What would you ask the Supreme Being if you could get a direct and immediate answer? A poll in USA Today reports that the No. 1 question people would like to ask God is “What’s my purpose here?”
With all our technology and sophistication we still haven’t answered the fundamental question of what is the purpose and value of human life. It seems Henry David Thoreau’s observation that most people live lives of “quiet desperation” is all too true.
Where would you even start to discover the purpose for your life? Can you find it in psychological tests or philosophy? Aptitude tests might help you pinpoint your abilities. Personality evaluations could conceivably help you focus on aspects of who you are. But the social sciences can’t explain why you live.
The place to begin
The complexity and interdependency of nature around us, the miracle of life itself, reveal a Life Giver, a Creator. Would it make sense that a brilliant Life Giver would create intelligent beings without purpose? “What’s my purpose here?” can ultimately be answered only by the Creator of life.
Western society claims to have its roots in Christianity, yet the last place many people search to find purpose in life is the Bible. The Bible reveals a special creation with a special purpose. The first book of the Bible is Genesis, which simply means “beginning.” Here is the Bible’s first sentence: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”
God then created a unique biological being called man. Genesis 2:7 Genesis 2:7And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.
American King James Version×states, “And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.”
Does this mean that man is just another animal, different in form but essentially the same as a chimpanzee or other mammal?
The theory of evolution would lead us to that conclusion, but evolution doesn’t explain the obvious differences between humanity and animals. How do we explain the human ability to create music and art, discover and use geometry, develop architecture or invent complex forms of communication?
Instinct and intellect
A slug or a spider is driven entirely by instinctive behavior. The more complex the life-form, the more it can learn. Yet the behaviors of even the supposedly highest forms of animals are primarily instinctive. This isn’t true of humanity.
Mortimer J. Adler, in his book Ten Philosophical Mistakes, makes the point that if we compare animals with man “a radical difference appears. In the strict sense of the term instinct, the human species has no instincts—no innate, performed patterns of behavior. We have a small number of innate reflexes, only some of which are congenital. We also have what might be called instinctual drives or impulses. But in carrying these impulses out, members of the human species behave in a wide variety of ways. They do not all manifest a single pattern of behavior, such as we find in all members of a particular species of bee, ant or termite” (1985, p. 31).
This ability to reason and make complex decisions and choose courses of action makes humans infinitely different from any animal. The differences between the quality or quantity of the human brain and the brains of other mammals aren’t sufficient to explain the vast differences in function. When it comes to size, some mammals have larger brains than humans’ while others have a higher brain-to-body ratio than that of humans.
The difference between other mammals and human beings—the ability to reason, create, communicate emotions, experience love and empathy—are all aspects of what we call the mind.
Adler concludes: “The relation of the sensory powers to the brain and nervous system is such that the degree to which an animal species possesses these powers depends on the size and complexity of its brain and nervous system. This is not the case in regard to the intellectual powers. That the human mind has such powers does not depend upon the size or complexity of the human brain. The action of the brain is only a necessary, but not the sufficient, condition for the functioning of the human mind and for the operations of conceptual thought. We do not think with our brains, even though we cannot think without them” (pp. 52-53).
What is the human mind?
Brain size and biology can’t explain humanity’s uniqueness. So what creates the differences?
Once again we turn to the Bible. In the creation account we see that God created each animal “according to its kind,” but human beings are in the “image” and “likeness” of God (Genesis 1:24-28 Genesis 1:24-28 24 And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind: and it was so.
25 And God made the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and every thing that creeps on the earth after his kind: and God saw that it was good.
26 And 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 fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.
27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.
28 And God blessed them, and God said to them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.
American King James Version×).
Creativity, positive emotions, logic, love, abstract thought, communication skills—these are aspects of the mind of the Creator. These are ways in which He has created us in His likeness.
Notice what the Bible says in Job 32:8 Job 32:8But there is a spirit in man: and the inspiration of the Almighty gives them understanding.
American King James Version×: “But there is a spirit in man, and the breath of the Almighty gives him understanding.” One of the biblical prophets, Zechariah, declares that God “forms the spirit of man within him” (Zechariah 12:1 Zechariah 12:1The burden of the word of the LORD for Israel, said the LORD, which stretches forth the heavens, and lays the foundation of the earth, and forms the spirit of man within him.
American King James Version×).
