All of us sitting here this afternoon, know that God has called us to be set apart. However, many of us struggle with the thought of how do we really set ourselves apart. I hope the thoughts that I share during the next 45 minutes will help us in that.
Let us start by reflecting on the type of lives we live. We can categorise the lives into five simple categories.
The lowest forms of life is a Life of Survival: We just go on with the daily chores and move along. We do what is necessary to barely stay alive. Do things because we have to. We are not passionate about anything we do. We don’t utilize our talents. We don’t even want to know what talents we have. We are living out our days, hoping that no crisis or opportunities arise. These people see to wholly believe in what a Darwinian Scholar Richard Dawkins said: “Humans have always wondered about the meaning of life…life has no higher purpose than to perpetuate the survival of DNA…life has no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind pitiless indifference.”
From the Life of Survival, some times we cam move along the continuum and reach a Life of Success: We live for success, financial success, power, fame, (or notoriety). People who live a life of success tend to use everyone around them for personal goals. This person might be terrified at the thought of death, or the idea of being alone. Despite putting on a faï¿½ade of happiness, these people are always in angst and fear. You might have heard this story. There was a poor man who had just enough money to support himself and his family. He spent his days enjoying modest pleasures and helping others. He came into contact with an extremely rich man who was immersed in his business, worked 18 hours a day, and was a slave to success in everything he did. The Poor man commented to the wealthy man. “ I am richer than you are”. “How can you say so? “. Asked the rich man. “Well” the poor man said, I seem to have as much money as I want, but you don’t seem to have that.” You see a person who leads a life of success is dominated by things around him/her. Yet the Bible advises us “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” (Luke 12:15)
The life of Survival and the Life of Success both form two ends of a continuum of in the value to self. Here we are concerned mainly about ourselves. Of course the Life of survival, does not even add value to one self, let alone to others. The Life of Success on the other hand, is keen on adding value to one self only.
But there is another dimension to our lives, and that could be examined by looking at the third and fourth types of lives.
The third type of life is a life of Martyrdom. Here, one lives to give away everything in the pretext of serving others and adding value to others. One loathes one self, one does not value the gifts that has been given to self, but continuously acts in self deprecating manner. The person who lives a life like this will make everyone else guilty. This is a person who always makes sure to talk about the “sacrifices” that he/she has made, and the purpose of making it clear is to make other people feel guilty.
This life falls in the other continuum of value to others. Though this person does things for others, this person does not value self at all, and thus really wastes the talets and gifts given by God.
When one looks at the Bible and the lives of Godly people, it becomes clear that God wants us to live a different type of live from all these three. This is a Life of Significance: Here we have discovered our passions and gifts and are able to combine these two to bring meaning to individual and community life. We use our position, our lives to add true value to the world around us and to the lives of others. We have come to know that the Gift of Life matters, and that human beings are instruments of God’s bidding. We believe that God has “equipped us for His purposes” (1 Cor 12:4-7)
Leo Tolstoy said : “ Life is a place of service. Joy can be real only if people look upon their life as service”. If we have to live a life of Significance, it is possible only through putting Servant Leadership into daily practice. Once again it does not matter, what is our role in life. It does not matter where we “work”. I was having a discussion with the Haggai Director yesterday, and his companion asked Leslie “Do you work?”. You generally know the answer. The answer from a home maker, a person who does not work in a corporate world, or outside the home, will generally be that “ No, I do not work”. Think about it. Many of us men get into this habit of saying “ No my wife does not work” isn’t it? Is it really true? Is housework not “work”? So my point is this, it does not matter where you “work” at home or in an office, we can still choose a life of significance to live, and there by glorify God.
Each one of us spend 80000 to 100000 hours of our lives at work. But is it some thing that we do within weekends, because we have to? Because we have to earn a living? That is a survival life attitude. Or are we Chasing illusory success at work? That is a Life of Success attitude. Or is it because we believe truly that God has placed in that situation to live a fulfilling a life marked with purpose and passion? God intended that we engage in our work as a gift and a vocation, as a profound opportunity to participate, in what we do for a living and in God’s creation. Work in meant to give meaning to our lives, improve the world in which we live, and provide a daily opportunity to be witnesses to Christ.
Before I move on to the next part of my message, let us be reminded that there is a life higher than all of this. There is a life truly called for in the Bible, and this is the Life of Sacrifice. This is truly the life where we give up everything that we have for the higher good of others. This is what Jesus did, (Philippians 2:6-8 “who though he existed in the form of God did not regard equality with God as something to be grasped, but emptied himself by taking on the form of a slave, by looking like other men, and by sharing in human nature. He humbled himself, by becoming obedient to the point of death – even death on a cross”) This is what Paul did (2Cor 11:23-28), This is what Henry Martin did, this is what William Carrey did, this is what David Livingstone did, this is what John Wesley did. This is what we are called to do (Romans 12:1 “Therefore I exhort you, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a sacrifice – alive, holy, and pleasing to God – which is your reasonable service.”, Also Matthew 10:37, 10:38, 16:24, 19:29, Luke 9:23) This afternoon, I have to admit, I am not capable of talking about this type of life, because I cannot claim to living anywhere near to that life. That is truly a life to be aspired for, and I hope and pray that some of you will be able to reach that level of life.
But before we even think of reaching anywhere near the Life of Sacrifice, we need to get started with the Life of Significance. So this afternoon, let us see some ways through which we can live a life of Significance.