For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. -Ephesians 2:10
The message of the Bible is clear, you were made by God on purpose. God created you with things in mind for you to do. There were certain “good works” that God was thinking about when He created you. He saw certain things that needed doing, and then He created you as the solution to those problems. You are here for a reason.
What are those “things” for which you were created? How can you figure that out? Here is my advice, given to us through the consistent nudgings of the Bible. I’ll give you one scripture for each suggestion, though there are countless others like them.
First, if you want to figure out what you’ve been created for, you must make the shift from FROM to FOR. You must change from thinking primarily about what you (and your family) can get FROM the world and start thinking about what you (and your family) can do FOR the world.
In Luke 12, Jesus tells a parable about a man who seems to have everything in life, but he really hasn’t even figured out the basics of life:
18 “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. 19 And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’
20 “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’
21 “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.”
Jesus’ point was not that God will kill you for being selfish. He is giving us perspective that comes from realizing that self-centered living focuses on temporary rewards.
The man hasn’t shifted his mindset from FROM to FOR. He’s still thinking primarily about what he can get from the earth.
Until we decide that we will live primarily FOR others, we’re out of the flow that God calls us toward. Our acts should especially benefit those who cannot repay us and with giving that has no direct payoff for us. You cannot realize God’s purposes for your life until you decide to live primarily for others.
Many suburban parents believe that getting the most for their children is the main purpose for their life and proof of selfless generosity. This leads to frustration, anxiety, and purposeless-ness after graduation. It also leads to a bunch of enabled immature adolescents. This is not generosity, this is acting in ways that benefit your family (and, therefore, you!). Sure, you were made to care for your kids, just don’t go thinking that makes you generous. Caring for your kids is necessary, but a self-centric responsibility. You may feel selfless, noble, and generous for providing for your family. They certainly deserve it. However, God calls us beyond a life that benefits us directly, and toward helping those in ways that don’t directly benefit us. If you’re not doing that, that may be why you’re feeling a lack of purpose in life.
To find God’s purpose, we must move from FROM to FOR.
Secondly, we must learn to respond to the needs in front of us. Before you solve some large-scale thematic purpose for your life, you should probably start by learning to respond to immediate opportunities all around you each day.
15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? -James 2
James tells us that we can learn a lot about our heart by how we respond to the direct needs of others right in front of us. We all search for that one big thing we’re supposed to be doing with our life, but God is most interested in how we treat the people around us in their daily needs. If you want to start sensing purpose, start asking yourself, “Can I do something to help?”, as you interact with people.
Every child you see brings a chance to encourage a soul still made of soft clay. Every stressed out checkout clerk brings a chance for a kind word. Every coworker you sit beside who is going through a loss brings an opportunity to listen empathetically. There are opportunities all around us to impact the lives of people in very real ways. We just have to decide that we are going to get involved. You were created to serve others like this! It’s your most obvious purpose! You won’t discover bigger purposes until you master the most basic!
Obviously, we can’t help everyone. You can’t make time to listen to everyone who wants to talk. You can’t help every homeless person as you walk to your car each day. You can’t mow every widow’s yard. You can, however, decide to become more aware. You can decide that you will be prone to listen and respond when the inner voice prompts you.
Deciding that you will live beyond your own comfort and deciding that you will be aware and ready to respond to the everyday needs of others will go a long way toward helping you find God’s purpose for your life. I promise you won’t be bored! A life of fulfillment and purpose awaits!