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What is the meaning of life? Without doubt, this is one of the most challenging, and yet one of the most fundamental, questions the mind can consider.
People throughout history have pondered the purpose of life. Philosophers spin theories. Poets write songs. Young people drop out of society to "find out what it's all about." Older people may remain within the "establishment," but they still wonder.
Obviously life is real. No one can deny that the world exists and people exist. You live, eat, sleep, breathe, and move. But do you understand why you exist?
Please consider with me the challenging question of life. What is it really all about? To answer this question, we will look at three specific questions.
How do you explain the origin of the human race? Since we are alive, it is natural to wonder where we came from. One reason many people are confused about the meaning of life is that they do not understand the origin of life. To know why we are here, we must know where we came from.
A commonly accepted explanation for the origin of life is organic evolution - the hypothesis that man evolved from "lower animals," which in turn came from simpler life forms, all the way back to the first microscopic life, which sprang accidentally from non-living matter. But this theory has major problems.
What caused life to begin where there had never been life before? Science has repeatedly demonstrated that life comes only from life. This is a law of science called the "Law of Biogenesis." The opposite of this law would be spontaneous generation - life beginning spontaneously from non-living matter. But science has repeatedly proved this cannot happen.
So every living thing must come from a previous living thing. You received life from your parents, who in turn received it from their parents, etc. The same is true for all living things.
But evolution requires that, when you go back far enough, non-living matter somehow came to life by chance where there was no life before. Evolution requires spontaneous generation in complete violation of scientific evidence. So evolution cannot explain even the origin of the very first form of life.
Living things can adapt to their environment, but where is the proof they can develop into entirely different kinds of organisms such that all kinds came from one original kind? Years of human experience and scientific experimentation confirm that living things reproduce "after their own kind." The offspring of a fish is another fish, not a snake, bird, or man.
Scientists have searched for years for the "missing links" - fossils of organisms that were halfway between the kinds of plants or animals we have now. Millions of fossils have been found around the world. If evolution is true, there should be thousands of fossils of missing links, but there is no evidence of these remains anywhere. Why not?
If man evolved from animals and is really an animal but just slightly more complex, why do we have characteristics so vastly different from animals?
Why do people appreciate beauty in art, music, and poetry? Do animals create new paintings, sculptures, symphonies, and books of poetry that they and other animals can enjoy?
Why do men have a conscience and a sense of morals? Why do we feel guilty when we have done wrong, even when we have not been caught or punished? Do animals naturally possess these spiritual qualities? Why do only people wonder about such issues as where we came from? Do animals debate even such issues as creation vs. evolution?
Why do we possess rational thought so much higher than animals? We can find minute variations in degrees of "intelligence" among animals, but there is a vast gulf between any animal and man. Men build machines and tools to work for us, train animals, use fire, perform mathematic and scientific calculations, read and write, and pass our knowledge on to others.
If we developed from the animals, why are there no animals that possess these characteristics almost as much as we do? If we develop from the animals, why are we so different from them? Evolution is not an adequate explanation.
All kinds of life were originally created by God in six days. God is an eternal, living, all-wise, all-powerful Creator (cf. Exodus 20:11; Hebrews 4:4).
Instead of life coming from non-living matter, life came from life - the eternally living God. Living things reproduce after their own kind, because God created them that way. And man is unlike the animals, because he is "in the image of God." We did not evolve from animals, but we share God's nature.
The world and everything in it were made by God. He is the source of life and gives all the blessings that are necessary to life. Here is an explanation for the origin of life that fits what we see around us, fits the nature of man as compared to animals, and we will see that it provides a satisfying explanation for the meaning to life.
There is sufficient evidence to compel any honest person to believe God exists and the Bible is His word. We do not have time here to examine all the evidence, but we encourage those who have doubts to investigate it. We simply observe that the Bible explanation makes far more sense than any other alternative, and that those who do not accept the Bible really cannot satisfactorily explain their own existence!
Do you really understand why you exist? Surely this is a fundamental question that everyone wants answered. Without meaningful goals, life is senseless and empty. Lack of purpose leads to unhappiness and even mental disorders. People need a sense of fulfillment and accomplishment in life.
