Category: Life


The Good Life

Psalm 100

We all know of people who suffer from deteriorating health, financial reverses, and other troubles. How are we to process such situations in terms of what Scripture teaches about God’s goodness and the expression of His benevolence towards us?

First, God’s character is perfect, and everything He does is right (Deut. 32:4 niv). He is “compassionate and gracious, . . . and abounding in lovingkindness” (Ps. 103:8). By His very nature, God is good. Second, our heavenly Father expresses His goodness based on His purpose of conforming us to the image of Christ (Rom. 8:29). From the Lord’s perspective, everything that fits into His plan is beneficial for us.

The greatest demonstration of the Lord’s goodness is seen in His Son’s life and death. Jesus left His heavenly home, took on the form of man, suffered, and died in our place so we might be forgiven (Phil. 2:6-8). Because of what our Savior endured, we have been adopted into God’s family, and heaven is our eternal home.

At the time of Christ’s crucifixion, the disciples could not see anything beneficial in it. They knew only great sorrow. But we understand that God gave His own Son so that He might accomplish our salvation (Rom. 8:32).

Our definition of the good life would probably include material success, good health, and the absence of trouble—things that make us happy right now. But God has an eternal perspective, and He always works to fulfill His long-term plan for us. We can trust in His goodness, even in dark times.

There are two keys to knowing God’s will for a given situation: 1) Make surewhat you are asking for or considering doing is not something the Bible forbids. 2) Make sure what you are asking for or considering doing will glorify God and help you grow spiritually. If these two things are true and God still is not giving you what you are asking, then it is likely not God’s will for you to have what you are asking for. Or, perhaps you just need to wait a while longer for it. Knowing God’s will is sometimes difficult. People want God to tell them specifically what to do—where to work, where to live, whom to marry, etc. God rarely gives people information that direct and specific. God allows us to make choices regarding those things.

Romans 12:2 tells us, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—His good, pleasing and perfect will.” The only decision God does not want us to make is the decision to sin or resist His will. God wants us to make choices that are in agreement with His will. So, how do you know what God’s will is for you? If you are walking closely with the Lord and truly desiring His will for your life, God will place His desires on your heart. The key is wanting God’s will, not your own. “Delight yourself in the LORD and He will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4). If the Bible does not speak against it and it can genuinely benefit you spiritually, then the Bible gives you the “permission” to make decisions and to follow your heart. If you truly seek God’s will with a humble spirit and an open mind, He will reveal His will to you.

Philippians 1:5-7

Each Christian’s journey is unique. Yet certain stages of growth should be common to all believers. For example:

1. God wants to teach new followers basic principles as a foundation on which to build. He expresses these truths through other believers, His Word, and life circumstances.

2. The Lord allows us to serve Him. We were created to do good works , and this becomes evident as growing Christians use their talents to glorify Jesus (Eph. 2:10).

3. God lets us experience “frustrated inadequacy.” Pride and self-confidence are threats to spiritual growth. Therefore, our Father brings us to the place where we realize we can achieve nothing of value without divine guidance and power.

4. To make freedom a reality, the Father will bring His children face to face with whatever holds them captive. We often carry hurts, fears, or other “baggage” from childhood and on our own, have no idea how to gain victory. God allows us to struggle through such issues with His help. As we surrender the problem to Him and seek His perspective, He works to liberate us.

5. The Lord teaches us how to live the “exchanged life” (Gal. 2:20). Our sinful nature has been crucified with Christ, and the Savior’s life is expressed through us as we surrender to the Holy Spirit’s influence.

Do you recognize these stages as you look back over your walk with Christ? Perhaps you can identify an area where God still needs to work in your life. Is there anything standing in the way of allowing Him to live fully through you? Surrender to the Holy Spirit, asking Him to help you become more like Jesus.

There are two keys to knowing God’s will for a given situation: 1) Make sure  what you are asking for or considering doing is not something the Bible forbids.  2) Make sure what you are asking for or considering doing will glorify God and  help you grow spiritually. If these two things are true and God still is not  giving you what you are asking, then it is likely not God’s will for you to have  what you are asking for. Or, perhaps you just need to wait a while longer for  it. Knowing God’s will is sometimes difficult. People want God to tell them  specifically what to do—where to work, where to live, whom to marry, etc. God  rarely gives people information that direct and specific. God allows us to make  choices regarding those things.

Romans 12:2 tells us, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be  transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and  approve what God’s will is—His good, pleasing and perfect will.” The only  decision God does not want us to make is the decision to sin or resist His will.  God wants us to make choices that are in agreement with His will. So, how do you  know what God’s will is for you? If you are walking closely with the Lord and  truly desiring His will for your life, God will place His desires on your heart.  The key is wanting God’s will, not your own. “Delight yourself in the LORD and  He will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4).  If the Bible does not speak against it and it can genuinely benefit you  spiritually, then the Bible gives you the “permission” to make decisions and to  follow your heart. If you truly seek God’s will with a humble spirit and an open  mind, He will reveal His will to you.

