CREATED WITH PURPOSE
By Mike Mercer
And we know that God works all things together for the good of those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28
For as long as he can remember, he’s been uncomfortable being alone. Though finding his job unrewarding, at least he is surrounded by others during the day, people who share his dislike of the work and encourage his continual criticisms of those above them. There has become something vaguely disquieting about spending every night at the bar with these same people, yet he can overlook this, and finds comfort in the familiarity of the inane.
She can’t recall when her daily time at the gym began to take on the trappings of obsession. There were memories of being a bit on the heavy side, and the attendant health concerns…but that was years ago. She feels in her heart that her face is not as pretty as it could be, but it is with some satisfaction she observes her body in the gym’s wall-to-wall mirrors, and experiences a delicious certainty of beauty there. Yet remaining desirable to the opposite sex - and grudgingly admired by other women - takes relentless discipline. A part of her suspects she is missing something in life (is this as good as it will ever be?), but sculpting her body daily does fill a part of that void. She decides it is enough.
He prides himself on having the “Midas touch” in his chosen profession. He puts in long hours, intuitively understands the market, disdains time spent at leisure, and over the past thirty years it has been a rare project that hasn’t turned a tidy profit…and a few have been spectacularly successful, helping him become one of the wealthiest men in his hometown. It doesn’t escape his attention that people treat him, well, differently. Some approach him with a deference that suggests fear, while others seem to resent his affluence. He is certain the latter are understandably jealous of his wealth. Both fuel his sense of superior self-worth, and are adequate to keep at bay a nagging sense of emptiness.
Even as a young boy shooting hoops in the family driveway, he recognized he was different, that it was somehow easier for him than for others. In high school, playing one-on-one pickup games, he was able to shift to a higher gear on demand, a gear no-one had ever been able to match. The adulation began in earnest in college; everyone wanting to be his friend, girls throwing themselves at him, the roar of the crowds at his athletic dominance. He was filled with their worship of him, became addicted to its rush. Pro teams fought for his allegiance, with one ultimately giving him a contract worth millions. That was just a year ago, yet this night he stands alone, slumped in the showers after yet another humiliating loss, echoes of the jeers still ringing in his ears. With sickening clarity he realizes that his glory days are already behind him, and that he is all but forgotten. Is this truly all there was? Was he, in fact, a failure?
She has attended the church faithfully for decades, since a small girl. It gives her comfort to have a place to be every Sunday, a place filled with love and spoken purpose. As a teenager she had relented to a growing sense of urgency to declare her undying faithfulness to a God who sounded like a good idea; she recalls her baptism day now uneasily, and wonders why. She supposes many in the church, like her, have never experienced the much described personal relationship with this God…yet it seems a small price to pay for the feelings of belonging the church provides.
Many of us will make it through a large part of our life without ever really knowing who we are, or what we were created for. It is so easy to throw ourselves into the consuming passions of jobs, friendships, hobbies, sex, and the accumulation of wealth…and while none of these things are inherently bad on their own merits, they can all powerfully distract us from the vital pursuit of understanding why we are here. We get consumed by busyness, by the devastating desire to compare and measure ourselves against others, and by the time we look up from our life… it has passed us by.
Our God created each of us with a unique purpose, each an integral part of His grand plan. The relationships we choose to engage in, the way we choose to live our earthly lives – they are not random options with little or no eternal consequences; they are opportunities He sets before us. He loves us enough to have given us free will… it is our decision to live a life that honors either Him, or ourselves. The first will have its trials and heartaches, He promises that. Nowhere does He say choosing Him will assure wealth, or health – those are treasures the enemy dangles as being the ultimate desires. What He does promise…is Himself. Some will have health, and their gratitude for His gift will be manifested in worship and humility as He leads their steps. Others will suffer with pain and sickness, and when they insist on trusting Him, He will walk closely with them through the trial, showing them the beauty of perseverance, reminding this broken world was never meant to be their final and ultimate home. When we listen to the lies of the devil, deciding this world is all there is, we foolishly trade an eternity with Him for the temporary and shiny baubles of wealth, power, and the fleeting worship of others. When the market fails, cancer erupts, or we simply age beyond the limit the world deems worthwhile, the deafening silence of our abandonment reveals the deception.
Seekers seem enraptured with finding answers to their emptiness in books promising the secrets of the ages. Each new volume disappoints and disillusions more than the last, for their “secrets” are based on the faulty premise that what we seek can be realized as success in this world. Yet worldly success never ultimately satisfies the longing inside us all. This intuitive knowledge of a greater purpose was placed there by our Creator, and He alone can lead us to its beautiful fruition in our lives. And as it turns out He has given us the “secret” to achieving this, and it is in a book, the Bible. In this written Word He has made it quite straightforward; should we yearn for the deep and profound fulfillment we were created to experience, the secret is…
…love. We must first commit to love Him with all our heart, mind, body and soul, and then love others as ourselves. Like many great truths, this one is astonishingly simple, though far from easy to live out. As Christians we readily accept the vital importance of love in our declared faith and publicly laud its all-encompassing virtue…yet in our actual life practice we often seem to relegate it to be merely “one of the nice things” we do as believers. Despite God’s repeated theme of love as the single most important act of our existence, the path leading to the joy we so deeply desire…we seem eager to relegate it to far lesser status, certain there must be something more - something bigger, flashier, more miraculous, perhaps. Something we can format, arrange into tidy categories; something by which we can compare ourselves through quantitative achievement. And in our foolishness we completely overlook the Truth that came to earth and hung on a cross, so that we might profoundly understand our purpose.
Love can be a daunting proposition. For us to love others well and in a way that will bring glory to our Father and fill our own lives, we must first love Him, for He is the wellspring from which all love flows. For some this intimidates, either because of the discipline necessary to consistently make time for intimate interaction with Him (as with any relationship, this one doesn’t thrive in a vacuum, or environment of relentless busyness)…or because the discipline needed is not “enough” (these folks prefer a formula they can plug into, meticulously and tirelessly following every measurable rule and regulation, analytically consummating the relationship on their own terms). And then there is that “loving others” part that can seem simply unrealistic…until we allow ourselves to be humbled before God, at which point He allows us to see them not as annoying, inept, disgusting, frightening, or competition, but rather as beloved sons and daughters created – like us – in His incredible image. Loving others well is like swallowing sunshine, filling us with warmth and light that we can then joyously shine out into those He places in our path. The world encourages us to embrace apathy, retreating inward; God calls us outside of our places of comfort, to meet others in their times of great need, to be salt and light in the lives around us, and to in turn allow ourselves to be cared for in like manner. This is love.
There is tremendous reassurance in realizing our lives are not merely temporary and anonymous blips on the radar screen of eternity. If we discover our true purpose - our very real Creator and why He has chosen to create us - our lives become so much more precious and valuable than any of the distractions we choose to define ourselves with, or hide our fear behind. Yet choosing Him goes beyond formula, or feel-good theology. It is all or nothing. We must decision to live our lives for Him, and then begin the journey of finding out exactly what that entails. In turn, He promises to be the faithful Guide along that path; teaching, loving, and unveiling each new revelation as He knows we are ready. Each day becomes an adventure unto itself. We no longer strive for the approval of others, instead desiring to live life intimately with them, with God at the center. Comfort no longer seems an adequate goal, when we have within our grasp relationship with the One who created us. We discover hope, where there were only ashes; peace flooding like a tide, overwhelming chaos; and joy, that most elusive of treasures, a constant companion. We discover purpose.
Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away. Behold, the new has come! 2 Corinthians 5:17
A new commandment I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so also must you love one another. John 13:34