By Brad Hambrick, M.Div., Th.M.
“You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him.’ The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. He must increase, but I must
decrease.” John the Baptist (John 8:28-30)
“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31)
It was May 21, 1527. This time period marks the “continental divide” of Christian history. The church was fighting to redefine what it meant to be a Christian. Major figures in church history were doing the things for which we now remember them: Martin Luther, John Calvin, and Huldrich Zwingli. In the midst of these major figures was a small group known as the Anabaptists. They sided with neither the Reformers nor the Catholic Church. On this day, one of these men was facing execution for his faith. The indictment read:
Michael Sattler shall be committed to the executioner. The latter shall take him to the square and there first cut out his tongue, and then forge him fast to a wagon and there with glowing tongs twice tear pieces from his body, and then on the way to the site of execution give times more as above and then burn his body to powder as an arch-heretic (McDow & Reid, 1997, p. 160).
As this gruesome plan unfolded, one sympathetic observer recorded:
When the ropes on his hands had burned through, he raised the forefingers of both hands, thereby giving the signal he had agreed on before with his fellow believers to indicate that such a dying was bearable and that he remained in the faith (McDow & Reid, 1997, p. 161).
What enables a man, in the midst of such unimaginable suffering, to maintain his focus on God’s glory and the edification of God’s people? In a word, purpose. Michael Sattler had one resounding goal— to spend his life for Christ. Whether his life was spent over 50 years or a few hours, he wanted it to be used for God’s purpose.
The intent of this article is not to promote martyrdom as the ultimate expression of Christian affection. The goal is to communicate how God’s presence in the life of an individual provides a stable and satisfying sense of purpose that brings meaning to intense suffering, our treasured pleasures, and the monotony of everyday life.
Defining “Biblical Purpose”
Biblical Purpose is an over-arching goal or agenda for life that brings consistency and direction to the apparent disconnectedness of life. Purpose is what allows an individual to measure progress and have a sense of accomplishment. Purpose relates to why you do things, more than what you do.
The same action can stem from multiple purposes. For example, how many different potential purposes are there for a young boy to help an old lady across the street? A short list includes: sincere compassion; to earn a Boy Scott badge; she is his grandmother and he will get a guilt trip if he does not; he works on commission at the business across the street and hopes to make a sale; or she is the grandmother of the girl he wants to date and he hopes she will put in a good word for him.
The purpose of this article is not to judge motive—only God knows our hearts—but to instruct on how to sustain the only motivation that will satisfy the human soul. Because the same what can emerge from many whys. If we focus only upon what we should be doing we can easily truncate the Christian faith to a set of duties. Only when the duties of faith are practiced in a love for God (worship) and in keeping with our created design (purpose) will they fill the nagging void in our heart.
In America, life carries many relatively predictable elements: many years of education, working even more years to support oneself and possibly a family, the challenges of starting a career, an intense time of reassessment at mid-life, and adjusting to a slower pace as one ages. Without some grander purpose, life can become so routine or harsh as to promote depression or disillusionment (Ecclesiastes 1:2-11).
It is important to note that this definition of purpose overlaps with the concepts of identity and wisdom also found in this series on a Christ-honoring alternative to self-esteem.
Identity: Knowing what something is provides a foundation for understanding how to use it. Knowing that people were created in the image of God to reflect His glory as God’s children provides a framework for purpose to which individuals must fill in the details.
Wisdom: Wisdom is the implementation of purpose. The most eloquently stated purpose, centered upon the Godliest cause without wisdom is like the finest luxury car with a fourteen year old behind the wheel on a rainy day and a winding road.
To learn more about what Christ-honoring purpose looks like, please click the link below for the full article.