The Purpose of Life


“The glory of God is man fully alive. “

Saint Irenaeus

Lately I have been pondering the significance of death. Or more positively, the significance of life. What I have grown up with in my Christian heritage is the mindset that eternity – life after death – is all that really matters. That each person must make the right choice in this life (to accept Jesus) in order to enter the eternal life of God’s Kingdom. While this is all true and of utmost importance, it largely misses the point.

This mindset leads us to live life in such a way as to have only one goal – to arrive safely at death. Certainly God wants us to be with Him in eternity, but if that is all, why did He put us on this earth? Why must we endure all the trials, tribulations, pain and suffering? Why did we not start out in Heaven, enjoying eternal bless and fellowship with God and angels?

Heaven would not be heaven if it were populated with humans that lived as most do on earth – selfishly, with foolish and at times evil motives and actions. And God is not interested in a society of robots – people or other beings that do His bidding because they were made that way and have no choice. He did not want a population of subservient underlings (His ultimate goal for us is not perfect, sinless behavior – as obedient servants – it is so much higher than that), but created us in His image, to partner with Him creatively and in rulership of the earth. To procreate/reproduce after our own kind. To have a glory of our own — not equal to His, of course, but in like nature as His (Psalms 8, John 17:22). The glory of a victor – one that has overcome all the trials that an evil Enemy could throw his way (in the attempt to “steal, kill and destroy”: John 10:10) – by having walked by faith in partnership with the all-powerful, all-loving God that reveals Himself to the humble. Our glory is in our doing this (partnering with Him) by choice in the midst of opposition. His design is for a mutual love relationship with us, and love is always a matter of choice. Love is developed, tested, and proven by choices made in the face of opposition.

It’s an issue of character – inner quality and strength that is possible only through having struggled: there is no other way to become the persons God has designed you and me to be. Even Jesus gained favor through having suffered (Luke 2:52, Hebrews 5:8). Yes, we will spend eternity giving glory to God, as He is eternally worthy. But only in this life do we have the opportunity for costly worship – that which will bring the most glory to Him. There is little honor in making the easy choice, but when a choice really costs us there is great glory. Just consider the movies we love – the heroes that are heroes because of what they endured in their overcoming of great opposition.

This question of life purpose is not about eternal destiny, but about why you and I wake up to another day. What is my purpose on this earth at this very moment? What step of faith, act of love or humility, is before me right now? What opportunity to create, to take steps, large and small, to enhance the quality of life and bless others am I to take advantage of today? What choice of right over wrong, or self-sacrifice rather than self-indulgence, will result in another victory over our Enemy and give glory to God?

The Photo:

Crashing waves at Cape Kiwanda, Oregon.

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