A Life Worth Living
A Life Worth Living
‘In the future, scientists may be able to prolong life, but will it be worth living?’ wrote Nigel Hawkes in The Times.
Apparently, one Oxford professor claims it may soon be possible to prolong many people’s lives until the age of 115. But Hawkes rightly asks, ‘Will it be worth living?’ An increased lifespan is of little value unless it is for a life worth living.
The apostle Paul did not see the prolonging of life as a major objective: ‘For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain’ (Philippians 1:21). Indeed, he regarded death as something of even greater worth. Yet for him, Jesus had made his life profoundly worth living.
Live in a relationship with GodProverbs 23:29-24:4
Another Times Columnist Bernard Levin spoke of how there is a hole inside each of us. However much you try to fill it with food, drink, relationships, possessions, ‘it aches’. You were created for a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Without that relationship we ache.
People try to fill this hole with different things. For some, it is alcohol, and although there is nothing wrong with drinking wine, it does not satisfy the deep inner thirst we have in our hearts.
It looks so attractive ‘when it sparkles in the cup, when it goes down smoothly!’ (23:31). However, if we follow this path and overindulge, ‘in the end it bites like a snake and poisons like a viper’ (v.32). The writer describes the effects of drunkenness with great vividness: the hangover, splitting headache, queasy stomach, seeing double, slurred speech (vv.34–35, MSG). It leads to sorrow, strife, complaints, needless bruises and bloodshot eyes (v.29).
By contrast, the writer speaks of the blessings of wisdom and knowledge: intelligence, strategic planning and a lot of good counsel (24:3–4, MSG). Where can we find such wisdom and knowledge? The apostle Paul spoke of knowing Christ ‘in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge’ (Colossians 2:2–3).
Lord, I come to you today and drink so that out of my heart may flow rivers of living water.
Make a difference to the lives of othersPhilippians 1:1-26
Do you wish your circumstances were different?
If you are facing major challenges or difficulties, be encouraged by the fact that you can be useful in the midst of your struggles. God can work through you in ways you might not expect.
When Paul wrote this letter he was under house arrest in Rome, attached to a Roman soldier by a chain that was three feet long. He was imprisoned in very bad conditions, awaiting trial and possible execution. Yet, he believed that his life in Christ meant ‘fruitful labour’ for him (v.22).
When Paul says, ‘I have you in my heart’ (v.7), he is expressing his deep love for the people of Philippi. He has already spoken of their ‘partnership in the gospel’ (v.5) and now he speaks of sharing God’s grace with them (v.7). There is such a close bond between those who work together for Jesus Christ. There is an even closer bond when one is responsible for the conversion of the others. Paul says that he longs for all of them ‘with the affection of Christ Jesus’ (v.8).
In an age of almost unparalleled opportunity and choice, so many people are unduly anxious about missing their destiny or taking a wrong step. But you can have confidence that because God began the good work in you, he will complete it (v.6). God always finishes what he starts.
None of us are there yet. You are a work in progress. Paul’s prayer for the Philippians was that they might be even more fruitful:
Grow in love
Pray for others and for yourself that your ‘love will flourish and that you will not only love much but well’ (v.9, MSG).
Grow in knowledge
Pray not simply for growth in love, but that your ‘love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best’ (vv.9–10). Love is to be more than an emotional experience; ‘sincere and intelligent, not sentimental gush’ (v.10, MSG).
Grow in holiness
Paul prayed that they ‘may be pure and blameless’ (v.10). The word for ‘pure’ describes an inner purity in which even our motives are unmixed. The word for ‘blameless’ means without giving offence and refers more to the outer way of life. Pray, like Paul, that you may be holy both inwardly and outwardly – ‘making Jesus Christ attractive to all’ (v.11, MSG). As Dietrich Bonhoeffer put it, ‘Your life as a Christian should make non-believers question their disbelief in God.’
Paul could bear his chains because they gave him an opportunity to preach the gospel and to encourage others to ‘speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly’ (v.14).
Don’t be concerned about other people’s motives for preaching the gospel: ‘Some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry’ and ‘selfish ambition’ (vv.15,17). Others do it out of love (v.16). However, Paul didn’t seem to think it mattered very much as long as Christ was preached (vv.17–18). Don’t criticise other Christians who are preaching the gospel even if you don’t like their style or you question their motives. Be glad that they are proclaiming Jesus.
Paul’s whole life was centred on Christ. His desire was for Christ to be exalted in his body, ‘whether by life or by death’ (v.20). He felt himself ‘torn between the two’ (v.23). In many ways, he desired ‘to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far’ (v.23).
The saintly Prebendary John Collins was vicar of HTB from 1980–1985. When his wife Diana died on 16 July 2013 John wrote to me, ‘I am thankful that we had fifty-eight glorious years together – getting better and better! Although strokes are horrible and death is an enemy… like St Paul, for many years she had longed “to be with Christ, which is far better”. I am deeply thankful, therefore… that she was not afraid, because she knew where she was going and her faith in Christ’s promises never wavered.’
Although Paul was longing to be with Christ, part of him also wanted to stay alive because he knew it would ‘mean fruitful labour’ (v.22). His desire was to see the Philippians progress in their faith and their joy in Christ Jesus overflow (v.26).
Lord, help me to live life to the full and take every opportunity to spread the message of Jesus.
Experience God’s love for youZephaniah 1:1-3:20
Do you realise how much and how deeply God loves you? No matter what happens in this life God loves you. Not only does he love you, he takes great delight in you. In fact, he sings over you with joy (3:17).
The theme of Zephaniah is ‘the great day of the Lord’ (1:14). This was the day that the people of God were anticipating. In popular thinking, this was the day that they expected Israel to be blessed. Zephaniah’s message was that it is not simply going to be a day of blessing, but it will also be a day of judgment.
He urged repentance. Sin leads to judgment. But God loves us and longs to be merciful and to forgive: ‘Seek the Lord, all you humble of the land, you who do what he commands. Seek righteousness, seek humility; perhaps you will be sheltered on the day of the Lord’s anger’ (2:3).
He foresaw that a remnant, who are ‘meek and humble, who trust in the name of the Lord’, will survive (3:12). He foresaw that God would again bless his people, ‘The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing’ (v.17).
When Jesus announced the kingdom of God, he was proclaiming that the day of the Lord had broken into history. One day, when Jesus returns, there will indeed be a day of judgment and reckoning. However, some aspects of the day of the Lord can also be experienced right now in Christ. You can know God saving you, delighting in you, quieting you with his love and rejoicing over you with singing right now. You can know this, despite the reality of God’s judgment, because, in Christ, ‘the Lord has taken away your punishment’ (v.15).
For those who are in Christ, the promises of the Lord in Zephaniah are fulfilled in you. As Father Raniero Cantalamessa writes, ‘Everything that God does and says in the Bible is love, even God’s anger is nothing but love. God is love!’ And that makes life worth living.
Lord, thank you that you take great delight in me, quiet me with your love and rejoice over me with singing. Thank you that your love makes this life worth living.
‘The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.’
When my siblings and I were little and crying at night, my father would pick us up and carry us around singing, ‘Daddy’s got you now...’ I still remember the song and the sense of safety being in my father’s arms.
Verse of the Day
‘The Lord your God is with you,
he is mighty to save.
He will take great delight in you,
he will quiet you with his love,
he will rejoice over you with singing’ (Zephaniah 3:17).
Raniero Cantalamessa, Life in Christ (Liturgical Press, 2002) p.7
Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.
Scripture marked (MSG) taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.