Summary: Introductory sermon to a series on the Purpose-Driven Life: the world says life’s purpose is having things or impressing people. But we are empowered when we use our lives for the purposes for which they are intended.
The choir began to sing, “This earth is not my home”, and I began to be uncomfortable. The more they chanted, the more I squirmed. “This earth is not my home, I am a stranger here, but I am bound for heaven, whence I shall never roam.” Well, yes and no. It is true that this earth is not our ultimate home; it is true that we have a destiny that is far beyond these years. But that’s only a half-truth. It is also true that we have to use this life well. It is also true that we are placed here, in this time and in this place, for a purpose, and if I am so caught up in heavenly things that I cannot invest in here and how, then what on earth – what on earth – am I here for?
It is entirely possible to be so heavenly minded that we are of no earthly use. It is entirely possible to be so spiritual, so otherworldly, that we don’t make a difference. We don’t do anything with our earthly life. It is possible to be so heavenly minded that we are of no earthly use and do no earthly good.
But it is also possible to think in heavenly ways, in spiritual ways, so that our lives on earth will be lived with purpose and meaning and power. When I am finished today, I would hope that the choir would forever scrapheap the song, “This earth is not my home” and would take up instead, “Only one life, ‘twill soon be past; only what you do for Christ will last.” A much better song!
What is the purpose of life? Why are we here on earth? Why are we taking up space and breathing air? What singer was it who crooned, “What’s it all about, Alfie?” Indeed, what is this life all about?
Philosophers and theologians and all sorts of people have developed answers to that question. I could send you to the library to research the issue and we could have a very heady discussion about it. But, bottom line, how do you answer it? What do you and I think that the purpose of life is? That will not be answered with books or lectures. That will be answered in the practical, everyday world. What you and I think about the purpose of our lives will be spelled out in the way we use our time, our energies, and our resources. Somebody has said that if you want to know what a person truly values, read his checkbook. I would agree, and would add to that, read his calendar.
The truth is that many of us just rock along, day by day, hour after hour, without any real thought about why we are doing what we are doing. We just do it, that’s all. We don’t remember why. We get up in the morning to go to work to earn enough to put a roof over our heads so that we can rest and be ready to get up the next morning and go to work to earn enough to put a roof over our heads so that we can rest and be ready to get up the next morning ... do you see? Is that good enough for you? What on earth are we here for?
Now somebody will say, “Pastor, I just don’t worry about stuff like that. I just try to live a clean life, and trust God, and leave it at that. Pastor, my song is not, ‘This earth is not my home.’ But my song is, ‘I don’t know about tomorrow, I just live from day to day.’” Well, I tell you, I think there’s more than that. I believe that God has given us more than that.
What on earth are we here for?
Now let’s be honest. You have to be sort of “together” even to ask that question. I know that there are some of us who have to spend most of our energy just with the question of survival. Many people are preoccupied with the issue of putting food on the table and keeping a roof over their heads. I do understand that. I know what it is to live from paycheck to paycheck and not have the luxury of taking time off just, as they said in the seventies, to find myself. Yet even when that is granted – even when we understand that people just have to do what they have to do in order to survive – I would still argue that we easily miss what life is all about. I am thinking of a young man who once told me that he couldn’t come to church any more because he had to work on Sundays, and he had to have that job in order to pay for the car he had bought. I asked him why he needed a car; his answer was that he needed a car to get to his job! Hmm. Doesn’t that go around in a circle? We just go around and around without really seeing the purpose. So again, what on earth are you here for? Your answer is written in what you do with your time, where you spend your money, and what you really care about. But do those things agree with God’s purpose for your life?