What is the purpose of your life? What gives your life meaning? What are you passionate about? What do you depend upon for your sense of worth? Are you satisfied with your life? If you are a person of faith, one who believes God has a purpose for your life, have you discovered that purpose? Do you think God is pleased with your life, with the way you are investing your time, with what you are actually living for? Do you believe your definition of success is a true reflection of your faith? Are you enjoying the stage of life you are in right now?
These are serious questions. I believe most people are seeking meaning in their lives, but so many have missed it. Multitudes of people only have a job, and a large number in that group do not even like the job they have. They are not satisfied. They are restless. They would love to have a sense of vocation (derived from a Latin word meaning “calling”). I wonder if you are such a person. Are you not satisfied with what you are getting out of life? If your answer is yes, then let me encourage you to ask yourself, “What am I putting into my life?” Rather than thinking in terms of “getting,” focus on “giving” –– giving back to God what He has given to you –– your life, your time, your talents, your possibilities, your potentialities. In his Letter to the Romans, the Apostle Paul gives this exhortation: “I appeal to you…present your bodies as a living sacrifice (to God – meaning “yourselves”, all of you – not just your physical body, but your mind, your spirit), which is your spiritual worship” (i.e. living “as belonging to God,” not as belonging to this present world). Do not be conformed to this world (i.e. to this present age, to the values and standards of this secular society, which has organized itself without any reference to God or His commandments), but be transformed by the renewing of your minds (having a mind that is filled with the right thoughts, for our minds were not made to think the thoughts of this world; our minds were made to think the thoughts of God), so that you may discern what is the will of God (i.e. God’s will for your life, for what God had in mind when He first thought of you) – what is good and acceptable and perfect“ (i.e. all that is best for you, all that will give meaning and purpose to your life, all that will bring a sense of satisfaction, fulfillment, and joy – for living in conformity to God’s perfect will).
Paul was writing to the followers of Jesus in Rome, at a time when it was both difficult and dangerous to not conform to the demands of the Roman Empire. For one thing, every one living under the authority of Rome was required to worship the Emperor, to put incense on the altar of Caesar, a sing of absolute surrender to Him as the only one deserving of worship. Your first allegiance had to be to Rome. Therefore, Christians, who refused to put any incense on the altar to Caesar, who insisted that Jesus Christ alone is Lord, were in danger of death! All of the Apostles had died a martyr’s death, except for Peter and Paul, who were also destined to die as martyr’s on the Appian Way, a short distance from the Roman Forum, and the Apostle John, who had been exiled to the island of Patmos because of his refusal to be conformed to Rome by bowing his knee to Caesar.
Paul himself had suffered so much for his allegiance to Jesus Christ as Lord, for he was a Roman citizen. He had already been arrested, beaten. stoned, and smuggled out of one city after another. He knew he would be arrested and under judgment if he ever visited Rome, although that was the desire of his heart (Romans 1:8-15). He had never even visited Rome, but that was his intention (1:13). In the meantime he wrote his letter to the believers in Rome to encourage them to “be not conformed…but transformed” (i.e. transformed non-conformists) – “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (12:21) – “We do not live to ourselves, and we do not die to ourselves. If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s” (14:7-8). From the hour of his conversion on the Damascus Road Paul had this one sustaining passion, to make the most of the rest of his life as a follower of Jesus, and he tells us plainly what his purpose was in his Letter to the Philippians: “For me to live is Christ” (I:21).