Mankind and animals are both living “souls,” or beings. Both are subject to death, the cessation of life. The difference is that man possesses a nonphysical component called a spirit that imparts individuality, intellect, creativity and personality.
The Bible reveals the mystery science can’t solve. We are physical, chemical beings with a nonbiological component—a spirit—a mind that is in a limited way like the mind of the Creator. But, if human beings are like God in so many astonishing ways, why can’t we solve our own problems?
An incomplete creation
Why are human beings capable of writing inspiring music and also able to commit terrible crimes against each other? We research into the intricate human body and create medicines that heal, yet we produce nerve gas that kills. We send a rocket to explore outer space but send a missile hundreds or thousands of miles to destroy a city.
If mankind is made in the image of God—who reveals Himself as loving, kind and merciful—why are we so filled with hatred, violence and selfishness? The answers lie in understanding that we are an incomplete creation.
Genesis reveals the root cause of humanity’s evil. The first humans, Adam and Eve, were given freedom to choose between their Creator’s instruction about life and a way simply called the “knowledge of good and evil.” They chose the latter, the knowledge of good and evil.
God told Adam and Eve that once they started on the course of self-determination they would embark on a path that would ultimately lead to death. Evil—what the Bible calls sin—brings about death. History is a story of good and bad, of incredible potential and incredible failure. It is also a story of death. It seems that humanity’s destiny is to struggle, suffer and eventually die.
Central to the Christian religion is the belief that Jesus of Nazareth is the Son of God who took humanity’s death penalty upon Himself. Jesus also came to supply the missing ingredient to make eternal life possible. On the night before His crucifixion Jesus told His disciples He would send them another “Helper” (John 14:15-18 John 14:15-18 15 If you love me, keep my commandments.
16 And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever;
17 Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it sees him not, neither knows him: but you know him; for he dwells with you, and shall be in you.
18 I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.
American King James Version×).
The apostle Paul wrote to Christians in Corinth about the missing ingredient that keeps humanity from solving its problems: “… We speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory, which none of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
“But as it is written: ‘Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.’ But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God” (1 Corinthians 2:7-11 1 Corinthians 2:7-11 7 But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world to our glory:
8 Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
9 But as it is written, Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for them that love him.
10 But God has revealed them to us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God.
11 For what man knows the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knows no man, but the Spirit of God.
American King James Version×).
Here Paul writes that mankind knows the things of mankind-reason, creativity, mathematics—because of the “spirit of man.” This spirit is what makes us have similarities to God and gives us the ability to have a relationship with Him. Paul shows that to really understand the spiritual nature of God we must also receive the Spirit of God.
The Spirit of God is the missing ingredient in humanity. Without it human beings become both good and evil, lacking the wisdom to always see and choose the good. Death is the natural result. The death process must be reversed and a new nature developed in us. Peter puts it succinctly when he writes that we must become “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4 2 Peter 1:4Whereby are given to us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these you might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.
American King James Version×).
God’s purpose for you
Humanity’s problems—from agriculture to economics to education to government to family relationships to individual emotional health—are ultimately spiritual in nature. Real solutions require not just a change in environment but a change in people.
Our first parents chose to participate in both good and evil. Not just Adam and Eve, but every human being who has ever lived—except Jesus Christ—has made the same choice. The result is that every human suffers and dies. Jesus came to pay the death penalty for evil. He also came to make available to people the Spirit of God, the healing, missing ingredient that will change corrupt human nature into divine nature.
What is your ultimate destiny? What awaits those who are willing to be changed by God’s Spirit from corrupted human nature to become partakers of the divine?
Paul explains in Romans 8:14-17 Romans 8:14-17 14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.
15 For you have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but you have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.
16 The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:
17 And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.
American King James Version×: “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by [which] we cry out, ‘Abba, Father.’ The Spirit [itself] bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.”
The purpose of humanity is to become the spiritual children of God! The purpose for your life is more than making money, gaining social status and wearing the right clothes. The coupling of the human spirit with the Spirit of God makes possible the development of a new nature and eventually a resurrection to a new life as immortal children of God, joint heirs with Jesus of all things.
This is the ultimate potential of every human being.
But this isn’t just a nebulous promise of something in the far-off future. The Creator says you can enjoy a Father—child relationship with Him now. There are real solutions to your problems. There is hope for those willing to discover their true purpose. The first step on that road of discovery is to turn to the Creator and His instruction book.