When you are in high school or in college one thing is for certain. You get tired of taking tests. You spend vast amounts of time learning answers. Your life is filled with hours of learning the correct answers. There are regular tests, final exams, S.A.T., A.C.T., G.R.E., M.A.T., L.S.A.T and all of those other fun tests. It is always about knowing the right answers.
Some people even refer to the Bible as a book of answers. In many ways the Bible is a book of answers. But, the Bible is also a book of important questions. Sometimes knowing the right question is even more important than knowing the right answer. This morning I would like for us to take a few minutes and examine some of the questions the Bible asks. Questions, that if we take them seriously we make a difference in our lives.
“What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?”
This question is one of Priority. Each of us have so many years of life on this earth. We will spend our lives on something. The question is, “What will you spend your life on?” At the end of our years we will look back at how we lived and what we literally spent our lives for.
A man works hard to achieve certain goals he has set for himself. Unfortunately in his single minded pursuit of his goals he has alienated his family. Finally he achieves the position he has longed for. But there is no family left to enjoy it with.
He finally makes more money than he ever dreamed he would make. But he doesn’t like who he is. What good is it to gain all of your goals if you loose yourself in the process?
There is nothing wrong with having high goals. I think you should. There is nothing wrong with making a lot of money. I hope you do. However, it is relationships, not just accomplishments and prosperity that bring joy to our lives. You can have success and prosperity and relationships and joy. But you can not have just success and accomplishments and have joy. The joy factor is tied to the relationships in your life.
There is a difference between pursuing something just for money or pursuing something because you are passionate about it. The word, “vocation” means “calling.” A vocation is something you feel called to do. It is something that matters to you. To used our gifts and do something you are passionate about will bring joy. It fulfills your soul.
I read Steve Jobs’ biography right after it came out. It is an amazing story. Steve Jobs was a multimillionaire in his early twenties. You want to hear something amazing. He really didn’t care. The money was nice, but he was looking for the next technological breakthrough. For years he lived in this huge house with no furniture and rode a motorcycle. He was too busy working to spend hardly any of his money. He was following his passion.
And for those of you who are PC users, the same thing can be said of Bill Gates. He is one of the richest men in the world. The money has never been his motivation. As a matter of fact he is now busy trying to give it all away to make our world a better place to live. He worked countless hours and stayed up at night developing the next greatest software idea. He is a joyful man because he followed his passion. It isn’t a win if you achieve all of your goals and yet you are numb on the inside.
“What good is it, to gain the whole world and lose your soul?”
“Am I my brother’s keeper?”
The second question is on of Responsibility. That question was asked at the beginning of the Old Testament. In the New Testament Jesus was still addressing the same question. Even today, we have a hard time grasping the importance of this question.
How we answer this question determines whether or not we will live our lives just for ourselves or whether we understand our lives as an opportunity to make a difference in others. We live in a time of incredible narcissism. If you don’t believe me, get a FaceBook page.
We are encouraged to live for ourselves. Make sure you get what you want. We are taught to talk about “My rights.” To think about others is actually countercultural. What if I am not only concerned about my ability and opportunity to make a good living and provide for my family, but I am also concerned about others having opportunities as well? What about those who are marginalized? Poor? Disabled?
Now is such an intriguing time to be alive. We live in such a both-and culture. Did you know that the percentage of people who read is going down, And the percentage of book sales is going up? Did you know as a culture we are becoming increasingly obese, And more people go to the gym than ever before? While it is true that this generation is the most narcissistic in recent history, this generation of young adults have shown more compassion for those less fortunate than we have seen in generations.
Tom’s shoes, Warby glasses and blood water buttons are not fashion symbols, but compassion symbols for a generation who cares about the rest of the global community. At some point all of us have to decide whether we are living our lives just for ourselves, or are we also living for others? We will spend our time talents and money all on ourselves or we can selflessly share it to make others lives better.
We have to decide, are we responsible to help improve not only our own lives, but others as well?
“If God is for us, who can be against us?”
The third question is one of determination. Sooner or later you learn that hard lesson in life that life doesn’t go according to your plans. Some days you are the windshield, some days you are the bug. Sometimes it seems like everything is against us. It takes determination just to keep going.
The most important lesson you and I ever learn in life is when we finally understand that God loves us. God loves you! I know you have heard that before, but let is sink in. The God who created everything that exists is in love with you. God is for you. He is not against you.
I know there are times that it doesn’t seem that way. When we lived in Atlanta a young woman, in her thirties was driving home from work, and was involved in a car accident that took her life. A few days later her husband and two small sons showed up at the funeral. As hard as it was the father prayed with his sons and asked for God’s help to deal with this tragedy. A young pastor went up to the Dad and told him, “When I was about your oldest son’s age my mom died in a car accident too. But my dad became angry with God, thought God was against us. He quit praying and he quit going to church. It took me a lot of years to ever get things figured out in my life. Thank you for teaching your kids that God is not against you, but He is with you, even in this tragedy.
We things don’t work out the way we want we often blame God and think He must be against us. But when we reach the place that we understand that even in the difficult times, He loves us and He is with us to help us face whatever it is we are facing.
It makes a huge difference in life to know that whatever you are up against, God is pulling for you. He is for you not against you. If God is for us, who can be against us? Or as I heard John Maxwell say it, “If God is for us, everyone else may as well be.”
It makes a difference in your determination if you know God is for you.
“Where can I go from [God’s] presence?”
The fourth question is one of Encouragement.There are times in life when God seems absent. We talk a lot about the presence of God. And we have experienced God’s presence in our lives. But, we also experience what feels like His absence. I wish I could explain it, but I can’t. I don’t know why it happens. But we pray and it seems like our prayers go unnoticed. It just feels like no one is there.
God promised that He would always be with us. Usually, when we lok back on a situation we see how God was helping us through it although at the time we didn’t see it and questioned His presence. But, no matter how you feel, or how far away from familiar surroundings you get, God is always with you. There is no where you can go where He is not. It is good to know this when you are far away from home and people you love. It is good to know when life seems lonely. God never lets you go. Where can I go from God’s presence?
“What shall I do to inherit eternal life?”
The last question is one of salvation. Whether or not you believe in an eternity makes a major difference in how you live this life. Your priorities are different if you have an eternal perspective than if you simply live for what you can get out this life in the short amount of time we have here.
The Bible teaches us that eternal life is a gift that comes to us from a loving God. It is something we accept by asking God to forgive us of our sins and seek to follow Jesus in the way we live and treat others. When you understand that it removes a big burden from your life. You don’t have to try to earn your salvation or practice sin management to try to keep your salvation. Both of those are tiring ways to live. But when you know that you have been forgiven and you are following a loving God, you can breath a little and just be who God created you to be.
If you want to be successful in life you do have to know a lot of right answers. But, to have a meaningful life you have to know the right questions. Let these questions guide you in the decisions you make.
“What does it profit you to gain the whole world if you lose your soul?”
“Am I my brother’s keeper?”
“If God is for us who can be against us?”
“Where can I go from God’s presence?”
“What must I do to inherit eternal life?”
Let these questions be your compass and they will guide your life. They will point you in the direction of meaning and joy and eternal life.