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The Meaning of Life

A devotional about what is most important.


“I went to the woods because I wanted to live deliberately.
I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life!
To put to rest all that was not life,
And not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”
— Henry David Thoreau.

What does it really mean to live? I assume that each of you who are reading this is currently “alive,” but are you really “living”? When I look around me, both inside the church and out, I see so many people who are drifting through their earthly existence with no real “life” in them. As Tony Campolo so perceptively states, “They play it safe and tiptoe through life with no aspiration other than to arrive at death safely.”

Please don’t think that this is turning out to be a negative, depressing article. The desire of my heart is to somehow share with you that which God has been showing me, which can be summed up in the Latin phrase “carpe diem”–“seize the day.”

Image: Rula Sibai

Did you know that the person you were when you read this “word” has ceased to exist? As each second of your life passes, every molecule and atom and subatomic particle in your body changes position. Your blood moves around your body, while some of your cells die and some new ones come to life. In a physical sense, the person you were one second ago no longer exists and can never be brought back.

It is the same way with “life.” During our time here on earth, God presents us with only so many opportunities to “live,” and once that opportunity passes, it is gone forever. We cannot go back and retrieve it–God is the only one who can control the timeline.

The biggest-grossing movie of all time is “Titanic,” a three-hour extravaganza about the sinking of the (then) largest and most luxurious ship in the world, on April 14, 1912. Deemed “unsinkable,” the R.M.S. Titanic now sits in two pieces on the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean, having claimed the lives of over 1500 of the 2200 souls aboard her 90 years ago.

Besides the obvious tragedy of 1500 people losing their lives, one of the saddest parts of the story (to me) is the wasted opportunities. Think of all of the family and friends who never had the chance to say good-bye … all of the important things that were left unsaid or undone … all of the loved ones who never got to say “I love you” that one last time before their mother/father/husband/wife/brother/sister was swept away for all eternity … simply because those 1500 people didn’t know that the early morning hours of April 15, 1912 would bring an end to their earthly lives.

God has given to each of us a wonderful gift—life. In this life, we are presented with a multitude of opportunities, blessings, and challenges, which make each day and hour that we exist very special. God blesses us with friends and family, a mind with which to learn and a heart with which to care.

The truth is, we don’t know what the future has in store for us. It is now the year 2008, and I am now 38 years old, I may live another 60 years or another 60 minutes. The point is that we should live each day like it is our last. Make the most out of every moment, and do not waste the opportunities that God gives us: “And let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we shall reap if we do not grow weary. So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all men, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith” (Galatians 6:9-10).

I’ve come to believe that this is the “abundant life” that Jesus talked about (John 10:10). God has blessed us all with talents and abilities; let’s use them to worship him and to bless others. Let’s not waste the life that we’ve been given here on this earth. “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:24-25). Let’s not wait until we get to heaven before “living it up”; let’s start right now with the eternal life we already possess.

Find joy in the cry of a newborn … discover the creativity of our Creator in nature and in the world around us … give at least three sincere and edifying compliments a day … develop those gifts that you can see peeking through, and use them to God’s glory … live life as an exclamation, not an explanation.

When I come to the end of my earthly life, I don’t want to find that I never really lived. Let’s have a passion for everything we do. Let’s personally turn into reality the words of poet Walt Whitman, who, after despairing over all of the world’s problems and evils, and wondering what was the point in living, then came to the conclusion that the answer is simply “that you are here—that life exists and identity, that the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.” What does your verse say?

This guest article was originally published on the Pneuma Foundation (parent organization of website in May 2008.

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Category: Living the Faith

About the Author: Michael J. Knowles earned his Bachelor of Theology degree at Summit Pacific College in Abbotsford, BC, Canada, and has published numerous articles and book reviews. He and his family currently live in Washington state, where he teaches health education at Skagit Valley College in Mount Vernon, and also works as a pharmacy technician in Bellingham.

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