Do you have purpose in your life? I have never met anyone who didn’t want to have purpose and meaning in their life. Rick Warren sold over 32 million copies of his book, Purpose Driven Life, indicating a fairly high level of interest in the subject.
Jesus said, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and finish his work.” (John 4:34) Jesus seemed to be equating food with purpose. In a way, food is similar to purpose in that they both keep us going and sustain us.
St. Paul, in his letter to the Philippians, reveals his quandary over whether he would prefer to be with Christ through death in his prison cell, or remain in this life and continue to proclaim Christ to the Philippians. He concludes that the Philippians need his continued presence and encouragement more. “I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body.” (Phil. 1:21-26)
As Christians, the Church teaches us that we are called to come to know God, to love him and to serve him in this life, so that we can be with him after this life and into eternity. How this plays out in real life varies with each individual, for God creates each one of us with unique characteristics, skills and purpose.
For me, I came to know God through the Christian heritage of my parents, as well as through a personal encounter with Jesus Christ forty years ago this month. Early in my adult life my primary purpose was to love and support my wife and children and advance in my career as an attorney for a large international oil company as far as possible.
I didn’t give much thought as to whether those two objectives were a purpose God had given me.
My wife and I practiced our Catholic faith by going to church every Sunday, raising our children with Christian values and getting involved in a few church activities. It wasn’t until we experienced a renewal of our faith through the power of the Holy Spirit in our mid-30’s that I began to look at the purpose for my life in the context of God’s will for me. Through that renewal experience, I began to have a desire to spend time with God each day in prayer and come to know him more fully by regularly reading scripture.
God enlarged my perspective of purpose. Loving and serving my family, and serving my employer and others were part of his desire for me. I came to understand that God wants us to be good stewards of the time, talents, responsibilities and people he entrusts to our care. Just as he commanded Peter at the end of John’s Gospel to feed and take care of his sheep, he commands us to love and take care of the people he puts in our lives. He wants us to help lead them to Him and where he wants them to be.
“And we know in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)