What’s life all about? WHAT ON EARTH AM I HERE FOR?
Rock and roll has always had an opinion. Bruce Springsteen put it like this:
In THE DAY, we sweat it out in the streets of a runaway american dream
AT NIGHT we ride through mansions of glory in suicide machines. Sprung from cages out on highway 9,
Chrome wheeled, fuel injected and steppin out over the line
Baby this town rips the bones from your back
Its a death trap, its a suicide rap.
We gotta get out while were young `cause tramps like us,
baby we were BORN TO RUN.
Life’s all about THRILLS. And ESCAPE.
Neil Young had the world at his feet, but was still searching for love.
I want to live, I want to give. I’ve been a miner for a heart of gold. Its these expressions I never give That keep me searching for a heart of gold. And I’m getting old.
Or that OTHER great theologian and philosopher, Mick Jagger. For all his excesses, his booze and drug-taking, even though he’d had relationships with the most beautiful women in the world, he still CAN’T GET NO SATISFACTION.
When i’m ridin’ round the world And i’m doin’ this and i’m signing that And i’m tryin’ to make some girl. Who tells me baby better come back later next week
’cause you see i’m on losing streak.
I can’t get no, oh no no no. Hey hey hey, that’s what i say I can’t get no, i can’t get no I can’t get no satisfaction.
Mick’s doing his best to find it in THIS WORLD. Another option is to hope for something better. John Lennon imagined a better world than he could ever experience.
Imagine there’s no Heaven It’s easy if you try No hell below us Above us only sky Imagine all the people Living for today You may say that I’m a dreamer But I’m not the only one I hope someday you’ll join us And the world will be as one
Nice dream. But is it ever possible?
Many Aussies connect with the lyrics of Cold Chisel. Khe Sahn speaks about a Vietnam vet searching for meaning in everyday life.
So I worked across the country from end to end
I tried to find a place to settle down, where my mixed up life could mend
I held a job on an oil-rig, a-flyin’ choppers when I could
But the nightlife nearly drove me round the bend
And I’ve travelled round the world from year to year
And each one found me aimless, one more year the worse for wear
And I’ve been back to South East Asia, you know the answer sure ain’t there
But I’m driftin’ north to check things out agai-ai-ain
Well the last plane out of Sydney’s almost go-one
This guy was asking the question. What on earth am I here for? What’s the point? You see, people need a reason to live. A reason to get out of bed in the morning. But lots of people don’t have it.
And so, the youth suicide rate for young males in Australia is one of the highest in the western world. After motor vehicle accidents, it’s the leading cause of death among 15-24 year olds.
Many people don’t have a REASON for LIVING.
Today we’re going to try and answer it. We’re looking at life’s three biggest questions:
1. The question of existence – WHY AM I ALIVE?
2. The question of significance – Do I MATTER?
3. The question of intention – what is my PURPOSE?
1. Question of existence: Why am I alive?
First up. Existence. WHY am I alive? The playwright, Jack Hanley wrote, “I hope life isn’t a joke, because I don’t get it.”
Sci-fi writer, Arthur Ashley Brilliant said “my life is a superb CAST,… but I can’t figure out the PLOT.”
Dr. Hugh Moorhead, Chairman of Philosophy at the Northeastern Uni in the US, wrote to 250 well-known philosophers, scientists, writers & intellectuals and asked them, “What is the purpose of Life?”
And then he wrote a book about their answers. And it made pretty depressing reading. Some of these experts offered their best guesses. Some admitted they made up a purpose in life. Some admitted they didn’t have any idea as to what the purpose of life was and if Dr. Moorhead knew, would he please let them know.
I guess many people’s responses are summed up in the rather long title of a book by Joseph Taylor,
“I Have No Answers To The Meaning of Life And I No Longer Want to Search For Any.”
There are plenty of people out there who ARE searching for meaning. And they come up with a number of solutions.
1. Probably most popular is the Self-Help approach. Go into any bookstore and you’ll find hundreds of self-help books. The LATEST best-seller is “The Secret” which is not REALLY that much of a secret. Because it says basically what every other self-help book says.
Discover your dreams, go after your goals, have some ambitions, believe you can achieve, never give up. And the universe will PAY BACK your positive thoughts by GIVING IT to you.
