What is My Purpose?
Study Guide, April 3, 2022
Pastor Clay Olsen
In 1646 a group of English and Scottish theologians compiled a manual to use for basic instruction for families for Biblical knowledge and understanding. That manual came to be known as The Westminster Shorter Catechism. They chose to begin with one of the most asked questions by people throughout history. That question is: “What is my purpose?” They phrased it like this: “What is the chief aim of man?” And the answer: “The chief aim of man is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.”
What a great perspective! Right away it links us to God, and it links God with joy and joy with God! It connects man’s greatest experience with man’s greatest privilege…to know God and to glorify Him in our lives…thus reaping joy. It even sets the focus on not just doing things for God, but on doing things for God based upon being in this marvelous and privileged relationship with God!
So right away we see a huge mental adjustment that we are to make in not just asking the question of “What is my purpose?”, but asking, “What is God’s purpose for my life?” And in asking this it turns our attention to, not only what am I to do, but also, what am I to be? Meaning…people usually ask the question of “What is my purpose?” with the focus on ‘the doing’…as in what should I be doing? But the Scriptures always focus first not on the issue of ‘doing’, but first on the issue of ‘being’…because what comprises your ‘being’ will determine your ‘doing’, or at least what becomes of whatever it is that you do. That’s one reason the Apostle Paul tells us: 1 Cor 10:31- “Whether then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” NASU We are not only to see everything that we do in connection with our relationship to God, but we are also to do everything that we do to the glory of God. So now when thinking about ‘my purpose’, we are to think of it in direct connection with ‘my God’! So now ‘my purpose’ is directly connected to ‘my daily and my eternal relationship with my God’!
It’s as Dr. Hendricks often said, “Who you are is more important than what you do; because ‘who’ you are will determine ‘what’ you do.” Yes, ‘who you are’ will determine either the lasting value or the fleeting vanity of whatever it is that you do. Who you are in your character will determine either the gain or the loss of whatever you do in your conduct. Remember, the most important part of your conduct is your character. The most important part of whatever it is that you do is your motive for whatever it was that you did. Here are some essential memory verses for us all to know:
Prov 16:2- “All the ways of a man are clean in his own sight, but the Lord weighs the motives.” NASU
1 Cor 4:5- “Therefore do not go on passing judgment before the time, but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men’s hearts; and then each man’s praise will come to him from God.” NASU
In other words, what determines the real value, the lasting value, the rewardable value of whatever it is that we do is based upon the motive or motives for whatever it is we have done or plan to do. And in order to simplify our thinking about all of that, Paul helps us immensely by basically saying to us all, “Whatever you do, make sure you do it in a way that honors and pleases God. Because if that’s not your motive, then you will not have accomplished what you think you accomplished in whatever it was that you did.”
And Paul’s striking example of that is what he said about the essential motive of ‘love’ in all that we do. Remember that? 1 Cor 13:1-3- “If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.” NASU Paul is simply getting real with us here. He says that the absence of the motive of love in whatever it is that we do cancels out the true good and the lasting value and the eternal reward of whatever it is that we did.
You talk about an ‘essential motive’ to practice in whatever we do…that motive is ‘love’! Think about what Paul revealed here: If we know much, but do not have love…if we do much, but do not have love…if we have much, but do not have love…what is the sum total of that? The sum total of everything that we know plus everything we have done plus everything that we have minus love equals – ‘Nothing’! So one essential part of your purpose in life is to commit to injecting ‘Biblical love’ into whatever knowledge you acquire, and into whatever good thing that you do or grand thing that you accomplish, and into whatever you acquire or share with others. God made it very clear: In order for anything in our lives to last, each thing must be laced with love. Sure, at times it may be ‘tough love’, just as we saw Jesus demonstrate in His dealings with hard hearted people, but love, just the same…as opposed to malice and slander and spite and grudges and so on. Again, mark it down: Love is the essential component that determines what will have lasting value or what will come to ‘nothing’.
But since we are talking about motives, we need to clarify something about one so-called motive that causes much confusion in the life and service of many Christians. Many Christians base much of their service and works upon one of the least important motives in all of life…that is, based upon whether they ‘want to’ or ‘feel like it’. And even more confusing, many think that if it’s really something that God wants them to do then they will want to do it, too. And if they don’t want to do it, then they either just dismiss it, or they go ahead and do it, but then they feel really guilty because they think that since they didn’t want to do it, their reluctance to do it will cancel out the fact that they did it.
Sound confusing? That’s because that kind of thinking is confusing, and it is also so unnecessary, because the Bible is filled with heroes of the faith that reluctantly did things that they didn’t want to do, but they went ahead and did them simply because God wanted them to do it and thus, it was the right thing to do. And God, who wasn’t expecting them to want to do it anyway, blessed them and rewarded them because they were ‘willing’ to do what they didn’t ‘want’ to do for the sake of glorifying their God and pleasing their God! And if you can learn this principle of ‘the blessings of reluctant obedience’ you will free yourself from unnecessary guilt and angst, and you will then sense a new release in yourself to reach a new level in the adventure of service and work for the sake of Jesus.
