new year. But regardless of when you’re studying this lesson, the principles we’ll find in the lives of four men in Scripture can help sharpen your focus on living a purposeful life: Daniel, Ezra, Paul, and the Lord Jesus Christ.

DANIEL: THE POWER OF PURPOSE

The story of Daniel and his three young friends is not unfamiliar to most Bible students. They were taken as captives to Babylon where King Nebuchadnezzar tried to mold and groom them in the Babylonian way of living and thinking. He thought they would be useful as his representatives among the Jewish captives—mediators and peacekeepers, so to speak.

Nebuchadnezzar gave the young men Babylonian names—Daniel’s name (“God is my judge”) was changed to Belteshazzar in honor of the god Baal. The goal was to turn them from their Jewish values and priorities into Babylonian servants of Nebuchadnezzar.

The first test the young men faced was when they were given the Babylonian diet to eat, which would not have been kosher according to Jewish dietary law. Much of the food and drink would have been offered to idols, and for Daniel to eat it would have been to violate the covenant God had given Israel to follow. We find Daniel’s response in Daniel 1:8: “But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself” with the food and drink from the king’s table.

That first phrase is the most important: “Daniel purposed in his heart.” It was more important for him to keep to his purpose of being obedient to God than to yield to the desire of the Babylonian king. He and his three friends decided to stand their ground and fulfill what they knew was God’s purpose for them in that setting. They ran the risk of losing their lives, of course, and they obviously knew that. Who could dare to disobey a powerful and ruthless king and live? But they stood their ground because they had purposed to do so. A purpose is a powerful thing when lived out in one’s life.

A purpose is a powerful thing when lived out in one’s life.

Daniel was probably a teenager at that time, and I believe the commitment he made established the pattern for the rest of his life. God honored Daniel’s commitment and allowed him to rise to great heights within three different pagan governments in Babylon, then in Persia. Daniel played an important role in God’s plan for His people while they were in captivity.

One of the kings in the Old Testament, Rehoboam, is said to have done evil “because he did not prepare his heart to seek the Lord” (2 Chronicles 12:14). Every person comes to a point where he or she must purpose to follow the Lord, or not. Daniel did and was blessed by God; Rehoboam didn’t and was a failure.

EZRA: THE PREPARATION OF PURPOSE

Ezra is often called “Ezra the Scribe” since he is credited with writing the book in the Old Testament that bears his name, plus possibly some portions of the books of the Chronicles. In the book of Ezra, he is seen as a man very much concerned with the priority of the Word of God. When the Jewish captives returned from Babylon to Jerusalem, Ezra brought reform to the community of returnees by his commitment to the standards and priorities of God’s Word.

The captives had been away from Jerusalem for seventy years. Many had died in Babylon and many of the returnees had been born in Babylon. So the returning group was a mixed-bag of Jews with varying levels of knowledge and commitment to God’s covenant. While there was a sense of urgency to get the walls of Jerusalem rebuilt when they first returned, the people settled into ways of living that reflected Babylon more than Jerusalem.

It was Nehemiah’s job to restore the walls of the city, and it was Ezra’s job to restore the people themselves to a worshiping community of faithful Israelites. Nehemiah 8 is a great chapter in the Bible for seeing the impact of the Word of God on a culture. Ezra read the Old Testament to the people for seven days in a row from early morning to noon. He read the Word and explained to them what it meant, and the people were to live their lives in light of its teaching.

The key to Ezra’s being used by God in such an effective way is found in Ezra 7:10: “For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the Law of the Lord, and to do it, and to teach statutes and ordinances in Israel.” Once again, we see the power of purpose in life: Ezra prepared his heart, or purposed in his heart.

Everybody who makes an impact for Christ does so because they have purposed that He will be their priority. I don’t know anyone who just floats into greatness. I believe people are used by God because they drive a stake in the ground and say, “This is what I’m going to do for the Lord.” People who just drift along in the current of the culture never seem to make an impact for Christ. For Ezra, it was preparing his heart to know and teach the Word of God. That was his purpose and his passion, and he changed the culture of Jerusalem because of it. For you, it might be something totally different. But without a purpose, it will be hard for you to step forward and speak for God.

Everybody who makes an impact for Christ does so because they have purposed that He will be their priority.

Daniel and Ezra were two mighty men in the Old Testament who lived their lives with purpose and were greatly used by God. We turn to the New Testament to see two more who did the same thing.

PAUL: THE PERFORMANCE OF PURPOSE

The apostle Paul has been called the most influential man ever to live on earth, next to Jesus Christ. His thirteen epistles of the New Testament (perhaps fourteen if he wrote the letter to the Hebrews) have helped to shape the course of Western civilization. His letters have shaped the form and function of all aspects of Christendom.

