Summary: Sarah, the wife of William Winchester, lived a bizarre life - an illustration of building without a purpose.
“Getting A Clue: Why Am I Here?”
Eph. 2:1-10 & Is. 43:1-7
Talk about bizarre! Sarah was the wife of William Winchester, the only son of Oliver Winchester, the founder and owner of the Winchester Repeating Arms Company. Sarah and William had a daughter who died shortly after birth in 1866. This was followed by the death of her father-in-law (1880) and then her husband just a few months later (1881), leaving her with a fifty percent ownership in the company and a daily income of $1,000 (between $20-25,000 today). Sarah believed that her family was under some kind of a curse and consulted a medium to determine what she should do. The medium told her that her family was indeed cursed by the spirits of all the people that the Winchester rifle had killed. She should move out west and build a house for herself and all the tormented spirits who suffered because of her family. The medium also told her that if construction on this house were to ever cease, she would immediately die. In 1884 Sarah moved to California and began spending her $20 million inheritance and regular income to buy and begin renovating an eight-room farmhouse in what is now San Jose, California. From that day forward construction continued nonstop, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week until Sarah’s death at age eighty-three—a total of thirty-eight years. She kept no less than twenty-two carpenters busy continuously. The sounds of hammers and saws could be heard throughout the day and night for almost four decades.
At its zenith, this seven story house contained 160 rooms, forty bedrooms, forty-seven fireplaces, seventeen chimneys, and 10,000 windowpanes. What made Sarah’s lifetime building project so bizarre was that it had no discernable architectural purpose or plan behind it. Closet doors opened to solid walls. Windows were in the floor. Stairways led to nowhere. Railings were installed upside down. Drawers were only one inch deep. Trapdoors were everywhere. Blind chimneys stopped short of the ceiling. There were double-back hallways. Doors opened to steep drops to the lawn below. Many of the bathrooms had glass doors. The list of oddities runs into the dozens.(1) Could there be a more classic example of the ultimate outcome of “building without a purpose?”
We may think the life we are building is not bizarre like Sarah Winchester’s construction project. But why are you here? What is your purpose for life? What are you busy building? Would God view it as bizarre?
We get our clue from the Apostle Paul who wrote that WE ARE DESIGNED. No builder begins construction without a blueprint; no chef begins cooking without a recipe; no artist begins painting without an image in mind. So God did not create us without a design. GOD HAD A PLAN for each of us. As David so eloquently stated in Ps. 139 (TLB); “You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body, and knit them together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! It is amazing to think about. Your workmanship is marvelous and how well I know it. You were there while I was being formed in utter seclusion. You saw me before I was born and scheduled each day of my life before I began to breathe. Every day was recorded in your book.”
And GOD FASHIONS US according to that plan. The prophet Isaiah put it (43:7) “…everyone who is called by my name…I created…I formed and made.” Later he paints the familiar picture of the potter (64:8): “Yet you, LORD, are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.” Fellow prophet Jeremiah said the same thing (18:6 GNT): “You are in my hands just like clay in the potter's hands.”
Perhaps this potter image was in Paul’s mind when he wrote the Ephesians. He said (2:10) “For we are God’s handiwork…” The word means, literally, that WE ARE GOD’S WORKMANSHIP. It is said that all great artists express themselves through their creations; their works of art are reflections of themselves. So Paul says you and I are expressions of God, His unique poems, His masterpieces, His display cases, His crowning works of art.
It’s so easy, however, to look in the mirror and say, “Well, if this is the best God can do, it doesn’t say much for Him!” Or, “It’ looks like He lost the blueprint on this one!” But don’t despair - the focus is inward, not outward. God’s workmanship has less to do with physical looks or capabilities and much more to do with what’s inside. Remember Isaiah’s description of the coming Messiah, Jesus Christ (Is. 53:2)? “He had no beauty or comeliness that we should desire Him.” Yet, when Jesus was lifted up, He drew all people to Himself. We are, says Paul, well fitted and designed to reflect God. To discover your purpose the best, the only place to begin is to recognize you are God’s workmanship. Say with me, “I am a work of art! I am a masterpiece!” That’s who you are.