Here’s the exact story that Jesus gave to us to teach us this principle of the rewards of reluctant obedience and how it glorifies God. The whole context reveals the receiving of God by repentant sinners as opposed to unrepentant sinners, but the application of it reveals the approval of God upon reluctant yet obedient service. Notice what Jesus said: Matt 21:28-31- “But what do you think? A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, ‘Son, go work today in the vineyard.’ “And he answered, ‘I will not’; but afterward he regretted it and went. “The man came to the second and said the same thing; and he answered, ‘I will, sir’; but he did not go. “Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” NASU
The point we are making is that God values willingness even when there is little or no ‘wanting-ness’. (That’s a real word, isn’t it? wanting-ness…or it should be) Case in point: Here are two different versions of Moses’ encounter with God. One is accurate and the other is not…see if you can tell which is which:
Ex 3:10- “Therefore, come now, and I will send you to Pharaoh, so that you may bring My people, the sons of Israel, out of Egypt.” NASU
Then this one: “Therefore, if you want to, I will send you to Pharaoh, so that you may bring My people, the sons of Israel, out of Egypt.”
Right, God never asked Moses if he wanted to do this task. God already knew that Moses didn’t want to give the rest of his life to delivering and leading this nascent nation of Israel. Nor did God expect Moses to want to do it. But God loved Moses and He knew that Moses loved his Lord, and because he loved his Lord he would be ‘willing’ to do it, with God’s persuasion, even though he didn’t want to do it. God even assisted Moses in his ‘willingness’, even though God knew Moses didn’t ‘want’ to do it. And even after leading the Israelites for years Moses still didn’t ‘want’ to do it. In a strange way, and somewhat surprisingly humorous way, notice what Moses once said to God about his challenge of working with the Israelites. Num 11:14-15- “I alone am not able to carry all this people, because it is too burdensome for me. So if You are going to deal thus with me, please kill me at once, if I have found favor in Your sight, and do not let me see my wretchedness.” NASU That’s kind of a different prayer, right? It’s like Moses saying, “O Lord, if you will do me a real kindness, just kill me now!” That’s how rough it was on Moses working with this stubborn and rebellious people.
But the point is, do not worry about not wanting to do what you know is the right thing to do. Don’t worry about not feeling like doing something that you know is the God honoring and God pleasing thing to do. That’s why we are called to walk ‘by faith’ and not ‘by sight’…not by our feelings about it. Remember – Our old nature still messes with our new nature when it comes to serving and obeying God. So pay less attention to your wanting to do God’s will or to your feelings about obeying God’s Word and instead, by faith, just be willing to do whatever you ought to do in order to glorify God and bless others. And when you do, guess what…that ‘faith walk’ is the very way to then experience the rest of that statement… ‘…and enjoy Him forever’. It is the obedience of faith that opens the experience of joy. Plus remember, right feelings often follow right actions…they often don’t precede them.
Again, God knows that our wants and our feelings are not what are supposed to guide our actions and reactions anyway. Our actions in life and our reactions to life are to be guided by the Will of God and the Word of God. And our natural wants and our natural feelings are often in conflict with the supernatural Will and supernatural Word of God. But when we are willing to do what we may not want to do, and when we are willing to obey what we may not feel like obeying, it is this ‘willingness’ to honor God’s will above our own wants that both glorifies God and pleases God! And whatever glorifies God will for sure become ‘gain’ for us. God will make sure of that!
So, once again, whatever angst or worries you have had or guilt you’ve felt because you thought that your obedience to the Will and Word of God should be accompanied by a greater ‘wanting’ to do whatever that is that you should be doing…Friends, you can just let go of those worries…let them be washed away by the revelation of God’s Word that reveals that God honors ‘reluctant obedience’ and even rewards it, because it means that you are choosing to glorify and honor God even above your own wants and feelings about it all. You are in good company with Moses and Gideon and Jeremiah and Ezekiel and Peter and Paul and more. They were all ‘reluctant servants’, but they were all ‘willing servants’ because of Who it was they served and Who it was that they sought to glorify. They made it their purpose in life that whatever they did they chose to do it all to the glory and for the pleasure of their great God and Savior, Jesus Christ!
So again, don’t worry if you are reluctant at first about some particular service or some particular obedience. God credits reluctant obedience as ‘obedience’ just the same. God never requires us to ‘want’ to do what is right…He is only calling us to be ‘willing’ to do what is right. He will help us with our ‘wants’ after we get rolling in ‘obedience’.
Here’s something remarkable: In the Psalms we find David praying that God would even help him with his willingness to obey. It’s fascinating what he said:
Ps 51:12- “Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, and make me willing to obey You.” NLT It was like David was asking God to over-ride David’s own will with His will. And how amazing it is that like Jesus taught, the more that we choose to do God’s Will and choose to obey God’s Word that we will then find that we really are happier for having done so. The happiness follows the obedience. The joys follow the disciplines. And this then will influence our willingness to obey even more, because by nature we want to be happy. And God will even help our ‘wants’ to rightly then adjust to our ‘will’, since our will to obey will both glorify God and will help us to enjoy our relationship with God forever. It is the doing of God’s will that results in our experience of happiness, which our soul wants anyway! Learn the Biblical secret and then practice the Biblical joys of working from inside the Word out…to outside in your life…just make sure not to work the other way around.
And now, as we partake of the Lord’s Supper together, realize that in doing so we really are glorifying God and bringing glory to God. God joyfully receives our offering of thanksgiving and devotion and adoration in our thanking Him for His sacrifice of His life so that we could be forgiven the sentence of our sin and be given a share in His own eternal life. And then we also glorify God by proclaiming these truths to a world captured by falsehoods and sin. We glorify God by finding ways to share the light of the Gospel of life to a lost and dying world around us. We glorify God by looking forward to when we will share this Lord’s Supper again in the very presence of our Lord Jesus…sharing it in our new Kingdom with Him.