The Bible has a lot to say on the topic of what our purpose in life should be. King Solomon, described in the Bible as the wisest man of his time,1 discovered the futility of living only for this world. He gives these concluding remarks in the book of Ecclesiastes: “Respect and obey God! This is what life is all about.”2
You may have seen the quote by American syndicated humorist Art Buchwald,1 “The best things in life aren’t things.” It has a way of popping up in my mind whenever I’m about to buy a new gadget that I’ve seen advertised or exchange a household appliance for the latest model. Sometimes I give in anyway, but at least this saying usually helps me give the purchase some extra thought and consideration.
The Bible tells us that “the prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”1But most of us have probably wondered if our prayers really make a difference, especially if we’ve been praying long and hard for a certain situation but haven’t seen the desired result.
When putting together this issue, I came across the following illustration:
It’s human nature to form quick opinions based on the things we see and hear, without taking the time to dig deeper. “Do you look at things according to the outward appearance?”1 the apostle Paul cautioned the Christians in Corinth 2,000 years ago.
Jesus also had advice on the topic: “Stop judging by mere appearances,”2 He pleaded. But if we’re honest, most of us would probably admit to doing just that, at least some of the time. Here’s a passage that got me thinking about how I see others:
I’m sure most of us would look at Mother Teresa and people like her and think we could never be like that; we could never be so saintly or make such a difference in the lives of so many. Maybe not, but the tragedy is that because so many don’t think they can, they don’t even try.
But Mother Teresa didn’t set out to become a saint or a Nobel Peace Prize laureate. And she didn’t start out ministering to multitudes of the poorest of the poor. She just saw the need nearest to her and responded.
The Christian life is made up of mountains and valleys. There are times when we’re on exhilarating peaks of joy and happiness. And then there are times when we feel demoralized, abandoned, and alone.
Think of when Jesus miraculously multiplied five loaves and two little fish and made enough to feed a crowd of 5,000 men, not counting the women and children!1 Imagine being one of the disciples distributing that unending supply of food! They were probably overflowing with the electric sensation of being part of a miracle. They must have felt like they were walking on air.
There’s a story of a visit Pope Leo XII made to the jail of the Papal States in 1825, which goes like this: The pope insisted on questioning each of the prisoners as to how he had come to be there. As you’d expect, every man protested his innocence—all but one, that is, who admitted that he was a forger and a thief. Turning to the jailer, the pope said sternly, “Release this scoundrel at once, before his presence corrupts all these noble gentlemen here!”
Decisions come in all shapes and sizes.
Every day we face decisions about what to eat, whether to exercise, how to use our time, etc. Over the years, these decisions become habits, and we don’t think much about them. If we’ve made good decisions from the start, we don’t usually have to worry about them. When we haven’t made good choices, however, these small decisions can blossom into bad habits that take a long-term toll on our lives and relationship with God and others.