“Where are we? From where have we come? Is there purpose in all that we see?” asks the wondering heart.
If you will, join me in contemplation. I will attempt to give satisfactory answers to these questions. You are free to disagree. You are free to criticize. And Christ has set you free to believe.
As I am sure you are already quite aware and sure of, we are all (except the NASA monkeys) on a swirling mass called earth. This earth was created by God, who made us, shaped us, and called us his sons and daughters.
“The Lord has made everything for its purpose, even the wicked for the day of trouble.” (Proverbs 16:4)
This purpose is only made clear through Christ Jesus’ Spirit in our lives, and though our sin blinds us from full visibility, God is sanctifying his people to be perfect like himself.
If a man does not accept the truths mentioned above, then where does his hope lie? Does he have an eternal, never-fading hope? If he rejects God and blasphemes the Holy Spirit, it would be better for him if he had never been born, for God’s judgement is severe. Yet God is merciful, gracious, and patient. He gave us now so that we might turn from our sin, and our sin, no matter how great, is not too big for God.
If we are to begin to at least faintly understand our purpose here and the purpose God had for creating us and the grand universe in which we exist, then we need to accept the absolute that God is I AM, and that His Word is truth. We must know and believe that God sent his one and only son to die for us and reverse the curse of sin. Through his death and resurrection we are justified.
Surely, you may reason, that purpose can be found elsewhere – away from all of this religion. Yes, you are correct. For even the greatest tyrants have their purposes. Yet this begs the question, what purpose are we talking about here? We are talking about God’s purpose for us and this universe. Many have trouble getting past the fundamental truth of “an all good God who allows bad things,” and so refute Christianity as a religion for hypocrites. Yet at the same time they approach the “problem of evil” without a sure knowledge of what is good and what is evil. For those of you who enjoy math this is like trying to do Calculus without having learned Algebra – without ever having learned that 1+1 = 2. It’s like driving a car with no gas or oil. It’s like eating food with no mouth.
The LORD is a God of love, mercy, grace, faithfulness, truth, humility, and all virtue. In Ephesians it says, “But God being rich in mercy, because of his great love for us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive in Christ.” Who has heard of a man loving his evil neighbor to the point of death? Christ has done this for the whole world, though we despised and hated him fiercely. (Romans 5:6-8)
You might still be thinking, “But how could a good God who is sovereign over all things allow evil in the world?” This is a very reasonable question, and it’s not necessarily even caused by doubt. The answer in some ways is simple, but let me first ask another question. If you wrote a story with good and evil characters, how would you answer the same question one of your characters is asking you?
“Hey, author! Would you answer a question for me?” a hero of your story asks.
“Sure, I’d love to,” you say.
“Why did you have to create all these enemies that burn and pillage our farms? Life would be much better without them. Everlasting peace would be the permanent state of life.”
Do you then say, “Oh no! My character found out that I am really evil because I created barbarians and arsonists in my story!” Or do you tell your character this, “Well, if evil, grief and pain never existed in my story, then there would be no way to understand goodness, joy, and health. But listen, I have very good news for you, your wife, your little ones, and every hero like you. At the end of the story, I will destroy all the bad characters and give everlasting life to every hero. Also, every hero will be made perfect and their death will be the deliverance from this world of transient joy and seemingly never ending woes. I won’t even remember all the bad things you did. This will work very well because you will have experienced evil, and though you will not remember what you have been saved from, that is evil and sin, you will remember what you have been saved to, that is everlasting life. Do you like that? If you do, then keep on being righteous!”
We may not ever know why God didn’t make the night for light and the day for darkness, or why he drew shades of light and dark on the canvas of the world in ways that we cannot comprehend, but we may believe with total assurance that everything has had and will have a purpose, just as death was made to test life and then swallow itself, as it is presently doing. Although it is easy for us to add evil to a “very good” story, it would be impossible for us, in our sinful state to create a perfect story, as God does, using evil as one of the colors. In other words, it is easier for us to paint a big black streak on a white canvas than it is to complete a painting using that black, ugly streak as part of a glorious and beautiful painting. That is because we are sinners, but God, in his mercy, through His Spirit, is sanctifying those who believe in Him. He is helping us to see how he is drawing His story. It is important to realize that this painting is not yet completed. The paint has dried in certain areas, but in many places it is still wet, and we can’t even see how much is still left to be painted. (N.D. Wilson inspired some of these thoughts when he talked about the “wet concrete of time” in his book Death By Living) But we can trust in the LORD, because He is the Triune God who breathed a canvas from nothing, and is using darkness that will eventually be all dried to emphasize the beauty of light, which won’t stop growing brighter.
“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning the first day.” (Genesis 1: 1-5)
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1: 1-5)
Thus, in the end and even if it doesn’t seem like it, God uses all things for his glory and, as Romans 8:28 declares, works out all things for good to them that love Him and are called according to His purpose. Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying that somehow understanding this makes all of the pain and sorrow go away. By no means! Trials are the fires of our sanctification. They are the embers which burn away our sinful dross. Yet knowing that God is sovereign over all things does make the pain bearable – just as the perishable wreath gives the runner motivation to finish the race. And we will receive a reward in due time. We have and are receiving the imperishable reward of eternal life with Christ. So keep on keeping on. As Josh Groban would say, “Don’t give up. Because you. Are. Loved.”
If you find your purpose in living to gain more money or more things or more happiness or more power, then I warn you that you will never find eternal fulfillment. Lust can never be satisfied, and Sheol will press on you until your soul is devoured. If you have time, think about the end of your actions. What is the end of your life’s grand plans and achievements? When your legs tremble beneath you and you struggle to take your final breaths, what will matter the most to you? If you will, seek and find. Ask and be given. Seek eternal peace. Ask for eternal life. As long as you are here, it’s not too late.
We may wonder why our lives have to be so long. I struggle with this question. How long, LORD? How long do we have to live here? But we should remember that there is purpose in every second that we live under the sun, and that we are truly blessed to be here. There is meaning in every breath. And, just as living was for Paul the Apostle, it should be for us. To live is Christ. To die is gain. God knows how long we must remain, so we must trust him. And remember, life is short. Lay down your life for Christ, because then, and only then, you can pick it up and truly live.
Praise the LORD Almighty, for he is marvelous. All history past, present, and future, including the lives of you and me, whom He made to share with Him in His glory, is His story.