The problem of purpose (revisited)…
In an earlier post, I wrote about the problem of purpose, asking a few questions (which I only partially answered):
Why are we here? To what end did God create us? More than that, why—after he saved us from our old life and made us new—why didn’t he just take us home to be with him? Why did he leave us here? What is his point?
In that post I looked at these questions from the standpoint of our own personal growth toward Christlikeness. But that’s only part of the answer. The complete answer, I think, is found in answering another question:
Why did the Son of God come into this world and do what he did?
In answering that question, we’ll find our own—overriding—life purpose. Here is one of several explicit statements Jesus made about his own life purpose:
“For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost.”
When challenged by the religious authorities in his world to justify his friendships with what they thought of as spiritual and moral riff-raff, Jesus told three stories that tell us a lot about his heart. As you read them, remember who he’s talking to and what he’s trying to explain. I think his critics are represented by one of the characters in the stories. Can you tell which one?
3 stories about lost things…
Tax collectors and other notorious sinners often came to listen to Jesus teach.This made the Pharisees and teachers of religious law complain that he was associating with such sinful people—even eating with them! —Luke 15:1-2
Story 1: Lost Sheep
So Jesus told them this story: “If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them gets lost, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others in the wilderness and go to search for the one that is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it, he will joyfully carry it home on his shoulders. When he arrives, he will call together his friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’ In the same way, there is more joy in heaven over one lost sinner who repents and returns to God than over ninety-nine others who are righteous and haven’t strayed away! —Luke 15:3-7
Story 2: Lost Coin
“Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Won’t she light a lamp and sweep the entire house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she will call in her friends and neighbors and say, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost coin.’ In the same way, there is joy in the presence of God’s angels when even one sinner repents.” —Luke 15:8-10
Story 3: Lost Son
To illustrate the point further, Jesus told them this story: “A man had two sons. The younger son told his father, ‘I want my share of your estate now before you die.’ So his father agreed to divide his wealth between his sons.
“A few days later this younger son packed all his belongings and moved to a distant land, and there he wasted all his money in wild living. About the time his money ran out, a great famine swept over the land, and he began to starve. He persuaded a local farmer to hire him, and the man sent him into his fields to feed the pigs. The young man became so hungry that even the pods he was feeding the pigs looked good to him. But no one gave him anything.
“When he finally came to his senses, he said to himself, ‘At home even the hired servants have food enough to spare, and here I am dying of hunger! I will go home to my father and say, “Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son. Please take me on as a hired servant.”’
“So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him. His son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son.’
“But his father said to the servants, ‘Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. Get a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet. And kill the calf we have been fattening. We must celebrate with a feast, for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found.’ So the party began.
“Meanwhile, the older son was in the fields working. When he returned home, he heard music and dancing in the house, and he asked one of the servants what was going on. ‘Your brother is back,’ he was told, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf. We are celebrating because of his safe return.’
“The older brother was angry and wouldn’t go in. His father came out and begged him, but he replied, ‘All these years I’ve slaved for you and never once refused to do a single thing you told me to. And in all that time you never gave me even one young goat for a feast with my friends. Yet when this son of yours comes back after squandering your money on prostitutes, you celebrate by killing the fattened calf!’
“His father said to him, ‘Look, dear son, you have always stayed by me, and everything I have is yours. We had to celebrate this happy day. For your brother was dead and has come back to life! He was lost, but now he is found!’”
Lesson 1: Remember Being Found
I remember what it was like to be lost, seemingly unknown, trapped in unbelievable darkness. But I wasn’t unknown. One night, the God of the Universe reach into that darkness and set me free. I couldn’t find my own way out, but it didn’t matter. He could. And did.
What about you?
What is your story? What was your darkness, your lost place? How did God reach you?
What is your darkness?
If you were lost and have been found, rejoice in the finding. If you’re still in that dark place, reach out your hand and take his, and be delivered. And then, as you grow and heal, never forget where you were and how you came to be where you are now.
Lesson 2: Commit to Seeking & Finding
I’ve been reading a powerful book the last few days, Undaunted: Daring to Do What God Calls You to Do, by Christine Caine. Every story in that amazing book rings with the challenge of remembering what it was like to be lost, to be sought, and to be found, and then? To be used by God to go back into the darkness and seek others who need finding.
God’s heart beats for every lost person every single second of every single day. He misses the lost. The world is such a dark place, dense and full of danger. The warning signs are not always clear or noticed. There are so many who need rescuers, so many who need others to help their wandering ways, so many who are simply foolish, careless sheep. Each of them is God’s missing treasure, his beloved though willful and prodigal child.
There are so many like we, too, were once.
That’s what he wants us to remember. We, too, once were lost and now are found. And because we’ve been found, we are part of his search-and-rescue team. The light we craved once, the light he brought to us to illuminate our own rescue, is what he sends us back into the dark to carry.
—Christine Caine, Undaunted, page 140
Think about it…
Which of these stories is your favorite? Which of these people or objects do you most identify with? Why do you feel that way?