Which basically means that you’ve got to INVENT YOUR OWN PURPOSE. It’s ALL ABOUT YOU. YOU decide what’s important. Then go after it. Your purpose is whatever you decide. But what happens when you GET it. And find out it’s not really what you wanted after all?
2. Or then there’s The Survivalist. Who says, “The purpose of life is just to stay alive.” Live as long as you can — just keep going, nothing more. And so, plastic surgery, or vitamin regimes, or exercise addiction can become your life’s purpose.
3. Or what about The Naturalist? There’s a few of these in the night clubs around Sydney. They say, “The purpose of life is just to perpetuate itself.”
So rap singer, Ice T, wrote, “The only reason we’re here is to reproduce. Just chill out and reproduce. Keep the species alive.” Doesn’t that just motivate you to want to jump out of bed in the morning? Or jump INTO bed.
4. Or there’s HEDONISM. There’s plenty of hedonists in night clubs TOO. They say, “The purpose of life is pleasure – have fun, just party.” That’s Bruce Springsteen, or Mick Jagger. But that’s the ultimate in shallowness. One difficult situation blows THAT world-view out of the water.
5. Or there’s the humanitarian. They say, there’s nothing beyond this life, so the best we can do is be NICE to each other. Relieve some suffering. Make the best of it. Dream of making the world a better place. Like John Lennon.
Except we CAN’T even be NICE to each other. That’s a PIPE DREAM. And even if we COULD, you’d still DIE.
6. Then there’s the Materialist. He says, “Life is all about the acquisition of things.” For him, success in life is measured by the things he owns. The bumper sticker on his Rolls Royce says “He who dies with the most toys WINS”.
It’s what gets the multi-millionaires up in the morning. They don’t work because they NEED to. They work to earn money to give themselves A PURPOSE. To have more than their competitor.
It’s what the rich fool in our parable lived for. He was so successful, he’d run out of space to store all his crops. So he thought (Lk 12:18),
‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19 And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.” ‘
He thought he’d got everything worked out. That his future was all mapped out. But his planning only went as far as the end of his LIFE. Which, unfortunately, wasn’t the end of HIM.
Because God calls him A FOOL.
‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’
Or, to put it in the words of ANOTHER bumper sticker. “He who dies with the most toys, still dies.
None of those purposes WORK. You can try any of them but still end up wondering “What on earth am I here for?” What did GOD put me on this earth for?
You see, the purpose of your life is far greater than your own personal fulfillment. It’s far greater than your own happiness. Even your own peace of mind. You were made by God and you were made for God. And you were put here for His purposes.
And until you understand that, life isn’t going to make sense.
God never made anything without a purpose. Every rock, every plant, every animal has a purpose. And if you’re alive, you have a purpose. No matter what stage of life you may be in.
If you want to know if God still has a purpose for your life, check your heart. If it’s still beating, God still has a purpose for you here on earth.
Over the next 40 days we’re going to look at the five purposes God has for you. The five reasons God put you on this planet. Today, though, I just want us to see God’s MOTIVE.
It’s very clear in the passage from Ephesians 1. One of the HUGEST passages in the whole Bible. Uncovering the WHY of the Universe. And in particular, of YOU. Ephesians 1:4&5.
“For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be ADOPTED AS HIS SONS through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will.”
Do you hear what that’s saying? If you are a Christian, even before God said ‘Let there be light’ he had CHOSEN you for a purpose.
And if you’re not a Christian, perhaps he’s calling you right now? Perhaps that’s why God’s organised you here TODAY. To RESPOND to that offer of finding your purpose.
Here’s why people were made. To be in a relationship with God. To be adopted as his CHILDREN. To be accepted as holy and blameless.
The long and the short of it is To be LOVED by him. He chose you to be a recipient of his love. If you don’t get anything else as we start this 40 days, I want you to understand this, God says He made you to LOVE you.
God made you so you could be in a relationship with him. He didn’t need you. He wasn’t lonely. But God is love. And He made you to be a recipient of his Fatherly love.
That’s why you’re alive.
2. Question of significance: Do I matter?
The second big question of life is the Question of Significance: Do I MATTER? And it’s a question that’s been around for thousands of years TOO
King Solomon put it like this in Ecclesiastes. He HAD more, and ACHIEVED more than any man of his time. If there was ANYONE who’s life MATTERED, it was HIM. But when he sat back and had a look at it all, here’s what he said.
