“When things are at their blackest,” wrote Robert Lynn Asprin, “I say to myself, ‘Cheer up, things could be worse.’ And sure enough, they get worse.”
Joyce Carol Oates, looked at life this way: “Keep a light, hopeful heart. But expect the worst.”
The writer, O’Henry penned, “Life is made up of sobs, sniffles and smiles, with sniffles predominating.”
“We are born crying, live complaining and die disappointed,” wrote Thomas Fuller in 1732.
Janis Joplin, a rock and blues singer of my teen years, once said, “Life is something you do while waiting to die.”
All of these are pretty pessimistic views of life. They contrast sharply with Jesus promise, “I am come that they might have life and have it more abundantly.””: (Jn. 10:10). Your view of life, however, depends upon the level at which you choose to live.
Consider these three levels of living.
1. Survival. This is the lowest level. But it is the level that most people live at. At this level people just eek out an existence. They are just trying to survive. Survive to the next pay check. Survive for the week-end. Survive for the next vacation. There’s not a lot of hope in living at this level.
2. Success. This is a higher level. It is where many people live today. It is living a comfortable life style. It is having possessions, some degree of prestige and enjoying pleasure. By the world’s standards, this person has made it. While there are varying degrees of success, we live in a country and enjoy an economy that affords success to many Americans. But the question comes, “If I am so successful, why don’t I feel more fulfilled?” This leads us to the next level.
3. Significance. Success alone doesn’t satisfy. Bob Buford in his excellent book Halftime points out that many people reach middle age with a lot of material success but little inner satisfaction. As one CEO put it, “I was always finding out that beyond the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, there’s a sort of emptiness.” Significance has to do with our purpose. Why am I here? What am I to be doing? How can I make a difference in life?
One of the great epithets of the Bible says of Israel’s King David, “For when David had served God’s purpose in his own generation, he fell asleep; he was buried with his fathers…”(Ac 13:36, NIV). What a wonderful thing to live life in serving our generation and doing it according to God’s will.
God has shaped you for a purpose. God told the prophet Jeremiah, “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you…for I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jer 1:5,29:11). God knows what’s best for your life. He knows what will fulfill your life better than you do. And he promises to reward your commitment to Him.
The wise man said “the whole duty of man is to fear God and keep His commandments” (Eccl. 12:13). Living at this level will raise you above survival mode or even the success trap. It will provide your life with significance, satisfaction and ultimately salvation.
—Ken Weliever, The Preacherman