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“What Is Your Life?”

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
The Truth Network Radio
June 4, 2022 4:00 am

“What Is Your Life?”

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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June 4, 2022 4:00 am

How do we find meaning in life? Is it through the pursuit of pleasure? Adventure? Self-expression? Relationships? Are we just cosmic sparks that briefly burn brightly, then fade into darkness? Alistair Begg looks to the Bible for answers on Truth For Life.


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How do we find meaning in our lives? Is it through the pursuit of pleasure or adventure or self-expression, personal relationships? Today on Truth for Life Weekend, Alistair Begg explores this question as he concludes our investigation of the seven questions God asks. We're studying James chapter 4, verse 14. Now listen, James writes, you who say, today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money. Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life?

You're a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, if it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that. As it is, you boast and brag. All such boasting is evil.

Anyone then who knows the good he ought to do and doesn't do it since. At the Legend and Arts page of the Wall Street Journal on Thursday, I noticed a review of a book entitled What the Guru and the Philosopher Can't Tell You. This is the review of a book by a man by the name of Julian Bikini.

The book is called What's It All About? In the book, he suggests that the meaning of life, answering the question what is life, is not to be found in any sense of cause. It isn't found, as he says, in the causal origin of the human race. This, he says, is actually a good thing because it is at best a moot point whether the universe has any purpose at all. The universe, he says, might simply be.

And if this is at least a possibility, then he says we want to be able to find a meaning in life that issues from life itself and not from what purposefully gave rise to life. I've spoken so much recently that I can't remember where I'm repeating myself, but I know for sure I'm repeating myself. And if I quoted last Sunday night from Einstein's credo, then let me preface it by saying, you remember last Sunday evening when I mentioned Einstein's credo?

I think that's well worthy of repetition. But Einstein in 1932 writes in his credo, our situation on this earth seems strange. Every one of us appears here involuntarily and uninvited for a short stay without knowing the whys and the wherefores. None of us could deny the fact that this question is a significant question, and it is a question that demands our attention. And here in this little section that I read for you, James' question you will note is set within the context of a group of businessmen, if you like, sitting down to make their plans.

Jewish men have been well known throughout the years, and the same remains true today, for their peculiar abilities in the world of entrepreneurial skills. And that was true in the time of James, and James is able to say and appeal to their thinking, I know that a group of you often sit down and you gather around a table and you put together a business plan and a strategy for making money that extends beyond the immediate and out perhaps even as far as a year. He says, I want to speak to those of you who are good at doing that. I want to give you a word of warning.

I want to suggest to you that you're actually making a tactical error. And what he is condemning here is not, as some people have liked to suggest, because of their political and economic persuasions, what he is condemning here is not business, but boasting. What he is condemning here is not the industrious nature of the quest, but it is that the quest is being engaged in entirely independently of God. What these individuals he addresses are doing, and we can identify with this, I'm sure if we're honest, is thinking quite ordinarily about matters of life and business. And there are certain assumptions that underpin their choices. For example, they operate on the basis that they'll for sure be here tomorrow, that they'll for sure go there tomorrow, and that they will for sure be successful on the basis of what they do when they get there. That's what they're saying. And that's common thinking.

You could argue that that's what makes the whole of the American economy go round, that if it weren't for individuals sitting down in small businesses and large, making those kind of plans, that many of us would be in dire straits. And the progression is straightforward. Today, tomorrow, a year. And from this perspective, a day as it passes is viewed almost like a mark that you could put on a wheel. And there is, if you like, the wheel of time which goes round and round and round.

Well, you say there's a sense in which that's true. I mean, it's 20 past seven, and in 12 hours it will be 20 past seven again. It'll have just moved to a.m., and then 12 hours later it'll be 20 past seven.

It'll be 24 hours from now. We understand that. But what is being suggested is something at a far deeper level, and it is challenged by what the Bible says. Now, what the Bible actually says is that there's no point in putting a mark on a circle because it isn't a circle, but that the passage of time is not ultimately cyclical, but rather it is linear and that the line goes from eternity to eternity. And any attempt to view life in a cyclical fashion is actually in some dimension to seek to escape from the inevitable, strange, insistent knocking at the door of our minds which says to us, I don't think we're going around.

I don't think we're coming around. I think that the first day that I said hello began my last goodbye. I think that from the day of my birth I am moving inexorably towards the day of my death. Alex Matea says of this, when we think then in terms of the passage of time, we receive another day, not as a result of natural necessity, tomorrow does not have to come, nor by mechanical law, nor by right, nor by the courtesy of nature, but we receive another day by the covenanted mercies of God. That's Lamentations 3, isn't it? It is because of God's mercy that we are not consumed. It is because of his mercy that we awaken to a new day. What is our life? Our life is grounded in the gift of God and every day is a further gift. Now in this little section, what we discover is that man is proud in his presumptuous planning. That's what's present here.

