If we are going to start this search we need to ask two clarifying questions: “What is purpose and where does purpose come from?”
At its core, purpose provides the meaning to our existence. It is the driving force that gives our lives direction and worth. It helps answer to the question, "Why am I here?"
Some people will tie their purpose their career, while for others, it will be related to their relationships, faith, charity work, or community involvement. Many people want to have a purpose that is greater than themselves.
From a Biblical perspective, purpose is discovered in the reason behind the creation of humankind. This is what we read in Genesis 1:26-28 (CSB),
Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness. They will rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, the livestock, the whole earth, and the creatures that crawl on the earth.”
So God created man in his own image; he created him in the image of God; he created them male and female.
God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, and subdue it. Rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, and every creature that crawls on the earth.”
This passage is key to understanding the Bible since it tells us the reason for humankind’s existence: to bear God’s image. The most important idea behind bearing God’s image is that we are to represent Him in the world. I like to say that we are created to demonstrate God’s character. We are to join God in ruling and caring for His good creation. Whatever our purpose is in life is tied to this reality.
If we are going to demonstrate God’s character, then we need to know who God is and what His will for creation is. The Apostle Paul wrote:
For this reason also, since the day we heard this, we haven’t stopped praying for you. We are asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding, so that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and growing in the knowledge of God. (Colossians 1:9-10, CSB)
Paul’s pray for the Colossians was that God would grant them a knowledge of His will AND spiritual wisdom and understanding. We need to both. The knowledge of God’s will is ultimately a gift from Him. Only He can reveal what His will is for creation and for our lives.
Not only do we need to know God’s will, but we also need to know how to live that will out in our lives. That is what spiritual wisdom and understanding is all about. My definition for wisdom is “the knowledge for living life well in God’s good world.” Again, only God can give us this wisdom and understanding, it is not something that we can discern on our own.
Notice that Paul went on to say that we are to live in a way that is worthy of Jesus, in way that pleases God. In other words, our purpose is found in representing (this brings us back to Genesis 1:26-27) Jesus in how we live (bearing good works) and in spiritual formation (growing in the knowledge of God).
Our purpose isn’t found in our specific work or achievement, rather it is how bear God’s image in the various areas of life. On the one hand this means everyone has the same purpose, but on the other hand it means that our purpose is unique to our situations and experiences.
We can only answer the question, “Why am I here?”, by turning to God. He is our Creator and He created us to bear His image. As we demonstrate God’s character to the world around us we discover the purpose of our lives.