While at Bible college, I worked as a resident assistant in one of the student houses near campus. My job was to help freshmen transition from adolescent life to college life. More often it was just to help them transition to life.
My second year as an R.A. I remember talking to a freshman. His heart burned for ministry, and he wanted a life of purpose for God. But as we talked, I realized he really wanted a life of purpose for himself.
No wonder one of the most successful books in American history is the Purpose Driven Life. People want meaning. When we’re teenagers, we call this desire, “uncertainty of our futures.” When we’re adults, we call it a “mid-life crisis,” when we’re dying, we call it the "five stages of grief.” People want to matter.
But how should believers understand purpose while on this Earth? And how can one live a life of meaningfulness in the Lord? Here are three points to consider:
1. Christians Do Not Need to Become Pastors or Missionaries to Achieve Meaningfulness.
I noticed this misconception a lot in college. Incoming students wanted purpose. But they felt forced to choose between becoming a pastor or a missionary. Sometimes, this resulted from parents who suggested there were no other options. Other times, it came from idolizing childhood pastors whom they wanted to imitate.
But many of those students looking for purpose found frustration instead. I even saw some become bitter towards Christianity. They thought because they did not fit as a pastor or missionary, they could not live a life of purpose. As a result, they looked elsewhere.
But when Jesus sought His Twelve, he didn’t go to the Temple, He went to the lake. Jesus understood that meaningful ministry happened through people connected with everyday life.
Do not believe the lie that meaningfulness requires a pulpit or a plane ticket. Look for the pulpits and plane tickets God's already given you. God blueprinted a life of incredible meaningfulness for us. The problem is we rarely recognize it because we’re too busy envying other people’s blueprints.
2. Meaningfulness Can Happen Outside the Church
Many Christians live faux-effective lives because they think serving the church is the same as serving God. They serve church so much it prevents them from serving the very people God placed for them in the secular world. Imagine a dad missing his son’s game to attend a church event on fatherhood. Many Christians including myself do the same thing.
When we see the chance to serve those around us as meaningless, we will live a life of meaninglessness. The level of purpose in a Christian life depends on the level of purpose they assign to the people. Meaningful Christians are intentional Christians.
3. Meaningfulness is the By-Product, Not the Goal, of the Christian Life.
Meaningfulness is a god that too many Christians worship. For them, God no longer becomes the goal, but a means to their goal of self-worth. But God is not just the means of salvation. He is the reward of salvation.
Would we find satisfaction in God if no one hummed when we prayed, or clapped when we preached?Believers who matter the most are those who find the most meaning in knowing God. Christians can know they are meaningful because they find their meaning in Christ. When Christians realize this, they recognize their attempts at purpose as “filthy rags.” Mature Christians know they matter because they know they matter to God.
So how does one find meaning in the Christian life? Assign meaning to what you consider meaningless. It may mean talking to an Uber driver. Or eating lunch with your coworkers instead of in your car. Or praying while stuck in traffic. If we reject these opportunities as meaningless, we will lead meaningless lives.
But when we see God as the means and end of purpose, and find meaning in knowing Him, then we will live lives that matter.
Resting in Him,