Like Daniel and Ezra before him, Paul had a secret. It is found in Philippians 3:13-14: “Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

Paul had an all-consuming desire to know Christ—the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His suffering (Philippians 3:10). But this wasn’t a general feeling or impression. It was the result of a conscious choice: “One thing I do.” He looked at the possible choices he could make and focused on knowing Christ and serving Him. He chose one thing as his purpose.

At the end of his life, Paul looked back and concluded he had “fought the good fight... finished the race [and] kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7). At the beginning of his spiritual life with Christ, Paul chose a purpose; and at the end of his physical and spiritual life on earth, he was able to say that he had stuck to and fulfilled his purpose in life. He was ready to leave earth and meet God because he felt he had completed the purpose for which God had called him.

Perhaps you’ve heard or seen the witticism that says, “God put me on this earth to accomplish a specific purpose. Right now, I’m so far behind that I will never die.” While that makes us smile, we know it is inaccurate. It is indeed possible to live on this earth and accomplish one’s purpose in life. But it can’t be done accidentally—it can only be achieved by making a decision and pursuing your purpose.

If you and I were to have a personal conversation and I asked you what you think God wants you to do with your life, you’d probably be able to tell me. I think most people know or at least have a good idea of what God wants them to do. In other words, it’s not that we don’t know. Sometimes we let the pressures of life keep us so occupied that we never get around to what we think God wants us to do.

I think most people know or at least have a good idea of what God wants them to do. In other words, it’s not that we don’t know. Sometimes we let the pressures of life keep us so occupied that we never get around to what we think God wants us to do.

The last person we’ll focus on definitely did not have that problem. In fact, He didn’t let anything distract or divert Him from the Father’s purpose for His life.

THE LORD JESUS CHRIST: THE PERFECTION OF PURPOSE

It may seem unfair to use Christ as an example since our first response is to think that He, by default, did everything perfectly. I mean, how could the Son of God not live a life of focus and purpose? Wouldn’t He be less than perfect if He did? To ask those questions is understandable, but they reflect a lack of understanding of the human nature of Christ. Remember, He was tempted like we are, yet He chose to remain focused on His purpose (Hebrews 4:15). Jesus was fully human and fully divine at the same time, and He “learned obedience by the things which He suffered” (Hebrews 5:8).

Even as a young man of twelve, Jesus was focused on His purpose in life. After visiting Jerusalem with His parents, Jesus was left behind by accident when they left to return to Nazareth. When His parents returned to Jerusalem, they found Him in the temple, discoursing with the Jewish elders and teachers. When His parents expressed concern at His absence, Jesus’ reply was focused: “Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?” Jesus knew His heavenly Father had something for Him to do in His life.

Years later, when Jesus’ disciples were discussing food for a meal, He said, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work” (John 4:34). Before healing a man born blind, Jesus said, “I just work the work of Him who sent Me while it is day” (John 9:4). Time after time in the four Gospels, we see Jesus making reference to staying on point, so to speak. Accomplishing God’s purpose for His life was the air He breathed, the food He ate, and the water He drank. Nothing could keep Jesus from accomplishing His purpose.

Jesus stated His purpose clearly in several different ways:

  • “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).
  • “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10).
  • “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (John 10:10).

The overarching purpose that would make all the above goals possible was this one: He came to die. It was His death on the cross that would make salvation of the lost possible and abundant life for all who believe a reality. And He achieved that purpose. Like Paul, as Jesus neared the end of His earthly life, He prayed to the Father, “I have finished the work which You have given Me to do” (John 17:4).

It’s important not to view Jesus as unique. I believe God the Father has given every follower of Jesus a certain work to do—a purpose for life. God has equipped each one of us specifically with gifts, abilities, desires, and opportunities. He has led us into a variety of different vocations and places to live. Wherever we are, there are opportunities to begin pursuing the calling God has put into each of our hearts. But we must begin to pursue that calling intentionally—on purpose!

There will be temptations and opportunities to wander away from God’s purpose. Only our strong intention to pursue God’s calling will keep us from wandering. Even Jesus was tempted by Satan three times in the wilderness, but He never wavered (Matthew 4:1-11). Satan offered Him everything; but, like Daniel in Babylon, Jesus refused to give up His purpose for the calling of the world. Having a focus and a purpose means that you always know where the path is in case you ever do get off it temporarily. Without that purpose, you can wander for years looking for the path.

We will never be called upon by God to be the Savior of the world or a frontier-stretching apostle who writes most of the New Testament. But that doesn’t mean we don’t have a purpose that is specific and achievable in God’s sight. God did not call us to go through the motions of living. He called us to put our hands to the plow and begin reaping and sowing in the specific field of His choice for our lives.

Will you make the commitment to begin fulfilling your purpose? And if you’re not completely sure what your purpose is, will you pray until God makes it clear? Living life with purpose is the only way to be satisfied when you reach the end.

This article is an excerpt from David Jeremiah’s Ready! Set! Growth! Finishing the Race Before Us study guide.

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