Christian Biblical Counsel: PURPOSE IN LIFE

Purpose in Life

Pinpointing Your Priorities

by June Hunt

Is there any purpose in my life? People everywhere long to know the purpose for their lives. Yet for many, that sense of purpose seems elusive. As is true to life, one of Shakespeare’s tragic characters sought his purpose through power. Macbeth murders the King of Scotland, seizes the throne, but swiftly descends to his doom. While ghosts from the past haunt him, civil war rages, and his wife dies of insanity. In despair, Macbeth utters these dark thoughts about the lack of purpose in life:

Out, out, brief candle!

Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player

That struts and frets his hour upon the stage

And then is heard no more. It is a tale

Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,

Signifying nothing.

(Macbeth, Act 5, Scene 5)

Life, however, is not a Shakespearean play … an hour upon the stages and then heard no more. God created your life to have a supernatural purpose. As amazing as it may sound, you were created to reflect the Lord.… If you are a true Christian, you will increasingly be transformed to be like Christ.

“We, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”

(2 Corinthians 3:18)

I.     DEFINITIONS

A. What Is My Purpose in Life?

•     Your purpose in life is that which gives you a reason for living, the reason why God put you here on earth.

•     Your purpose in life is an expression of your personal significance to God.

•     Your purpose in life will be unique to you, based on God’s personalized plan for you.

Q   “I don’t feel like my life has any purpose. Is there any hope for me?”

Yes. You have hope—you were created by the God of hope. In the Bible, God says that He created you with a specific plan for your life. Your life can be filled with hope and purpose when you choose to follow God’s will.

“ ‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’ ” (Jeremiah 29:11)

B. What Is My Significance?

•     Your significance means your importance.

•     Your significance refers to your personal value, your individual worth.

•     A sense of significance is one of your three God-given inner needs. Those three inner needs are:

Love

—  receiving an unchanging, unconditional commitment from another for what is best for you

“My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.” (John 15:12)

Significance

—  knowing the meaning and purpose for your life

“I cry out to God Most High, to God, who fulfills his purpose for me.” (Psalm 57:2)

Security

—  being grounded with an unshakable sense of belonging and acceptance

“He who fears the Lord has a secure fortress.” (Proverbs 14:26)

•     Even if you haven’t said these exact words, the following statements express a desire of your heart:

—“I want my life to count.”

—“I want my life to make a difference.”

—“I want my life to be significant.”

—“I want my life to have meaning.”

—“I want my life to have purpose.”

—“I want to have an impact.”

—“I want to do something important.”

Q   “I’ve always felt insignificant. When comparing myself to others who are more gifted and accomplished than I am, how can I not feel insignificant?”

You already have God-given significance … not because of anything you have done, but because of what Christ has done for you.

•     You were significant enough for God to create you in His image.

“Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.’ ” (Genesis 1:26)

•     You were significant enough for the Lord to design a preplanned future for you.

“ ‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’ ” (Jeremiah 29:11)

•     You were significant enough for Jesus to die on the cross for you.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

Realize that Jesus would not die for anything or anyone insignificant. You, indeed, have God-given worth.

“Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” (Luke 12:6–7)

C. What Are Some Key Questions about Your Purpose?

Q   “Do I have only one purpose in life?”

No. You will have several purposes, depending on the major roles in your life.

For example, a teenager’s purpose may be:

•     to grow in Christlike character

“For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son.” (Romans 8:29)

•     to bring honor to his parents

“Honor your father and your mother.” (Exodus 20:12)

•     to be the best student he can possibly be in order to bring glory to God

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.” (Colossians 3:23)

Q   “Can my purposes change?”

Yes. Some purposes will change, depending on the major changes in your life.

For example, a former student may marry and have children. Therefore, some of his former purposes as a student are no longer applicable. Now, his major life purposes may be:

•     to grow in Christlike character

“For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son.” (Romans 8:29)

•     to sacrificially love his wife as Christ loved the church

“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” (Ephesians 5:25)

•     to teach his children by lifestyle

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”

(Deuteronomy 6:5–7)

Q   “Are purposes and goals the same?”

No. Purposes are different from goals; however, they are related. Your purposes answer, “Why am I here on earth?” Your goals answer, “What do I want to do here on earth?” The relationship between the two is that the goals you set should work together to help you reach your purposes.

For example, one of your purposes could be to “honor your father and your mother.” Yet, if your father is painfully critical, your short-term goal could be to pray for him every time you are around him and every time you think of him. You would be doing what Jesus said:

“Pray for those who persecute you.” (Matthew 5:44)

Q   “What is God’s purpose for my life?”

God’s highest purpose for your life is to conform you to the character of Christ.

