Listen: Chris Witts presents Morning Devotions.
If you ever saw the movie City Slickers, which came out in 1991, you might remember the story of two middle-aged men working out their mid-life crisis by spending two weeks on a ranch out west somewhere. One of the men is played by Billy Crystal. And they meet an old cowboy along the way played by Jack Palance.
In one scene they are talking about life, and the cowboy says:
- Yeah, you all come out here about the same age, same problems. Spending 50 weeks-a-year getting knots in your rope, and then you think two weeks up here will untie them for you. None of you get it. Do you know what the secret of life is?
- No—what is it?
- (The cowboy holds up his index finger)
- Your finger? What do you mean?
- One thing, just one thing. You stick to that, and everything else doesn’t mean a thing—Palance says.
- Yeah, OK, that’s great. But what’s the one thing?—Billy Crystal is getting a bit confused now.
- That’s what you’ve got to figure out—Jack says.
What a great statement. No answers there, but a challenge to answer the question What is the most important thing in life?—the one issue which is more valuable than anything else. Some would say Money matters most. Or is it looks—the way you present to others: is physical attractiveness number one? What about success in life? Doesn’t that rate near the top, I wonder?
An online survey I saw said family is the most important thing in life. I can’t argue with that. I think as we get older our wants change: a child usually wants new clothes and good food, and a teenager thinks about love and a career, and an older person considers the family as the most important.
But for many of us, there is this nagging question which doesn’t go away: what is most important in life? I think one of the most helpful books I’ve read in recent years is Rick Warren’s best-seller The Purpose Driven Life. It’s marvellous—and I encourage you to buy it and read it. It will change your life. Rick Warren is able to simply and clearly answer the significant question, What on earth am I here for?
He says that the first thing to do is to realise God is alive, and we should stop looking at ourselves, and start looking at him. Job 12:10 (GNT) says, “It is God who directs the lives of his creatures; everyone’s life is in his power.” Is that a surprise to you? If you want to know why you were placed on this planet, begin with God. He loves you and has a plan for you. Discovering that plan is what life is really all about. Get that answer, and the rest of life makes sense.
Preparing for eternity
Contrary to what many popular books, movies, and seminars tell you, you won’t discover your life’s meaning by looking within yourself. You’ve probably tried that already. You didn’t create yourself, so there is no way you can tell yourself what you were created for! You must begin with God, your Creator. You exist only because God wants you to exist. You were made by God and for God—and until you understand that, life will never make sense. It is only in God that we discover our origin, our identity, our meaning, our purpose, our significance, and our destiny. Every other path leads to a dead-end.
What’s life really all about? It’s about seeing that you fit into God’s plan.
Andrei Bitov, a Russian novelist, grew up under a government that denied the existence of God. But God got his attention one dreary day. He recalls:
“In my twenty-seventh year, while riding the metro in Leningrad (now St Petersburg) I was overcome with a despair so great that life seemed to stop at once, preempting the future entirely, let alone any meaning. Suddenly, all by itself, a phrase appeared: Without God life makes no sense. Repeating it in astonishment, I rode the phrase up like a moving staircase, got out of the metro and walked into God’s light.”
Knowing your purpose prepares you for eternity. Many people spend their lives trying to create a lasting legacy on earth. They want to be remembered when they’re gone. Yet, what ultimately matters will not be what others say about your life but what God says. What people fail to realise is that all achievements are eventually surpassed: records are broken, reputations fade, and tributes are forgotten.
I once read of a college student whose only goal was to become the school’s tennis champion. He felt proud when his trophy was prominently placed in the school’s trophy cabinet. Years later, someone mailed him that trophy. They had found it in a trash can when the school was remodelled! That man said, Given enough time, all your trophies will be trashed by someone else! He was right.
Living to create an earthly legacy is a short-sighted goal. A wiser use of time is to build an eternal legacy. You weren’t put on earth to be remembered. You were put here to prepare for eternity.