There is a small town in Tennessee that had a place of worship with a sign in front that read: “LEFT FOOT BAPTIST CHURCH.” A student had passed by it many times, chuckled to himself and wondered about the meaning of the name of the church. Finally, one day, waiting for his bus, the student asked somebody in the town about the significance of the rather unusual name for the church. It seems that a number of years ago, there had been a split in the local congregation which practiced foot-washing. An argument broke out over which foot should be washed first. And the group insisting on the left foot taking precedence finally withdrew and split off to organize its own church, and named its congregation accordingly! “LEFT FOOT BAPTIST CHURCH.” A division like that might be funny if it weren’t so tragic.
Almost everything has a story behind it. And so does human existence. We sometimes confuse “meaning” of life and “purpose” of life. Purpose of life is what am I going to do in these years of life that I have upon the face of the earth. In other words, what am I going to do with myself in this lifetime? Meaning of life is quite different, because it asks the single question, “why was I born?” It has to be more than the simple answer of the results of two people being in love.
When God created the Heavenly Host (Seraphs, Cherubs, Archangel, Angels) He instantly set what He had created in Heaven. Think about it for one moment. To be created and instantly be placed in Heaven. There are some benefits in that – no sickness, no death, no unemployment, very little difficulty. There are also some things missing in that concept, ignorance, marriage, possessions, total freedom, etc. Creation was wonderful as God had created everything.
Then sin entered the picture, as Lucifer and his followers (1/3 of the angels in Heaven) were tossed out. They had avoided what you and I dread, disease, pain, death, broken relationships, and yet they wanted more…to be God. Upon making that choice, they were tossed out.
It is interesting how the book of Genesis opens. Gen 1:1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. The Hebrew wording here leaves open the chaos that ensued following God’s creation and subsequent fall of the angelic host.
Then God changes His plan, lets do creation differently. God creates humanity in His own image. That means that we were designed very similar to the angelic host, with the ability to reason, to know the difference between right and wrong, the ability to love and hate, and we were created with a soul. The difference now was that following our creation we were not placed immediately into Heaven but upon the face of this earth.
All at once I discover the meaning of why was I born? That I may in this lifetime have an opportunity to choose to love God. The whole purpose of this lifetime is to prepare us for eternity. Our existence is to allow us this choice!
Why did I not perish at birth, and die as I came from the womb? We understand Job’s dilemma, for life certainly has not been easy for him. But without even realizing it, Job is drawing closer to God. The very reason for this life, to prepare us for God. The whole meaning of earthly existence lies, not in prosperity, but in the development of the soul. Job’s question is a good question, “Why was I born?” Answer: “To give us an opportunity to accept God’s love.”
So if the meaning of life is to find God, then what purpose do we have in our course of life? In December 1990, George Gallup delivered a talk at Princeton Theological Seminary in which he shared six basic spiritual needs of Americans as revealed through surveys and research on many topics. The need to believe that life is meaningful and has a purpose. (2/3 of those interviewed did not believe that churches were effectively meeting this need).
Pollsters say, “one out of five Americans feel life is meaningless.” Jesus recognized such feelings among His countrymen when He noted they were like sheep without a shepherd. To all those people wandering in a wilderness without meaning, Jesus has promised purpose and hope. Do you know anybody who is just living for the day they can retire and take it easy? Recent studies have been conducted by the insurance industry concerning retired military officers and businessmen who were looking forward to retiring and relaxing after 30 years of hard work. The results indicated that “just kicking back in retirement” leads to a funeral in 4 to 7 years. Longevity requires a purposeful retirement that includes meaningful hobbies, ongoing relationships, and sustained involvement.
When Jewish psychiatrist Viktor Frankl was arrested by the Nazis in World War II, he was stripped of everything-property, family, possessions. “How should I have interpreted such a ‘coincidence’ other than as a challenge to “live” my thoughts, instead of merely putting them on paper?” Later, as Frankl reflected on his ordeal, he wrote in his book “Man’s Search for Meaning”, “There is nothing in the world that would so effectively help one to survive even the worst conditions, as the knowledge that there is a meaning in one’s life…. ‘He who has a “why” to live for can bear almost any “how”‘.”
Matt 22:34-40 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “`Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: `Love your neighbor as yourself.’
We have a great destiny: 1 Cor 6:2 Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if you are to judge the world, are you not competent to judge trivial cases? Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more the things of this life!