The most satisfying thing for us is to know that we are living for God’s purposes because it gives our lives direction, meaning and contentment.
The foundational purpose for our lives is written like this in the Westminster Shorter Catechism:
Q: What is the chief end of man?‘The Westminster Shorter Catechism’ 1
A: Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.”
God’s purpose is specific to each one of us as He sees our every move and knows all our plans.
God has not only a purpose for our individual lives but also plans for groups and even complete nations.
Jonah, a prophet of the Lord, was told to go and speak to an evil world power, naturally, Jonah thought that was a really bad idea.
So he walked in exactly the opposite direction and most of us might remember where that made him end up – in the belly of the whale!
But he couldn’t continue to resist God and he ended up doing what God told him to do in the first place!
Contentment in this life comes down to trusting God and following what he wants.
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1. God chooses individuals, groups and a nation…
In looking at the subject of ‘What is God’s purpose for us?’ it is really good to discover that the Bible shows an unfolding revelation of God’s purpose to:
- individuals, people like Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, etc. God had a purpose for each of their lives and many deviated from the plan but God remained faithful.
- groups of people, like Noah with his wife, three sons and their wives who God rescued from the flood.
- nations, like Judah, or even oppressive ones like Babylon.
- the Church, set up by Jesus Christ to be His bride.
Through these individuals, groups and nations God introduced His laws, and prophetic words so that they could live as God’s people among godless societies.
Then later God’s purposes were seen in Jesus Christ, His Son, who was God clothed in flesh, who took upon Himself the wrongs and rebellion of mankind.
When Jesus returned to heaven, after being raised from the dead according to God’s purposes, Jesus set up His Church to manifest what God’s people should be like.
There have been many failings but God has remained faithful and continues to cleanse His true followers.
2. But where does the rest of mankind fit into God’s purposes?
Are people excluded from God’s Kingdom, just because they weren’t born in Israel?
No, of course not.
Rahab was a prostitute in the city of Jericho which was destined for destruction by the Israelites.
The Israelite spies went into Jericho to see what the defences were like, but they were seen and Rahab hid them in her house and said:
For we have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea before you when you came out of Egypt…Joshua 2:10-12 ESV
And as soon as we heard it, our hearts melted, and there was no spirit left in any man because of you, for the Lord your God, he is God in the heavens above and on the earth beneath.
Now then, please swear to me by the Lord that, as I have dealt kindly with you, you also will deal kindly with my father’s house…”
Even though she was in a heathen country full of gruesome practices, she had an awareness of God and wanted to surrender to Him:
By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they had been encircled for seven days.Hebrews 11:30-31 ESV
By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had given a friendly welcome to the spies.”
She, an outsider, a foreigner to Israel, was included in God’s purposes:
- Rahab married Salmon and they had a son, Boaz.
- Boaz married Ruth (as in the book of Ruth) and they had Obed.
- Obed was the father of Jesse.
- Jesse was the father of King David.
- David was the father of King Solomon, etc. [See ‘The genealogy of Jesus the Messiah’ Matthew 1:1-17]
Ruth, mentioned in the list above, is another outsider, a Moabite who saw the reality of her mother-in-law’s faith and said to her, “Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God.” [Ruth 1:16]
Her faith and her conscience brought her into God’s purpose for her life.
The Lord has given everyone a conscience to steer people to Him, and creation itself speaks about the great Creator God.
The Apostle Paul teaches about God speaking through His creation to everyone:
… since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them.Romans 1:19-21 NIV
For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.
For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him,”
God has made it certain, that everyone knows enough about Him so that they are ‘without excuse’.
That applies to a head-hunting tribe in the jungle, and it also applies to everyone in civilised countries now.
3. God’s purposes regarding Jonah in the Bible
When we look at Jonah we find something quite unusual, the Lord tells him, the prophet of the Lord, to go three hundred miles from Israel to a Gentile city.
But not only that, it belongs to a cruel world superpower.
Imagine if the date was 1940 in Nazi Germany and a prophet goes to Berlin to preach to Adolf Hitler: “Repent, for in forty days Berlin will be destroyed!”
That would be scary and would it do any good?
