The Westminster Shorter Catechism starts off with the question of the meaning of life:
“What is the chief end [purpose] of man?”
In other words, why are you here? Good question, isn’t it?
And that is still the question that people wrestle with (and have always wrestled with), even if they have never heard of the Westminster Shorter Catechism. (It seems that those pastors from England, Ireland & Scotland almost 400 years ago were onto something!)
And what is the answer that the catechism gives to that all-important question?
“Man’s chief end [i.e. purpose] is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever.”
For many people (even for many believers!), the very idea that God is central is a Copernican revolution of sorts. Just like Copernicus argued that the sun, not the earth, was the center of our solar system, so the Catechism tells us that, contrary to popular belief, we are not the center of our universe – God is! He & He alone is its reason for existence.
The apostle Paul said as much in the eleventh chapter of his epistle to the believers in Rome:
“For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be glory forever. Amen.” (Romans 11:36)
Notice that nowhere in that statement is the Creator confused with His creation. All things are from, through, and to God; all things are not God, nor are they part of God in any way.
And because all things are from, through, and to God, all of the glory belongs to Him forever as well.
But everyone doesn’t live as if their “chief end” or main purpose for existence has anything to do with God. Most do not. All too often those of us who call ourselves “believers” do not seem to do so either.
Is it any wonder why so many people are living lives marked by frustration, disappointment, confusion and even anger? How can anyone expect to feel a sense of fulfillment or ultimate purpose if he or she is not actually fulfilling the very purpose of his or her existence?
Augustine said much the same thing, over 1,200 years before the Westminster Assembly. In his Confessions, he wrote,
” . . .for You made us for Yourself, and our heart is restless, until it rests in You.”
Why are we here? First and foremost, we are here to glorify God. Another way of saying that is that we are here to recognize God for who He is – God! He is our Creator! It is His world – we are just living in it!
Secondly, we are here to enjoy Him forever. Sometimes it takes a while for us to learn that our lives are to be spent glorifying God. But it seems to take a lot of us (myself included) a lifetime to understand what it means to enjoy God. In Christ by faith He is not just God, but our God; not just our God, but our heavenly Father!
In his wonderful, classic book, Knowing God, J.I. Packer writes,
If you want to judge how well a person understands Christianity, find out how much he makes of the thought of being God’s child, and having God as his Father. If this is not the thought that prompts and controls his worship and prayers and his whole outlook on life, it means that he does not understand Christianity very well at all. (p.201)
The better you know God in Jesus Christ, the more you will want to glorify Him and the more you will want to live to enjoy Him above all else. The better you know God as your heavenly Father, the more you will really find your meaning and purpose in life. And nothing can take that away from you.
As the Psalmist puts it:
“Whom have I in heaven but you?
And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” (Psalm 73:25-26)
May God by His glorious grace make that the refrain of our hearts as well. Amen!