This is one consequence of evolution. If organic evolution is true, then there is no purpose in life. Life is an accident, and people search in vain for any meaning to it. So, many conclude that there is no higher purpose than to make life enjoyable for themselves and others.
They believe material things will make life happy and pleasant. But then they always want more: a bigger house, newer car, nicer clothes and furniture, etc. They are never satisfied.
All people need some material goods, but is this the highest goal of life?
Their goal in life is "fun, fun, fun." "Wine, women, and song" (or "drugs, alcohol, and free love"). "Be a party animal." "Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die."
This philosophy is emphasized by modern entertainment. It is the beer-commercial mentality: "You only go around once, so reach for all the gusto you can." "It doesn't get any better than this!" One of them even names its beer "High Life." But does life really not have any better purpose than to booze it up?
Many modern entertainers have achieved "the high life" to the ultimate, but are they happy? If so, why are so many of them plagued by drug and alcohol addiction, divorce, mental breakdowns, early deaths, and suicide?
Is that really a satisfying life?
They want to accumulate knowledge and worldly wisdom. Like the Athenians, they spend their time in nothing else than to hear or tell some new thing.
In all these areas, there may be some wholesome activities that may have some benefit. But is there really no higher goal in life than these? Whatever benefits they activities provide are temporary and incomplete at best. No matter how much you have, you always want more.
In fact, modern Americans have achieved these goals to a degree beyond the imagination of most people of the world and of history. We have gadgets and toys, houses and lands, college degrees, and every kind of entertainment imaginable. But do you see evidence that Americans in general are truly satisfied with life? Society is filled with crime, broken relationships, mental illness, addiction, and unhappiness. Politicians profess to see "crises" on every hand.
Many people in the world never achieve these goals. And those who do achieve them are still looking for the purpose of life. There must be something more.
The author experienced every enjoyment of life that some people pursue: wealth, pleasure, and education as great as anyone who ever lived. Did it satisfy? What was his conclusion? It was all "vanity and vexation of spirit" (2:11). The earthly pursuits that most people emphasize simply do not satisfy in the end.
What is the real purpose of life? "Fear God and keep His commands" (12:13). God created man, because He had a purpose for us to accomplish. And He designed us so that, unless we fulfill that purpose, we have no real sense of accomplishment. Instead we create problems for ourselves.
What would happen if you tried to bake lasagna in the clothes dryer? What if you tried to run your car on Jell-O instead of gasoline? What if you tried to eat with a shovel and pitchfork instead of spoon and fork? What if you tried to mow your lawn with fingernail clippers?
Problems often result when things are created for one purpose, but we try to use them for a completely different purpose. Likewise, our lives are not satisfactory when we do not accomplish the purpose we were created for.
Our main concern in life must be to work in God's kingdom and have a right relationship with Him. Other concerns may have some value but are far less important.
Note v24. You can have only one master. You cannot put two things in first place in your life. God requires that serving Him must be the most important thing in life to us. Each of us must make a choice. Either God will be first, or something else will be first.
The most important work God intends for us to accomplish life is to love God and love our fellowman.
John 14:15 - But love for God requires us to obey Him (1 John 5:2,3).
1 Corinthians 14:37 - God's commands are revealed in the Bible.
Lasting fulfillment in life comes only from obeying God's word and thereby serving God and man. We will not discuss here all that is involved in serving God, but we simply emphasize the importance of understanding our purpose in life. Until you understand the teaching of the Bible, you do not really understand the purpose of life.
(See also 1 Timothy 6:6-10; Luke 12:15-21.)
Do you understand what comes after death? You may or may not feel that your life on earth is secure, but what happens when you die? What will your destiny be when life is over?
We can be certain that death is coming. We may not like it, but death is a fact of life.
* Sometimes people contract cancer or heart disease that is diagnosed as terminal. But, "Life is a terminal disease." No one stays here permanently.
* Criminals are sometimes given a death sentence for their crimes. But we all live under a death sentence!
