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The Search for the Meaning of Life (Part 1 of 2)

The Perilous Paths on the Pursuit of Purpose

“We were meant to live for so much more
Have we lost ourselves?
Somewhere we live inside
Somewhere we live inside”Switchfoot Lyrics

What is the meaning of life? It’s the one question that has been discussed and speculated across the ages, cultures, societies, and social classes above all the others. Dr. Hugh Moorhead, a philosophy professor at Northeastern Illinois University, once wrote to 250 well-known philosophers, scientists, and intellectuals across the world asking them “What is the meaning of life?” Some offered guesses, some admitted they made up the purpose of life, and others were honest enough to say they were clueless. A few even asked Professor Moorhead to write back and tell them if he discovered the meaning of life! Today more than ever the question resonates across our society. In TV shows such as LOST, Flash Forward, and Heroes. It’s humored in movies such as Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and pondered in movies such as Forest Gump. Books such as The Purpose Driven Life and The Secret also have tried to tackle this overwhelming dilemma before us. Before we look discover the answer to this incredibly imposing question, first let’s look at the different ways we try and fill our lives with meaning.

There are ten main false pursuits on the meaning of life that predominant in today’s society that we’ll briefly look over. A few things to keep in mind: 1)None of these 10 things listed are evil or wrong necessarily but when they become the purpose for our life they cannot give us the satisfaction and meaning we want out of life 2) Most of this paths intersect into other paths such as possessions and money or popularity and power. We will look at each one individually classifying what a person who pursues this path for purpose looks like and why it leads to a dead-end. Here then are the ten most pursued  perilous paths on purpose:

1.) Prosperous Possessions: The Purchaser is consumed with buying more stuff. Every new fad, fashion, technological advancement is there chief aim to acquire in life. They’re never satisfied is what they have;  it’s never good enough.  Randy Alcorn says: “Material prosperity can begin as God’s blessing, but when we treat it as a substitute for God, it becomes a curse.” We all want stuff. We see it, want it, buy it, insure it, display it, and compare it. If only we had more stuff than we would feel successful or secure. In the United States, we spend $12 billion a year just to pay someone to store our extra stuff! That’s larger than the music industry! The more stuff we have the more attention and commitment we must give our possessions to get worth and value out of them! Eventually, these material possessions rust, break down, and grow insufficient. Jesus addressed this issue by saying: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:19-21. When we leave this earth, all of these things we own are left behind;  it’s clearly pointless to pursue a life of storing more stuff! He or she who has the most toys doesn’t win–they lose!

2.) Picture Perfect: The Publicly Paranoid are obsessed with their outward appearance. They must get every beauty product and keep up with the latest fashion. They worry about how people will perceive how they look and are constantly distressed about their opinion. They own every dress, beauty product, and shoe they can get their hands on. The mirror is their worst enemy. Today more than ever, appearance is everything. Wherever it be women’s magazines, fashion shows, or beauty parlors we’re bought into the lie that appearance is everything. If we don’t look exactly like the a certain celebrity then we’re looked down upon. But this is not what God sees when he looks upon on: “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7. Our outward beauty will eventually fade away, but the beauty of our hearts will never fade. Looking are best isn’t the problem–it’s our obsession and fascination with it.

3.) Progressive Production: The Performer is someone who is always looking for the next project putting work and production above all else. There’s always work to be done. They work 12-14 hour days, 60 hour plus weeks always striving to get ahead and climb the ladder of success. They associate their value in life by how much they’ve accomplished. Never has work been under more emphasis than in today’s society. What people do becomes who they are. Have we ever considered what work really is? In its simplest form work is moving things and rearranging them. Just stop and think about grocery stores, department stores, factory jobs, restaurants–it’s one never-ending cycle. This is emphasized by King Solomon when he wrote: “What does man gain from all his labor at which he toils under the sun?  Generations come and generations go, but the earth remains forever. ” Ecclesiastes 1:3-4  Work can’t bring us the satisfaction we need and it brings us to utter futility. When work is our all we live for, we’ll end up working for nothing.

4.) Purchasing Power: The Prosperous live to make money, collect money, and spend money. They work just for the sole purpose to make as much money as possible. They have the most expensive stuff, live in elaborate surroundings, and keep everything they own for themselves. John D. Rockefeller one of the richest people of his time said this about money: “The poorest man I know is the man who has nothing but money.” How much we make today is considered to be of utmost importance. Happiness and money seem to go directly together.  We keep tell ourselves if only we had a blank amount of money–then we’d be content and happy. But it’s never enough, we want more and more until it drives us mad becoming our sole ambition in life. We fail to realize that it’s all temporary. We can’t take it with us when we die. Jesus addresses this in his story of the rich fool: “The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’  “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.” “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ Luke 12:16-20. Being rich on earth will only produce loneliness, despair, and discontentment. Money can either be a tool or a curse–it’s the way our view on it and how we use it that matters in the end.