What is the  meaning of life? How can purpose, fulfillment, and satisfaction in life be  found? How can something of lasting significance be achieved? So many people  have never stopped to consider these important questions. They look back years  later and wonder why their relationships have fallen apart and why they feel so  empty, even though they may have achieved what they set out to accomplish. An  athlete who had reached the pinnacle of his sport was once asked what he wished  someone would have told him when he first started playing his sport. He replied,  “I wish that someone would have told me that when you reach the top, there’s  nothing there.” Many goals reveal their emptiness only after years have been  wasted in their pursuit.

In our humanistic culture, people pursue many  things, thinking that in them they will find meaning. Some of these pursuits  include business success, wealth, good relationships, sex, entertainment, and  doing good to others. People have testified that while they achieved their goals  of wealth, relationships, and pleasure, there was still a deep void inside, a  feeling of emptiness that nothing seemed to fill.

The author of the  biblical book of Ecclesiastes describes this feeling when he says, “Meaningless!  Meaningless! …Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless” (Ecclesiastes 1:2). King  Solomon, the writer of Ecclesiastes, had wealth beyond measure, wisdom beyond  any man of his time or ours, hundreds of women, palaces and gardens that were  the envy of kingdoms, the best food and wine, and every form of entertainment  available. He said at one point that anything his heart wanted, he pursued. And  yet he summed up “life under the sun”—life lived as though all there is to life  is what we can see with our eyes and experience with our senses—is meaningless.  Why is there such a void? Because God created us for something beyond what we  can experience in the here-and-now. Solomon said of God, “He has also set  eternity in the hearts of men…” (Ecclesiastes 3:11). In our hearts we are aware that the  “here-and-now” is not all that there is.

In Genesis, the first book of  the Bible, we find that God created mankind in His image (Genesis 1:26). This means  that we are more like God than we are like anything else (any other life form).  We also find that before mankind fell into sin and the curse of sin came upon  the earth, the following things were true: 1) God made man a social creature (Genesis 2:18-25); 2) God  gave man work (Genesis  2:15); 3) God had fellowship with man (Genesis  3:8); and 4) God gave man dominion over the earth (Genesis 1:26). What is the  significance of these things? God intended for each of these to add to our  fulfillment in life, but all of these (especially man’s fellowship with God)  were adversely affected by man’s fall into sin and the resulting curse upon the  earth (Genesis 3).

In Revelation, the last book of the Bible, God  reveals that He will destroy this present earth and heavens and usher in the  eternal state by creating a new heaven and a new earth. At that time, He will  restore full fellowship with redeemed mankind, while the unredeemed will have  been judged unworthy and cast into the lake of fire (Revelation  20:11-15). The curse of sin will be done away with; there will be no more  sin, sorrow, sickness, death, or pain (Revelation  21:4). God will dwell with them, and they shall be His sons (Revelation 21:7). Thus,  we come full circle: God created us to have fellowship with Him, man sinned,  breaking that fellowship, God restores that fellowship fully in the eternal  state. To go through life achieving everything only to die separated from God  for eternity would be worse than futile! But God has made a way to not only make  eternal bliss possible (Luke 23:43)  but also life on earth satisfying and meaningful. How is this eternal bliss and  “heaven on earth” obtained?

Meaning of life restored through  Jesus Christ

Real meaning in life, both now and in eternity, is  found in the restoration of the relationship with God that was lost with Adam  and Eve’s fall into sin. That relationship with God is only possible through His  Son, Jesus Christ (Acts 4:12; John 1:12; 14:6). Eternal life is gained when we repent of our sin  (no longer want to continue in it) and Christ changes us, making of us new  creations, and we rely on Jesus Christ as Savior.

Real meaning in life  is not found only in accepting Jesus as Savior, as wonderful as that is. Rather,  real meaning in life is when one begins to follow Christ as His disciple,  learning of Him, spending time with Him in His Word, communing with Him in  prayer, and in walking with Him in obedience to His commands. If you are not a  Christian (or perhaps a new believer), you might be saying to yourself, “That  does not sound very exciting or fulfilling to me!” But Jesus made the following  statements:

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will  give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and  humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and  my burden is light” (Matthew  11:28-30). “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full”  (John 10:10b). “If anyone  would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.  For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for  me will find it” (Matthew  16:24-25). “Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of  your heart” (Psalm  37:4).

