From our Second Lesson, 1 Timothy 2: 1First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, 2 for kings and all who are in high positions, so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity. Thus far our text.
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ. Amen.
I’d like to do a short series of ‘interactive sermons’; the number of weeks will be determined by how much you are willing to be involved. Today I’ll start off sharing some things and then ask for your involvement toward the end. We’re going to consider some important life questions.
First: are you living the “good life”? Or do you at times find yourself asking the question many find themselves asking at one or more points in their life: “Is there more to life than this?” Paul writes in his letter to Timothy that prayers ought to be offered on behalf of our leaders “so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity.” Does that define a “good life”?
This short sermon series is inspired by a video from the Alpha Bible Study our Tuesday night small group went through last year with guys from Harvest Farm. I kind of stumbled upon this video a couple of weeks ago when I saw a link on the church laptop I thought was something else. But when I started to watch it, I simply could not turn it off.
The preacher in the video that I will be borrowing significantly from (to give credit where credit is due) is a Church of England clergyman named Nicky Gumbel, a gifted speaker who was an atheist for most of his life before converting to Christianity. In that video Gumbel addresses that question: “Is there more to life than this?” That’s a very important life question.
Let’s start with a couple of quotes Gumbel uses. First, from Bernard Levin, a British columnist from the last century: Countries like ours are full of people who have all the material comforts they desire, together with such non-material blessings as a happy family, and yet lead lives of quiet, and at times noisy, desperation, understanding nothing but the fact that there is a hole inside them and that however much food and drink they pour into it, however many motor cars and television sets they stuff it with, however many well balanced children and loyal friends they parade around the edges of it…it aches. The second similar quote is from Russell Brand, a British comedian, actor, and author: “Drugs and alcohol are not my problem. Reality is my problem; drugs and alcohol are my solution to fill up the hole that is inside me.”
I would like to add this quote from Christian contemplative Thomas Merton, a Roman Catholic Trappist Monk: “People may spend their whole lives climbing the ladder of success only to find, once they reach the top, that the ladder is leaning against the wrong wall.” This reflects the sentiment of Proverbs 16:25-- Sometimes there is a way that seems to be right, but in the end it is the way to death.
Both of the Brits quoted a few moments ago, Levin and Brand, point to what I believe to be a universal truth: we’re all born with what amounts to being a God-sized hole in our lives. This idea originated back in 1670 with French mathematician, physicist, inventor, writer and Christian philosopher Blaise Paschal, who wrote: “What else does this craving, and this helplessness, proclaim but that there was once in man a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace? This he tries in vain to fill with everything around him, seeking in things that are not there the help he cannot find in those that are, though none can help, since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object; in other words by God himself.”
If we want to live a truly good life, a life that is more than just fun and filled with stuff, a life that is meaningful and filled with purpose, we need to do so in relationship to our Creator, the originator of life. We need to understand—and seek restoration of—God’s original intention.
The problem is that more and more people—including those who say that they are Christians—are looking elsewhere for direction and meaning. At the beginning of the Alpha video they go out on the street and ask people where they find answers to life’s BIG questions, such as “Is there more to life than this?” Let’s listen to a few of the responses they got: “The internet.” “Wikipedia.” “I google them.” “My family.” “Friends.” “I meditate or I read.” “When it’s something really personal, I try to find it within myself first.” “My grandmother.” “I don’t ask big life questions. They’re too hard to answer.”
While some of those answers are better than others, none of them speak of looking to God, the Creator. This week and next I’d like each of us to give thought as to where we’ve looked, and are looking, for direction and meaning in our life. What wall is the ladder that we’re climbing leaning against? Are there things that we have tried to fill the God-sized hole in our life with?
Nicky Gumbel shared the views that he had about God and about the Church when he was what he now calls “an argumentative atheist.” First of all, he thought that it was all so boring, dull and dreary. Secondly, he thought it was all untrue. And thirdly, he thought that it was all irrelevant to his life. He couldn’t see how someone who lived so long ago and thousands of miles away could have any relevance to his life.
I would anticipate than the majority of the unchurched and dechurched people around us, in our community and perhaps in our own families, would say they share one or more of Gumbel’s perspectives, who’d say their disinterest in Christianity and the Church is because they see it as boring, untrue, and/or irrelevant. There are probably others who’ve been turned off by too many denominational and congregational church conflicts. My fellow children of God, that is our mission field!
So what is our answer to the question, “Is there more to life than this?” How do we answer that for ourselves? And then, how do we help others ask and answer that question?
For now, let’s start by going back to the start… back to the very beginning.
First question: do you believed that God created the heavens and the earth? Why?
What did our Creator have in mind when He created humankind in His image? How would you answer that question? What did our Creator have in mind when He created humankind in His image?