The desire of Paul’s heart was to know Christ, and to make Him known: “That I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and may share in His sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that if possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead” (Phil. 3:10-11). –– “I want to know, beloved, that what has happened to me has actually helped to spread the gospel…that my imprisonment is for Christ” (vs. 12-13). Everything had changed for Paul. Old things had passed away. All things had been made new. He was a new man, with a new mission. He had not only been given a new name (i.e. Paul, for he had been “Saul of Tarsus,” the greatest persecutor of those who were “Followers of The Way,” the first title given to the early Christians) – he had also been given a new nature. In writing to the Galatians, he said, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in him who loved me, and gave himself for me” (2:20). In other words, the old nature had been nailed to the cross with Christ (i.e. the sin nature, which had been nailed down to die with Him). So it is not surprising that Paul had also changed his
resume after his life-transforming encounter with the resurrected Lord, for he had a new identity and new credentials (Phil. 3:4-6): “If any man thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh (i.e. any other Jew), circumcised on the eighth day (i.e. according to Jewish law), of the people of Israel. of the tribe of Benjamin. a Hebrew born of Hebrews; as to the law a Pharisee, as to zeal a persecutor of the church, as to righteousness under the law, blameless.” As a convert from Judaism to Christianity, he wanted his fellow-Jews to know that his racial, cultural, and religious pedigree was probably more impressive than theirs, according to the values and standards of Judaism. However, after becoming a Christian, his confidence in his birth, his titles, his achievements, as a devout Jew no longer had any real value. He now considered the things he had previously depended upon for his self of worth, worthless!
Listen to his own testimony: “Whatever gain I had, these I have come to regard as loss (the word Paul uses literally means “garbage”), because of Christ. More than that, I now regard everything else as loss when compared to the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things (i.e. all the things I had once valued the most), for I now regard them as rubbish in order that I may gain Christ, and be found in him” (Phil. 3:7-9). If you were rewriting your resume, hoping to please your heavenly Father rather than trying to impress other people, what changes would you make? What would you include beyond your family roots, your education, your achievements, your title, your bank account, your possessions? What lessons can you learn from the Apostle Paul? In his Letter to the Galatians we find these other words that are very insightful: “Far be it from me to glory save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (6:14). It is not that Paul’s heritage and accomplishments had no value at all, after he had become a Christian, but he wanted his readers to know that his trust was no longer in any of those things. He knew he had no righteousness of his own to offer God. No matter how good he was, when measured by the law, he knew he was never good enough, and never would be (i.e. never good enough to deserve God’s love, forgiveness, and acceptance). Although he had never been as bad as he could be, he knew he would never be as good as he should be! So, he had come to this conclusion: “For me, to live is Christ.”
This is the great equation that gave Paul his sense of value, his sense of purpose, and the passion that dominated his life, that gave his life meaning and motivated him to make the most of the rest of his life. NOW TAKE A LONG HARD LOOK AT YOUR OWN LIFE. What are you living for? What are the things that drive you, that compel you, that get you excited about life? If you are a Christian, do your passions reflect the mind of Christ? He said, “The Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve” — “He who seeks to save his life will lose it, but he who is willing to lose his life (i.e. in His service) will find it.” The simple truth is that all of us can become s preoccupied with self, the claims of self, the demands of self (self advancement, self gratification, self glorification) that we miss the higher purpose of life, which is to “give” rather than to “get,” to serve rather than to be served, to love without demand (for “love is not selfish” I Cor. 13 – love is “other-person-centered”), and loving is “the more excellent way” to live (I Cor. 14:1). The most important thing in life is relationships. We are relational beings. God made us this way, to love and be loved, to give and not to count the cost, to be willing to deny ourselves, to delay personal gratification, to put the interests of others before our own, to have the mind of Christ, to reflect His image in our lives, to be able to say with Paul: “For me to live is Christ.”
EVERYTHING ELSE COMPARED TO THE SURPASSING WORTH OF KNOWING AND SERVING CHRIST, IS “SKUBALA” (that is the word Paul used, and it’s most literal meaning is “that which is thrown to the dogs”). IT IS OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH HIM THAT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IN LIFE, THE “ONE THING NEEDFUL” TO ENHANCE EVERY OTHER RELATIONSHIP AND RESPONSIBILITY WE MAY HAVE AND ENJOY IN THIS LIFE, AND THE ONE THING THAT IS OUR GUARANTEE FOR AN EVEN RICHER, FULLER, AND ETERNAL LIFE IN THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN. However, the purpose of our life in Christ is not just to get us into heaven, but TO GET HEAVEN INTO US!