The New Testament Greek word for “conform” is summorphos, which means “made like another.” The apostle Paul said,

“For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son.” (Romans 8:29)

Q   “What should my highest purpose be?”

Your highest purpose—and that of all creation—is to bring glory to God. The Bible highlights this by saying:

“In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory.” (Ephesians 1:11–12)

The New Testament Greek word for “glory,” doxa, signifies “an estimate” of worth.

An “estimate” from a jeweler is a piece of paper that reflects the accurate value of a piece of jewelry. When you accurately reflect the character of Christ, you give God glory!

“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31)

 

II.    CHARACTERISTICS OF MISPLACED PURPOSES

A determined young man sought to fulfill his purpose in life by serving his country as a corporal in World War I. After the war, his strong sense of patriotism led him in the direction of politics. Surrounding himself with a handful of like-minded men, he eventually emerged as a dominant political force. His influence was literally felt around the world. Unfortunately, people can seek to find fulfillment in negative ways, as seen in the life of Adolf Hitler, who was that young man. His misplaced purpose in life was to rid the world of people not like him. Hitler’s Nazi regime not only provoked World War II, but his forces killed approximately six million Jews, as well as five million other people whom he regarded as racially inferior or politically dangerous. Ultimately, Hitler committed suicide.

“There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.”

(Proverbs 14:12)

A. Roads to Nowhere

Those who waste their lives chasing worldly desires eventually come to realize their ultimate emptiness. Fulfillment is never found in earthly power, pleasure or personal gain.

“I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind.”

(Ecclesiastes 1:14)

Externally focused

 

concerned   about outward appearances of success

 

Materialistic

 

impressed with   money and possessions

 

Pleasure seeking

 

seeking   happiness as highest goal in life—hedonism

 

Task oriented

 

placing   projects over people—workaholism

 

Insecure

 

people-pleasing,   codependent relationships

 

Negative thinking

 

dissatisfied,   disinterested, bored and bitter

 

Escaping reality

 

numbing   reality through alcohol, food, drugs, activities

 

Sexually promiscuous

 

addicted to   the “high” of sexual passion

 

Status seeking

 

seeking fame,   power or intellectualism as highest goal in life

 

“Do you see a man wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.”

(Proverbs 26:12)

B. Thoughts of Meaninglessness

•     “Life has no meaning.”

•     “Life’s not worth living.”

•     “I have no sense of purpose.”

•     “You can’t count on anything.”

•     “I feel insignificant.”

•     “Nothing is worthwhile.”

•     “Nothing really matters.”

•     “What’s the point of it all?”

“When I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun.”

(Ecclesiastes 2:11)

 

III.   CAUSES FOR NOT FINDING PURPOSE IN LIFE

Can you imagine being the richest of the rich? Wouldn’t wealth provide for every purpose in life? King Solomon was abundantly blessed with power and every conceivable material possession. With his 700 wives and 300 concubines, he lavished upon himself every human pleasure. Yet, all these things could not bring satisfaction to his soul. Through Solomon, we see that money cannot buy meaning to life … possessions will never buy purpose in life.

“God gives a man wealth, possessions and honor, so that he lacks nothing his heart desires, but God does not enable him to enjoy them, and a stranger enjoys them instead. This is meaningless, a grievous evil.”

(Ecclesiastes 6:2)

A. Seeking Significance “In All the Wrong Places”

“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.”

(Matthew 7:13)

Seeking to be   happy

 

vs.

 

seeking to be   holy

 

Seeking to be   religious in a church

 

vs.

 

seeking to   grow in a relationship with Christ

 

Seeking   cultural Christianity

 

vs.

 

seeking   biblical Christianity

 

Seeking   external do’s and don’ts

 

vs.

 

seeking   internal obedience of the heart

 

Seeking human   approval

 

vs.

 

seeking God’s   approval

 

Seeking your   own will

 

vs.

 

seeking God’s   will

 

Seeking to   live for present gain

 

vs.

 

seeking to   live for eternal values

 

“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

(2 Corinthians 4:18)

B. Root Cause

Wrong Belief:

“I’ll feel significant if my possessions, popularity and power increase.”

Right Belief:

My significance is based on God’s fulfilling His purpose for me by conforming my character to Christ’s character.

“The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me.” (Psalm 138:8)

 

IV.  STEPS TO SOLUTION

A. Key Verse to Memorize

“We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

(Romans 8:28)

B. Key Passage to Read and Reread

Solomon may be considered the wisest of men, but he undoubtedly learned much through trial and error … mostly error. His last recorded writing, Ecclesiastes, is Solomon’s autobiography. In it he documents his continual efforts to find satisfaction—efforts that brought no fulfillment, only futility. By reading Ecclesiastes, you can learn what to eliminate in life. What can look like the proverbial “pot of gold” is merely a chasing after the wind … in the end, that pot is empty.