What all of these verses are saying is that we have a choice.  We can continue to seek to guide our own lives, which results in emptiness, or  we can choose to pursue God and His will for our lives with a whole heart, which  will result in living life to the full, having the desires of our hearts met,  and finding contentment and satisfaction. This is so because our Creator loves  us and desires the best for us (not necessarily the easiest life, but the most  fulfilling).

The Christian life can be compared to the choice of whether  to purchase the expensive seats at a sporting event that are close to the  action, or pay less and watch the game from a distance. Watching God work “from  the front row” is what we should choose but, sadly, is not what most people  choose. Watching God work firsthand is for whole-hearted disciples of Christ who  have truly stopped pursuing their own desires to pursue instead God’s purposes.  They have paid the price (complete surrender to Christ and His will); they are  experiencing life to its fullest; and they can face themselves, their fellow  man, and their Maker with no regrets. Have you paid the price? Are you willing  to? If so, you will not hunger after meaning or purpose again.

Enjoying Life

Ecclesiastes 2:1-23

Not only was King Solomon the wisest man who ever lived (1 Kings 3:12); he was also blessed with wealth beyond imagination and the privilege of building God’s temple. So we might expect him to know deep contentment.

Toward that end, Solomon devoted himself to studying and exploring all kinds of things. Ecclesiastes tells us that he indulged in the world’s pleasures, even dabbling in pursuits he recognized as folly to see if there was anything worthwhile in them. But the satisfaction Solomon sought evaded him, and he concluded that self-indulgence was without value.

The king tried another avenue to find fulfillment: personal achievement. He undertook great projects, such as building houses for himself, improving the environment with gardens and parks, and carrying out an extensive irrigation project (Eccl. 2:6). The king had everything he could ever need to enjoy life, but in the end, he found it all without meaning.

The story has a familiar ring, doesn’t it? Our world has many highly educated and successful people, but there is also much dissatisfaction with life. Our culture pursues pleasure and does not accept limits on its passions. Sadly, such lack of restraint has ruined countless lives.

Solomon had the wisdom and resources to accomplish whatever he chose to do. Yet the goals he pursued brought no lasting satisfaction. He concluded that the best course was to obey God (12:13). True enjoyment comes when we align ourselves with His will. Any other way is meaningless.

The Bible is very clear as to what our purpose in life should  be. Men in both the Old and New Testaments sought for and discovered life’s  purpose. Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, discovered the futility of life  when it is lived only for this world. He gives these concluding remarks in the  book of Ecclesiastes: “Here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep  his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every  deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil”  (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14). Solomon says that life is all  about honoring God with our thoughts and lives and thus keeping His  commandments, for one day we will stand before Him in judgment. Part of our  purpose in life is to fear God and obey Him.

Another part of our purpose  is to see life on this earth in perspective. Unlike those whose focus is on this  life, King David looked for His satisfaction in the time to come. He said, “And  I—in righteousness I will see your face; when I awake, I will be satisfied with  seeing your likeness” (Psalm  17:15). To David, full satisfaction would come on the day when he awoke (in  the next life) both beholding God’s face (fellowship with Him) and being like  Him (1 John  3:2).

In Psalm 73, Asaph talks about how he was tempted to envy the  wicked who seemed to have no cares and built their fortunes upon the backs of  those they took advantage of, but then he considered their ultimate end. In  contrast to what they sought after, he states in verse 25 what mattered to him:  “Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you”  (verse 25). To Asaph, a relationship with God mattered above all else in life.  Without that relationship, life has no real purpose.

The apostle Paul  talked about all he had achieved religiously before being confronted by the  risen Christ, and he concluded that all of it was like a pile of manure compared  to the excellence of knowing Christ Jesus. In Philippians 3:9-10, Paul says that he wants nothing more  than to know Christ and “be found in Him,” to have His righteousness and to live  by faith in Him, even if it meant suffering and dying. Paul’s purpose was  knowing Christ, having a righteousness obtained through faith in Him, and living  in fellowship with Him, even when that brought on suffering (2 Timothy 3:12).  Ultimately, he looked for the time when he would be a part of the “resurrection  from the dead.”

Our purpose in life, as God originally created man, is  1) glorify God and enjoy fellowship with Him, 2) have good relationships with  others, 3) work, and 4) have dominion over the earth. But with man’s fall into  sin, fellowship with God is broken, relationships with others are strained, work  seems to always be frustrating, and man struggles to maintain any semblance of  dominion over nature. Only by restoring fellowship with God, through faith in  Jesus Christ, can purpose in life be rediscovered.

The purpose of man is  to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. We glorify God by fearing and obeying Him,  keeping our eyes on our future home in heaven, and knowing Him intimately. We  enjoy God by following His purpose for our lives, which enables us to experience  true and lasting joy—the abundant life that He desires for us.