The Horizontal & Vertical Dimensions of Purpose

For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:10, NIV)

The fact that a lot of believers talk about purpose and its fulfillment doesn’t mean that they understand what purpose really is. At the risk of setting out on a controversial note, I’d take the stand that most people I’ve talked with about purpose do not have the right idea of what it is. Mind you, they have ideas but it’s the right one that’s missing.

Purpose is not one thing that a person’s life is meant to fulfill. There’s no one instance of purpose – if there is, what becomes of the life that has fulfilled its own already? Also, purpose has both a horizontal and a vertical dimension to it, like the cross.

The Horizontal Dimension

“There’s a young boy here with five barley loaves and two fish. But what good is that with this huge crowd?” … Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks to God, and distributed them to the people. Afterward he did the same with the fish. And they all ate as much as they wanted,” (John 6:9 & 11,New Living Translation).

Purpose is whatever one does by which another person(s) has a reason to give thanks to God.

It doesn’t matter that we don’t know the boy’s name but the same cannot be said of the fact that he gave up his lunch. We can be sure that he didn’t give up his food because he was anticipating a lesson on multiplication – though, he and everyone there, got that. Probably, all he had in mind was that at least Jesus would have something to eat.

You didn’t miss the person who gave thanks to God in that account, did you?

Now, note that the person(s) does not thank the one who did what they are grateful for, which means that the good deed was performed anonymously – like the boy did. Of course, Jesus knew who the boy was, and some of the apostles did too. But beyond those that couldn’t be kept from knowing, no one else was privy to the boy’s identity.

Can we avoid being known and thanked at all times for what we do? The answer is no. However, those occasions should be the exception and not the norm – in other words, we don’t do something just so that we could be known and appreciated for it. That’d be robbing God who enables us to do the good of the glory – all of it, as He deserves. Unless you disagree with the fact He deserves all the praises, and that all you do has their source in His grace (2 Corinthians 9:8).

The Vertical Dimension

“And without faith it is impossible to please God….” (Hebrews 11:6, NIV).

Purpose is fulfilled whenever one does something that pleases God.

We aren’t left to wonder what it is that pleases God as it’s expressly made clear that faith is what pleases God. Faith is the acknowledgment of God. It is not meant to be occasional but a lifestyle – as it was with Enoch. Faith is the foundation for everything else we can offer God because we can’t even be connected with Him without faith, to start with.

For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do, (Ephesians 2:10, NIV). From this verse of Scripture, we can infer that God has a list of good works He’s … prepared in advance for us to do and He checks off an item on the list as it is carried out. Therefore, we can accept that God is pleased – even if our minds can’t comprehend how pleased He is – as we do each work He has prepared.

Yet, don’t miss the we & us in the verse which are there to let us know that we should be careful. No particular name is attached to a purpose such that it would go unfulfilled if the person refused to make themselves available. There are always replacements available to God and He’s even able and ready to use stones, if we push Him to it. Remember, what John said, Jesus reiterated – “… For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham,” (Luke 3:8, NIV) and “I tell you that if these should keep silent, the stones would immediately cry out,” (Luke 19:40, NKJV).

The verse in Ephesians in the New King James Version reads as follows: “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” Believers are in a walk – like Enoch – with God, and on the way, we find good works that God has prepared for us to handle. For each person, it’s like a textbook; you don’t read a page of it and go about saying that you’ve read it all. You move from page to page, going through the lessons and doing the exercises. Your calling or station in life, according to God’s will, is the textbook in which you’re expected to be progressing. For our lives, this means that there’s no one instance of purpose – if there is, what becomes of the life that has fulfilled its purpose already? Rather, what God has given us is a walk of purpose, fulfilling good works.

The following verses from 2 Thessalonians 1:11-12 (NKJV) encapsulates the how, what, who and the why of the vertical dimension of purpose.

“Therefore we also pray always for you that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfill all the good pleasure of His goodness and the work of faith with power, that the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and you in Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

How – “…according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

What – “…calling, … all the good pleasure of His goodness and the work of faith with power…”

Who – Of course, God does the calling, and we – in Jesus Christ – are the called.

Why – “…that the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and you in Him…”

And to add the when of our calling – that’s at the moment we’re “…created in Christ…” (Ephesians 2:10, NIV). This is at the point in which the individual accepts the atoning sacrifice of the only begotten Son of God for their lives and this means that all good works done but not by one who is in Christ count only with men and not with God.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *