This is one of a series of posts exploring the topic of our human nature. In this series I want to take a look at the concept that we are made in God’s image, and explore some implications of that belief. For small group leaders – these topics could be good discussion starters in your small groups.
Today I’d like to think about the fact that we are made for a purpose.
Even people who don’t believe in God desire to find meaning, purpose and order in their lives. That is an intrinsic part of human nature and is increasingly recognized as a key to mental health. Some might argue that this desire for order, meaning and purpose just evolved by chance, but I don’t buy that argument. All around us we see that order, design and purpose are always the result of the application of an intelligent, creative and purposeful will. How can a random process with no intelligence, design or purpose result in an intelligent, incredibly complex being that is motivated to seek order and purpose? This is a logical fallacy – even a child can see that it makes no sense.
People desire order, meaning and purpose in their lives because we were made that way by God. One of the characteristics of God in Scripture is that God has a purpose, He has a redemptive plan. The pagan nations around Israel saw their gods as arbitrary, capricious and sometimes cruel. Not having any knowledge of the true God, they created gods as an explanation for the circumstances of life, and since life includes events that are random and unpredictable, they concluded that the gods – or some of them, anyway – must be cruel and not very dependable. But the God of the Bible is different. He is not the author of confusion or chaos. These come from his Enemy who seeks to steal, kill and destroy. The God of the Bible has a purpose. That purpose is to redeem the creation which has been marred by sin, to overcome and finally destroy all evil powers, and to make all things new.
Studies consistently show that older people living alone are happier and healthier if they have a pet or even some plants to care for. Why is this? There are probably several reasons, but surely one reason is that when we have someone or something to care for, we feel needed and valued. All of us have a deep need for significance – to feel that our lives count for something. In other words, we want to know that our life, and what we are doing, has some lasting value – that it has some purpose. That’s because we are made in God’s image. God assigned a high purpose to our first parents – they were God’s representatives, charged with governing the earth on His behalf, and called to live their lives as God’s friends, in close relationship with Him. He made each of us for a specific purpose too. Each of us reflects some aspect of His creative, purposeful nature.
In a future post I’ll talk more about how our various abilities and gifts reflect God’s creative purpose. For now let me close with a bit of my own testimony. When I surrendered control of my life to Jesus Christ at age 34, I found a peace I had never known before. It was good to know that I was forgiven and accepted and loved by God. But I still wanted to know that God had something significant for me to do! Was this just pride? I don’t think so. No doubt there was some pride mixed into my makeup at that time – I was a mixture of good and bad motives, and getting it all sorted out has been a lifelong process – but fundamentally, the desire to do something significant with our lives is part of the way we are made. It is part of God’s plan, part of what it means to be made in His image. That’s why Jesus treated His disciples as partners and entrusted His work to them. That’s also why U.S. President Barack Obama’s campaign slogan – Yes, we can – held such powerful appeal : because people want to know that they can make a difference.
Yes, we can – not all by ourselves, not on our own – but we can make a difference. We are made in God’s image, made for a purpose, and we can represent God’s purposes on earth. First we need to come to Jesus for cleansing and forgiveness – we need to let Him put our pride and self-will to death, not once but over and over again – but as He forms His character in us, restores and remakes us, and empowers us to do His works, we can play our part in seeing God’s good purposes fulfilled on the earth.
To think about :
- What difference does it make to the way you live your life to know that you were made for a purpose, and that God finds delight in you?