Is That All There Is To Life?
IS THAT ALL THERE IS TO LIFE?
Has your Christian walk slowed to a crawl? Is your compass of faith swinging like a weathervane in a tornado? It's time for a short self-examination.
Does your life seem to be without purpose, reason or hope, a dreary march through long days of boring sameness toward the release of the grave?
Are you a citizen of the Kingdom of Thingdom, pursuing the accumulation of stuff, a bigger this or a better that or more of the other?
Do you waste time worrying about everything, or worrying because you can't find anything to worry about?
Was there a single spiritual event in the last year that stands out in your memory as making the whole year worth the effort, a day or a moment that is a joy to remember?
With life being peaks and valleys, do you recall the last time that you stood joyously on a peak and felt blessed by living for Jesus Christ?
If the answer is yes to any of the first three, or no to either of the last two, then you're living a life of defeat. The world has beaten you, trampled you underfoot and driven your spirit into the ground.
The Word of God provides much encouragement for the Christian lost in the valley. Here's a verse with which to begin the rest of your life on a note of triumph and faith: But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:57). The author of that verse is the apostle Paul.
He wrote it while he languished in a Roman prison, awaiting trial for the crimes of being a Christian and preaching the Gospel. He also exhorted his readers, Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord (Philippians 3:1), and, Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, rejoice. (Philippians 4:4).
Paul used the word rejoice nine times in that letter, and joy six times. The whole book of Philippians is joyful and positive, and given his circumstances, one would think that he'd do anything but rejoice. Roman prisons were not the well-run, clean institutions of today. They were stinking, rat-infested, unheated, harshly-run hell-holes that would have today's prison reformers gasping in horror.
Yet, in the midst of that nightmare, Paul was content, and he spent much of his time writing letters of encouragement and instruction to the churches that he founded. In comparison, it seems a bit petty to consider our day ruined if the car doesn't start or the morning coffee doesn't taste right.
What was Paul's secret that enabled him to find peace and joy in a place that would have any one of us climbing the walls or sinking into the pits of despair in a few days? He told us in verse 1:21 of Phillipians: For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. Jesus Christ was his secret.
To live is Christ. This isn't a once-a-week homage to the Lord, warming a pew for a couple of hours out of some vague sense of duty, and then living for hell the rest of the week. This is not a prayer ritual that's more like a child reciting a school lesson than a one-on-one communion with the living God. This isn't the Lord's Prayer mumbled through the same lips that profane the holy name of God and use the precious name of Jesus Christ as an epithet. This isn't flipping the pages of the Bible to see if anything familiar shows up.
To live is Christ. This is a COMPLETE commitment to Jesus Christ that governs every aspect of our lives every second of every day, in church or at home or on the job or wherever. This is giving oneself over totally to Jesus Christ. It's not hard to do when we think about a few truths from the Bible.
God loves us unreservedly. For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that Whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life (John 3:16). Thy lovingkindness is better than life (Psalm 63:3). Whoso is wise, and will observe these things... they shall understand the lovingkindness of the Lord (Psalm 107:43).
God is present with us every moment. The Lord thy God is with thee withersoever thou goest (Joshua 1:9). The Lord is nigh unto all them that call upon Him, to all that call upon Him in truth (Psalm 145:18). Ye are the temple of the living God (2 Corinthians 6:16).
God knows our deepest thoughts and concerns. I know the things that come into your mind, every one of them. (Ezekiel 11:5). There is not a word in my tongue, but, lo, O Lord, Thou knowest it altogether (Psalm 139:4). God knoweth your hearts (Luke 16:15). Your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask Him (Matthew 6:8).
God watches over our lives. He is so concerned about us that ... The very hairs of your head are all numbered. (Matthew 10:30). Cast... all your care (anxiety) upon Him, for he careth for you. (1 Peter 5:7). He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in Him will I trust (Psalm 91:2).
God wants His children to be blessed, and He finds great pleasure in giving to us. If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good gifts to them that ask Him? (Matthew 7:11). Jesus assured us, Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom. (Luke 12:32).
Considering those facts about God, which barely scratch the surface of the revelations of God in the Bible, it is obvious that He is worthy of our lifelong commitment. But, does that promise an end to our problems? Not a chance! In the world ye shall have tribulation... (John 16:33). The difference for the Christian is the rest of that verse: ... But be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.
