Tuesday, September 8, 2015

A PURPOSE TO LIFE: Part I of Why Not? - a Perspective on Suffering

You out there, how are you? You feeling well, no problems? Have you lived a life that is suffering free?

I doubt it.

Everyday when I go on Facebook I see a lot of jokes and joy, parties and trips and Bar-b-cues, quizzes and gossip, kids and kittens, but I see a lot of suffering, too. People having pain, losing a love one, looking for a job, confused about life, upset with a friend. Even among those who are Christian, devout and devoted, it seems no day goes by without a string of prayer requests, the vast majority of which are asking to ease a pain, cure an illness, mend the body, provide strength in a time of trouble or remove the sorrow of grief.

And throughout my life I have heard people ask two questions over and over. The first is, “Why me?” The answer may be, “Why not?”
We’re going to look at that why not, but first another question that’s asked over and over with many a different answer.
What is the purpose of life?

What do you say?

Once upon a time I said the purpose of life was to have as much pleasure as you could find, party hardy, wine, women and wild whatever. 

Now I say the purpose of life is found in this combined passage of Matthew 19:16-22 and Luke 18:18-29.

And behold, a man, a ruler, came up to [and] asked him [Jesus], saying, “Good Teacher, what good deed must I do to inherit eternal life?” And he, Jesus, said to him, “Why do you call me good? Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.”
He said to him, “Which ones?”

And Jesus said, “You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

And he, the young man, said to him, “All these I have kept from my youth. What do I still lack?”

When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “One thing you still lack. If you would be perfect, go, sell all what you possess that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”

But when the young man heard these things, he became very sad. He went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions, he was extremely rich.
Jesus, seeing that he had become sad, said, “How difficult it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!.

What do you think it was he lacked that might also be understood as the purpose of life?
In Matthew 22:34-40 another man asks Jesus about commandments.

But when the Pharisees heard that he [Jesus] had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. And one of them, a lawyer (wouldn’t you just know it), asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

That then is the purpose of life, to love the Lord, our God, with all our heart, soul and mind and our neighbor as our selves.

So, when we look back at the conversation between Jesus and the Young Ruler, what is left out?

The Young Ruler lacked understanding of The Great Commandment, for the he claims he kept, since he was a child, all the commandments Jesus listed. But Jesus didn’t mention these first three of the Ten Commandments to the Young Ruler, did he?

“You shall have no other gods before me.
“You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of
anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.
“You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain."

The Young Ruler had made himself a graven image, his wealth and that was the god he bowed down before and he couldn't bring himself to place God ahead of it, and he couldn’t share his wealth because he didn’t love his neighbor as much as what he had.

Is there suffering in this?  Yes, the young ruler went away sad; in fact, sorrowful, and if he never changed his ways he came to even greater suffering later. Also, I believe Jesus suffered for this man’s soul as well. Remember, God would have none perish.

The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. 2 Peter 3:9

If we recognize what the purpose of life is and keep our hope in God’s promises, we can find a way to endure our suffering, but what if we don’t accept either the purpose or the promises?


References: Matthew 19: 16-22, Luke 18:18-29, Matthew 22:34-40, Deuteronomy 5:6-11, Genesis 1:1, 2 Peter 3:9    

The illustration at the top of this post is "Christ and the Rich Young Ruler" by Heinrich Hofmann, 1889.

Once again, my disclaimer:

Keep in mine, this is my study, thus my interpretation and opinion of what Scripture says. You should study and confirm it for yourselves and not just take my word for anything. This is how you should approach the teachings of any man or woman, pray for guidance and enlightenment, read their references, study the text, confirm they are being true to The Word, ask questions and pray again.

What Scripture says about our suffering:

And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. 1 Peter 5:10

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. Romans 8:18

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”  Revelation 21:4

Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all. Psalm 34:19

My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.  Psalm 73:26

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