(Read the Book of Ecclesiastes.)

Nature of Book

A philosophical book through which God presents the ultimate end of human reasoning in contrast to divine reasoning.

Theme of Book

All human pursuit and pleasure are meaningless apart from God.

Purpose of Book

To show the emptiness of everything “under the sun” in contrast to the fullness of God’s perfect plan.

“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.”

(Ecclesiastes 3:11)

Contemplation

 

•     Chapter 1

 

Human   wisdom is worthless … without God.

 

v. 17

 

•     Chapter 2

 

All   pleasures are empty … without God.

 

v. 1

 

•     Chapter 3

 

Life   itself is meaningless … without God.

 

vv. 18–19

 

•     Chapter 4

 

Work   and achievement are pointless … without God.

 

v. 4

 

•     Chapter 5

 

Religious   rituals are pointless … without God.

 

v. 1

 

•     Chapter 6

 

Great   wealth brings dissatisfaction … without God.

 

v. 2

 

Conclusions

 

•     Chapter 7

 

Reputation   is not remembered.

 

v. 1

 

•     Chapter 8

 

Fear   of and reverence for God make life better.

 

v. 13

 

•     Chapter 9

 

Life   without God is uncertain.

 

v. 1

 

•     Chapter 10

 

Life   without God seems unfair.

 

v. 7

 

•     Chapter 11

 

Seek   God when you are young.

 

v. 9

 

•     Chapter 12

 

A   purpose of life is to revere God.

 

v. 14

 

“Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.”

(Ecclesiastes 12:13–14)

C. How to Develop a Life Plan

•     Discern the eternal meaning of your life.

Q   “Why was I created?”

You were created …

•     to be like God in true righteousness and holiness

“Put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Ephesians 4:24)

•     to let God be the true King of your heart

“Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness.” (Matthew 6:33)

•     to be the image bearer of God

“God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:27)

•     to be conformed to the character of Christ

“Those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son.” (Romans 8:29)

•     to bring glory to God

“Everyone who is called by my name … I created for my glory … I formed and made.” (Isaiah 43:7)

•     Discover the earthly purpose of your life.

Q   “Does God have a personal and unique purpose for my life?”

Yes, and the purposes for your life were preplanned in the heart of God.

“For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:10)

•     Realize God’s promise to reveal His purpose for you.

“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you.” (Psalm 32:8)

•     Realize the power of prayer to reveal God’s purpose.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6–7)

•     Realize how God will use your spiritual gifts to accomplish your purpose.

“We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.” (Romans 12:6–8)

•     Realize the value of asking practical questions of godly counselors.

“A wise man listens to advice.” (Proverbs 12:15)

—  What are your God-given responsibilities?

—  What activities have been most fulfilling, bringing joy to your heart?

—  What work has been most successful to you?

—  What is your primary God-given spiritual gift for serving others?

—  What desires do you often think about?

“Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.” (Psalm 37:4)

•     Discover God’s leading through your circumstances.

“Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” (Proverbs 19:21)

•     Discover opportunity through obedience.

“If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the best from the land.” (Isaiah 1:19)

Discover how to wait for God’s timing.

“Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.” (Psalm 27:14)

“A man’s steps are directed by the Lord.” (Proverbs 20:24)

•     Determine the essential goals for your life.

Q   “How do I choose goals that are right for me?”

Define goals that will help you achieve your purposes:

•     goals that are specific

•     goals that are reachable

•     goals with a deadline for completion

•     goals that are important

•     goals that are not dependent on others for success

•     goals that benefit others

•     goals that do not contradict the will of God

“We make it our goal to please him.” (2 Corinthians 5:9)

D. Myths and Truths

Myth:

“The mistakes of my past have destroyed my chance for a meaningful life.”

Example: a sexually promiscuous past

Truth:

When you became a Christian, God forgave you for all of your sins. God erased your past, and He sees you as righteous.

“If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17)

Myth:

“The purpose for my life is gone, and I now have no sense of fulfillment.”

Example: the death of a spouse

Truth:

Every true Christian is complete in Christ and is being conformed to the character of Christ.

“For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ.” (Colossians 2:9–10)

Myth:

“The purpose for my life has changed. What will I do now?”

Example: a mother whose children are grown and gone

Truth:

When God brings a major change into your life, He also provides you with a new purpose.

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing!” (Isaiah 43:18–19)

Myth:

“I am disabled and unable to be useful and productive. What purpose could I possibly have?”

