"How Shall We Live?"
“What then is the Biblical perspective on living?”
In his book, Mastery, Eli Stanley Jones says, “The art of living is the least learned of all arts.” We have learned the art of existing, working, getting by with half-answers, but we know little about how to live up to life with all its demands, and have a sense of adequacy. Unfortunately, many who claim to be Christians seem to have about as much trouble with life as unbelievers. This is in contrast to the words of Jesus when He promised, “I have come that you might have life and that you might have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10)
This leads me to ask the question, “What then is the Biblical perspective on living?” Let me illustrate with lessons we can glean from several passages. The first is seek to live patiently. Most of us remember Job and his sufferings. It is a timeless message for us. The great message of Job’s life is to refute the generally accepted idea that all suffering is due to sin. Sometimes suffering comes from other reasons. When things don’t go our way in life, God can often use our suffering both for our good and as a witness to others. Patience with life is a great virtue. From the Biblical perspective, it does not mean to sit back with arms folded and grimly take whatever life throws at you. Rather, it means to keep striving when the popular view is to quit. It means that obstacles do not stop you or deter you from seeking God’s will or take away your hope in Him. Job explained his faith best with the words, “Blessed be the name of the Lord.” (Job 1:21) Patient living happens when we accept the will of God as our own will and have Christ to lead us in all our endeavors.
Another thought for living is to live reliantly. The 23rd Psalm is among the most loved and read scriptures in the Bible. It is a Psalm for everyone. The beauty of the Psalm is the Lord. “If you excluded the Lord from the Psalm you would have nothing.” The role of the Shepherd is constant care for His sheep. What David says to all of us in these beautiful verses is that only the Shepherd can release us from life’s anxieties. That same Shepherd frees us from fear, frustration and feelings of inadequacy in life.
It should be noted, however, that sheep are notoriously independent creatures and in constant need of direction and care. They will blindly, stupidly and habitually follow one another along the same trails without help. Doesn’t that sound like human beings? Our Shepherd leads all who will follow in the paths of righteousness. If left to our own desires, trails will become ruts which do not lead us in the right paths.
How we love the last verse of this Psalm. The last verse does not say “maybe” but rather, “surely goodness and mercy shall follow me … and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” There is no greater promise than knowing you will live in God’s care forever. The promise of finality in contrast to the opposite conclusion in eternity should inspire us to reliant living.
The writer of Hebrews gives us a third clue as to how we should live. It is to live faithfully. I enjoy listening to stories about people who will not give up; stories of those who stay the course even though the "going gets tough". They are a source of great inspiration to all. Remember the man who came to Jesus and said, "I will follow you wherever you go"? Jesus responds, "Before you make that kind of commitment; you need to realize that, foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head." (Luke 9:57-58)
In other words, living the Christian life is not just for the easy times. Many have begun the Christian walk and later quit when the going got tough. As such, these have become an object of ridicule to some and a source of discouragement to others. That’s why faithfulness is so important.
Hear the Hebrews writer, "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God." (Hebrews 12:1-2)
In this passage the Christian life is not compared to a wind sprint, but to a marathon. In a wind sprint you run as fast as you can for a short distance. And speed is the critical factor. But in a marathon, stamina, our endurance, is the critical factor.
Paul wrote to young Timothy, "I have kept the faith. I have finished the race. Therefore there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness. And not for me only..." Finishing the race is critically important for all of us who would call ourselves followers of the Christ.
We are inspired by those saints, believers that have gone on before us. And praise God, we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses so that we are inspired to finish the race. Chapter 11 mentions some of those people such as Abraham, Moses, Samson, David and others. We must not forget they among so many others really want to cheer us on. We get so caught up in our own burdens, we forget the race and those cheering us on. They do not ridicule or judge for they know how difficult the race can be.
Now when I get discouraged, I think not only of the great saints of the Scriptures, but also the men and women of God who have had an impact on my life, who have inspired me, who also have finished this race of life. I remember Godly parents who made sure I was grounded in the Word and saw it lived out in their lives. I remember Pastors who faithfully preached the Gospel and blazed the path for younger ministers like me years ago to follow. I remember those faithful church members and fellow Christians in many places who inspire me to continue the journey.
Your experience will not necessarily be like mine. But if you are a believer and think for a moment, God has been placing examples and cheerleaders in your life. Doesn’t the Holy Spirit speak to our heart encouraging us to do the same for those who come after us? If not us, who will pass the baton to the next generation? Living faithfully isn’t simply about getting what we can out of the Christian life. It is more about those who come after us.
Anyone can become discouraged from time to time. When we feel like giving up, we must press on. Fight the good fight and finish this race of life and finish it well. Be mature in the faith. Commit to walk in the way of the Lord as long as you have breath. Never be satisfied , but continually seek to be transformed into the image of Christ. May we all finish this race, this marathon of life, and may we finish it well.
My prayer for each of you is that when you cross over to the other side that you will hear the Savior’s voice saying, "Well done my good and faithful servant. You have fought the good fight, you have finished the race. Enter into your rest."
Do you ever visit cemeteries? If so you recall that virtually all the markers have dates separated by a dash. The two dates plus a dash make a stark point. Our lives, all that we are, all that do, all that makes up our existence, are what we did in the dash. So and so was born on such and such a date, lived life in the dash and then died on such and such a date. Dear friends, we are presently, each one of us, living in the dash.
We don’t get to choose the length of the dash, only the breadth and value of the life we live in it. How are we presently using our dash? Are we in a mad dash to pack in as much as possible into our dash? Are we dashing to live, speedily pursuing things that don’t matter and won’t last?
In view of the reality that each of us are living the dash, I hope you will consider the words of this brief article which sought to answer the question,
“How shall we live?”