You're saying this, you're planning that, you're going there and so on. What is absent in the section is any notion of the providence of God. The very phrase the providence of God is so alien to contemporary thinking that we have to go and look for somewhere to try and understand what is even meant by the phrase.

Of course, you know the best place to go is to the shorter Scottish Catechism, which is a great wealth of truth. And in the shorter Catechism, we're told that the works of God's providence are his most holy, wise, and powerful preserving and governing all his creatures and all their actions. God preserves all his creatures.

What does that mean? It means that according to the Bible, nothing in the whole universe would continue to exist for one's slightest fraction of a second without God. The universe has real existence. Its continuity is not a mere semblance, but it does not exist independently of the continuous activity of its creator.

I don't want to belabor this, but I think some of you may be following me. And the striking emphasis which is given here, and this is not the totality of the answer to the question, what is your life? But it is the answer that James provides for us.

What is your life? He says, your life is very, very brief. In fact, when you think about it, he says you are a mist. How substantial is a mist? A mist is completely insubstantial.

You can't grab the mist. Now, when we think of life in these terms, then it changes everything, doesn't it? And that's why most of the time in our lives, we don't think about these things.

We don't want to think about these things. But the Bible continually confronts us with them. For example, in Psalm 90, the Psalmist says, Lord, you have been our dwelling place through all generations. Before the mountains were born, or you brought forth the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting, you are God. You are the everlasting one.

And then listen to what he says. You turn men back to dust, saying, return to dust, O sons of men. For a thousand years in your sight, or like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night, you sweep men away in the sleep of death.

They're like the new grass of the morning, though in the morning it springs up new, by evening it is dry and withered. All our days pass away under your wrath. We finish our years with a moan. The length of our days is 70 years, or 80, if we have the strength. That was written a long time ago. Have you checked the actuarial tables lately?

Not a lot has changed, has it? Despite the advance of civilization, despite our sophistication, despite all the advances of medication, I would think most men here would say 70 would be a good innings. And if we push it to 80, then we will have occasion for thankfulness hopefully, and hopefully those that we are still around will be equally thankful. What is your life? Your life is passing. How are we then to handle the fact of life's frailty? Well, one of the answers is abandon yourself to the indulgence of all your lusts and all your passions. Eat, drink, and be merry, because tomorrow you die. Grab the gusto. Get all the toys you can.

The old bumper sticker expresses the philosophy well. He that dies, she that dies with the most toys, wins. That's one of the answers. In the circle of life, what are we going to do? Through the journey of despair and hope and so on, we might as well grab what we can while we're going along. Last Sunday, when I began to quote from memory from this old song by Ray Stevens from 1968, I think it was, the verse that I was trying to get to was this, spending counterfeit incentive, wasting precious time and health, placing value on the worthless, disregarding priceless health. You can wheel and deal with the best of them and steal it from the rest of them.

You know the score. Their ethics are a bore. You better just take care of business, Mr. Business Man, while you can. James says to the businessman, hey, Mr. Business Man, you're a little presumptuous, aren't you?

You are presuming not only on tomorrow, but on all of your tomorrows. Here, says James, is what that presumptuous person needs to do. First of all, he or she needs to face up to what they do not know. This is not a peculiarly pagan problem. Christians do this as well.

The sin of presumptuousness that forgets what it doesn't know. He says, you're planning next year. I've got news for you. You don't even know what will happen tomorrow. Yeah, well, I have the year-end figures for you, and yeah, we've already done the projections for next year. Yeah, Joe's got that.

Call you and get them. It sounds so grand, doesn't it? Just a little blood test, just a significant amount of turbulence on the aircraft, and suddenly all of our proud and presumptuous boasts are reaching for something, either the 86-proof anesthetic crutch, or the relationship, or the dream. If you're going to tackle this question, he says, you have to face up to what you do not know. You don't know about tomorrow. None of us do. Also, you have to face up to the fact of your frailty.

We've addressed that, haven't we? What is your life? You're a mist.

It appears for a wee while, and then it vanishes away. James says, if you're going to face up to the question, you need to face up to what you don't know. You don't know about tomorrow. You need to face up to your frailty, and also you need to face up to the fact that you're entirely dependent upon God. You see, in verse 14, it's the contents of tomorrow that we don't know, and in verse 15, it is that we don't know if there's a tomorrow.

It's quite a thought, isn't it? Now, I don't know if you had this kind of terminology growing up as children, and when I think back on it, it's amazing that I made my way through life, or I didn't lie in my bed, worried out of my wits, but you remember the prayer, and now I lay me down to sleep. I pray thee, Lord, my soul to keep, and if I die before I wake, I pray thee, Lord, my soul to take.