Example: a paraplegic

Truth:

God has a plan and a purpose for every life He has created … perhaps making you into a faithful prayer warrior.

“ ‘I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’ ” (Jeremiah 29:11)

Prayer of Purpose

 

Dear   Heavenly Father,

I am   amazed that You have a unique plan and purpose for me! How I thank You for wanting   to be involved in the most intimate details of my life. It gives me   tremendous hope to realize my entire life has meaning and that You can   accomplish Your purposes no matter what I have or haven’t done. I ask that   You reveal Your purposes for my life as I study Your Word and pray for Your   leading. Help me discover Your specific goals and plans for my life in order   to fulfill those purposes. Thank You, Father, that You know the true desires   of my heart and that You will work in my life to accomplish my reason for   living!

In   Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

E. Hitting the Target

Well-aimed goals propel you to “hit the target” of God’s purpose for your life.

Your Purpose

 

 

 

Your Goals

 

•     The   reason for your life

—  Purposes relate to the long-term plan God designed for you.

“In him we   were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who   works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will.” (Ephesians   1:11)

 

 

 

•     The   routes to reach your purpose

—  Goals relate to the different types of work God leads you to do to   accomplish your purpose.

“There are   different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of   working, but the same God works all of them in all men.” (1 Corinthians   12:5–6)

 

Your Purpose

 

 

 

Your Goals

 

•     The   “why” of your life (Why you are here on earth)

—  Purposes relate to the aim of your life.

“For those God   foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son.”   (Romans 8:29)

 

 

 

•     The   “what” of your life (What you do on earth)

—  Goals relate to the activities in your life.

“Be very   careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of   every opportunity.… Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the   Lord’s will is.” (Ephesians 5:15–17)

 

•     Establish   God’s target

—  Purposes are the inspiration behind your achievements.

“Continue to   work out your salvation with fear and trembling.” (Philippians 2:12)

 

 

 

•     Measure   the movements to the target

—  Goals are the individual achievements.

“And that you,   O Lord, are loving. Surely you will reward each person according to what he   has done.” (Psalm 62:12)

 

•     Develop   your life message

—  Purposes produce inner peace.

“May the God   of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may   overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13)

 

 

 

•     Draw   from your talents and abilities

—  Goals reveal outer progress.

“Each one   should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully   administering God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, he should   do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do   it with the strength God provides.” (1 Peter 4:10–11)

 

“Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead. I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

(Philippians 3:13–14)

If   you took a ring to a jeweler, his “estimate” would reflect its value. The   Greek word translated “glorify” means literally to “give an estimate.” How   significant! God’s highest purpose for you is to glorify Him—to be a jewel   that reflects to others an accurate estimate of God!

 

SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY

Barton, Ruth Haley. The Truths that Free Us. Colorado Springs, CO: WaterBrook, 2002.

Blackaby, Henry T. Created to Be God’s Friend: How God Shapes Those He Loves. Nashville: Oliver-Nelson, 1999.

Blackaby, Henry T., and Kerry L. Skinner. Created to Be God’s Friend Workbook. Nashville: Oliver-Nelson, 2000.

Crabb. Lawrence J., Jr. Understanding People: Deep Longings for Relationship. Ministry Resources Library. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1987.

Howard, Rick, and Jamie Lash. This Was Your Life!: Preparing to Meet God Face to Face. Grand Rapids: Chosen, 1998.

Hunt, June. Counseling Through Your Bible Handbook. Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2007.

Hunt, June. How to Forgive … When You Don’t Feel Like It. Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2007.

Hunt, June. How to Handle Your Emotions. Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2008.

Hunt, June. Seeing Yourself Through God’s Eyes. Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2008.

MacDonald, Gordon. Mid-Course Correction. Nashville: Oliver-Nelson, 2000.

McGee, Robert S. The Search for Significance. 2nd ed. Houston, TX: Rapha, 1990.

Morley, Patrick M. The Man in the Mirror: Solving the 24 Problems Men Face Brentwood, TN: Wohlgemuth and Hyatt, 1989.

Poinsett, Brenda. What Will I Do with the Rest of My Life? A Woman’s Guide to Discovering Peace, Power and Purpose after 40. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2000.

Sine, Christine, and Tom Sine. Living on Purpose: Finding God’s Best for Your Life. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2002.

Stanley, Andy. Visioneering. Sisters, OR: Multnomah, 1999.

Ulmer, Kenneth C. Spiritually Fit to Run the Race: A Personal Training Manual for Godly Living. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1999.[1]

 


[1] Hunt, J. (2008). Biblical Counseling Keys on Purpose in Life: Pinpointing Your Priorities (1–16). Dallas, TX: Hope For The Heart.

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