The meaning of life, explained

Quick! In 800 words or less, explain the meaning of life! 

Challenge accepted.

In fact, it won’t even take 800 words.

“For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.” 

Obviously, these words are not my own. They are the words of Jesus Christ. In them are contained the essential DNA for the meaning of life — lose your life for Christ and his gospel. As a result, even though on the surface it may seem to be a one-sided proposition, Jesus promises that a person will actually find their life as they lose it. 

The meaning of life is found in losing life for the sake of Christ and his eternal gospel.

To state this in another way, one could turn to the Catechisms of the Westminster Confession. The question is asked, “What is the chief and highest end of man?” To which, the leaders of the Church of Scotland in 1648 gave their stamp of approval upon the words, “Man’s chief and highest end is to glorify God, and fully to enjoy him forever.” 

Gotta love the Scottish! 

Their assessment of life is that there is no greater, higher goal for all men, women and children than to bring glory to God and enjoy him for all of eternity. 

And how does one go about doing this? By losing one’s life for the sake of Christ and his gospel.

While it may seem presumptuous to some for me to make such an assertive, confident claim about such a seemingly mysterious and slippery topic as the meaning of life, the words of Scripture must not be ignored, which says, “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever, that we may observe all the words of this law.” Therefore, as God has seen fit to reveal to us the will for our lives through Scripture and affirmed it through the church, we would do well to listen and observe.

Our first impression of Jesus’ words is that they are extremely radical. And in a way, they are. 

But they are not radical in an overtly offensive way (although some will be offended). Instead, he is merely making an observation of life. We all spend our lives for something. 

Some may spend their lives on careers and financial gain. 

Some may spend their lives on education and increasing knowledge. 

Some may spend their lives on meeting weekly needs and deadlines.

Some may invest in the noble pursuits of serving communities and enriching the lives of others. 

There is no end to the number of pursuits we may devote our lives to. Of course, there is nothing inherently wrong with any of these pursuits, but as Jesus and the Westminster Confession points out, they are not mankind’s highest pursuit available — nor are they going to ultimately save us.

In the story of King Solomon, we find an example of what I am talking about. For 12 chapters in Ecclesiastes, Solomon itemizes the different pursuits of his life. At the end of each, after gaining great success, he discovers there is still a void in his heart. 

Despite his riches, his knowledge, his skill, his fame, his political prowess, there is still a longing inside for something more, something greater, something that will endure beyond this life. In fact, in his frustration, time and time again, he says, “Vanity of vanities! All is vanity and chasing after the wind.”

But then at the end of chapter 12, a moment of awareness and revelation seizes his mind, whereby he declares, “The conclusion, when all has been heard, is this: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of mankind.” 

Solomon, who is often called the wisest man who ever lived, tested and tried all things that life had to offer. But having come up empty, even in the shadow of his successes, he returns to God for the source of his satisfaction and happiness.

God has set eternity in the heart of every person and with it a longing to find meaning in life. Maybe you have felt this longing before. In fact, I am willing to bet that you have, but didn’t know what it was, how to identify it, or what to do about it.

The Bible is very clear about what this yearning is. Jesus is very pointed in showing the path. He explains, saying that in losing your life for his sake and the gospel, a person will find their ultimate fulfillment and eternal joy. 

Won’t you confess Jesus as Lord today, live for him tomorrow and find eternal rest in the ultimate meaning of life?

Chad Cummings is pastor at Gospel Open Bible Church on South Grimmell Road.

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