The Purpose and Meaning of 2003
27 Dec 2003, Pr George Porter
(George is Thornleigh's Church Pastor)
Scripture Reading: Matt 6:33
Title The Purpose and Meaning of 2003
Theme Where to find Purpose and Meaning for Life
Where have we been in 2003? Take as an example Elle McPherson as one journalist has done recently. Her purpose in life appears to be to "sell her body that she'd die for." She continued to build a business in men's and ladies' underwear. She has consolidated her already established Underwear Kingdom and amassed millions of dollars. As one commentator said, "She rolls in money."
She is surrounded with money, nannies, fitness gurus, chefs and house maids.
But in 2003 disaster struck and took its toll. Problems with relationships, substance abuse, depression and the expense of $10,000 per week to get professional help. She is now 40. Her body has let her down. Her purpose and the future seemed confused. Her body is not God and is not eternal. Confused purpose brings on depression.
Just prior to Christmas some Seventh-day Adventists displayed their confusion over Purpose and Meaning. One woman left her husband because he could no longer supply her all the money she needed to continue with the life she was accustomed to. Another left her husband because she wanted her husbands love not the money and false image of happiness she was expected to fake.
It appears that in 2003 like any year before of after, it seems so easy for we humans to be confused and mistaken over the Purpose and Meaning of life.
I like browsing what the sociologists say about humanity and us all in general.
Greg Easterbrook wrote about the contradictions of modern life in a book entitled, The Progress Paradox: How Life Get's Better While People Feel Worse." It's Better: we have unlimited food at affordable prices. We have transport all over the globe-instantly. We have medical progress. We have untold machinery to do our hard toil. We have instantaneous global communication. We have home ownership for the majority. We have air con and hi tech for the masses. We have incredible "advances" in freedom: travel expression, sex. Our forebears would say we have Utopia. Greg writes about American society however, it parallels ours closely, and I believe we do well to see what he has discovered.
After thorough research, Greg asks the question, " How many of us feel positive about our moment in time or even believe life is getting better?" The cry now is, "My parents had it better than I do." He claims polls show we are, " unbearably stressed out". Morally and socially , "the country is going down hill." Since 1950 income has doubled but "happiness has not budged." We are feeling "worse."
Greg gives a few suggested reasons for why the current, "discontented views - indisputably common" and the "gloominess" prevail. He names a few of his theories as to the cause.
THE REVOLUTION OF SATISFIED EXPECTATIONS
"So many now have so much, it's hard to expect that the coming years will bring significantly more." He goes on, "The expectation that each new year will be notably better than the last, once ingrained … is fading. …. Many millions… find they have what they once dreamed of having - and it does not make them happy."
People can see in glamorous advertising that their, "possessions seem insufficient." "People can see, in agonizing detail, all the expensive things they will never possess."
The REAL inner fears. An economy collapse. A run out of natural resources. A genetically engineered " bio-horror." The fear, "that terrorism or environmental calamity will overwhelm societies…."
"Most people reject the idea that they are prosperous." People are, "programmed to deny that they are well off, which only detracts from our ability to appreciate what is going well in our lives."
THE UNSETTLED CHARACTER OF PROGRESS
"We'd like to think progress causes problems to be solved in a final sense, and sometimes that happens. …. But often as not, problems exist in a chain of cause-and-effect: For each one solved, a new one crops up. … The sense that problems always arise to replace the old makes many people reluctant to believe life is really getting better."
THE CHOICE PENALTY
Freedom of choice has become a cause for anxiety. "…Choice itself becomes overwhelming. … most people now make these choices (marriage, habitat, vocation) on their own and freely, but then suffer an endless self-doubt that did not exist in eras when most people's choices were made for them."
Now listen to this theory of Greg's.
FROM MATERIAL WANT TO MEANING WANT
"Ever larger numbers of people enjoy reasonable standards of living, but may feel an inner pang on the question of whether their lives have purpose. Predicting a transition from 'material want' to 'meaning want.' …it is a prediction that millions will expect both pleasant living standards (material things) and a broad sense that their lives have purpose. This is a conundrum as the sense of meaning is much more difficult to acquire than the material possessions."
Wow! I believe this sociologist is heading down the right track. So where do we look for Purpose and Meaning? I believe the answer to this seemingly complicated question was answered by the Saviour, our creator.