Eccl 1:2 “Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher. “Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.”
A bit further on in Ch 2 he said
10 I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure. My heart took delight in all my work, and this was the reward for all my labor. 11 Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind;
What’s the point? Do I really matter? Whatever I do today, will be broken, or rusted, or worthless, or meaningless TOMORROW.
But you and I were made for MEANING. We were made to MATTER. Our lives are meant to have significance. And they do — in God.
How do I know that? Because of what you were WORTH to God. What it COST him to BUY you back. Look further down in Ephesians 1 —verses 7&8.
“In Jesus we have REDEMPTION THROUGH HIS BLOOD, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.”
You are so valuable and significant to God, he bought you back to himself – that’s what redeemed means. And he paid for you with the blood of his only son. Forgiveness could only come at an incredibly high price. But God was willing to PAY it. For YOU.
That’s the riches of God’s grace that he LAVISHED on you.
Because if you think something VALUABLE and SIGNIFICANT, you’ll pay WHATEVER IT TAKES.
The National Gallery in Canberra paid $2.4 million last month for an aboriginal dot painting by Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri. Double the previous record. The gallery director said it would the CENTREPIECE, the KEY WORK in the gallery’s new wing of Aboriginal art. And that it was CHEAP for what they’d got.
Now, the illustration breaks down a bit at this point. Because presumably, the painting was GOOD. It was WORTH that sort of money.
But, with us, we’ve done nothing to DESERVE such generosity. To be considered so valuable. That’s what the verse means when it talks about God lavishing the riches of his GRACE on us. Grace- that’s an undeserved favour.
Perhaps a better illustration is BRAT CAMP. I don’t know whether you’ve caught any it. It’s an ABC doco Thursday nights. This is the second series. It’s about a group of out-of-control British teenagers sent to a Utah cattle ranch. It’s the last resort for their desperate parents.
One girl, Xanthe, was forced to read a letter from her mum aloud, through sobbing tears, detailing how much she’d been hurt by Xanthe’s swearing, verbal and physical abuse, her stealing and drug taking.
Which much like the way WE treat God. Like rebellious teenagers, we tell God to get lost. Sometimes we’re aggressive, but often, we just ignore him.
But the amazing thing about the show is that the parents will do ANYTHING to win their teenagers back. The camp itself must cost tens of thousands of dollars.
Like Xanthe’s mum. In her letter she was telling Xanthe how much she’d been hurt. But all the way through, the letter was full of assurances of how much her mum STILL LOVED HER. No matter what she did.
And as Xanthe read it through tears, I reckon the tears were a combination of SHAME at realising for the first time the hurt she’d caused. As well as tears of gratitude as she experienced grace and love and forgiveness. Perhaps also for the first time.
It’s a great picture of how each of us have treated God. And how God has responded in turn. We’ve abused God’s love. Taking his love and the gifts he showers upon us for granted. Not caring about what he wants for us.
But STILL, he will pay EVERYTHING to buy us back. Redeem us with the blood of his son which satisfies his wrath, and wins forgiveness.
Father and child – the relationship restored.
Do I matter? Of course you matter to God. Just remember the cross. That’s how much you matter to God.
So the question of existence – why am I alive?
God answers it by saying, “I made you to be MINE, that’s why you’re alive.”
In the question of Significance – Do I matter?
God says, oh yeah you matter. You matter so much I sent my Son to take your punishment so I could have you around forever.
3. Question of intention: What’s my purpose
Which brings us to the third question, the “Question of INTENTION: What is my PURPOSE?” What on earth am I here for?
You see, if there IS NO GOD, if you’re just a freak chance of nature, if you’re just complex pond scum – then guess what?
Your life has no point. There’s no real reason, meaning or purpose.
But there IS a God. And he made you for a reason. And if you want to know your purpose you need to look to Him.
Here’s a question for the blokes. How many of you have BROKEN something trying to FIX it, or GET IT TO WORK, because you DIDN’T READ THE INSTRUCTIONS FIRST?
They say real men don’t read instructions, and they don’t ask for directions. It might be TRUE. But it’s DUMB, or even downright DANGEROUS, isn’t it.
