Some valuable help on finding answers to life's big question: "Why did God save me?"
Scripture passages in this lesson are linked to this page for easy access.
Lesson 10: Go for the Gold
(Choosing a worthwhile purpose in life)
Text written and copyrighted © 2002 by Manfred Koehler. Used by permission. All rights reserved.)
A trickle of sweat creeps into his eye. The Olympic marathon runner pushes forward in spite of the sting, the long strides of his remaining opponent a blur of motion ahead. Twenty-three miles already lie behind them.
The real pain begins.
Gauging each desperate breath, he runs a shade faster. His left calf threatens to cramp. He ignores it and gazes at his opponent's number—129. Beat that guy and the gold is yours, he reminds himself. The number becomes a robotic chant in his foggy mind, each step a digit 1...2...9...1...2...9...
The chant spurs him forward. His pace quickens. With patient determination, he draws even with, then passes his opponent. Number 129 grunts, angry at losing first place.
Olympic Stadium hovers nearer with each step, its entryway a dark, beckoning hole. Lungs rasping, the marathoner strains to stretch his stride. His legs eat up the distance. A shadow cools his head for an instant, and then he bursts through the entryway into the stadium. The chatter of forty thousand spectators subsides. An oval track lies ahead. Four hundred meters to go. The gold awaits him.
Suddenly, his left calf locks in racking pain. Stumbling, he fights to stay on his feet. Pounding shoes buzz by him. Regaining his balance, he stares in dismay.
The number 129 stares back.
Teeth gritted, eyes burning, arms pumping, he runs after the number, his mind screaming the digits—One! Two! Nine! One! Two! Nine! Leg threatening to explode, he bites back the agony. At this point in the race he would rather die than miss the gold.
Life's Big Question
If you haven't asked the believer's huge question of life already, now's a good time. The question may come in various disguises, but when stripped to the bone, it looks the same each time:
What is the purpose of my existence?
What will bring the most satisfaction out of life?
Is there something beyond sleeping, eating, working, studying, and playing sports?
As different as those three questions may seem, they all have the same answer. They're summed up in the following question: "Why did God save me?"
Many believers are foggy on the answer to that question. As a result they spend their days doing one of two things: Chasing vacuous dreams God never gave them or living mediocre lives that know no dream.
You don't want to go down either of those two unhappy trails. You want to have a crystal clear understanding of why Jesus has kept you on this planet when both he and you know that you would be far happier with him in heaven.
So ask him again: God, you want me here for a reason. What is it?
The answer to that question can also be considered from several sides, but as with the facets of a diamond, no matter how many sides you gaze at, the gem is still the same at the core. Gaze here at some of the facets for your purpose in life, your God-given reason for being:
- To make God shine by living a fruitful Christian life (John 15:1-8)
- To discover and live out the adventure of God's good, perfect, and acceptable will (Romans 12:1-2)
- To love God with everything that's in you (Mark 12:30)
- To know Jesus in every way there is to know him (Philippians 3:10)
- To be Jesus' friend, willingly doing whatever he asks of you (John 15:14)
Which of those facets most appeals to you? I like them all, but the life purpose that really speaks to me is this: When I stand before my eternal Judge, I want to win the prize (2 Timothy 4:7-8). Like that Olympic marathoner, I'm in a race. And without a doubt, I want to finish it. I'm going for the gold.
Does that sound selfish? Greedy even? I don't think so.
This Missionary's Marathon
I run my race as a missionary to the Pima Indians of northwestern Mexico. My race has had its bright moments, but at times it's also been painful.
I've been slandered, ridiculed, growled at, and ignored. They've stolen my water line, vandalized my truck, and trashed my house. Twice my life has been threatened, once I've been shot at. The town I live in is like the Wild West, only now the cowboys and Indians use machine guns. I've shaken hands with eleven known killers and buried more friends than I want to count.
I sometimes ask myself the big-purpose-in-life question: Why do I put up with this thankless grief? All I've ever done is given them medicine for their bodies and God's Word for their souls.
Why? It's simple: At this point in the race, I'd rather die than miss the gold.
Better Than Olympic Gold
The day you trusted Christ, you, too, entered a lifelong marathon (Hebrews 12:1). Jesus offers prizes to each runner, not for winning but for finishing the race (2 Timothy 4:7). The prizes consist of gold, silver, and precious stones (1 Corinthians 3:12). Leading runners even win crowns (1 Peter 5:1-4). And unlike Olympic medals, Christ's rewards will last forever (1 Corinthians 9:25).
Eternal rewards are worth running for.
But how does a Christian run the race well? By serving God with enthusiasm, like a wholehearted runner (Colossians 3:23). By using every single day wisely, conscious that time is ticking by (Ephesians 5:16). By unflinchingly suffering with Jesus, knowing that running sometimes involves pain (Romans 8:17-18). And by not quitting in the middle of the race, confident that Jesus runs alongside (Hebrews 12:1-3).
Christ will greet every winner at the finish line with the words "Well done, good and faithful servant!" (Matthew 25:21). Hearing those words is a purpose worth striving for—more precious than any Olympic gold.
Lacking a worthy purpose in life? It's not because there's none out there.
Fill It Full
Here's a slightly different way of looking at life's purpose: Imagine yourself with a large bag. You're aware that every kind word, every friendly smile, and every cup of cold water has a reward if done with the attitude of serving Jesus (Mark 9:41). Your assignment from God is to live in such a way that Jesus can fill that bag with gold, silver, emeralds, rubies, diamonds, and crowns.
You want that sack crammed full.
So you volunteer to cut your elderly neighbor's lawn. As the grass flies, you're praying, This is for you, Jesus. The smile on your face is three yards wide. Keep filling that sack for me, Lord. What do you figure this job's worth, anyway? A couple of silvers?
Then you start seeing opportunities everywhere: a pile of dishes, a poor family with no Christmas, a summer missions trip, a classmate's need to hear about Jesus. You eagerly jump in at each opportunity, owning Jesus as your guide, your motivation. Meanwhile, the gold, silver, and precious stones keep pouring in. You want that bag to burst with rewards.
But doesn't that seem a little selfish? Greedy even? Not if you're excited about someday seeing Jesus. Read on.
Exhilaration Versus Embarrassment
Let's assume you've filled that bag. Your race finished, you are now presented before the King of kings. Having discovered the believer's great purpose, having served your Savior without reserve, you walk toward him. Your heavy sack bends you low, but your smiling face shows no strain.
As you approach the throne, you fall to one knee. And with the twenty-four elders who've gone before you, your soul bursting with unspeakable joy, you spill your rewards at Jesus' feet (Revelation 4:10-11). Here you go, Lord. This is all for you. You sure deserve it. Every bit.
There's nothing selfish or greedy in that. Zilch.
But hear this loud and clear: When that day comes, some believers will be holding an empty bag (1 Corinthians 3:10-15). You don't want to be one of them.
Hi, Jesus. Thanks for saving me. That was great. I'm real thankful to be here and not in that other place. By the way, sorry I didn't finish that race you gave me. I never even really started. Silly of me, I know. Look at this empty sack I'm carrying. Kind of a shame, isn't it?
Ouch. Gag. Squirm. For a believer there could be nothing more painful, gut wrenching, or embarrassing than that.
Understand, this isn't about heaven or hell. Christ settled that huge question for you with his blood. This is about eternal rewards—or the absence of them—depending on how fully you live out the answer to life's other big question, Why did God save me?
So run your race. Fill that bag. Pour the life Christ has given you into serving him. He'll pay big-time and long-term on your investment.
Go for the gold.