There have been a number of inspiring movies down through the years, and one that many have seen, and you may have, is Chariots of Fire, released in 1981 and available on DVD.
I’m sure you remember—based on the true story of British athletes preparing for and competing in the 1924 Paris Summer Olympics Games. We meet Harold Abrahams, a determined Jewish student who ran for personal glory, and Eric Liddell, a devout Scottish missionary who ran for the glory of God. Both were track athletes. And the wonderful statement that Eric made: “I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run I feel his pleasure.”
There was a lot more to the story that was also very inspiring, but I want to comment on this phrase: “I believe God made me for a purpose”. Although Eric was acclaimed as a national hero because of how he ran his Olympic race, this is not why we remember him as a hero. Dozens of other Olympians won gold in the 1924 games, and few, if any, are remembered today. The athletic heroes of yesteryear are soon forgotten by succeeding generations, being quickly replaced by the newest sports sensation. Eric Liddell remains a hero today because of how he ran the race of life. He did not live his life to garner prizes or the applause of people. Rather, he lived his life and ran his race to glorify God. He pressed ahead toward the goal for the prize of his heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus as it says in the Bible in Philippians 3:14.
What’s Your Purpose in Life?
Do you believe God made you for a specific purpose? I think that is one of the most important questions in life. If you can settle that one, you can get on with life with confidence. Many people go through life feeling discouraged about themselves and thinking they do not have a purpose in life. But that’s not true. Whoever you are—whatever your life experiences, talents, physical ability, or role—you have a purpose. A noted physician recently said, “Medical science is giving us longer life, but no reason to live.” Science cannot deal with the purpose of life.
Many people have no idea what life is all about. They live, and they die, wondering whether or not their lives have purpose—where they fit, whether they really matter in the grand scheme of things. All too soon, youthful plans and dreams evaporate into anxiety and frustration over missed opportunities, failed relationships or countless other if onlys and might have beens.
Perhaps you’ve had one of those experiences. Genesis 1:27 says “God created human beings in his own image…male and female he created them”. We are not in God’s image in terms of height or weight or skin colour. God is spirit, un-created, and we are created of matter. Still, in essential ways he has made us to be like him. We are self-aware, we can communicate, plan, think creatively, design and build, solve problems, and be a force for good in our world. And like God, we can love.
The Connection that Makes Everything Significant
The Westminster Catechism is about the created purpose of human beings. It asks the question, What is the chief end of man? The ‘chief end’ is Old English for the main reason. So what is the ‘chief end’ or main purpose of humankind? The Westminster Catechism says that, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever”.
Don’t be put off because it’s a statement from a catechism—it applies to today as well, and it’s the best definition I’ve come across. The trick is knowing what I am supposed to be in my life. I don’t have to be a fast athlete like Eric Liddell to glorify God—I can glorify God as I mow the lawn tomorrow morning. It covers everything. How exciting it is to realise that God has created you and me to do amazing things, and make a special contribution in the world. That’s something extra! Let me say this clearly to you this morning: we are created on purpose with a purpose.
Once you make a connection with God through Jesus, everything becomes significant. William James once said, “The best use of life is to spend it for something that outlasts it”. Only the kingdom of God will last—everything else will one day vanish. That’s why Rick Warren’s book The Purpose Driven Life was a best-seller. Everyone wanted to know his secret. His book begins with these words:
It’s not about you. The purpose of your life is far greater than your own personal fulfilment, your peace of mind, or even your happiness. It’s far greater than your family, your career, or even your wildest dreams and ambitions. If you want to know why you were placed on this planet, you must begin with God.
It has been said that there are two great moments in a person’s life: the moment you were born and the moment you realise why you were born.