Two questions have surrounded human beings for many centuries.
Who am I?
Why and why am I here?
You may have asked yourself these questions once.
These questions relate directly to the theme of life purpose.
When we consider them, that leads us to think about how to find one for ourselves.
Believers ask ourselves a more precious question: How do we find a life purpose with God?
Those of us who grew up in a humble family, in an underdeveloped country, are very familiar with the expression “to be someone in life”.
The loving longing of our parents was that as a result of their sacrifices, they could see that we, their children, did not suffer the same deprivations and sorrows as they did.
Who was not told to “study to be someone in life”.
It is clear that there is nothing wrong with motivating people to improve themselves or to improve their education or quality of life.
On the contrary, it is something wonderful and praiseworthy.
I would like to return to that idea to illustrate the topic of the purpose of life.
There are those who consider with me, that this way of seeing life, is influenced by a philosophical stream whose greatest modern exponents date from the nineteenth century.
This perspective, in very general terms, teaches that “existence precedes essence”.
What this basically implies is that we human beings lack an intrinsic essence or value when we come into the world and that it is our responsibility to build it.
To build an essence, an identity, a reason for our existence.
That is to say that we must build for ourselves a purpose in life.
Perhaps you can agree with me that the phrase “to be someone in life” is evidence that this way of thinking has completely permeated the Western world.
But is this true?
Do we human beings lack an intrinsic essence, value, and purpose that precedes our existence?
Is it our ultimate responsibility to make sense of our existence?
Do we lack a life purpose when coming into the world?
Seeing life that way leads us to try to find our own identity, meaning, and purpose by resorting to external things.
It is for this reason that in multiple cases, people come to feel that our life has a purpose by being publicly recognized or by standing out in certain areas.
Some of us seek to identify ourselves by dressing in particular ways or by getting flashy tattoos, alterations in the body, coloring our hair in an unconventional way or making very different cuts, acquiring certain styles of attitude or appearance.
Unconsciously we try to be different from others to somehow clarify that we are ourselves and that our existence has individual meaning and purpose.
We agree that everything is healthy to an extent.
And the world would be very boring if we were all in uniform.
I would like to lead you to reflect that there is an intrinsic aspect of this philosophy of “existence precedes essence” which can be highly dangerous.
Beautiful and intrinsically valuable people over the years have taken their own lives for feeling overly saturated with stress and unable to make sense of their lives or fit into collective expectations.
Having the responsibility to give meaning and purpose for ourselves to our lives imposes on us a heavy burden that in many cases robs us of the joy and satisfaction of living.
Now, is there another alternative?
I would like to illustrate this by resorting to an interesting story that Jesus told a group of people on occasion.
The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep.
The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.
When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice.
I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved.
They will come in and go out, and find pasture.
“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me—
I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also.
They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.
My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.
I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.
My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.
| John 10:2-4, 9, 11, 14, 16, 27-29
What does the story of some sheep have to do with what we have been talking about?
It is normal not to understand one of Jesus’ illustrations when reading it for the first time.
There is an idea there that I would like to highlight.
In the time of Jesus and long before that, the job of the shepherd was very common.
Which consists of caring for, protecting, feeding, and guiding a group of sheep.
When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.
| Matthew 9:36
The comparison, although it seems daring, puts us human beings in the sight of God as sheep.
The reason why sheep need a shepherd is none other than the fact that sheep are quite fragile and disoriented animals.
Why are humans compared to sheep?
There is an idea implicit in this story that declares that this is our reality.
Even though many of us do our best to be strong and capable.
Even though some of us have tried to live a life outside of God, this story teaches that in God’s loving eyes he can see a reality in our lives and our hearts that goes beyond the purely obvious.
The difficulty of living life, of understanding it, of finding the path, the confusion in which many of us live, our disorientation, our crises.
To deal with those problems that we have developed in our psychology.
God wants to help us to navigate and guide all these aspects.
This story illustrates that in God’s eyes we human beings are overwhelmed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.
So what to do about it?
Interestingly, the story does not give prominence to sheep.
The reading we did at the beginning says that:
(…) he calls the sheep by name, and takes them out.
The role of the sheep is to understand that it needs the shepherd.
