Life is Empty Without God – Hope 103.2

Life is Empty Without God

The Vietnam war was a terrible time in the history of wars, even though it seems forgotten now by many. But ask the veterans who were conscripted, and they will tell you some memories never go away.Back in November 1965, Howard Rutledge was a young American pilot sent on a combat mission over North Vietnam. […]

By Chris WittsThursday 3 Jan 2019Morning Devotions with Chris WittsFaithReading Time: 4 minutes

The Vietnam war was a terrible time in the history of wars, even though it seems forgotten now by many. But ask the veterans who were conscripted, and they will tell you some memories never go away.

Back in November 1965, Howard Rutledge was a young American pilot sent on a combat mission over North Vietnam. His aircraft was shot down. He survived by parachuting out of the plane, and was captured by the North Vietnamese. He was a prisoner of war for seven and a half years. When he was released at the end of the war, he returned home and eventually wrote a best seller called In the Presence of Mine Enemies. It’s a wonderful book. He died in 1984 aged only 55 years. Five years of his time as a prisoner of war was in solitary confinement. Rats the size of cats crawled around his cell—it was a shocking seven years. He was beaten and tortured. His health broke down, and yet he held on somehow. He slept on the concrete and spiders were the size of his wrist.

Howard Rutledge was a Baptist and had attended Sunday School as a kid, and other POWs (Prisoners of War) looked to him for guidance and comfort. And here’s part of what he wrote in his book:

In the past I usually played hard on Sundays and had no time for church. My wife wanted me to attend church. She never nagged or scolded—she just kept hoping. But I was too busy, too preoccupied to think about the really important things. Now the sights and sounds of death were all around me…My hunger for spiritual food soon outdid my hunger for a steak. Now I wanted to know about that part of me that will never die. I wanted to talk about God and Christ and the church. I was in solitary confinement. I had completely neglected the spiritual dimension of my life. It took prison to show me how empty life is without God.

What this brave man was saying is this: It’s never too late to discover the reality of God in your life. When we are put to the test—when he was put to the test, he discovered what is really important in life. And that is faith in God. But he had wasted opportunities in his past on other things, and neglected looking after his inner life. In a prison camp, he desperately wanted to know God.

I sense that for many today life is empty without God. The Psalmist expressed it well in Psalm 90:10 (CEV):

We may expect seventy years,
or maybe eighty,
    if we are healthy,
    but even our best years
    bring trouble and sorrow.
Suddenly our time is up,
    and we disappear.

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Finding Something Lifelong

Bible history tells us King Solomon had 700 wives, and 300 concubines, a palace, and was the richest man in the world. He was the third king that ruled all of Israel. He was the son of King David and Bathsheba. He ruled Israel from 965 to 925 BC. Solomon was the wisest, richest, and most powerful man of his time. His wisdom was spoken of all over the earth. His wealth was far beyond imagination. And yet he said as he neared the end of his life as an old man: “All of life is far more boring than words can ever say. Our eyes and ears are never satisfied with what we see and hear. Everything that happens has happened before; nothing is new, nothing under the sun…I have seen it all, and everything is just as senseless as chasing the wind” (Ecclesiastes 1 – CEV).

Solomon, this amazing man, came to a new conclusion in chapter 3:12-14 (CEV): “I know the best thing we can do is to always enjoy life, because God’s gift to us is the happiness we get from our food and drink and from the work we do. Everything God has done will last forever; nothing he does can ever be changed. God has done all this so that we will worship him”. This Book of Ecclesiastes although it was written 3,000 years ago makes it clear that every man desires significance and satisfaction and fullness and meaning in life. The problem is people seek it the wrong way and they seek for it in the wrong things.

What we need is something that will be adequate for every day, that will be lifelong, and not merely passing, which can cope with the inherent futility of this earthly realm and the brevity of life. What we need cannot be found here, however. It cannot be found under the sun; it can only be found in God. Someone has said, “The poorest person in the world is not the one without a single coin in his hand, but the one without God in his heart.” A young man in his twenties wrote, “I feel like a failure because I’m trying to become something, and I don’t even know what it is. All I know how to do is to get by. Someday, if I discover my purpose, I’ll feel I’m beginning to live.”

The Bible says, “Don’t live carelessly, unthinkingly. Make sure you understand what the Master wants” (Ephesians 5:17, The Message). That means: discover Jesus for yourself, and when you do, life takes on a new meaning. You won’t be left to stumble on alone. You will have a definite purpose.