THE WHERE AND THE HOW OF PURPOSE AND MEANING
Jesus set us in the right direction . In Matt 6:33 he said, "But seek you first the kingdom of God and his righteousness: and all these things shall be added unto you." The context of the chapter is that the material things are not the number one priority. Our Purpose is to seek and know God's kingdom of moral goodness. As we do that we will find meaning and "all these things" food, clothing, comforts will come as we have necessity.
In Matt 7:7-8 , Jesus again indicates that we need to "ask", "seek", and "knock" for moral purpose and meaning God will supply and we will "receive".
We will find purpose and meaning and these will be "opened to us so that we comprehend what God has for us in Christ. In this life and the hereafter. God "gives good things" purpose and meaning and Life and its necessities. Verse 11. We must seek from God for the answers. He is the source.
The Psalmist make this clear. Ps 34:14 "Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it. Now there is purpose. Again in verse 4, "I sought the Lord and he heard me and delivered me, from all my fears." Verse 8, " O taste and see that the Lord is good: blessed is the man that trusts in Him." The search for Purpose and Meaning finds its climax in verse 10, "they that seek the Lord shall not want any good thing." So find our purpose in and from God and we find meaning to our lives and have no wants!
As Hebrews 13:14 shows, that when we have His purpose and meaning we understand that no city here is eternal, only the heavenly to come. Chapter 10:8-10 makes it clear that Abraham was a pilgrim in a strange country but had purpose and meaning sorted out. He looked for the future city of God in a new earth. A city that God designs and builds.
In Deut 4:29-31, God has always made it clear that we must seek purpose outside of ourselves in God alone. He will not forsake or disappoint us. Verse 30 says, "when you are in real trouble (a hard place), even in the future, turn to the Lord your God … he will not forsake you , neither destroy you, nor forget the covenant…." Jesus quoting from Deuteronomy in Matt 22 clearly states that our purpose in life begins with love for God and also love for fellow human beings. That's purpose and meaning. Purpose must be outside of self.
God via Amos in 5:4 and 6 tells us where to find real meaning for our existence. Seek the Lord and we find the meaning to life. We go to holy places to express our belief and trust in God but we do not find purpose in systems or establishments unless God is upheld there as the only source of true purpose and meaning. See verse 5. Establishments and institutions without God, "come to nothing."
Pastor Paul in Col 3:1-5 states an imperative for purpose and meaning when he says of Christians, "set your affection (mind) on things above, not on things on the earth. …. For you are dead, and your life is hid (found) with Christ in God.
When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall you also appear with him." Now there is real meaning to the purpose of life.
In verses 10-17 Paul lists the "things from above" which we are given of God for purpose and meaning. They are "renewed" morality - a new person made after the image of the creator. The list of "things from above" includes holiness, mercy, kindness, humility of mind, meekness, longsuffering, compassion , Christian love and the spirit of forgiveness. Love must be imperative and above all other. For good measure he mentions the peace of God and the word of Christ and his wisdom. All these "things" give meaning to our purpose , "to do all in the name of the Lord Jesus."
Twice Paul reminds us to remember to be thankful to God. Verses 15 and 17. This leads us to Greg Easterbrooks final theory which he names as,
THE VIRTUE OF GRATITUDE.
I personally see it as Paul's pinnacle or climax to meaning in his list of "Things" which give purpose and meaning.
Greg states that psychological research indicates that , "we should be more grateful." He quotes Robert Emmons, a professor of psychology at the University of California as saying, "Gratitude research is beginning to suggest that feelings of thankfulness have a tremendous positive value in helping people cope with daily problems, especially stress, and to achieve a positive sense of self." As Greg suggests, "People who describe themselves as feeling grateful to others, and either to God or to nature for the gift of life, ( that's God again- my note) tend to have higher vitality and more optimism, suffer less stress, and experience fewer episodes of clinical depression than the population as a whole."
Paul was right when he emphasized the imperative of being thankful. In Col 3:23-4 he says, "Whatever you do, do it heartily, (with purpose) as to the Lord and not to men; (Please God first) Knowing that you shall be rewarded with inheritance (eternal life) from the Lord: for you serve the Lord.
So seek the Lord and His word and you find purpose for living. You will be given life with meaning in Him and all "things" will be added unto you.
May God lead you all to Him for real purpose and meaning.
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