Summary: The value that comes from knowing God has a good and gracious purpose for our lives.
Living By the Book
Dr. Roger W. Thomas, Preaching Minister
First Christian Church, Vandalia, MO
Introduction: Today we begin our Forty Days of Purpose. We have been talking about it and preparing for it for weeks. Tomorrow many of you will start the coordinated reading plan through Rick Warren’s best selling book. For the next seven weeks, my Sunday morning messages will preview what you will read. Beginning Wednesday and then Sunday, our various youth and adult growth groups will discuss and review the themes of the previous week’s reading.
Today I want to talk to you about “living by the book.” It is critical that you understand that the book I am talking about is this book (Bible) not this book (Purpose Driven Life). The value of The Purpose Driven Life comes from its biblical character. This is not just another self-help book. It’s a God’s help book. The forty simple, back-to-basics devotional readings can help us understand what this book tells us. We will benefit most from the next forty days if we remember the relationship between these two books.
Purpose matters. We understand that on an everyday level. I have here a small paring knife. It once lived among a bunch of other knives in my wife’s kitchen drawer. I have kept it in my desk for several years. The demotion began the day I needed a screwdriver. I’ll bet most of you have some knives like this. I was changing an electrical switch plate or maybe tightening a drawer handle. I could have been working on a door lock. Maybe all of the above! There wasn’t a screwdriver handy so I looked for the next best thing. The knife still looks fine but its days as a paring knife are long gone. Years ago it was demoted to a letter opener. If the truth were told, it never was much of a screwdriver. It was never meant to be.
Lots of things are that way. I was reminded the other day of an old car we used to have. At the time it was at least a dozen years old VW beetle. I paid a few hundred dollars for it in our hometown on Christmas break and then drove it back to Rolla where we lived at the time. I bought it as a second car so I wasn’t expecting much. That’s a good thing. I drove it for several years. But the tales I could tell about that old car! It could go forty-five—downhill with a tailwind. If it weren’t for the rust it wouldn’t have had any paint job at all. You could stick your hand through the holes in the rear floorboard. But the most distinguishing feature of the car was the absence of a back bumper. It actually had a back bumper. The previous owner usually carried it in the backseat. I always intended to have it re-attached, but I never did.
What happened to the back bumper, you ask? You would think I bought it in Arkansas. The previous owner decided the yard in front of his mobile home needed graded, leveled and reseeded. He didn’t have a tractor and blade. He didn’t want to hire someone to do work. A shovel, rake and wheelbarrow were entirely too much like work. SO—he chained a metal bedspring to the back of his VW beetle and proceeded to pull it back and forth across his lawn. It worked fine until he hit a stump. That’s when the bumper went to the back seat.
What’s true of knives and bumpers is also true of you. You were made for a purpose. You were designed with a plan in mind. You can make yourself tackle things you weren’t made for. But when you do, you always pay a price. You will have to live with the nicks, the scars, and the brokenness. And most of all, you will miss what might have been.
This raises one big question. How do we know what our purpose is? Or as the question posed by the first section of the Purpose Driven Life puts it, “What on earth am I here for?” We can speculate about it. Read any popular magazine or browse the self-help section of a Barnes and Noble and you will find all kinds of quick fixes for the human condition. We could take an opinion poll. That seems to be our society’s first impulse these days. Or we could give up and conclude that life has no point or purpose. We could tell ourselves, we are all just accidents. Everything around us is just a coincidence. Some think that way and then try to drown the despair in a bottle of booze or a handful of pills. Others try to fill their lives with busy-ness or some other trivial pursuit that never satisfies for long.