Pursuing a Meaningful Purpose in Life
“Every breathing thing—let it praise Jah.”—PSALM 150:6.
1. Describe one young man’s search for a purpose in life.
“I STUDIED medicine because I wanted to use my life to help people. I also felt that the prestige and financial rewards of being a doctor would make me happy,” recalls Seung Jin, who grew up in Korea.a “As I came to realize how little a doctor can really do to help, I became disillusioned. I then pursued art, but my artistic creations did little good for others, and I felt selfish. I turned to teaching and soon found that I could only pass on facts but not guidance that could lead to real happiness.” Like many, Seung Jin was searching for a meaningful purpose in life.
2. (a) What does it mean to have purpose in life? (b) How do we know that the Creator had a purpose in putting us here?
2 To have true purpose in life is to have a reason for living, a clear objective, and a focal point for our efforts. Can humans really have such a purpose? Yes! The fact that we are endowed with intelligence, conscience, and the ability to reason implies that the Creator had a good purpose in putting us here. Logically, therefore, we can find and fulfill our true purpose only by living in harmony with the Creator’s purpose.
3. What does God’s purpose for humans involve?
3 The Bible reveals that God’s purpose for us involves many things. For example, the wonderful way in which we are made is truly an expression of unselfish love on God’s part. (Psalm 40:5; 139:14) Thus, living according to God’s purpose means loving others unselfishly as God does. (1 John 4:7-11) It also means observing God’s instructions, which help us to live in harmony with his loving purpose.—Ecclesiastes 12:13; 1 John 5:3.
4. (a) What is needed to have real purpose in life? (b) What is the highest purpose anyone can pursue?
4 God also purposed that humans live happily and peacefully with one another and with the rest of creation. (Genesis 1:26; 2:15) What, though, do we need to do to feel happy, secure, and at peace? Like a child who needs to sense the presence of his parents to feel happy and secure, we need a good relationship with our heavenly Father to find real meaning and purpose in life. (Hebrews 12:9) God makes such a relationship with him possible by allowing us to draw close to him and by hearing our prayers. (James 4:8; 1 John 5:14, 15) If we ‘walk with God’ in faith and become his friends, we can bring joy and praise to our heavenly Father. (Genesis 6:9; Proverbs 23:15, 16; James 2:23) That is the highest purpose anyone can pursue. The psalmist wrote: “Every breathing thing—let it praise Jah.”—Psalm 150:6.
What Is Your Purpose in Life?
5. Why is putting material interests first unrealistic?
5 Part of God’s purpose for us is that we take good care of ourselves and of our families. This includes caring for both physical and spiritual needs. Balance is needed in doing this, however, so that secular interests and concerns do not eclipse the more important spiritual ones. (Matthew 4:4; 6:33) Regrettably, many people focus their life almost exclusively on the acquiring of material things. Yet, trying to satisfy all our needs solely with material things is unrealistic. A recent survey of millionaires in Asia reveals that many of them “feel insecure and troubled, even as they enjoy the social status and the sense of accomplishment their wealth brings.”—Ecclesiastes 5:11.
6. What counsel did Jesus give on the pursuit of riches?
6 Jesus spoke of “the deceptive power of riches.” (Mark 4:19) How are riches deceptive? They appear to make one happy, but they do not. “The man who loves money can never have enough,” noted wise King Solomon. (Ecclesiastes 5:10, The New English Bible) But is it possible to pursue materialistic goals and still serve God whole-souled? No, it is not. Jesus explained: “No one can slave for two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will stick to the one and despise the other. You cannot slave for God and for Riches.” Jesus urged his followers to store up, not material goods on earth, but “treasures in heaven,” that is, to establish a good name with God, who “knows what things you are needing before ever you ask him.”—Matthew 6:8, 19-25.
7. How may we “get a firm hold on the real life”?
7 In writing to his fellow worker Timothy, the apostle Paul gave some strong counsel in this regard. He told Timothy: “Give orders to those who are rich . . . to rest their hope, not on uncertain riches, but on God, who furnishes us all things richly for our enjoyment . . . , to be liberal, ready to share, safely treasuring up for themselves a fine foundation for the future, in order that they may get a firm hold on the real life.”—1 Timothy 6:17-19.
