God's Purpose for You
Purpose in life is far more important than property or possessions. Having more to live with is no substitute for having more to live for. ‘The two greatest days of your life are the day you were born and the day you find out why’.¹
God has a specific purpose for you. In addition, God’s general will for all of us is revealed in the Bible. In the passages for today we see what God wants for you and for everyone.
For the director of music. Of David. A psalm.
1 You have searched me, Lord,
and you know me.
2 You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
3 You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
4 Before a word is on my tongue
you, Lord, know it completely.
5 You hem me in behind and before,
and you lay your hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.
7 Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
To be known and to know him
God’s calling for all of us is to be known by him and to know him. ‘Oh Lord, you have searched me and you know me’ (v.1).
Perhaps this is David reflecting in his old age on how God has guided him throughout his life. ‘You hem me in – behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me’ (v.5): this speaks of God’s loving and gentle hand pressing him along the path of his choosing.
You cannot escape God’s presence. He knows everything (v.2) and he is everywhere (vv.7–10). Look to him for guidance: ‘your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast’ (v.10).
1 John 5:1-21
Faith in the Incarnate Son of God
5 Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well. 2 This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. 3 In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, 4 for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. 5 Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.
6 This is the one who came by water and blood —Jesus Christ. He did not come by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. 7 For there are three that testify: 8 the Spirit, the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement. 9 We accept human testimony, but God’s testimony is greater because it is the testimony of God, which he has given about his Son. 10 Whoever believes in the Son of God accepts this testimony. Whoever does not believe God has made him out to be a liar, because they have not believed the testimony God has given about his Son. 11 And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.
13 I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. 14 This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.
16 If you see any brother or sister commit a sin that does not lead to death, you should pray and God will give them life. I refer to those whose sin does not lead to death. There is a sin that leads to death. I am not saying that you should pray about that. 17 All wrongdoing is sin, and there is sin that does not lead to death.
18 We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin; the One who was born of God keeps them safe, and the evil one cannot harm them. 19 We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one. 20 We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true. And we are in him who is true by being in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.
21 Dear children, keep yourselves from idols.
To be loved and to love for ever
The moment you put your faith in Jesus Christ, you were ‘born of God’ ... You become the much-loved child of God who ‘is love’. God loves you far more than human parents love their own children.
We love our Father in heaven and, therefore, we should love all his children. Over the years, Pippa and I have noticed that, from the moment they are born, we have a special love for the children of our friends. This is because of the love we have for their parents. John writes, ‘everyone who loves the father loves his child as well’ (v.1).
Just as parents who love their children want them to be confident about their future, God wants you to be confident about your future.
The moment you put your faith in Jesus Christ you are ‘born of God’ (v.1) and receive ‘eternal life’ (v.12) – but how can you be confident of this? St John tells us that this is the purpose of his letter: ‘I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life’ (v.13).
In this passage we see three tests of a true Christian:
‘Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God... This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God’ (vv.1a,4–5).
A Christian is a person who puts their faith in Jesus. In doing so, you become a child of God.
‘Everyone who loves the father loves his child as well’ (v.1b).
The evidence of true faith is love – love for God, love for Jesus, love for others. Faith expresses itself in love.
‘This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. This is love for God: to obey his commands’ (vv.2–3).
This love is not just a feeling. It involves action – obedience to God’s commands.
John goes on to speak about three witnesses. How can you be sure that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God? God has three witnesses (vv.6–8):
At the baptism of Jesus, God testified, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased’ (Matthew 3:17). The sacrament of baptism focuses on ‘the water’.
The blood Jesus shed on the cross for you is the second witness. Jesus ‘came by water and blood... he did not come by water only, but by water and blood’ (1 John 5:6). The sacrament of Holy Communion focuses on ‘the blood’.
The Holy Spirit testifies in our hearts that Jesus is the Son of God (vv.6,10). The Spirit is the Spirit of truth (v.6). ‘And we are in him who is true – even in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life’ (v.20).
On the Alpha Weekend, for example, there is a chance for each of the guests to be prayed for, and to ask to be filled with the Holy Spirit. For many people this is the key moment on Alpha – as they are filled with the Holy Spirit, they experience the reality of a relationship with God and assurance of his love for them. It is this experience of God that confirms\* and establishes their faith.
God wants you to be confident that Jesus really is the Christ, the Son of God. He wants you to know that you have life in his Son (v.11). Indeed, you have ‘eternal life’ (v.13).
He wants you to have confidence in approaching God: ‘This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us – whatever we ask – we know that we have what we asked of him’ (vv.14–15).
Sometimes you know what God’s will is – it is clearly spelt out in the Scriptures. At other times, you may not be so sure. In whatever situation, you can add to your prayers, ‘Your will be done.’
If the answer is ‘yes’ he may be increasing your faith. If the answer is ‘wait’ he may be increasing your patience. If the answer is ‘no’, he may have something better in mind. Trust that his will is ‘good, pleasing and perfect’ (Romans 12:2).