There is a question that is often asked: Why do bad things happen to good people? A more reasonable question might be, Why should good people be exempt from bad things? This is an imperfect world, and as long as we're still in it, we're susceptible to its evils, its disasters and its tragedies. They're a part of life.
The whole difference is that with Jesus Christ, they don't have to be faced alone.
When the worst happens, what can people do? Nothing except mouth platitudes and express sympathies and maybe offer a little material or moral support. What can Jesus do? He can give you an inner peace that will carry you through the hardest times, the greatest sorrows, the deepest pains. He can sustain you in a way that nobody else can.
That's what Paul was referring to when he said, To live is Christ. When the Lord is Master of our lives, the world is beaten, no matter how much grief it tries to throw our way. There's nothing anyone can do to defeat us. We can say with King David, The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? (Psalm 27:1).
The prisons that Paul spent so much time in were but a part of his miseries. He tells us in 2 Corinthians: Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes (lashes) save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day have I been in the deep; in journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness...
In Damascus the governor under Aretas the king kept the city of the Damascenes with a garrison, desirous to apprehend me; and through a window in a basket I was let down by the wall, and escaped his hands. (2 Corinthians 11:24-27,32,33).
Think about those things the next time you decide that life isn't fair. It helps to put it into perspective.
Even death holds no terror for those in Christ. Read what follows the quote from Paul, from the New King James Version: For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell. For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. (Philippians 1:21-23).
Paul not only had no fear of dying, but indeed he looked forward to it, not because it would finally free him from his miserable life of imprisonment, but because he would at last be with Jesus. He had not the tiniest doubt of the reality of Heaven or of his going there. We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord. (2 Corinthians 5:8).
For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. To the committed believer in Jesus Christ, those words are a way of life. God never promised us a rose garden, but He did promise, ... I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me. (Hebrews 13:5,6).
A life worth living revolves around God, through His Son Jesus Christ. Anything else is futility. As Solomon said in Ecclesiastes 1:2, Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity. That book is a search for meaning in life by one of the wisest, most sophisticated, most learned men who ever lived. He had abundant wealth, power, fame and influence. If any man ever lived the good life, it was Solomon. Yet, in all his material success, he found vanity. He found purpose for living only in honoring and worshipping God.
If the little quiz indicates that your life is less than it should be, that there's a need that's unfulfilled and can't be met by more of the same, then Jesus is waiting.
The eminent French philosopher, Blaise Pascal, wrote, There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of every(one) that only God can fill through His Son, Jesus Christ. Even if life seems to be going fairly well, how much would it take for everything to fall apart? Do you know how you'll get through any unexpected hardships?
With Jesus as your Lord of Lords and King of Kings, you have a constant, faithful, loving companion and protector who will not allow you to suffer more than you can endure. You might emerge from your trials bloodied and weary, but you won't be defeated.
David said in praise, The Lord upholdeth all that fall, and raiseth up all those that be bowed down. (Psalm 145:14). God told Isaiah, I am thy God. I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness. (Isaiah 41:10).
God could shield us from everything, but in adversity we grow in strength. Tribulation worketh patience: and patience, experience; and experience, hope. (Romans 5:3,4). Life is a series of peaks and valleys, but without valleys we could never appreciate the peaks. Those who've never known poverty take wealth for granted. Those who've never known illness take health for granted. Those who've never really felt God's comfort and support take God for granted.
There's an all-too-true witticism that says, God is like a parachute, nice to have on hand, but we hope we'll never need Him. If we never find ourselves depending on God, how will we ever develop a complete reliance on Him? Faith, like a sword, is tempered by fire. God doesn't cause bad things, but He will permit them, to persuade us to turn our eyes toward Him. When you're lying flat on your back, you're looking up.
The title of this essay asks the question, Is that all there is to life? That line from an old song depicts the helpless, hopeless quandary of the unsaved. If you haven't yet said YES! to Jesus Christ, do it now, and discover the Christian difference. Once He is your Lord and Savior, Jesus will always be there to sustain you, in good times and bad.
Finally, take to heart this one great truth: eternity with the King of Kings is worth every moment!