What Is “the Real Life”?
8. (a) Why do many strive for riches and status? (b) What do such ones fail to perceive?
8 To most people, the expression “the real life” conjures up an image of luxury and pleasure. One Asian news magazine notes: “Those who watch films or TV learn to desire what they see, to dream of what they might have.” Many people make the attaining of riches and status their purpose in life. Many sacrifice their youth, health, family life, and spiritual values in pursuit of these things. Few stop to think that such media images are no more than a reflection of “the spirit of the world”—the dominant pattern of thinking that influences the majority of earth’s billions and moves them to act in opposition to God’s purpose for us. (1 Corinthians 2:12; Ephesians 2:2) No wonder there are so many unhappy people today!—Proverbs 18:11; 23:4, 5.
9. What can humans never accomplish, and why not?
9 What about those who selflessly labor for the well-being of others, striving to eradicate hunger, illness, and injustice? Their noble and self-sacrificing efforts often do much good. Yet, despite their best efforts, they will never change this system of things into a fair and good one. Why not? Because in reality “the whole world is lying in the power of the wicked one”—Satan—and he does not want it to change.—1 John 5:19.
10. When will faithful ones enjoy “the real life”?
10 How sad if one entertains no hope beyond life in this present world! “If in this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all men most to be pitied,” wrote Paul. “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we are to die” is the attitude of those who believe that this life is all there is. (1 Corinthians 15:19, 32) But there is a future, a “new heavens and a new earth that we are awaiting according to [God’s] promise, and in these righteousness is to dwell.” (2 Peter 3:13) At that time, Christians can enjoy “the real life,” that is, “everlasting life” in perfection, either in heaven or under the loving rulership of God’s Kingdom government!—1 Timothy 6:12.
11. Why is working to advance the interests of God’s Kingdom purposeful?
11 Only God’s Kingdom will have complete success in solving mankind’s problems. Working to advance the interests of God’s Kingdom is thus the most purposeful endeavor anyone can pursue. (John 4:34) While we engage in that work, we enjoy a blessed relationship with our heavenly Father. We also have the joy of serving alongside millions of spiritual brothers and sisters, who pursue the same purpose in life.
Making the Right Sacrifices
12. Contrast life in the present system with “the real life.”
12 The present world “is passing away and so is its desire,” says the Bible. No part of Satan’s world, including its fame and fortune, will be exempt, “but he that does the will of God remains forever.” (1 John 2:15-17) In contrast with the uncertain riches, the fleeting glory, and the shallow pleasures of the present system, “the real life”—everlasting life under God’s Kingdom—is permanent and worthy of our sacrifices, provided we make the right sacrifices.
13. How did one couple make the right sacrifices?
13 Consider Henry and Suzanne. They have full faith in God’s promise that all who put the Kingdom first in their life will receive God’s help. (Matthew 6:33) Thus, they chose to live in an inexpensive home so that instead of both working secularly, they could spend more time in spiritual pursuits with their two daughters. (Hebrews 13:15, 16) One well-meaning friend could not understand their choice. She told Suzanne: “Honey, if you ever want to live in a nicer place, you’ll just have to sacrifice something.” Henry and Suzanne, though, knew that putting Jehovah first “holds promise of the life now and that which is to come.” (1 Timothy 4:8; Titus 2:12) Their daughters grew up to be zealous full-time evangelizers. As a family, they feel that they missed out on nothing; rather, they benefited a great deal by making the pursuit of “the real life” their purpose.—Philippians 3:8; 1 Timothy 6:6-8.
Do Not ‘Use the World to the Full’
14. Losing sight of our true purpose can lead to what tragedies?
14 There is real danger, however, if we lose sight of our true purpose and loosen our hold on “the real life.” We risk “being carried away by anxieties and riches and pleasures of this life.” (Luke 8:14) Uncontrolled desires and “anxieties over livelihood” can lead to excessive involvement in this system of things. (Luke 21:34, footnote) Tragically, some have become caught up in today’s frenzied economy and have been “led astray from the faith and have stabbed themselves all over with many pains,” even losing their precious relationship with Jehovah. What a price to pay for not keeping “a firm hold on the everlasting life”!—1 Timothy 6:9, 10, 12; Proverbs 28:20.
