What on earth am I here for?
By Rick Warren
Most people struggle with three basic issues in life. The first is the issue of existence: "Why am I alive?" The second is the issue of significance: "Does my life matter?" And the third is the issue of intention: "What is my purpose?" The answers to all three are found in understanding God's five reasons for creating you and putting you on earth.
God's purpose for your life is far greater than your own personal fulfillment, your peace of mind or even your happiness. It will last longer than your family, your career or even your wildest dreams and ambitions. If you want to know why you were placed on this planet, you must begin with God. You were born by his purpose and for his purpose.
Even Bertrand Russell, the renowned atheist admitted, "Unless you assume a God, the question of life's purpose is meaningless."
The search for the purpose of life has puzzled people for thousands of years. That's because we typically begin at the wrong starting point -- ourselves. We ask self-centered questions like: What do I want to do with my life? What are my goals, my ambitions, my dreams for my future? But focusing on yourself will never reveal your life's purpose. The Bible says, "Everything, absolutely everything, above and below, visible and invisible, ... everything got started in him and finds its purpose in him" (1 Colossians 1:16, The Message).
Contrary to many popular books, movies and seminars, you won't discover your life's meaning by looking within yourself. You've probably tried that already. You didn't create yourself so there is no way you can tell yourself what you were created for! If I handed you an invention you'd never seen before, you wouldn't know its purpose, and the invention itself wouldn't be able to tell you either. Only the Creator or the owner's manual could reveal its purpose.
I once got lost in the mountains. When I stopped to ask for directions to the campsite, I was told, "You can't get there from here. You must start from the other side of the mountain!" In the same way, you cannot arrive at your life's purpose by starting with a focus on yourself. You must begin with God, your Creator. You exist only because God wills that you exist. You were made by God and for God -- and until you understand that, life will never make sense. It is only in God that we discover our origin, our identity, our meaning, our purpose, our significance and our destiny. Every other path leads to a dead end.
So many people try to use God for their own self-actualization, but that is a reversal of nature and is doomed to failure. You were made for God, not vice versa, and life is about letting God use you for his purposes, not you using him for your own purposes.
I've read many books that suggested ways to discover the purpose of my life. All of them could be classified as "self-help" books because they approached the subject from a self-centered viewpoint. Self-help books, even Christian ones, usually offer the same predictable steps to finding your life's purpose: Consider your dreams. Clarify your values. Set some goals. Figure out what you are good at. Aim high. Go for it. Be disciplined. Believe you can achieve your goals. Involve others. Never give up.
Of course, these recommendations often lead to great success. You can usually succeed in reaching a goal if you put your mind to it. But being successful and fulfilling your life's purpose are not at all the same issue! You could reach all your personal goals, becoming a raving success by the world's standard, and still miss the purposes for which God created you.
How then do you discover the purpose you were created for? You only have two options. Your first option is speculation. This is what most people do. They conjecture, they guess, they theorize. When people say, "I've always thought life is ..." they mean, "This is the best guess I can come up with."
Fortunately, there is an alternative to speculation about the meaning and purpose of life. It's revelation. We can turn to what God has revealed about life in his Word. The easiest way to discover the purpose of an invention is to ask the creator of it. The same is true for discovering your life's purpose: ask God.
God has not left us in the dark to wonder and guess. He has clearly revealed his five purposes for our lives through the Bible. It's our owner's manual, explaining why we are alive, how life works, what to avoid and what to expect in the future. It explains what no self-help or philosophy book could know.
The Bible says, "It's in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for. Long before we first heard of Christ and got our hopes up, he had his eye on us, had designs on us for glorious living, part of the overall purpose he is working out in everything and everyone" (Ephesians 1:11, The Message).