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Summary: What is the real purpose of life - Paul gives the answer in Philippians 1:21

Sermon by Donald R. Hart – Antioch Christian Church, Pittsburg, Missouri – March 18, 2007

(All Scripture quoted is from the NIV unless otherwise noted)


Text: Philippians 1:12-30


How does one define life or can anyone really define life? Webster defines “life” this way – “1. The property or quality by which living organisms are distinguished from dead organisms or inanimate matter, esp. as shown in the ability to grow, carry on metabolism, respond to stimuli, and reproduce. 2. Living organisms as a whole 3. A human being. 4. The period of time between an organism’s birth or inception and its death: lifetime. 5. A biography. 6. Animate and esp. human activities. 7. A manner of living. 8. Animation: vitality.”

So in essence Webster describes life as “animate” as opposed to “dead”. This definition does not take in account that animals and human beings have personalities, emotions and purpose for living.

The legendary singer Peggy Lee won a Grammy in 1969 for the song “Is That All There Is?” The song details several events in life which includes a house fire, a trip to the circus, falling in love and when one draws their last breath – each spoken verse is followed by the singing of this haunting question and this suggestion:

Is that all there is, is that all there is

If that’s all there is my friends, then let’s keep dancing

Let’s break out the booze and have a ball

If that’s all there is

Robert Heinlein is quoted as saying, “The supreme irony of life is that hardly anyone gets out of it alive” (“Job”, 1984)

Denn Guptill shared, “I think we all share the sentiments of the tombstone that read ‘I expected this but not yet’” ( Illustrations)

Not all quotations about life have been negative, for example:

Norman Thomas (1884-1968), “The secret of a good life is to have the right loyalties and hold them in the right scale of values.”

Oswald Spengler, a German historian and philosopher (1880-1936), “This is our purpose: to make as meaningful as possible this life that has been bestowed upon us; to live in such a way that we may be proud of ourselves; to act in such a way that some part of us lives on.”

Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965), “We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give.”

William Cowper (1731-1800) a poet and song writer and a contemporary with John Newton, said – “The only true happiness comes from squandering ourselves for a purpose.”

With these thoughts in mind, consider what the Apostle Paul was talking about in our text. At the time of this writing he is a prisoner, in chains, and with some of his brothers in the Lord stirring up trouble for him. There is even the threat of death hanging over his head and yet he is positive in his outlook on things. He is able to face either life or death with a resolve of purpose and an attitude of victory for whatever is the outcome.


His declaration in verse 21, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain” is a key as to what drove this great apostle. He saw that whatever happened to him was a win, win situation. In this message I would like to consider some facts about life that will help us define life with the same kind of positive attitude.


As with every age, many people fall into the trap of believing that the main goals of life should be the gaining possessions and/or achieving fame. We heard the saying “He who has the most toys wins”. Then there is the other saying that says, “He who has the most toys when he dies, still dies”. We have a tendency to equate financial status with success and yet we have seen so many who seem to have it all, only to be the most dissatisfied of all.

We are to seek to provide for our needs and to be good stewards of our resources, but possessions and/or fame will never be a sound measure of life. Both can be taken away in short order and one be left with nothing. It has been interesting to see the TV programs that have followed the lives of some who have won very large amounts of money from the lottery. That which should have solved their problems only became the medium for a whole new set of problems – often with devastating outcomes.

Jesus warned against making material things as a measure of ones life. In Matthew 6:19-21 we read, 19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

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