Actually, read the true story of how Hitler was warned by God not to attack Poland – the link is at the bottom of this page.
Jonah probably thought that it was too scary and that it was just too big a task for him to do.
God was asking to preach to a cruel despot of the Assyrian superpower.
So he responded to God’s Word – and took a boat in the opposite direction!
God, who is Lord over all things, stirred up a huge storm to thwart Jonah’s disobedience.
Now it must have been a whopper of a storm because the sailors knew that this was extraordinary, and they were terrified.
So amid this mighty storm, the sailors started to ask around: “Have you offended one of your gods?”
“No, how about you?”
“This is a wild storm! There can only be one explanation… Jonah! How dare you sleep below deck, seek your god!”
So the sailors cast lots to find out who had offended a god, and the lot fell to Jonah!
So they bombarded him with questions and Jonah answered:
I am a Hebrew and I worship the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the land.”Jonah 1:9 NIV
And I love this:
This terrified them and they asked, ‘What have you done?’ (They knew he was running away from the Lord, because he had already told them so.)”Jonah 1:10 NIV
The sailors asked what they needed to do so that the storm would end.
Jonah’s answer was straightforward but difficult to carry out!
Pick me up and throw me into the sea,’ he replied, ‘and it will become calm. I know that it is my fault that this great storm has come upon you.’ “Jonah 1:12 NIV
At first, the sailors tried other things, but the storm got even worse so they cried to the Lord,
O LORD, please do not let us die for taking this man’s life. Do not hold us accountable for killing an innocent man, for you, O Lord, have done as you pleased.’Jonah 1:14 NIV
Then they took Jonah and threw him overboard, and the raging sea grew calm.
At this the men greatly feared the Lord, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows to him.”
Jonah had disobeyed the Lord, but God was not going to let him go!
Even if Jonah did not feel like he was in the middle of God’s purpose for his life, he was, because Jonah was going to end up obeying Him.
4. God’s purpose moves in mysterious ways.
Notice that these sailors turn to the Lord.
Even when we’ve totally messed up, the Lord can use these terrible circumstances for His purposes.
King David committed adultery with Bathsheba, and then he got her husband murdered, and the child born from this act died.
But the next baby to be born was Solomon! The great King Solomon.
He never ignores sin, it has to be repented of.
But where that has happened, the resulting situation can be part of God’s purposes!
It’s a mystery!
5. God’s purpose results in a big black hole!
Jonah sank down into the sea and a big fish swallowed him.
It looks as if it took three days for Jonah to pull himself out of a massive sulk.
There he sat in the belly of this fish and finally, he prayed.
He acknowledged that God had placed him in this awful situation:
You hurled me into the deep, into the very heart of the seas, and the currents swirled about me; all your waves and breakers swept over me.”Jonah 3:2 NIV
But even in this dark, deep place faith started to rise in his heart:
I have been banished from your sight; yet I will look again toward your holy temple.”Jonah 2:7 NIV
Then he finished his prayer with:
Salvation comes from the Lord.”Jonah 2:9 NIV
At that the Lord caused the fish to vomit Jonah out.
Can you imagine Jonah sitting on the beach, pulling all the seaweed off and then the word of the Lord came to Jonah again?
Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.”Jonah 3:2 NIV
Jonah had come around in a full circle.
The Lord’s discipline had been upon Jonah, and he is brought around to the same test of obedience.
Have we ever had that happen to us?
Let’s make God’s Word supreme in our lives and may we be found to be living in god’s purpose and not resisting Him.
If we don’t, the Lord may have some surprising things in store to get us to obey His Word!
6. Frequently asked questions (FAQ)
What is God’s purpose for every believer?
God’s purpose is for everyone to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.
To glorify God is to appreciate Him and to set Him in the highest place in our thoughts. Also, it is to worship Him, to love Him above all others and to give ourselves to His plans.
What was God’s purpose for humans?
1) Right at the beginning of creation God said:
“Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” Genesis 1:26 ESV
2) To be good people:
“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:10 ESV
3) To extend God’s kingdom:
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20 ESV
References – open in new tabs:
Whale image: thanks to Serif ART Gallery CD