Pastor David B. Curtis

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What Is Your Purpose In Life?

Selected Scriptures

Delivered 01/24/1999

Most people occasionally ask the question, "Why Am I here?" or "Why Am I Alive?" Have you ever asked yourself that question? George Cameron thinks about those questions every night. Cameron asks that question because he is alive today due to the kidney donation of Clay Jones, a high school football player in Texas who died when struck by lightning. Cameron doesn't know the answer to that question other than to say that it means that God must have some purpose for his still being alive. Feelings of heightened spirituality are universal among organ recipients according to Lisa Kory, executive director of the Transplant Recipients International Organization. "They are so filled with awe and inspiration...they want to be a better father, brother, sister and worker. " Cameron said a lot of his life was spent in what he called careless living. "I gambled, I drank to excess, I didn't take care of myself." But knowing that he carries the kidney of such a blameless young man has affected him greatly. He now works harder at being patient and loving and respectful of life and other people.

If this feeling of, "Awe and inspiration and God must have a purpose for me," is common among organ recipients, shouldn't it be true for those of us who have through the grace of God received a new heart? In a prophecy concerning the New Covenant God promised a day when he would give a new heart and a new spirit to his people.

Ezekiel 36:25-27 (NKJV) "Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. 26 "I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 "I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them.

If you have by faith trusted the Lord Jesus Christ, it is because he has given you a new heart. This is a reference to the new birth or salvation. Because we have been given a new heart we trust in the Christ which results in eternal life, we will never die.

John 11:25-26 (NKJV) Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. 26 "And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?"

The gift of eternal life should cause us to ask the question that George Cameron asks himself every night, "Why am I here" or to put it another way, "What is my purpose in life?" Do you know what your purpose in life is? Most of us go through life without really thinking about it. What you think your purpose in life is can be discovered by examining how you live. What drives you? What are you putting your time and energy into? Our purpose should be to honor and glorify God, but is it? I think that most of us live as if our purpose in life was to; make money, to live a life of ease, or become successful or popular. How many of us can say what Jesus said in:

John 8:29 (NKJV) "And He who sent Me is with Me. The Father has not left Me alone, for I always do those things that please Him."

As far as Jesus was concerned, His life on earth was a project. He came to earth knowing He had something to accomplish, and He accomplished it. In Luke 19:10 He said "The Son of Man has come to seek and save that which was lost."

Jesus came to earth with a mission, and he fulfilled it. You could say He lived life on purpose. Peter summed up the ministry of Christ by saying, "He went around doing good." (Acts 10:38)

This is how God means it to be. He wants us to accomplish something while we're here on earth. Life is not a party, it's a project. God has a purpose for us, the problem is most of us have our own purposes for which we live.

Do we always do those things that please the Father? Or are we to busy doing those things that please us? How many of us live with a sense of spiritual purpose?

I think our purpose in life could be boiled down to two simple commands:

Matthew 22:36-40 (NKJV) "Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?" 37 Jesus said to him, " 'You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.' 38 "This is the first and great commandment. 39 "And the second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' 40 "On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets."

If we have been saved by God's grace, it should be our purpose in life to fulfill his commands. Is it your purpose in life to love God and love your fellow man? If that is your purpose, you will structure your life to fulfill it.

Have you ever seen Bruce Springsteen in concert? He's semi-retired now, but in the 80's he was one of the hardest working people in the entertainment business. His concerts typically last 4 hours--and whether he is playing to 20,000 people in an outdoor arena, or just a few hundred people in a small room, Bruce Springsteen always gives 100% of himself in every performance. The encore alone lasts about 45 minutes. There is always one point in the performance when the band dramatically stops playing and he screams into the microphone, "I'm just a prisoner of rock and roll!"

You know what? He is a prisoner of rock and roll. From the time that he decided to be a musician, he has been obsessed with playing music before an audience. He refused to allow anything to stand in his way. Once, when he was still struggling to make it, he attended the wedding of a fellow struggling musician. At the wedding Bruce said to his friend, "I'm happy for you, but I'm sad--you'll never be able to make it now that you're married." Springsteen pursued his career in music with unbridled enthusiasm, and ultimately became the biggest name in rock music. It wasn't until after he became one of the highest paid persons in show business that he settled down, got married, and started a family. Until then, he gave his life to rock and roll.

