The Simple Meaning of Life

Greetings! I am Pastor David Hewitt of King of Glory Lutheran Church in Carmel, Indiana, and I welcome you to our latest “Boost from the Bible,” where we gather together to delve into the depths of scripture, always finding there God’s wisdom and love in this COVID time. Let us begin!

Monty Python, the very British comedy troupe that started in the 1960s, made several movies over the years. One of them was entitled, “The Meaning of Life.” That title – “The Meaning of Life” – reminds me of the many jokes about people who would climb a mountain to ask a wise man or guru the big question, “What is the meaning of life?” One joke – or, I should warn you, “sort” of a joke – like this involved a man named Alex. It seems that Alex wakes up one day and asks himself what the meaning of life is. He goes to work but realizes that is not what life is or should be. He decides to read some philosophy – studying for a whole year nothing but philosophy – but Alex still feels he has not found the meaning of life. 

Alex tries many other ways to find life’s meaning: he becomes a devoted family man, then he becomes a hard-working doctor, then he becomes a wealthy businessman, then he turns to poverty and public humility, then he writes novels and becomes a famous writer; none of these pursuits give Alex the meaning of life that he craves. Finally, Alex hears about a guru living high up in the mountains somewhere in the Far East. The guru, they say, knows what the meaning of life is. So Alex travels for months, walks roads, then climbs a mountain to get to that guru. At the top, there are hundreds of pilgrims in line, so he has to wait several days. Eventually it is his turn, and so Alex goes to a place under a big tree, and there sits the guru, his legs crossed, his eyes closed, meditating, perfectly peaceful; this guru surely knows the meaning of life, Alex thinks, so he tells the guru: I have dedicated my life to discovering the meaning of life and I have failed, so I have come to ask you humbly, O Master, to divulge the secret of the meaning of life to me. The guru opens his eyes, looks at Alex, and calmly says, “My friend, life is a river.” That’s all the guru says. Alex stares at him for a long time and cannot believe what he heard. “What’s life again?” Alex asks. “Life is a river,” the guru replies. Alex then explodes at the guru, yelling, “You compete idiot! I have come all this way for you to tell me that life is a river. A river? Are you kidding me? Is that what you spent your life figuring out?” And the guru replies, “What? Are you saying life is NOT a river? I always thought it was a river.” Then the guru heads down the mountain, mumbling to himself, “Hmmm. I always assumed it was a river!”

Over the years, it’s clear that, like with Alex and the guru, there is a difference of opinion about what the meaning of life really is. Religions, of course, seek to provide their adherents an answer to that question. Among Protestants perhaps the most famous “question and answer” along these lines is found in the Westminster Confession. Question: “What is the chief end of humanity?” Answer: “Humanity’s chief end [chief goal] is to glorify God, and to enjoy God forever.” It may be hard to know what does and does not “glorify” God, but that is a Christian statement whose power lies in the sense that life is all about God, not about us, and about the doing of God’s will.

Jesus Himself had an answer. Talking of people all over the world, Jesus defined, in John 10:10, His mission in life: “I came that they may have life, and have life abundantly.” Now I want to let you know that I am among those who have found a pattern in the New Testament message surrounding this one word – “life” – and that understanding the depth of meaning in that word “life” will help us live life now and after COVID is over now that we have learned life’s real meaning.

For instance, in John 17:3 Jesus speaks to the Father while the disciples listen in and proclaims, “And this is eternal life: that they [human beings] may know You, the only true God, and [know] Jesus Christ, whom You have sent.” Notice the several adjectives in the New Testament which seek to explain to us that we are not just talking about biological life here: “Abundant life,” “Eternal life,” “Life in Christ.” In fact, Jesus tells us in John 17:3 that we can experience a certain kind of life – eternal life – now, BEFORE we die! 

Apparently Christ’s teachings about living Eternal Life now – living life with an “eternal quality” to it – living as if you have no deep worldly desires because you are, in the best sense of the term “already living in heaven” – seems to have had a profound impact on the Apostle John. We read so much about this new kind of “life” in John’s first letter. For example, John tells his readers at the end of “1st John” that he is writing them this letter “so that you may know that you have eternal life” now. Then in chapter 3, verse 14 John declares “We know that we have [note the past tense of the next word] passed from death to life because we love one another.” Then, a few verses later John proclaims, “All who hate a brother or sister are murderers, and you know that murderers do not have eternal life abiding in them.” Note the present tense there – we are able to “have” eternal life “abiding” – living – in us now. I want you to think a moment: What an amazing gift Christ gives us! – not only eternal life AFTER death but eternal life NOW! And, as I just said in verse 14, John defines “life” as that which lies within those people who “love one another” in a godly, unconditional way.

In these times, we need to love each other now more than ever. Our country has gone through so much over these last seven months – not just COVID but many other controversies as well, as you all know. As we love others unconditionally, serve unconditionally, have unconditional patience and peace with others…as we give generously and unconditionally to others – all of this through the guidance and POWER of the Holy Spirit – we fulfill our purpose, our destiny, and we find, by being Christ’s heart, hands and voice in the world – the Meaning of Life!

So let’s turn to our BOOST FROM THE BIBLE for today – found in 1st Timothy, chapter six. There we find some key verses Paul has written, sprinkled from verse eleven through verse nineteen. I’ll read those: “But as for you, beloved of God,” Paul writes… “pursue righteousness, love, endurance, [and] gentleness. Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the Eternal Life, to which you were called….As for those who are rich, command them not to be haughty, or set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but rather [set their hopes] on God who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. They are [We are] to do good, to be rich in good works, generous, and ready to share, thus storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of the life that really is life.

Life’s meaning is in this passage. The “good fight of faith” involves letting the Spirit guide you even as you are weary of these long COVID days, for the Spirit of God gives you, Paul says, “ENDURANCE” to outlast this difficult time! As we “pursue righteousness,” please be reminded that the Spirit will inform you of the right thing to do, always. If we have lost money during this pandemic, Paul reminds us both of “the uncertainty of riches,” AND of the God who “richly provides for us” – the God who provides for our needs. If we take hold, Paul says, of “the Eternal Life” and live the kind of life “that really IS life,” we will not be haughty towards others for ANY reason…we will be “generous and ready to share” and “gentle” – all the while focusing not on earthly riches but on the true meaning of life – being “rich…in good works.”

Now, there’s one final thing I’d like you to do with me today. Twice in this chapter six of Paul’s first letter to Timothy the Apostle Paul not only mentions “life” but each time tells us to “take hold of it.” Let’s get our body involved in this truth. Get one of your hands out. Get your hand to look like it is about to “take hold of” something – something important, like this. Now, as you read these two phrases about “taking hold of,” imagine that you are reaching out and taking hold of the kind of Life that is full of Love – not necessarily because YOU are loved by OTHERS, but because OTHER people are loved by YOU. Are you ready with your hand? Here we go with the scripture reading: “Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the Eternal Life, to which you were called….Do good…be rich in good works, generous and ready to share, storing up for [yourselves] the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that [you] may take hold of the life that really is life.”

Did you take hold of that Life? Feel the Spirit giving you that Life! God will help you REVEAL that Eternal, Abundant, God-given Life that really IS life, every day of your earthly life, so that you’ll be quite ready to LIVE that kind of life…forever. Amen!

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