The role of the sheep is to listen to the shepherd’s call.
Your job is to recognize the shepherd’s voice and answer that call.
It is not the role of the sheep to fight to stop feeling overwhelmed, helpless, devoid of identity and purpose.
Something important about this story is that the shepherd knows the name of the sheep.
Of each of them.
He knows what his identity is because he gave it to them.
He put it in them.
The identity does not come from the sheep, they were not responsible for choosing a name for themselves.
As an analogy, we can extract the idea that according to this history the identity of human beings does not depend on themselves.
Our identity does not depend on our appearance, our attitude, our work, our career, our marriage, our money.
Our identity already exists and is rooted in God.
The implication of this story is that our identity can only be found in Him because it was He who gave it to us.
When we hear the voice of the shepherd calling us, we know it.
If you are in a desperate condition, overwhelmed, helpless, God wants to get you out of there.
The story goes that the shepherd calls them by name and takes them out.
And that when he takes them out:
goes in front of them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice
And this brings us to the issue of the purpose, essence, or meaning of life.
It is difficult for a person today to regard these ideas as valid.
This is because all our lives we have been influenced by ideas that tell us that we are the ultimate owners of our own existence and that we must do with it what we want and make it something extraordinary to make sense.
Freedom versus responsibility.
Unlimited freedom leads to unlimited responsability.
There is a psychological dilemma because we cannot be unlimitedly responsible.
This story introduces to us that the purpose of our life lies in the company, direction, care, and love of the shepherd.
The idea it presents is that the ultimate purpose of your existence is to be close to Jesus.
The text also states that:
he who enters through me will be saved; and he shall come in and out, and find pastures.
It is in him, in Jesus, that we find meaning in everything.
It is with him that we enjoy the good that life has to offer.
This does not mean that we are going to live a mediocre life, on the contrary, it means that God wants to guide our life and make it much more relevant than we can ever do with it.
And that it is in being with him and in his purpose for you that your life will have complete meaning.
Now, with all this, what is the value of our life?
According to existentialist thought life, existence, lack intrinsic value.
In other words, it is worthless in itself.
This is why it is necessary to give value through one’s own choices.
I would like to reflect with you that life itself, existence itself has total value and meaning.
The ultimate sign of this is that a very high price was again paid for it.
Jesus said of himself:
I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd gives his life for the sheep
Your life and your existence have value in themselves because they were bought back for the highest price.
The death of Jesus.
He died to restore value to your life, he died so that you wouldn’t have to die.
Your life was bought with the highest price, with the life, suffering, the humiliation of God Himself.
All for the love of you.
Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
Finally, this story allows us to clarify that our life in God has total meaning and purpose.
Jesus said again:
Those who are my sheep, hear my voice; and I know them, and they follow me.
And I give them eternal life; and they will never perish, nor will anyone snatch them from my hand.
I want you to notice in particular that Jesus says “MY” sheep and says “neither will anyone snatch them from my hand.”
Our life does not belong to us and has never belonged to us as we had believed.
Your life belongs to God.
God values your life, keeps your life, loves your life, is jealous of your life.
It is God who is most interested in your life, and it is God who is most interested that that life, which is His, has purpose and meaning in Him.
Give God the opportunity to take absolute control of your life.
Whatever God allows you or guides you to do with your life, as important as it may seem, it will fulfill its highest meaning only when you reach eternity.
If your life doesn’t take you to eternity, it will simply have been one more life that is wasted.
But rest assured, it is not your responsibility to gain eternity either.
Jesus said, “I give you eternal life”
The ultimate purpose and goal of your life on this earth is to allow God to direct it and bring it into eternity to be with him forever.
Being close to God is the most sublime and wonderful experience that exists, in which existence makes complete sense.
The most splendid and beautiful experience in the universe.
Whatever God allows you or guides you to do with your life make sure you stand by him to dwell with Him for eternity.
I hope these words have been a blessing to your life.
I would like to make a prayer with you to finish:
“Lord, thank you because in you I have identity, because my life has value, purpose, and meaning in you.
Help me Lord to love you, I want to give you my life.
Take it please and fulfill your purpose in it.
keep my mind and heart from evil-filled secular influences that want to destroy it.
Give me the joy of being with you for eternity.