What is the meaning of life? That is a question I have been asked twice in my life. The first time was during my first biochemistry lecture at university. It certainly caught the attention of the class, as it’s not something we readily discuss in our society. And yet most human beings think about it sooner or later. For a moment, my fellow science students remained silent, taken by surprise. Then some answers emerged, like “having fun” and “enjoying life.” Followed by more serious thoughts such as “accomplishing something worthwhile” or “being useful; doing good.” The biochemistry professor nodded in acknowledgement, just to announce: “The meaning of life from a biochemical or physiological perspective is: constant glucose supply to the brain, otherwise the brain dies.”
To glorify God
Years later, this came back to me, when I was asked the second time about the meaning of life. This time, it was during my clinical years at medical school. It was late at night in a rural hospital, and the attending medical registrar and I were sitting alone in front of our computers, when he asked me. I was surprised and mumbled something like, “To do good, to do God’s will.” But he was not satisfied with that. I felt utterly ashamed and small in myself. Here I am, a practicing Christian, and I still can’t give a proper answer to such a central question? What was wrong with me? There was silence in the room, which was broken by his explanation of what the meaning of life was for him. “For me it is to glorify God.”
This triggered a flood of thought processes. How do you glorify God? How do you fulfill God’s will for your life? How do you know what that is? My thoughts turned back to the natural, to the reason my biochemistry professor offered. If the purpose of the body with all its “members” is to function in harmony to fulfil the purpose of providing nourishment to the brain, so the brain can in turn function and direct the body, then how about the purpose of my existence? What am I using my body and time for? Or, in fact, what am I using my brain for?
If this is how the physical body works, then being a member of the body of Christ, a spiritual body, works the same way: I recognize that I have certain talents and abilities and can contribute towards the overall function of the body by using them purposefully. If I complete my unique task with that in mind, to live in such a way that the Head is exalted, then I am a functioning member, doing my share. Then I don’t seek my own, but give all honor to the Head. When I can see how everything fits perfectly together in the body, then I am extremely happy for the place I have been given. It brings me rest and purpose. I see my “calling.” It prepares me for my eternal task and for my role in the body, if I am faithfully doing my work, taking heed to myself and the doctrine (“curriculum”) and continuing in it. (1 Timothy 4:16)
A personalized curriculum
By the time I became aware of my surroundings, I was left alone in the computer room. I had just been on a thought journey. Or was it just a simple reflection? Now years later, I can see how God has been working with me. It’s easy to have a theoretical answer to such a central question. But how does it translate into my daily life, my thoughts, my actions? Am I seeking my own or not? And how does my life measure up to the aim of glorifying God?
God’s Word says that His will for my life is my sanctification. (1 Thessalonians 4:3) He has an eternal plan for me, a personalized curriculum to prepare me for my unique task in the time to come. Sanctification does not happen by some magic overnight, but is a tangible and practical process: In my daily circumstances, I can find my egotism and deal with it, like Jesus did during His lifetime here. Actually, this gives me the chance to be like Him, to get more and more eternal qualities in this lifetime. After all He was just like me, but never allowed any selfish ambitions to live. Instead, He had you and me on His mind. And now is my turn to have Him on my mind, with all that that entails!
My friends and family will be the first to taste the fruit of it or the lack of it. For most of us, it is not hard to recall a situation where I could have done things better, with more wisdom or tact to bring about a better outcome. This brings me into need and I seek for wisdom. I go to the One who can teach me how to live life right, to the One who has personal experience of living a perfect life. The One who designed a personalized curriculum for me and can help me.
So, what is the conclusion? The Creator and Master Builder of my body has a perfect plan for my life. I have been created for a unique and eternal purpose and my life is precious in His eyes. Why else would I be here? I have access to a personalized “curriculum” to discover the meaning for my life through my daily opportunities. That’s how I can fulfil my calling. The meaning for my life is very much dependent on my choices: It’s a practical life, and the decisions I make in life’s circumstances determine the outcome.