This is a two-fold answer of which I will only begin to scratch the surface. There is a general purpose for all mankind and a specific purpose for each individual. The general purpose is much easier to see and explain and is always the basis for the individual’s specific purpose; this, of course, gets into much more detail on the personal level.
The general purpose of mankind includes but is not limited to:
- To be an image bearer of God. We are created in the image of God, (Gen. 1-2) therefore, we are to be a reflection of God to each other.
- To glorify God. (Isa. 43-7) By being a true reflection of God we bring glory to His name. We glorify the Father by our worship, obedience and love. (Eccl. 12:13)
- To rule and care for His creation. After God created man (Adam) He put him in the garden to work and protect it. (Gen. 2) It is still our purpose and duty to take care of His creation.4.
- To advance His kingdom. The entirety of scripture points to the establishment and advancement of the kingdom of God. It has been ordained by the Father, established by the Son and empowered by the Holy Spirit. Man has been given the commission (purpose) to advance the kingdom. (Matt. 28:18-20) The specific purpose of each individual is much harder to define, not because it’s too difficult to explain but because God places a personal call and purpose on the heart of each of us that He Himself reveals. For example: All Christians are called to witness about Jesus (the Great Commission was not for apostles only), this would be a general purpose. But where and how you do this witnessing could be completely different. Some are purposed to witness at work, some to inmates and some to other countries as missionaries. This would be specific individual purpose. Many other examples could be given but I think you get the point. The real question should be, “How do I find my purpose?
Here are just a few things to think about when trying to discover your specific purpose:
- What burdens your heart? Some people have a burden for the lost, some for the poor, some for children and some for addicts. When faced with a leper Jesus was moved by compassion for the man and indignation towards the sickness and was “willing” to heal him. (Mark 1:41) Jesus has a burden for the lost, sick and dying and it moved Him to action. What moves you to action? What fires up a righteous anger in your heart?2.
- What satisfies your soul? When you are moved to action from your burden, where do you find your satisfaction? Do you feel satisfied with teaching, cleaning, visiting, or mentoring? How about organizing a project, counseling a struggling marriage or babysitting for a single parent? Generally when you pay attention to the burden on your heart and find a way to make something good happen, you find what satisfies your soul.3.
- Consider your talents. What are you good at? Do you have a talent for athletics, art, or hospitality? Do you have gifts for cooking, planning or finances? Finding your gifts and talents that God has given you is a major key in discovering your God-given purpose. God can use any talent you have for the betterment of His kingdom.
- Pray! Ask Him for wisdom; He gives it abundantly. (James 1:5) God knows you better than you know yourself. So, let Him guide you to His purpose. Your purpose in life is less about you and more about what God wants to do through you. And yet, you will be completely fulfilled.
Keep in mind this is not an exhaustive list of things to consider when seeking your individual purpose; it’s simply a good place to get started. One final thought is found in Romans 12:2 NIV “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” You will not find your true purpose in the things of this world or societies worldview. Your mind must be transformed to see things through God’s eyes, and only God can do that for you!