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Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Your Special Purpose

It seems to be a standard question for people. "Why am I here? Why do I exist? What is my purpose in life?" Rick Warren wrote the popular book, The Purpose-Driven Life, because it is a principle concern for human beings. Of course, answering the question can be a little difficult sometimes, not because the answers are hard to find, but because there are so many. I am, for instance, a father, a son, a husband, and a brother. Each of these has its own implications for my purpose in life. And that's only scratching the surface. I am a father to my children as well as a spiritual father to others. I am a brother to my siblings as well as a brother in Christ. And the ripples just go on. So, it would seem, the quest for purpose has the potential to just go on and on without end.

It was with a little surprise, then, that I found a statement in Scripture about our purpose in life. It is, obviously, only a part of our purpose. Nonetheless, it is a purpose statement endorsed by God. That would put it higher than your or my opinion. It should also be enlightening. I mean, if God says that such and such is one of my purposes in life, that would make it a stand out. What is this unusual, God-given, biblical purpose?
This finds favor, if for the sake of conscience toward God a person bears up under sorrows when suffering unjustly. For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God. For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps (1 Peter 2:19-21).
Now, I know ... if you weren't paying attention and weren't expecting it, you may have missed it, even with my skillful use of bold print. So let's look at what Peter wrote. Something, he says, finds favor. What? God shows favor to those who bear up under sorrows when suffering unjustly. That's it. Okay. We get that. Fine. I mean, we likely don't like it and we'll certainly complain and probably sue someone over it, but ... okay, fine. But wait! He goes on to say that doing what is right, suffering for it, and patiently enduring that suffering is our purpose. When Peter writes, "You have been called for this purpose," the "this" in that sentence is that patient endurance of unjust suffering. That is God's purpose statement for Christians.

"Oh, my, I'm sure you're mistaken," you well might assure me. "That seems a bit much." And I well might agree if it didn't appear elsewhere.
Therefore, since Christ has suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same purpose, because he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for the lusts of men, but for the will of God (1 Peter 4:1-2).
In this passage, being followers of Christ, we are to arm ourselves with "the same purpose" -- suffering in the flesh. Again, God's purpose statement for Christians. But, wait! He actually explains a benefit. "He who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin." The suffering we endure improves us!

"Oh, come on, man! You're really losing it!" Perhaps, but Peter isn't the only one who said it.
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing (James 1:2-4).

But He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong (2 Cor 12:9-10).

For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in Him but also to suffer for His sake (Phil 1:29).
James agrees. Paul agrees. Peter agrees. It appears we have a quorum. Suffering is one of the clearly stated purposes for Christians. And it is good for you.

The Bible is not silent when it comes to our purpose. We know that we aren't random, just people adrift in time. Instead, we know "The LORD has made everything for its purpose, even the wicked for the day of trouble" (Prov 16:4). When the Pharisees "rejected God's purpose for themselves" (Luke 7:30), what purpose did they reject? To repent and be restored to a right relationship with God. Purpose. We know that "God has not called us for the purpose of impurity, but in sanctification" (1 Thess 4:7 -- see also 1 Tim 4:7). Purpose. It is quite clear that "We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them" (Eph 2:10). Purpose. "Do not return evil for evil or insult for insult, but give a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing" (1 Peter 3:9). Purpose. And one of God's purpose statements for His own is that we would be improved, purified, sanctified, and perfected through suffering. Peter says, "Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you" (1 Peter 4:12). Expect it. "Count it all joy." It's part of your purpose and for your benefit from a Father who loves you (Heb 12:4-11). Strengthen one another with these words.


Jeremy D. Troxler said...

Another good topic for thought. I've always liked the old saying that the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. Ultimately I think our purpose is to be that for which we were created. This preserves the collective perspective of God's glorification which every one will do and also the personal aspects of a personal creator who places the uniqueness of individuality into each one. So I can "be myself" by finding out who God created me to be and glorifying God in being that to the full, all under the auspices of the power of the Holy Spirit and under the authority of the full council of God in the form of the Word.

072591 said...

Having not studied this at length, I don't know the answer, but I want to know your opinion of this:

In light of this post, which you state that our purpose is to suffer for Christ, is it a sin to ask for a relief from that suffering?

Stan said...

To 072591, I would say, in light of Jesus's own words, it is not a sin to ask for relief. Jesus prayed, "Let this cup pass from Me." Paul prayed to have the thorn removed. It isn't wrong. Both cases included the concept, "Nevertheless, Thy will be done", and that would be where we might run into trouble. Too many people conclude, "If God doesn't alleviate my suffering, I won't worship Him." That would be sin.

Stan said...

It's interesting, Jeremy, that Jesus said, "Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven" (Matt 5:16). Thus, "good works" = "glorify your Father". But if you look at the context, these "good works" have a content. "Blessed are you when men cast insults at you, and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely, on account of Me" (Matt 5:11). Thus, while all "good works" bring glory to God, specifically doing good when suffering brings the highest glory to God. Another grand purpose for suffering the life of the believer.

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

You never cease to amaze me with your insights. Thanks for another great post!

Jeremy D. Troxler said...


This probably goes back to the issue 072591 was bringing out, namely the "good" things are those that God has for us. We oftentimes don't like them, but that doesn't move their goodness here or there. Suffering is only natural since all creation groans due to the corruption of the fall. There can be great joy, however, in the midst of those sufferings that are not removed by God after our prayers in the knowledge that all things are worked for our good by Him that loves us. In a nutshell, we are not made to suffer for sufferings sake; rather we go through this life, for good and for bad, for the sake of the Gospel and can exist in a joyful state of being regardless because of the grace of God.

starflyer said...

That's my brother!! (in-law)