It only makes sense that if you want to find out how something works, you should read the MAKER’S INSTRUCTIONS.
And the only way YOU’RE going to ever know your purpose in life – it’s not by listening to the philosophers, because even the best ones are just guessing.
It’s not looking within, because you’re not going to find it there.
It’s not reading self-help books, because they just tell you to create your own purpose.
You’ve got to read your Maker’s instructions. It’s the only way you will ever know your purpose in life. You want to understand the meaning of life? Then look to the God who made you.
Here’s what he says. Back to Ephesians 1. The next couple of verses — 9&10.
“And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed IN CHRIST, to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment — TO BRING ALL THINGS IN HEAVEN AND ON EARTH TOGETHER UNDER ONE HEAD, EVEN CHRIST.”
First notice that it’s no longer a mystery. God has MADE KNOWN his will. He’s PUBLISHED his purpose statement.
It is no secret.
So if you want to know your purpose in life, start getting to know God. Start reading his Word, the Bible. The more you get to know God, the more you’re going to understand the ways and the wisdom of God. And the more you’re going to understand the meaning and purpose of life.
You’re not going to learn it on some talk show.
You’re not going to learn it in some séance.
You’re not going to learn it reading tea leaves.
You’re not going to learn it going to a seminar.
The only way you’re going to learn the meaning of life and your purpose in life is to get to know God in his word. Where he’s revealed the mystery of his will.
But secondly, and even more importantly, these verses in Ephesians actually tell us what his will is. What God’s purpose is for your life, for my life, for the entire universe.
“to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.”
God’s purpose all revolves around Jesus Christ. It BEGAN in Christ. It ENDS in Christ.
So Colossians 1:16 says of the Lord Jesus,
“For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him.”
From go to woe it’s all about Jesus. You began in him. And your purpose is all wrapped up in him. Your life’s goal is to be slowly but surely coming more and more UNDER THE KINGSHIP OF JESUS. And bringing as many people as you can under his kingship as well.
Which is what 40 Days of Purpose is all about. Each of the five purposes are saturated all through the Bible. You were made for Worship, Fellowship, Discipleship, Ministry and Evangelism.
Will you commit to spending the next 40 days finding out about how those purposes fit together in bringing everything under the headship, the kingship of Jesus?
At the bottom of the outline, there’s a box with some boxes for you to tick. Now, we’re not asking you to hand this in. It’s for you to keep. Your own commitment to yourself. To be involved in discovering your life’s purpose.
You can decide your level of involvement. Though my preference would be the full involvement of all four elements, it’s up to you how involved you will be.
Believing that God created me for His purposes and that the best use of my life is to fulfill those purposes, I commit the next 40 days to better understanding God’s five purposes for me.
I will participate in a 40 days of Purpose small group.
Our regular home groups have disbanded for these six weeks, and there’s half a dozen groups, at lots of different times of the week, for you to join.
It’s not too late. Just let me or a group leader know,
I will read each day’s chapter from the Purpose Driven Life book.
If you need a copy of the book, let me know.
I will do my best to hear all 7 messages in this series, The Christ-Centred Life.
What I’ll be saying over the next six Sundays will set the scene for each week of the 40 Days. So what I’ve been talking about today, you’re going to be studying in a little bit more detail this week.
I will endeavour to memorise the verse for each week
Each week there will be a memory verse which summarises the lesson for the week. It’s there on the news sheet.
You can also get a key ring with each verse on a tag. That comes free with the book.
Here’s an opportunity to absorb God’s word by remembering it.
The fact is, if you added up what time it would take you to do all those things – I took the time to add it all up and I was generous.
It would still be less than 48 hours total. So here’s my question – Is the rest of your life, indeed, the rest of your eternity, worth 48 hours of your time, over the next six weeks?
I’d think so.
I want to ask you to sign this and I want you to take it home, and I want you to put it up somewhere to remind you.
I realize that all of us here are at different stages in our spiritual journey. That doesn’t matter. We’re all going to go through this journey together, no matter what stage you are in. Whether you are still a seeker, not to sure you buy this Christian thing, or you’ve been around following Jesus for decades.
Whether your walk with the Lord is decidedly shaky at the moment, or you’re going from strength to strength.
I am sure the next six weeks will help you get to know God better. And his purposes for you in Christ.