Who Am I and Why Am I Here?
When I was about six years old, I had what some might call an “identity crisis.” One morning, I told my mom that I wanted to change my name. My name is Olulana, but everyone calls me Lana, and that was a strange name in my elementary school. Nobody else had a name like mine. There were some boys named John, Joey, and Paul, but nothing like Lana. There were other unique names—we had one student named Shermini, and another from Israel was named Wasim—but my name seemed especially odd because one of the other kids said it was a girl’s name and made fun of it.
So I told my mom, “I want to change my name.” She asked, “What name do you want?” and I said, “John.” She said, “Okay, we’ll call you John.” She gave me a smile. I was about to go out the door and she said, “Lana, you forgot your lunch bag.” I insisted, “No! My name is not Lana! Call me John.” She said, “Okay, John. Get your lunch bag.”
At school, I told my classmates, “From today, you call me John.” Predictably, Paul stood up and said, “You’re not John. Your name is Lana and your parents called you Lana. That’s your name.” As we began to dispute the matter, our teacher, Mrs. Kurtzen, saw what was going on and came over. When we explained the problem, she told me something I had never heard before in my life. She said, “Your name is important. Your parents had a reason for giving you that name. So be proud of it.” I felt good about that. She helped me to have a sense of who I was and why my name mattered. I went home and told my mom I wanted my name back after all, and she let me go back to Lana.
My brief identity crisis was rooted in a lack of understanding about my existence. There are certain basic questions that we all ask ourselves at some point: How did I get here? Who am I? Why am I here? Where am I headed? Everybody in the world asks these questions, and some spend a great deal of money looking for the answers. Without the answers, we can hardly choose a name, much less know how we ought to live our lives. Secular society has a lot to say about these questions and may seem to have convincing arguments. However, if we want to know the true reason for our existence, only the One who created us will have the correct answer. Let’s consider what God’s Word says about these four basic questions that all people want to know.
How did I get here?
This age-old question has a simple answer. We read in the opening words of the Bible, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). Then God said, “Let there be light . . .” and, “Let there be a firmament . . .,” and those things came into existence. That is how our world came to be. On the sixth day of the Creation, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost made a man in their own image. The Bible says that God formed man of the dust of the ground, then breathed into him the breath of life, and man became a living soul (Genesis 2:7). God called the man Adam. From Adam’s rib, God formed a woman, Eve, and they became the foreparents of every person on this planet.
That is a brief overview of how we got here, and it is simple enough for a child to understand. In fact, our primary department Sunday school students may have a more accurate understanding about the origins of life than many scientists. The Creation account is often one of the first things we teach children because the fundamental truths established there form the basis for the rest of our decisions in life. This foundation is essential for answering the remaining three questions about our identity because once we know that God created us, we can deduce that He has a purpose for us.
Who am I?
If someone asked me, “Who are you?” I might say, “I’m Lana,” “I’m a father,” or perhaps, “I’m a pastor.” While those are true and important answers, they are not the most important answer. When we are talking about the essence of who we are, there are only two answers a person can give: we are either a sinner, or we are a child of God. Everyone is born as a sinner, but we can become a child of God by repenting and receiving forgiveness of sins.
One of Jesus’ parables illustrates these two answers very well. The parable begins in Luke 18:10, “Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican.” Once in the Temple, the Pharisee began to pray loudly, “God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.” In other words, he began telling God about all his own good works, letting everyone know that he was a child of God. But being a child of God does not happen by doing good works; it is not about going to church, singing in the choir, or doing noble acts. To be a child of God, we must be born again. We must repent and experience God’s saving grace. The Pharisee missed that completely! He was an identity thief because he tried to present himself as something he was not. However, the Pharisee returned home the same way he had come—a sinner.
Next, the publican began to pray. Unlike the Pharisee, the publican did not pretend to be someone he was not. He knew who he was and openly admitted his identity to God. He prayed, “God be merciful to me a sinner.” That is the right way to go about answering that question, “Who am I?” Though we do not want to remain sinners, we must be honest with God before He can change our identity. That is what God did for the publican; Luke 18:14 says that he went home justified.
I thank God that in 1978, I made that choice too. At that time, I was eleven years old. My family had only been coming to church for a few months so I knew very little about God, but I could see something in the other children at Sunday school that I didn’t have. I knew I needed to be saved. After a service, I was praying and wanted to get saved so badly. I did the same thing that the publican did—I told Jesus I was a sinner. He reminded me about things I had done wrong, and I confessed them. One thing He brought up was a book I had taken from the library; I told Jesus I would return it. That day, Jesus saved me! And thank God, I’m still saved today.
When we pray and receive salvation, God changes our identity. Then, if someone asks, “Who are you?” we can say, “I am a child of God.” That’s the most important identity we can have.
Why am I here?
People spend a lot of time trying to figure out why they are here. Many have a sense of destiny and want to do something good with their lives. They may come to think their purpose is to be a leader, a life coach, an artist, an “influencer”—there are endless possibilities people will arrive at. However, there is one reason why we are all here, and it is stated in Revelation 4:11: “Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.” That is why we were created—to please God.
The Bible has much to say about what pleases God. To begin with, we read that “without faith, it is impossible to please him” (Hebrews 11:6). That means it is not enough to just know about God, but we must also believe Him. And if we truly believe Him, we will do what He tells us we should do.
A life that is pleasing to God could be summed up in one word: holy. A holy life is one that is without sin, and that is how God wants us to live. He established this principle first with the Israelites in Leviticus 11:44, and Peter reiterated it to all believers in 1 Peter 1:15-16, “But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.” The word conversation here refers not only to the words that we say, but all aspects of how we relate to others. This includes relationships at church as well as at home, at work, at the store—everywhere we go. Holiness is not an act that we put on sometimes; it is a way of life. God set the standard of holiness in His Word, and it is what pleases Him. We are here to live holy. That is the reason for our existence.
Where am I headed?
Every human being is headed toward eternity. However, not every human being is going to the same destination in eternity. There is eternity with God and there is eternity without God. If we are children of God, those who have fulfilled our reason for existence and are living holy lives that please Him, then we have an assurance of eternity with Him in Heaven. Like Job, we will be able to say, “For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: and though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold . . .” (Job 19:25-27). Job was sure about where he was headed in eternity, and we can be too.
Those who are not saved are on the broad path that leads to Hell—eternal separation from God. If that is you, may God help you to repent and let Him change your identity from a sinner to a child of God. May God help you to live a life of holiness that is pleasing to Him, because it is His will for all to spend eternity with Him.
Tomorrow is not promised, but we have this moment. There is no need for an identity crisis when God has told us so plainly where we came from, who we are, why we are here, and where we are going. Let us take time now while we have the opportunity to make sure we have not missed the reason for our existence.