Everyone longs to understand the purpose of life.
Without purpose, life becomes as they say, “rearranging furniture on the Titanic“—killing time until the inevitable end.
Fortunately, God has not left us ignorant. He has given us insight, wisdom and a manual for life with clear instructions about why we are here on earth. But the Bible is a big book and there is no specific section outlining “the purpose of life.” So we are left to answer this question ourselves, with the grand narrative of Scripture as our light and guide.
Thankfully we are not the first people to think about these matters. Many who have gone before us have tried to understand the purpose of why God created us, and to summarise it concisely.
One of the best known, helpful and brief summaries of the purpose of life according to the Bible comes from the Westminster Shorter Catechism. This catechism is a series of questions and answers that was approved by the British Parliament in 1648 for use as a manual of instruction for children.
The first question and answer in the catechism is its most famous.
Q. What is the chief end of man?
A. Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.
There are several important and life-changing points to be made about this statement.
First of all, there are two parts to this answer: (1) to glorify God, and (2) to enjoy him forever. However, as many people have pointed out, these two parts do not constitute two different ‘ends,’ but one “chief end.” As John Piper has described in his book Desiring God, we glorify God by enjoying him forever. This is our chief end or the very purpose of life.
Secondly, the main purpose of life is ultimately to glorify God (Isa. 43:6-7). We were created for God. He is worthy of all glory and honour and we were created to exalt, magnify, and worship him. The purpose of our life is all about God.
Thirdly, we glorify God by enjoying him. God is most glorified when we view him as our all-satisfying treasure in life, the greatest joy and desire of our hearts. God takes our joy very seriously. He takes joy so seriously because what we enjoy most is what we love most. He wants to be the greatest love of our lives (Matt. 22:37-38), because the more we love and enjoy God, the more he is glorified in our lives.
Here we come to a stunning truth: God wants us to be happy.
We could even say the purpose of life is to be happy. But not with happiness as an end in itself, happy in God, which is the greatest kind of happiness. God wants us to experience the deepest joy we possibly can—joy in him. Anything less does not glorify God, and it cannot fully satisfy us either.
Finding joy in God means increasingly growing in our knowledge of God. True joy in God makes us want to obey God and makes us long to share our joy with others. But at the core of everything is our heart’s posture toward God, which is happiness in God which is indicative of our love for God.
What is the purpose of life? It is living to God’s glory and receiving our joy in him. We were created to glorify God by enjoying him and to do this forever. This is the beautiful purpose of life.