Find Purpose in This
Lord, what’s the point of this? I am trying really hard Lord. I am trying not to question you in this. I know the promises you give to me. I know well that you say all things work for my good, and I believe you. You tell me that you will strengthen me and uphold me as I face challenges in this life, and I believe that too. But Lord, what is so tricky here is I just don’t see what the point is in going through this. If you could just make clear to me what we are accomplishing here. If you could just show me one or two goals that you are achieving with me, I will stop wondering. I will stop spending my time asking, “What is the point of going on like this?” I will find purpose in this life.
Couldn’t you see Paul having days where thoughts like that were bouncing around in his mind? You see, when he was writing this letter, the letter to the Philippians, he was not in his study in Antioch. He wasn’t visiting one of the many different churches he had started through Turkey and Greece. He wasn’t on the road breaking new ground. No, he was sitting in Rome. Waiting. Waiting for his trial to work itself out. He had been waiting for almost two years now. The events recorded in the book of Acts show us how Paul ended up where he was. He had been falsely accused in Jerusalem. He had been put on the shelf in Caesarea. And after a long journey involving a shipwreck, he was now sitting under house arrest in Rome. Waiting. Don’t get me wrong. Overall his situation wasn’t horrible. He was allowed to stay in a house and have people come to visit him. He had a guard who made sure he didn’t run away, but he wasn’t in a damp dark dungeon, yet. But can’t you see him growing more frustrated by the day. Can’t you see him wanting to know, “Lord, what’s the point? Why am I sitting here and not out on a mission trip? Why am I here and not visiting and strengthening the new believers like those in Philippi? What is the point of this?”
I am sure Paul had days where he felt that way. But as he writes this letter to the Philippians, doesn’t a different attitude show through? Paul saw what was being accomplished. “Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel. As a result it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly.” Paul points the believers in Philippi to the awesome things God was accomplishing through his time in Rome. The Gospel was advancing. The palace guard who were rotated to guard Paul saw that he was no criminal, but he was in chains for Christ. The other believers in Rome who saw Paul bravely suffering were encouraged to proclaim the Gospel with courage and in a fearless way. Paul could look at his life, and while it might have seemed like it was lacking a purpose, he could see what God was accomplishing through him.
And isn’t that the part that seems so unfair? Why does Paul get to see that and we don’t? Why don’t we see the purpose God has for our lives like that? I mean, none of us are under arrest sitting in Rome and wondering what God is doing. But that doesn’t mean those thoughts we started out with this morning couldn’t be your thoughts or mine. Lord, what’s the point of this? And you and I each have our own this to put in that statement don’t we? What’s the point of me being in this situation? What’s the point of me having to continue to struggle against this problem or illness? What’s the point of me having to deal with these same frustrations? What’s the point of me doing all these menial tasks that no one notices and that seem so unimportant? What’s the point of me having a daily life that seems so blasé and redundant? I mean really Lord. What is the purpose of all of this? What, if anything, is being accomplished by my life and what I am doing?
I am looking Lord. I’m looking for how what I do is advancing the Gospel or doing anything else important, but I am not seeing much. I am not seeing any palace guard, or anyone else for that matter, who is learning to know Christ through me. I am not seeing anyone inspired or emboldened by my life Lord. Maybe there was a time when I had a lot of purpose and what I did mattered. Maybe there will be a time, when I am older, that I can actually do something that matters. But Lord, what is the point of this? What purpose do you have for me being here?
What is there to say to this? Do we live without purpose? Are our life and our station completely arbitrary? We are here, but who knows why? We have this, but God isn’t getting much out of us in it. How sinfully foolish of us. How foolish of us to act as though God has no purpose for us, if we don’t see it with our eyes. How foolish to think that God is just letting us deal with our day to day tasks and none of them really matter. How foolish it is for me to consider my life to lack purpose, just because God doesn’t show me the same things that Paul saw.
Your Lord shows you what your purpose is in this life. He tells you exactly what he is doing with you and with me. Paul mouths the words for us, “For to me, to live is Christ.” You and I live for Christ. What stopped Paul from foolishly thinking, I am not getting anything done here. He recognized that his whole life was for Christ. What is the only thing that will make you and I stop asking the question, “What is the point of this for me?” For us to recognize that our lives are for Christ. Your life and my life are gone. We have been crucified with Christ. When Jesus died on the cross, our priorities and our purposes, died with him. We have been crucified and now we live, a life that is no longer ours but is the Son of God’s who loved you and gave himself for you. Gave himself for you so that you could live. So live, having been raised from the death of sin. So live, a life that shall never end, not even when physical death comes calling for you. So live, a life that is full of purpose because you live for the one who died for you. Stop acting like your purpose needs to be something that you can pin up on the wall for everyone to see. Your life’s purpose is someone who was pinned up on a cross for everyone to be saved.
Find him in your “this”, whatever that this might be for you. Your life is Christ. That means whoever you are and whatever you find yourself in the midst of, your purpose is to live for Christ. You are to live for Christ, as you continue another day dealing with that same old frustration, never once seeing how your perseverance affects those around you. How your faithfulness in the midst of heartache encourages your brothers and sisters in Christ. You are to live for Christ, as you do those mundane things another time, but because of the beating trust in your heart in the one who died for you, you do them to God’s glory. You live for Christ, as you make the smallest decisions, but you make them with God’s will in mind and so embolden others to live for Christ more thoroughly.
Look at two examples Paul points out to you and me how we can live in Christ. Your life has great purpose in your prayers. Those Philippians were praying for Paul and how pointless their prayers must have seemed to them. Yet what does Paul say? “Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help given by the Spirit of Jesus Christ, what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance.” Look at the priority he places on them. Through those prayers, what has happened will be for my deliverance. Do not lose sight of how powerful your prayers as God’s people truly are. If you feel like you aren’t able to do anything that has such results, such purpose, as some of the visible things you see others doing, return to your prayers. Pray for your brothers and sisters in Christ. Pray for your church and your pastor. Pray for your family. And recognize, that if that was the only thing you did, you would still be living for Christ as you ask the Holy Spirit to be at work in such ways. Whatever your situation, find purpose in prayer as you live for Christ.
Find purpose in the joy that you bring to others. Paul knew the Lord had more work for him to do, and one of the things foremost on his mind was the joy that he would bring to the Philippians by being with them. As you live for Christ, recognize just how purposeful God is in placing you here and now. How much joy you bring to your brothers and sisters who gather here. How much joy you bring as you encourage one another to live for Christ.
When doubts assail you. When this question is not asked with trust but with worry, “Lord, what is the point of this, my life?” Look at what your life’s purpose is. It is Christ. The one who gave you life through his death. The one who calls you to now live for him in all that you do, the big deals and the small details. See your purpose there. I live for Christ. When I die it will be great gain for me, but right now, my Savior has work for me. I am to live for him. I am to pray for others. I am to bring joy to others. I am to live each day, with all that I do for him. That is the life that he has called me to and restored for me. That is the purpose that I find in all of this. To live for Christ. Amen.