A Purpose Worth Your Soul (Matthew 16:26)

What is the greatest satisfaction? What is that one thing that, if we find it, we will be content? Perhaps another way of asking the question is, “What is that endeavor that is worth the cost of my one God-given life?” Jesus stated the problem this way:

“For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul (Matthew 16:26)?”

This search for purpose has been a persistent theme in my life, especially since I trusted Christ as Lord and Savior over thirty years ago. Maybe I am unusual in this, but I think that many wrestle with these same thoughts: “What am I going to do with my life?” God has placed within us a desire for purpose. It may be our strongest human desire, the yearning to find that great work, that place where we feel the deepest sense of fulfillment. “This is the reason I exist!”

In a way, we are all exchanging our soul for something. When I was much younger, I was exchanging my soul for rock climbing. Although there were pleasures and accomplishments from my years of rock climbing, there was never any sense that clawing my way up crags was worth my soul. I felt a need for purpose but climbing was never going to get me there. Then I met the Lord Jesus and He changed everything. Now my life had a sense of purpose. When I was a new believer, I had not come close to finding THE PURPOSE, but I knew that now I was on the right road.

THE MASTER ARCHER ANALOGY

I imagine God as the Master Archer and my life as an arrow. The target is that place where I feel the deep satisfaction and contentment of living my life fully to the glory of God, of finding my unique purpose. Before Christ, I had placed my arrow in the hands of clumsy archers who were poor marksmen, and my life was being spent in dissipation to no purpose. But now I have placed my arrow in the hands of the Lord, the Master Archer, and the Lord has launched me from His bow. Like every one of my brothers and sisters in Christ, I am now either a contented arrow in flight, useful to the Master Archer as I fly toward His chosen target, or the greatest of all satisfactions, a fulfilled arrow which has found its target and is living out my purpose. I have found my great work (Nehemiah 6:3). My search is over. This, my purpose, is why I exist.

BIBLICAL EXAMPLES OF PURPOSE

The Bible is full of examples of people who found their purpose. Nehemiah left Susa and the court of King Artaxerxes to find his purpose. He realized that the work of his life was rebuilding Jerusalem. “I am doing a great work and I cannot come down (Neh. 6:3).” Having found his life purpose, nothing was going to distract him.

The apostle Paul found his purpose in the dust of the Damascus road. He was a chosen instrument for Christ, and nothing was going to prevent him from fulfilling his purpose. “But I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, so that I may finish my course and the ministry I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God (Acts 20:24).” He was a man who had found his purpose, and so he could say, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain (Phil. 1:21).”

The Lord Jesus Himself was completely aware of the reason why He was sent by the Father and was focused on fulfilling His purpose. There has never been and there never will be a Person on earth who was more intent on His purpose. As He was preparing for the cross, Jesus said, “I glorified You (the Father) on the earth, having accomplished the work which You have given Me to do (John 17:4).” Even Jesus knew the joy and satisfaction of perfectly fulfilling His purpose.

In Isaiah 6, the prophet saw the LORD, lofty and exalted, and realized his own sinfulness (“Woe is me, for I am ruined!”), but he found his life purpose.

The Lord said, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?” Then I said, “Here am I! Send me!” – Isaiah 6:8

Jeremiah was given his life purpose when he was still a youth.

But the LORD said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am a youth,’ because everywhere I send you, you shall go, and all that I command you, you shall speak (Jeremiah 1:7).” “Now, gird up your loins and arise, and speak to them all which I command you (1:17).”

Many others knew the satisfaction and contentment which comes from fulfilling God’s purpose for their lives. Amos 7:15 – “But the LORD took me from following the flock and the LORD said to me, ‘Go prophesy to My people Israel.’” Peter was given his purpose one day on the Sea of Galilee. Jesus said to Simon (Peter), “Do not fear. From now on you will be catching men (Luke 5:11).” Moses was a washed-up shepherd in Midian when the LORD met him in a burning bush and gave him a life purpose, to lead Israel out of Egypt (Exodus 3). The LORD commanded Joshua to be strong and courageous and then gave him the life purpose of leading Israel in to conquer the land of Canaan (Joshua 1). Caleb demanded to be given the city of Hebron, because he knew that the LORD had called him to drive out the giants there (Joshua 14:6-15). Ezekiel was also given his assignment from the LORD: “Son of man, I am sending you to the sons of Israel, a rebellious people who have rebelled against Me (Ezekiel 2:3).” And thus was his life determined.  

But I have become convinced that the Lord intends for all His children to know the satisfaction and peace and contentment of finding their life purpose. “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them (Ephesians 2:10).” Now, if He has prepared our good works, he must also know the purpose for those good works.

I feel that, after a search of almost thirty years, I have now found my purpose; my great work. I am now writing full time and have never been more enthusiastic about my life. “Delight yourself in the LORD, and He will give you the desires of your heart (Psalm 37:4).” If the desires of your heart are to glorify God with your life and rejoice in Him, then He has promised to give you the desires of your heart. One of those desires should be finding His purpose for your life. “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you (Matthew 6:33).” The world searches for riches and fame and power, but the believer seeks the Lord Himself and fellowship with Him. Seek righteousness (Matthew 5:6) and the Lord has promised to add all the other things. “You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart (Jeremiah 29:13).”