* In college a hippie type roomed in the same house I did. He subscribed to Time magazine, and one day when the mail came we kidded him saying, "Your Time has come!" He became upset. But sooner or later, for every one of us, "Your time will come."
Death is uncertain only in that we do not know when or how it will come. But there can be no doubt that it will come.
Death is sad and fearful for many because they do not know what lies beyond. Or worse yet, they do know and are not ready to face it! Sooner or later, we all must face death. What then?
Science does not even try to answer this question! Philosophers or religious leaders sometimes speculate that we cease to exist at death or that we will be reincarnated. But they have no proof.
Here is another major question of life for which, apart from the Bible, you cannot know the real answer.
Hebrews 9:27 - It is appointed to man once to die, then comes the judgment. Jesus may come before we die; but if we die first, we will be raised from the dead when He returns. Either way, we will face God and be judged for our lives, good or bad.
Someday, God will hold every one of us accountable for whether or not we have accomplished the purpose for which He created us. [John 5:28,29; Ecclesiastes 12:14; 2 Corinthians 5:10]
Matthew 25:31-46 - At judgment, the righteous will inherit the kingdom prepared for them by God (v34). This is eternal life (v46). The wicked will go into eternal fire (v41). This is eternal punishment (v46).
Romans 2:6-11 - What determines the reward we receive? Our works. We receive wrath if we work evil and do not obey truth. We receive eternal life if we continue to work good. Our eternal destiny depends on whether or not we accomplish our Maker's purpose!
You may ask, "How do you know we don't cease to exist after death? How do you know we won't be reincarnated? How do you know we will be raised and judged?"
Acts 17:30,31 - We can know what comes after death because Someone has already died and come back to tell us what comes after death. In fact, He will be the One to judge our lives! [1 Cor. chap. 15]
The resurrection of Jesus, the miracles of the Bible, and the fulfilled prophecy of Scripture are the proofs that the Bible is from God. If the Bible is from God, then we can be sure it tells us the origin and purpose of life and our destiny after life.
Since you will be judged for whether or not you have accomplished your Maker's purpose, please consider further:
Romans 3:23 - The problem we all have is that at times we have failed to do the Creator's will. We are all guilty of sin (1 John 1:8,10). What can be done about that?
The good news is that Jesus came and died to forgive your sins (Romans 5:6-10; 6:23; John 3:16). To receive this forgiveness, you must be willing to live the rest of your life in His service - "Repent."
Acts 2:28; 22:16 - If you come to Christ believing in Him, confessing Him, and being baptized, He will forgive you and make you a new creature so you can have eternal life (Romans 6:3,4; Mark 16:16; 2 Corinthians 5:17; 1 Corinthians 15:58).
Suppose you are about to buy a house, but a friend promises you that he knows that house and it is in terrible shape in ways that are not obvious. Suppose he assures you that you are about to pay thousands of dollars more than the house was worth. Would you ignore the friend's advice, or would you investigate?
In a similar way, we are advising you in love that living life apart from obedience to God may seem pleasurable and attractive, but in the end it will lead to catastrophe. Surely you need to investigate before it is too late!
Someday you will wish you had lived your life for God. If you are not living it for Him now, we urge you to find out what His will requires of you. If you already know, we urge you to obey while you have opportunity.
The Bible has the answer to the most important questions of life. There is no need to go through life wondering "what it is all about." Why not find out and begin to live according to the purpose for which you were made?
Copyright 1998, David E. Pratte
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for God, Jesus, & the Bible
Studies about Creation vs. Evolution
Bible Inspiration: Infallible, Inerrant, Verbal
The Preservation and Accuracy of the Bible
Why Do We Need Forgiveness of Sins?
What Claims Did Jesus Make?
Life after Death, Resurrection, Judgment
Evidence for Jesus' Resurrection
How to Change Yourself (Self-improvement)
How Can You Be Sure Your Sins Are Forgiven?
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Scripture quotations are generally from the New King James Version (NKJV), copyright 1982, 1988 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. used by permission. All rights reserved.