Last year my family and I spent six months in England, living a quiet little life in a cottage near Oxford. We went for country bike rides down one lane roads and walks through open fields. We’d stop to say hello to a horse we named Chester. We’d watch cows graze through the fields all around us.
For a couple of Californians, this peaceful Oxfordshire experience was closer to something in a book than our normal life. But we eventually returned home and our season of quiet evaporated like a dream. Phone calls and fire trucks rang again. The pace of Southern California life hadn’t lost a step.
Sometimes a slow and secluded life can sound so idyllic. But the bigger question we have to wrestle with is: What is life all about?
The Bible gives us the shortcut to the answer in a little, seemingly insignificant verse. The verse doesn’t carry any riveting dialogue or advance the storyline of the early church, but still it hones in on our raison d’etre. The verse is a summary of the life of David, the man after God’s own heart.
Acts 13:36 says, “For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep and was laid with his fathers and saw corruption.”
This is David who defeated Goliath and the Philistines, David who became the King of Judah and the King of Israel, David who had the ark of God brought to Jerusalem, David who repented after his adultery with Bathsheba, David who fought the battles of the Lord with his mighty men, David who made plans to build the temple. Here his life gets summed up in one phrase: he served the purpose of God in his own generation. That’s it! The purpose of life is to serve God’s purposes in our own generation.
Our Story Too
David didn’t get to live to see our day of airplanes and iPhones. He didn’t live to see the success of Psalm 23. He played his part and that was it. When he was done, he went home. And this is our story too. When God saved us, he had plans for us, things he wanted us to do. Ephesians 2:10 says that God prepared good works for us, “that we should walk in them.”
We don’t create our purpose; we discover it as we walk with God. Romans 12 says some of us are gifted to teach, others to exhort, others to give, others to lead, and others to show mercy. 1 Peter 4 says some will speak and some will serve. Ephesians 4 says some will be apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds, and teachers. But no matter what part you are or are not, “God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose.” (1 Corinthians 12:18)
God chose you to be a part of his body and whatever part you are, whatever role you play, your purpose is to serve the purposes of God in your own generation. (Acts 13:36)
So what are God’s purposes? If we want to serve God where should we begin? Here are twelve things that immediately come to mind from Scripture:
- God values his word and says it won’t pass away. (Matthew 24:35)
- God is building his church. (Matthew 16:18)
- God desires that none should perish, but all should repent and believe. (2 Peter 3:9; Mark 1:15)
- God cares about the small stuff, like giving a cup of cold water in his name. (Matthew 10:42; 25:31-46)
- God cares about the big stuff, like being his witnesses to the ends of the earth. (Acts 1:8; Matthew 28:19)
- God values our service to widows and orphans. (James 1:27)
- God cares about how we love our families. (Ephesians 5:25-33; 1 Timothy 3:4)
- God wants us to pray. (1 Thessalonians 5:17; Luke 18:1)
- God wants his word preached. (2 Timothy 4:2; Mark 1:38)
- God loves children and wants them to come to him. (Luke 18:16; Mark 9:42)
- God values our work when we do it for the Lord and not for men. (Colossians 3:23)
- God values all that we do, even eating and drinking, when it’s done for his glory. (1 Corinthians 10:31)
We find our purpose in God’s purposes. Slow or fast, quiet or loud, private or public, these are not the main questions of life. What we really need to ask ourselves is: Am I locked in on God’s purposes?
God gives you and I the chance to serve his purposes in our generation. Will we take it?