In the very same way, Paul gave his life to the ministry of Jesus Christ. In Romans, Paul referred to himself as the "bondservant" or "slave" of Christ. In Ephesians, he called himself "the prisoner of the Lord."

Paul was consumed with a mission. And I want you to understand--it was a radical mission. His purpose in life wasn't just to be a religious person and preach in church on Sunday. His purpose was much more innovative, much more dangerous, much more revolutionary than that. His purpose was to save souls, change lives, and bring about worldwide racial equality through the ministry of the church. This was his purpose, his calling, and he structured his whole life to fulfill that purpose.

Acts 20:20-24 (NKJV) "how I kept back nothing that was helpful, but proclaimed it to you, and taught you publicly and from house to house, 21 "testifying to Jews, and also to Greeks, repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ. 22 "And see, now I go bound in the spirit to Jerusalem, not knowing the things that will happen to me there, 23 "except that the Holy Spirit testifies in every city, saying that chains and tribulations await me. 24 "But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.
Acts 21:13 (NKJV) Then Paul answered, "What do you mean by weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus."

After his face-to-face meeting with Jesus, he recognized that he had a purpose in life--to tell Gentiles about Jesus, and bring them into the church. This made Paul extremely unpopular in certain circles, but he never let go of the mission to which God had called him.

What about you? What is your mission? God has given you a purpose. That purpose isn't created to serve you--you are created to serve that purpose. The greatest decision you can make is to decide "I am going to be a slave to the purpose God has for my life."

We need to get past the idea that we deserve--or need--an easy life. Instead, our attitude must be "I am not an important person, but I have an important job to do--and I will serve my purpose."

Daniel lived with a sense of purpose. His purpose was to honor God in a pagan culture no matter what it cost him. The book of Daniel is set in the context of the judgment of God against his people. In 722 B.C., the Northern Kingdom was judged by the nation Assyria. Then in 605 B.C., the Southern Kingdom, Judah (where Daniel lived) is captured by Babylon. So Daniel was deported in 605 when he was about 15 or 16 years old. He was a Hebrew teenager who was put in the midst of a pagan society.

Daniel and his friends were chosen to be servants of the King. They were prepared, educated and brought up to serve Nebuchadnezzar.

Daniel 1:8 (NKJV) But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king's delicacies, nor with the wine which he drank; therefore he requested of the chief of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself.

Having been taken captive, Daniel's purpose could easily have been just to survive, he could have done what they asked to make it easy on himself but his purpose was to be obedient to God even in his trial. To eat the king's food would have been a violation of the Hebrew dietary law. So Daniel requested to be allowed to eat only what God's law allowed. His request was granted with a trial period.

Daniel 1:15 (NKJV) And at the end of ten days their features appeared better and fatter in flesh than all the young men who ate the portion of the king's delicacies.
Daniel 1:20 (NKJV) And in all matters of wisdom and understanding about which the king examined them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and astrologers who were in all his realm.

Daniel and his friends honored God in the midst of a perverse society and they flourished. Daniel interpreted a dream that none of the king's men could interpret and:

Daniel 2:48-49 (NKJV) Then the king promoted Daniel and gave him many great gifts; and he made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon, and chief administrator over all the wise men of Babylon. 49 Also Daniel petitioned the king, and he set Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego over the affairs of the province of Babylon; but Daniel sat in the gate of the king.

In honoring God, Daniel is promoted to a position of authority. Daniel's purpose was not to get ahead in Babylon but to honor God, and as he did that, God promoted him.

In chapter 3, the Hebrew children are confronted with a situation that would try the faith of the strongest believer. An image was set up by king Nebuchadnezzar and everyone was required to worship it. But the Hebrews wouldn't!

Daniel 3:12 (NKJV) "There are certain Jews whom you have set over the affairs of the province of Babylon: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego; these men, O king, have not paid due regard to you. They do not serve your gods or worship the gold image which you have set up."