John challenges us that those ‘born of God \[Christian believers\] do not continue to sin’ (1 John 5:18a). In other words, we must not wilfully carry on sinning just as we did before we turned to Christ. However, he also reminds us of God’s wonderful promise that ‘the one who was born of God \[Jesus\] keeps \[you\] safe, and the evil one cannot harm \[you\]’ (v.18b). You are safe in Jesus’ arms of love.
The King Who Exalts Himself
36 “The king will do as he pleases. He will exalt and magnify himself above every god and will say unheard-of things against the God of gods. He will be successful until the time of wrath is completed, for what has been determined must take place. 37 He will show no regard for the gods of his ancestors or for the one desired by women, nor will he regard any god, but will exalt himself above them all. 38 Instead of them, he will honour a god of fortresses; a god unknown to his ancestors he will honor with gold and silver, with precious stones and costly gifts. 39 He will attack the mightiest fortresses with the help of a foreign god and will greatly honour those who acknowledge him. He will make them rulers over many people and will distribute the land at a price.
40 “At the time of the end the king of the South will engage him in battle, and the king of the North will storm out against him with chariots and cavalry and a great fleet of ships. He will invade many countries and sweep through them like a flood. 41 He will also invade the Beautiful Land. Many countries will fall, but Edom, Moab and the leaders of Ammon will be delivered from his hand. 42 He will extend his power over many countries; Egypt will not escape. 43 He will gain control of the treasures of gold and silver and all the riches of Egypt, with the Libyans and Cushites in submission. 44 But reports from the east and the north will alarm him, and he will set out in a great rage to destroy and annihilate many. 45 He will pitch his royal tents between the seas at the beautiful holy mountain. Yet he will come to his end, and no one will help him.
The End Times
12 “At that time Michael, the great prince who protects your people, will arise. There will be a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then. But at that time your people—everyone whose name is found written in the book —will be delivered. 2 Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt. 3 Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever. 4 But you, Daniel, roll up and seal the words of the scroll until the time of the end. Many will go here and there to increase knowledge.”
5 Then I, Daniel, looked, and there before me stood two others, one on this bank of the river and one on the opposite bank. 6 One of them said to the man clothed in linen, who was above the waters of the river, “How long will it be before these astonishing things are fulfilled?”
7 The man clothed in linen, who was above the waters of the river, lifted his right hand and his left hand toward heaven, and I heard him swear by him who lives forever, saying, “It will be for a time, times and half a time. When the power of the holy people has been finally broken, all these things will be completed. ”
8 I heard, but I did not understand. So I asked, “My lord, what will the outcome of all this be?”
9 He replied, “Go your way, Daniel, because the words are rolled up and sealed until the time of the end. 10 Many will be purified, made spotless and refined, but the wicked will continue to be wicked. None of the wicked will understand, but those who are wise will understand.
11 “From the time that the daily sacrifice is abolished and the abomination that causes desolation is set up, there will be 1,290 days. 12 Blessed is the one who waits for and reaches the end of the 1,335 days.
13 “As for you, go your way till the end. You will rest, and then at the end of the days you will rise to receive your allotted inheritance. ”
To be blessed and to bless
God blesses you in order that you may be a blessing to others.
By the start of this passage, the mind of the writer has already turned from the time of Antiochus IV Epiphanes (215–164 BC), who was the king who will do as he pleases, (11:36a) to the end times.
We have here one of the great Old Testament affirmations of life beyond the grave: ‘... at that time your people – everyone whose name is found written in the book – will be delivered. Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt. Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever’ (12:1b–3).
You have everlasting life. One day you will shine like the stars for ever and ever. In the meantime, a purification process needs to take place. ‘Many will be purified, made spotless and refined’ (v.10). As well as leading yourself, lead others ‘on the right path to life’ (v.3, MSG). God’s purpose for you is not that you should sit around waiting for Jesus’ return to redeem the world. He wants your life to make a difference now. You are called to be a blessing to those around you.
We are called to help each other in our discipleship. I am very grateful for the encouragement, support and challenge over the years of close Christian friends, as well as of older, wiser mentors. It is so helpful to have mentors, and to be willing in turn to help those younger in faith than us. As we challenge and help each other we all grow in our discipleship.
Daniel was told, ‘And you? Go about your business without fretting or worrying. Relax. When it’s all over, you will be on your feet to receive your reward’ (v.13, MSG). What a wonderful promise this must have been for Daniel. He had worked so hard both in his business life and in his work as a prophet. Now rest would come and God had allotted to him an inheritance.
You too have this promise of everlasting life and you will shine like the stars for ever and ever.
Psalm 139 is my favourite psalm. It is the first place in the Bible I would turn to when feeling troubled. Wherever I am in the world – whether near or far from home – however I’m feeling, as it says in verse 10: ‘even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.’
Verse of the Day
‘Your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.’
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¹This is often attributed to Mark Twain but probably not one of his original quotes. It appears that the origin is anonymous.
Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.
Scripture marked (MSG) taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.