5.) Perpetual Perseverance: The Prescription Prescriber is always worrying about their health. They take every medication they can possible take to keep from getting sick. They’re afraid of being in public at times because they might catch a cold or worse. Exercising around the clock is a daily habit. Eating the right foods is a must. They just can’t stand the fear of getting old–it terrifies them! The problem with this philosophy is everyone eventually gets old and dies—there’s a 100% guarantee of this. We spend countless dollars on exercise videos, machines, and weight programs  just because we can’t stand the thought of not being able to live life the way we want to. There’s nothing wrong with exercising, being healthy, or eating the correct foods, but when our sole emphasis is to live the longest and stay away from death we’re only kidding ourselves. John Tillotson says: “He who provides for this life but takes not care for eternity is wise for a moment but a fool forever.” If we fail to prepare for eternity, all the work we’ve done to live a long and prosperous life will be for nothing.

6.) Pleasures and Passions: The Playful live to have fun and have a good time. They live for the next party, the big social event, the next big thing. They spend a majority of their time indulging in what feels good to them. Movies, concerts, amusement parks, shopping, video games, sports…the possibilities are endless. It is a philosophy that whatever produces a thrill is our purpose in life. The problem is once again that the pleasures only give temporary satisfaction and they’re always looking for more. Some people look to sex or drugs for ultimate meaning to life–only to experience a deep empty feeling inside. Others want to experience all life has to offer and end up burning out feeling lost and frustrated. The emphasis on pleasure and fun has never been stronger than today. If all they technological advancements, the increase of free time from work, and increase of emphasis on “feeling good” we value having fun.  Pleasures and passions aren’t necessarily bad, they are God’s gift to us; but they can’t possibly fulfill the void for meaning in our lives.

7.) Process of Progress: The Philosopher sees knowledge and education as the primary goal in life. They live to educate themselves and perfect their intellectual nature.  They consume their time with reading and learning about everything from physics to agriculture. Degrees and grades give their lives ultimate meaning and purpose.  The problem is they’re never seems to be an end to knowledge there’s always new discoveries, new information, more facts to learn—we soon realize that we can’t possibly know everything. Even if we did know everything–then what? We still die and everything we learned and know goes down to the grave. Education and learning are very important in life, of course, but they must be more than gaining knowledge to life. There is a limit to how far knowledge will take us, clearly there is something more.

8.) Pursuit of Perfection: The Punctilious Perfectionist can never quite be fully satisfied–everything must go exactly the way they planned or else! They strive for perfection in everything they do–sports, grades, projects–you name it! If something is out of place or isn’t the way they want it they suddenly become very discouraged and irate. It’s the allure of control that captivates them. There’s just one problem—they’re not perfect! No one is–it’s impossible! The Psalmist says of perfection: “To all perfection I see a limit; but your commands are boundless.” Psalm 119:96. We live in an imperfect world, so striving for perfection leaves us with a utter sense of hopelessness and frustration that can never be quite satisfied. Only God is perfect, so we’re kidding ourselves if we think we can somehow achieve it!

9.) Praise from People: The Pleaser is the one who lives to be popular and well-liked. The more friends they have the better. They’re the “life of the party” always seeking the approval of their peers as their primary aim. They strive to become the queen of the prom, the best in the beauty pageant, or the president of their class. Negative words on their character or a bad reputation are avoided like the plague! It just seems like the more popular they are, they more lonely they get. Why is this? We all want to be liked and known. Also we crave praise from our peers, friends, and family. Some more than others. But no matter how known we are or how many people like us this can’t produce the purpose we seek in life. Eventually, we’ll die and be forgotten and the praise we sought we all be for nothing. Look at what Paul wrote to the church of Galatia on this topic: “Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.” Galatians 1:10. God’s opinion of us is the only one that matters in the end.

10.) Prominent Position: The Politician is overcome with the obsession with power. The more they have, the more they want. They enjoy making the rules, telling other what to do, and setting the standards. Climbing the ladder of success and fame is their ultimate aim. Whether it be their job, social status, a government position–they want to be in control and on top. It isn’t long that they soon realize that there are things they can’t control–like the weather, the economy, their health, and the timing of their death.  It’s an endless pursuit that gets them nowhere at the end of their lives—they still die and leave their social status in the grave. All the effort and work to achieve power is left in ashes.

**So what is the meaning of life and what path do we take to find purpose? Tune in next week and we’ll look at why we’ve come up empty in trying to find an answer to this question and where we must start at. Then starting in May I’ll launch the SPECIAL ministry and we’ll start by looking at our identity along with what surrendering to Christ is all about. God Bless.**

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April 12, 2010 - Posted by | Guest Post Kyle Jackson

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