“Then I saw that there is more gain in wisdom than in folly, as there is more gain in light than in darkness. The wise person has his eyes in his head, but the fool walks in darkness. And yet I perceived that the same event happens to all of them. Then I said in my heart, ‘What happens to the fool will happen to me also. Why then have I been so very wise?’ And I said in my heart that this also is vanity.”
“I have seen the business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God’s gift to man. I perceived that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it. God has done it, so that people fear before him.” (Ecclesiastes 3)
My dear child in the Lord,
“Who am I? Why am I here? What is my purpose in life?”
Those words always seemed both so silly and so fascinating to me when I was growing up. I still think of some crazy cartoon character getting a bonk on the head, lying down, half-dazed, and saying those words in a very funny voice. The deep personal crisis of those words might seem funny, because how could someone not know who they are? I am me. You are you. How could you forget that? And more importantly, why on earth would someone need to ask why they were here? Don’t they know about how God created the world? Don’t they know He wants them to be His children to live with Him in heaven?
Well, sadly, no. A lot of people don’t know about God or why He created them or what their purpose is in life.
To be honest though, there’s a lot packed into those questions that I didn’t appreciate when I was little. When I was little, my thinking about life was basically, “I am me. You are you. I don’t worry about why I’m here. I just enjoy what’s in front of me and try to do what my parents tell me, and life is simple.”
In a way, that kind of thinking really is enough. Listen to what your heavenly Parent tells you and enjoy the good gifts and duties He gives for you to do each day, and life is simple, and life is good.
“And [Jesus] said to his disciples, ‘Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest? Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you. Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.’” (Luke 12)
But there is a bit more that God wants us to think about in this life. Look the very next words of Jesus in Luke 12:
“Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. Stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning, and be like men who are waiting for their master to come home from the wedding feast, so that they may open the door to him at once when he comes and knocks. Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will dress himself for service and have them recline at table, and he will come and serve them. If he comes in the second watch, or in the third, and finds them awake, blessed are those servants! But know this, that if the master of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have left his house to be broken into. You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”
Clearly, it’s important to Jesus how we spend our time here before He takes us to Himself in heaven. He wants you to keep your heart focused on what’s to come, not just on enjoying this life. Sometimes, being faithful to God for the next life means things are harder in this life. God doesn’t want you to have a selfish heart that hoards money and gold like an evil dragon, but God wants you to love other people the way He loves you. Listen to Jesus. Then, by the power and work of His Word, you will follow Him. You will follow Him in how you live. You will follow Him in death and resurrection. And you will follow Him to heaven and enjoy that better heavenly treasure with Him once you get there.
This life doesn’t last long. It seems like a long time ahead of you. Old people like to talk about how fast time flies by, and how, once you’re old, you look back and see how fast everything happened. I’m a lot older than I once was, but my future still seems like a very long time ahead of me sometimes. But when I’ve completed a day, it’s hard to imagine how I had once thought that day would be distant in the future. Yesterday seemed like it would be a long day, and it kind of was at the time. But now it’s today. Yesterday is already gone. I won’t get to redo yesterday again.
What did you do yesterday? A harder question: what did you do yesterday that you still have to show for it today? I’m not sure I did much yesterday that still matters today. What will I have done today that will still matter tomorrow?
When this life is over, what will you have here that will still matter in the next life? Do you get to take anything with you to heaven? Money? Nope. Gold and silver, precious treasures, or fancy sculptures or artwork? Nope. Houses or boats or planes or computers or toys? Nope. Clothes? Nope, not even clothes. Nothing you can collect here gets to come with you. It will just be you before God, your Maker, without anything you might carry in your hands or any shirt to wear on your back.
So what’s the point of doing anything here before you die, if nothing gets to come with you?
Well, you see it’s not quite true that you don’t get to take anything with you when you die. There is one thing in particular that does last across both this life and the next. People!
“But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.”
(1 Corinthians 15)
“Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man. Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.” (John 5)
You are immortal. Your parents and your friends are immortal. Everyone is. That’s how God created us. When we die, we’ll all be resurrected again in new bodies. Some will rise to eternal life with God, but those who rejected God will rise to judgment, to spend eternity outside of Him.
That’s what this life is for. People.
God’s command to Adam and Eve in the good garden of Eden was to be fruitful and multiply, to grow God’s kingdom. Jesus’ command to His disciples was basically the same, to go throughout all the world, making disciples to grow God’s kingdom, baptizing them and teaching them His good Word. “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16).
Your purpose in life is to grow God’s kingdom and to be part of God’s kingdom. Jesus described this life as a kind of staging ground for the next life. He described it as a field of growing plants waiting for harvest. This life is where members of God’s kingdom are grown, and the next life is where we get to really start living. You might also think of this life as like a factory for making members of God’s kingdom. Or like a school for God’s kingdom, where you graduate when you die. But God describes it as like a garden, like a field of plants, so that’s the way we should think of it too.
“‘A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. . . . As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.’
“He put another parable before them, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also. And the servants of the master of the house came and said to him, “Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?” He said to them, “An enemy has done this.” So the servants said to him, “Then do you want us to go and gather them?” But he said, “No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, ‘Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’”” (Matthew 13)
God also speaks of the people in His kingdom as a growing body.
“And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” (Ephesians 4)
Does this mean everybody has to be a missionary or a pastor? No, there are lots of other jobs that need to be done in this life to support the work of growing God’s kingdom. What would a pastor eat if there were no farmers or bakers? What would the people who need to hear the Word eat?
“For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.” (Romans 12)
You have lots of people around you. You have your family. You can support them in their work. And even if you aren’t a pastor or a missionary, you can share the words of Jesus to everyone around you. In fact, you should share the words of Jesus however you can.
“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.” (Luke 9)
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5)
And that’s what Jesus did too. Listen to Jesus. Follow in His footsteps. “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19).
If you grow up to have a family of your own one day, by God’s grace you can get to take all your kids with you into eternity. And as you spread God’s Word and God’s love to other people you love, you can hope to enjoy everlasting life with them too. It’s the work of the Holy Spirit to create saving faith in people’s hearts, but God has said that He uses our words to bring that about.
“‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? . . . So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” (Romans 10)
The real best life in God’s kingdom is still to come, in the resurrection. This life here is the garden that’s growing that kingdom. God has given us the job of growing His kingdom in preparation for that wonderful day.
That’s who we are. That’s why we’re here. That’s our purpose in life. And I look forward to celebrating the resurrection with you when Jesus comes to take us home.
And that life is the life we live by listening to Christ.
“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.
“For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.
“Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.
“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8)