15. How did one family benefit from ‘not using the world to the full’?
15 Paul advised “those making use of the world [to be] as those not using it to the full.” (1 Corinthians 7:31) Keith and Bonnie took this to heart. “I became one of Jehovah’s Witnesses just as I was completing dental school,” Keith relates. “I had a choice. I could take on many patients and make a lot of money, but doing so would cut into our spiritual life. I chose to limit my practice so as to have more time for the spiritual and emotional well-being of our family, which came to include five daughters. Though we rarely had extra funds, we learned to economize, and we always had what we needed. Family life was close, warm, and full of joy. Eventually, all of us entered the full-time ministry. Now our daughters are happily married, three of them with children of their own. Their families too are happy as they continue to put Jehovah’s purpose first.”
Putting God’s Purpose First in Your Life
16, 17. What examples of talented people does the Bible present, and how are they remembered?
16 The Bible presents examples of those who lived for God’s purpose and those who did not. The lessons from such examples apply to people of all ages, cultures, and circumstances. (Romans 15:4; 1 Corinthians 10:6, 11) Nimrod built great cities, but he did so in opposition to Jehovah. (Genesis 10:8, 9) Many others, though, were good examples. Moses, for instance, did not make the keeping of his status as an Egyptian nobleman his purpose in life. Rather, he esteemed his spiritual privileges “as riches greater than the treasures of Egypt.” (Hebrews 11:26) The physician Luke likely helped Paul and others to deal with their maladies. But Luke made his greatest contribution as an evangelizer and a Bible writer. For his part, Paul is known, not as a Law expert, but as a missionary, “an apostle to the nations.”—Romans 11:13.
17 David is primarily remembered, neither as a military commander nor as a musician and composer, but as “a man agreeable to [God’s] heart.” (1 Samuel 13:14) We know Daniel, not for his work as a Babylonian government official, but for his service as Jehovah’s loyal prophet; Esther, not as queen of Persia, but as an example of courage and faith; Peter, Andrew, James, and John, not as successful fishermen, but as apostles of Jesus. And ultimately, Jesus himself is to us, not “the carpenter,” but “the Christ.” (Mark 6:3; Matthew 16:16) All of these understood well that whatever talents, assets, or status they enjoyed, their life must revolve, not around their secular careers, but around their service to God. They knew that the noblest and most rewarding purpose that they could have was to be a man or a woman of God.
18. How did one young Christian decide to use his life, and what did he come to realize?
18 Seung Jin, mentioned at the outset, came to understand this too. “Instead of devoting all my energies to medicine, art, or secular teaching, I resolved to use my life in line with my dedication to God,” he explains. “I am now serving where there is a great need for Bible teachers, helping people to get on the path to everlasting life. I used to think that being a full-time minister would not be challenging enough. Now my life is more challenging than ever, as I try to improve my personality and my ability to work with people of different cultures. I see that making Jehovah’s purpose our purpose is the only meaningful way of life.”
19. How can we find true purpose in life?
19 As Christians, we have been blessed with lifesaving knowledge and the hope of salvation. (John 17:3) Let us, then, not “accept the undeserved kindness of God and miss its purpose.” (2 Corinthians 6:1) Rather, let us use our precious days and years of life to praise Jehovah. Let us spread the knowledge that brings real happiness now and leads to everlasting life. In so doing, we will experience the truth of Jesus’ words: “There is more happiness in giving than there is in receiving.” (Acts 20:35) And we will have found true purpose in life.
a Some names have been changed.
Can You Explain?
• What is the highest purpose we can have in life?
• Why is living for material things unrealistic?
• What is “the real life” that God promises?
• How can we use our life for God’s purpose?
[Pictures on page 18]
Christians need to make the right sacrifices