You know, so many things out of my childhood come back to me now that I'm moving to my heritage, but I was thinking about this. When we said goodnight to one another in our family, this was our parting shot. Goodnight, Dad. I will see you in the morning, all spared and well. I will see you in the morning, all spared and well. In other words, I will see you in the morning if God spares me and grants me health. Otherwise, I will not see you in the morning. You don't have to be a genius as a boy growing up to recognize what you're giving expression to in that kind of terminology, and tonight, contemporary American society resists the question, flees from the challenge that it brings, chooses not to think about these things at all, and surely, the contemporary fascination with health is in large measure on account of the fact that contemporary society has no answer to death. I pulled off the internet, all the world's a stage. It's a great quote, isn't it?

You remember that? Jacques in As You Like It. Dentists love this. I'm going to dedicate this to all dentists because of the way it finishes, but you remember it, all the world's a stage, and all the men and women are merely players. They have their exits and their entrances, and one man in his time plays many parts, his acts being seven ages.

You know, the first instance is the wee guy and so on. It goes through, you know it, and then he says, and it ends up, song, teeth, without teeth, without eyes, without taste, without everything. Now, that's why in our funeral services here at Parkside, I think most of us eventually end up saying the same thing every time. We say to the people who have gathered, we're here today and there's some things we can't avoid.

One is the fact of life's brevity, two is the fact of death's reality, three is the fact of judgment certainty, and four is the fact of faith's opportunity. You may be here, and this question has a very personal and a very private touch on your life because you've been asking the question, what is your life, and getting really rotten answers. It may be completely unknown to the people around you. It may even be unknown to the people who are nearest and dearest to you, but that you feel yourself to be empty and left out, and there may even be things in your life that disgust you so badly that you hate to wake up in the night and have your conscience accuse you. Frankly, if you're honest, you think you're pretty worthless. Well, the Bible is full of good news for people who think themselves to be worthless. The Bible says that men and women are the very pinnacle of God's creation, that God has made us in his image, that we are precious in his sight, that we possess a dignity that is unknown even by the angels. That image is marred because of man's sin, and that's why you feel the way you feel, and that's why people treat you as they treat you, and that's why you treat people as you do. But the good news is this, that the same God that made you has done something for you in Jesus, and he has done something in Jesus so as to put the pieces of your picture back together again.

You may have been trying to fix it on the horizontal level if I can bridge the gap with her, if I can reengage with him, if I can do this, and those are all useful adventures, but the fact of the matter is the Bible says that first we have to deal with it on the vertical axis between ourselves and the God who has made us, coming and meeting him. Well, how can I meet him? He seems so far away.

It's as if his phone is off the hook. Well, the good news is we don't have to go and find him. He is the one who comes to find us, and he has reached down to us in Jesus and offers to us forgiveness, dies to bear our punishment, dies to wipe clean our stain, offers us a whole new family, offers us a whole new future, so that we can then ask the question, what is my life? And we can say, my life is passing. That is without doubt, but my life is purchased.

He purchased it, and my life is powerful, powerful. The impact of a solitary life lived for good and lived for God. Only one life, it will soon be passed, and only what's done for Jesus will last. Whether we realize it or not, life is brief. Death and judgment are inevitable, but we can find hope and purpose in the Gospel. You're listening to Truth for Life Weekend with Alistair Begg.

Today is the last day in our series titled Seven Questions God Asks. If you missed any of the messages or would like to re-listen or share a message with a friend, you can download a single message or the entire series for free at While you're on our website, check out Alistair's book, Lasting Love, How to Avoid Marital Failure. Every year, thousands of couples pledge their lives to each other with wedding vows.

What does that commitment really mean? Alistair explores the sacred vow of marriage in his book, Lasting Love. He outlines exactly what couples are signing up for when they say the words, in sickness and in health, to love, honor and keep for as long as we both shall live.

Whether you're considering marriage or you've been married for decades, you'll unpack a great deal of wisdom from Alistair Begg in his book, Lasting Love. By the way, the book is a great gift idea for couples you know who are celebrating an engagement, a wedding or an anniversary. Find out more about the book at We hope that the teaching you hear on Truth for Life is helping you grow in your faith.

If you've benefited from listening to this program, there's more available. Alistair has a devotional book titled Truth for Life, 365 Daily Devotions. This is a hardcover book that presents a daily reading comprised of a Bible verse or passage of Scripture, followed by a commentary from Alistair. You'll find a full year of rich insights, and the book is a great way to begin or end each day in God's Word. You can find the devotional on our website at I'm Bob Lapine. Thanks for listening today. How do we engage in battle against a fierce and cunning enemy we can't see? Next weekend, we'll begin a study on spiritual warfare. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life, where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-04-09 02:56:54 / 2023-04-09 03:05:22 / 8

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