The king calls them in and tells them that they had better bow and worship the image:

Daniel 3:15-18 (NKJV) "Now if you are ready at the time you hear the sound of the horn, flute, harp, lyre, and psaltery, in symphony with all kinds of music, and you fall down and worship the image which I have made, good! But if you do not worship, you shall be cast immediately into the midst of a burning fiery furnace. And who is the god who will deliver you from my hands?" 16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego answered and said to the king, "O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. 17 "If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. 18 "But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up."

If their purpose in life had been ease or comfort, they would have bowed. But at the cost of their own lives, they decided that their purpose in life was to obey God's commands, which is loving God, and not self preservation. They didn't know God's purpose in the trial but they knew theirs -- obey God. Whether they lived or died was up to God. Compare your life and trials to theirs. Has your faith caused you to put your life on the line lately? Notice the outcome of their stand in faith.

Daniel 3:28-30 (NKJV) Nebuchadnezzar spoke, saying, "Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, who sent His Angel and delivered His servants who trusted in Him, and they have frustrated the king's word, and yielded their bodies, that they should not serve nor worship any god except their own God! 29 "Therefore I make a decree that any people, nation, or language which speaks anything amiss against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego shall be cut in pieces, and their houses shall be made an ash heap; because there is no other God who can deliver like this." 30 Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego in the province of Babylon.

What if they would have bowed to the temptation? How different would the outcome have been had it not been their purpose to obey and honor god at all costs? They trusted in God's sovereign will, they didn't violate God's will in an attempt to make their lives safe or easy. They purposed to obey God and because of their stand, God was honored.

In Daniel 6, we see Daniel tested.

Daniel 6:1-5 (NKJV) It pleased Darius to set over the kingdom one hundred and twenty satraps, to be over the whole kingdom; 2 and over these, three governors, of whom Daniel was one, that the satraps might give account to them, so that the king would suffer no loss. 3 Then this Daniel distinguished himself above the governors and satraps, because an excellent spirit was in him; and the king gave thought to setting him over the whole realm. 4 So the governors and satraps sought to find some charge against Daniel concerning the kingdom; but they could find no charge or fault, because he was faithful; nor was there any error or fault found in him. 5 Then these men said, "We shall not find any charge against this Daniel unless we find it against him concerning the law of his God."

Daniel lived a life that was blameless and harmless without fault. So in order to destroy him, they created a law that stated that no one could pray to anyone except the king for thirty days. What would you do? If this happened today would you still pray in public? Daniel did.

Daniel 6:10 (NKJV) Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went home. And in his upper room, with his windows open toward Jerusalem, he knelt down on his knees three times that day, and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as was his custom since early days.

Because of his faith and obedience, he was thrown in the lions den but the lions didn't hurt him.

Daniel 6:23 (NKJV) Then the king was exceedingly glad for him, and commanded that they should take Daniel up out of the den. So Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no injury whatever was found on him, because he believed in his God.

Daniel trusted God and bore a testimony to the world around him of God's faithfulness. He brought to this pagan culture the reality that there is a living God. Notice the kings response to Daniel's faithfulness to God:

Daniel 6:25-27 (NKJV) Then King Darius wrote: To all peoples, nations, and languages that dwell in all the earth: Peace be multiplied to you. 26 I make a decree that in every dominion of my kingdom men must tremble and fear before the God of Daniel. For He is the living God, And steadfast forever; His kingdom is the one which shall not be destroyed, And His dominion shall endure to the end. 27 He delivers and rescues, And He works signs and wonders In heaven and on earth, Who has delivered Daniel from the power of the lions.

Daniel's purpose in life was to honor God by all that he did. If we are troubled by the small mindedness of those whose lives seem to deny that God has a purpose for them, we are also encouraged by those whose lives witness to the fact that God has called us to live for His glory.

