The Uncertainty of Life

August 1, 2011

Life has always been uncertain, yet that troubling lesson has always been hard to learn. James confronts a secular attitude when he writes:

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.James 4:13–16, ESV

Is it wrong to be in business and make money? No. Is it wrong to make plans? No. However, it is wrong to go about life and not acknowledge God. It is wrong to place our trust in our business, our money, and our plans. James reminds us of the brevity of life and the certainty of God.

The regularity of our next breath and the next sunrise sometimes lulls us into complacency. James’ teaching has counterparts elsewhere in scripture. Ecclesiastes gives these startling words.

It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart. Ecclesiastes 7:2, ESV

Why is mourning beneficial? Because it reminds us that life is brief, and we should make the most of our time. The end of Ecclesiastes encourages us to remember our Creator when we are young (12:1), but if not then, we should seek God before our death “before the silver cord is snapped” (12:6, ESV). Why?

The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil. Ecclesiastes 12:13–14, ESV

Should the uncertainties of life handicap us and cause us to live in fear? No. We must live life completely and fully. We must be grateful for today. We must place our trust in God. Only God can bear the full weight of our life’s trust. Anything else can break under the load. Only God can be the stronghold of my life (Psalm 27:1). The uncertainties of life are answered in the certainty of God and His promises.

Is Life a Test?

March 4, 2011

Dr. Gregory House is television’s fictional curmudgeonly doctor. House is a misanthrope and an atheist. In a scene where the characters were considering whether there is anything to people seeing a white light at the end of the tunnel in near death experiences, House retorts that it is simply the chemical reactions to the brain shutting down. There is nothing after death, and he finds that comforting. When questioned about this being comforting, he replies: “I find it more comforting to believe that this isn’t simply a test.”

The scene succinctly raises an important issue about life. Is life a test or not? The Christian worldview gives a much different answer than the one given by the fictional Dr. House. The question is worth pondering.

I suspect that the comfort gained from saying life isn’t a test goes something like this. Death is the end. There is no judgment, heaven, or hell. We can’t get life wrong. It’s like the elation of the student who finds out there is no final exam.

Yet, this perspective comes with a terrible cost. It would mean that life has no ultimate meaning despite the fact we all seem to seek to make our life meaningful. It would mean that no moral values exist, other than the ones I subjectively create for myself, or we decide as a group, or some elite, powerful group decides for us. Yet such values are more akin to “I like chocolate; you like vanilla” than they are to “thou shalt” or “thou shalt not.” The dictator who exterminates millions, the gunman who takes out passersby in a shopping mall, or the woman who donates time at a soup kitchen are all just different ways of living life. Who’s to say which is better? They all die. If life is not a test, no one passes or fails.

Believing that life is a test certainly has ramifications. Since my choices in life can lead to eternal loss or eternal bliss, choices are filled with meaning and cannot be taken lightly. A choice between good and bad really exists. Doesn’t my sense that some things are not fair suggest that there is something about moral decisions that goes beyond my subjective feelings about them?

Such a life is more than a pass or fail for the afterlife. Life becomes a moral adventure. We have the opportunity to grow in goodness, love, and kindness. We learn the challenges of standing up for justice and fairness in a world that is frequently unfair. Honesty grows into transparency as we learn to be honest about who we are in all circumstances. The trials of life produce patient endurance.

I find comfort in life being a test. It means life matters, and death is not the end.

It’s a profound question. The course of your life will be affected by your answer. Is life a test?

While Today

February 5, 2009

The rhythm of life in the United States is fast paced. We hurtle down the Interstate at 70 M.P.H., and we often approach the rest of life with the same breakneck speed. The noise of modern life often drowns out reflection. Television, radio, the Internet, cell phones, iPods, and a host of other electronic gadgets can keep us amused. But is there something more to life than amusement? Is the bumper sticker philosophy, “He who dies with the most toys wins”, correct?

A biblical world view would answer with a resounding NO. Material things as wonderful as they are can never satisfy the human soul for long. Remove God from the picture, and life is like a maze with no opening on the other side, no destination, and no point. Without God, human achievements are fleeting. As Ecclesiastes observed, “I reflected on everything that is accomplished by man on earth, and I concluded: Everything he has accomplished is futile –like chasing the wind” (Ecclesiastes 1:14, NET)!

God exists. God has created our universe. God has revealed Himself through the Bible. The illusive meaning of life is to be found in God. We were created for relationship with God.

  • The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil. Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 ESV
  • But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Matthew 6:33 ESV

A couple of observations follow. If the meaning of life is to be in a relationship with God, I need to make certain that it is my true priority. A Barna poll listed being healthy as people’s number one goal. Relationship with God only came in as number six. We have to check our priorities.

If the meaning of life is to be in a relationship with God, then this life is but the testing ground for the next. This life is for making the decision for God. I have this moment in time, and I’m not guaranteed the next. I need to be responsive to God “while it is still called today.”

P.S. The photo in the header is sunrise taken from Jabel Musa, the traditional site identified with Mt. Sinai – not a bad place to ponder “Today.” The blog will be my place to reflect on faith, culture, and daily life.