SDG                 rmb                 2/24/2021

How will you spend your life? Matthew 16:24-27

It may come upon us in a sudden flash or it may slowly build over time, but there comes a moment for all of us when we realize this fact:

Life is brief, life is fragile, and life is fleeting, and there is an end to my life that is hurtling towards me.

This is as sobering a thought as we can encounter, but we ignore it and brush it away to our own peril. It is an essential part of the human condition, brought on by Adam’s sin in the Garden so long ago. Death – lurking, looming, certainly arriving, but on an unknown timetable, rushes towards us on a collision course, and that rendezvous demands from us an answer to the question, “So, what are you doing with your life?”

I believe we have all been created with a God-given something inside us that yearns for a purpose that is somehow significant. “This is my one and only life, and it is so immensely precious, and yet it seems to be leaking through my fingers like so much oil. Why am I here? What am I to do? Who can show me the way?”

I have long thought about these questions, but recently they posed themselves to me in a new light, perhaps because I have more time to think right now (I am at a crossroads, and in this transition there are large blocks of time for reflection). But for whatever reason, it occurred to me that MY LIFE WILL BE SPENT DOING SOMETHING. The key word there is “spent.” My life will be spent. And so will yours. My life had a beginning and it will certainly have an end, and over that I have no control. But how I spend the time in between, over that I have a great deal of control. Thus, the grand question becomes, “How will I spend my life?”

As He does in so many places in the gospels, in Matthew 16 Jesus Christ speaks to this question and gives us foundational answers on which we can build a life of purpose and usefulness. Immediately following His acknowledgement of Peter’s confession of Him as the Messiah and the Son of the living God, the Lord Jesus predicts His own upcoming death and resurrection in Jerusalem. Then He tells His would-be disciples what it means to follow Him:

Then Jesus told His disciples, “If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man is going to come with His angels in the glory of His Father, and then He will repay each person according to what he has done.” Jesus in Matthew 16:24-27

Notice that Jesus warns about two wrong paths. First, He speaks of those who try to save their life. This might describe people who live their life in fear, afraid to take risks because it may turn out badly. They try to live very safely in an effort to live as long as they can. Jesus says that this effort is futile, because living a long and safe, fruitless life is exactly the same as living a short and reckless, fruitless life. Life is not measured by its length, but by what is done during the time that it lasts. In contrast to the safe group, Jesus says that whoever lives his life for Jesus’ sake “will find it,” which means that the person will find rich purpose and usefulness in this life and will receive the reward of eternal life in the life to come. The goal of this person is to find that place or situation where they are useful to Jesus and continue to live in that place with reckless abandon, trusting that the Lord will give them exactly the right number of days.

The second wrong path is that of trying to “gain the whole world” while losing your own soul. On this path, the goal is to accumulate as much stuff as you can, under the mistaken belief that this world is all there is, and my pleasure and happiness are the highest values. Jesus warns these people that all the “stuff” in the world will not give you a single penny to spend in the life to come. Those who focus on gaining the world in this life will certainly forfeit their own soul. A life spent gaining the world is a life wasted and, once life ends and the soul is forfeited, there is no longer any opportunity to get it back. But if you spend your life in service to the Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord will meet all your needs in this life (Matthew 6:33) and you will receive a crown of righteousness in the life to come (2 Timothy 4:8).

So, what is the goal for this question about how to spend our lives or what is the right purpose? Here is the goal that I would propose:

The GOAL is to be able to say with confidence, “I am doing with my life what I have been created and called to do so that I am fulfilling my God-given purpose.”

I am convinced that only Jesus Christ can give this GOAL and this feeling of purpose to us, because only Jesus, as God the Son, has the authority and power to guide and ordain our lives. It is only as a follower of Jesus that I can be fulfilling my God-given purpose. So, the necessary first step to finding fulfillment and fruitfulness in life is to become a follower of Jesus. Then, as I follow Jesus and read His word, the Bible, He slowly begins to rearrange and clean out the closets and the attics of my life, and discards the excess baggage and clears the brush off the new paths. I pray about and think about circumstances and opportunities and the Lord continues to refine my life’s activities until they are in alignment with what the Bible has called me to do. There is amazing peace when the pursuits and the activities of life bring with them a deep feeling of satisfaction, because we know that we are pleasing the Lord in these roles and activities and pursuits. Jesus Christ offers this to all who follow Him.

But, before we leave this passage, it would be wise for us to re-read the last verse. Jesus declares that, as the glorious Son of Man, He is “going to come with His angels in the glory of His Father” to judge the earth. As He prophesied His death and resurrection, so He also prophesies His future return when He will come in wrath and judgment. Here in 16:24-26, Jesus is urging men and women to come after Him and to follow Him so that they will experience Him as merciful Savior and not as terrifying Judge. While there is still time, we should all heed this warning.

SDG                 rmb                 6/11/2020