One such person was the unpretentious, soft-spoken Eric Liddell, who, thanks to the Oscar-winning movie Chariots of Fire, is known to the world as a man who was exceptionally committed to his principles. Rather than run on Sunday, he gave up his chance for a likely Olympic gold medal in the hundred meters, and suffered the insult of being called a traitor to his country for doing so. Eric knew that his purpose in life was not to win gold medals but to obey God. He then astonished everyone by, instead, running and winning the four hundred-meter race in world record time. Although Liddel returned home a national hero, his greater heroism began where the movie ends. Shunning fame, fortune, and the next Olympic games, he slipped out of the lime-light to become a missionary to China, where he taught chemistry and English and later worked in rugged conditions among rural, peasant people amidst suffering and death triggered by Japan's invasion of China during the late 1930's.

By all accounts, Liddell unfailingly radiated good humor and kindness, and because of his smiling good nature, was often a peacemaker in times of conflict among the peasants and between them and their invaders. Nor was he one to pass by on the other side of the road when someone was suffering or in the need of a daring rescue effort. When, shortly before Japan entered World War 2, his pregnant wife and two daughters left China for the safety of home, Liddell stayed behind to minister, and in 1943, he was rounded up along with 1800 other foreigners into a Japanese internment camp in the Shantung Province of North China. In Langdon Gilkey's 1966 book, The Shantung Compound: The Story of Men and Women Under Pressure, Gilkey recalls the conflicts and selfishness that predominated among this assortment of business people, missionaries, doctors, professors, junkies, and prostitutes, all crammed into a former mission station no longer than two football fields and not as wide. Subjected to privation but not torture, malnutrition but not starvation, the "fundamental bent of the total self in all of us was inward, toward our own welfare, " observed Gilkey. "And so immersed were we in it that we hardly seemed able to see this in ourselves. "

During his two years in the camp, Eric Liddell emerged as its "most outstanding personality," as another book on the Shantung Compound later described him-- the one "with a permanent smile." It was he who organized games and worship, taught science to the children, and cared for people of every sort. One Russian prostitute, for whom he put up some shelves, said he was the only man who did anything for her without wanting to be repaid.

In all accounts, Liddell emerges as a sort of contemporary Christ figure, a man whose life was empowered by the hour of prayer, Bible reading, and meditation with which he began each day before the others were awake; a man who, according to his closest comrade, was "literally, God-controlled, in his thought, judgment, actions, words"; a man who befriended despised prostitutes and business people and bridged the gulf between them and the missionaries; a man who could be seen carrying coal for an old person; a man who offered to sell his Olympic gold watch to buy more sports gear for the children; a man who, weakened by privation and hunger, began quietly to suffer headaches and discouragement, the early signs of a brain disease that, before many even realized he was seriously ill, took his life just months before the camp's liberation. As he lay in the arms of a friend, nurse Annie Buchan, he spoke his last words, "Annie, it's complete surrender, " then convulsed, vomited all over her, lapsed into a coma, and died within hours.

Eric Liddell's only purpose in life was to honor God. What is you purpose in life? What is it that you live for? Is your life ordered to honor God or serve yourself? The sad truth of the matter is that Paul's statement to the Philippians is very true of us today:

Philippians 2:21 (NKJV) For all seek their own, not the things which are of Christ Jesus.

Most of us are caught up in our own purposes and desires and have little time for the things which are Jesus Christ's.

On March 30, 1981, Ronald Reagan was giving a speech to 3,500 members of the AFL-CIO at the Washington Hilton. John Hinckley, Jr. was waiting outside for the President and fired six bullets at Mr. Reagan. Although none hit him directly, it was later determined that a bullet ricocheted off of this limousine and pierced his chest underneath his left arm. Though it was not immediately apparent that he had been shot, the President soon began coughing up blood. Physicians at George Washington University hospital discovered that the bullet stopped within three inches of the President's heart. The chief surgeon at the hospital would later state that if the President had waited only five more minutes before arriving, he would have died. 12 days later, Mr. Reagan returned to the White House and the President limited his schedule to only two morning meetings a day. During that span of time, he only received one outside visitor. It was Terence Cardinal Cooke of New York who spent one hour with him on Good Friday. Michael Deaver would later write in his memoirs of the Reagan years that the President told the cardinal, "have decided whatever time I have left is for Him".

That should be the attitude of all of us! "Whatever time we have left should be for Him!" We are here to serve the King! That is our purpose in life.

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