Who Am I Living For?

“For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better.” –  Philippians 1:21

What is the purpose of life? In other words, why are we here? How we answer this question shapes our lives in countless ways. Or perhaps the better question is “Who are we here for?”  It’s a subtle change, but it makes a significant difference.  The question helps us evaluate who is really at the center of our purpose: Is it God or self? 

Many of us try to center our purpose around ourselves as if life is all about us. This is like trying to make the sun orbit the Earth; the universe isn’t designed to work this way. The Bible tells us very clearly that we are made by Jesus and for Jesus: “Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation.” (Colossians 1:15). We exist for His glory as Ephesians 1:12 points out: “God’s purpose was that we Jews who were the first to trust in Christ would bring praise and glory to God.” We are here to serve Him, not vice versa.  

So how do we live for God’s glory? There is a wealth of promises that can only be experienced when we choose to lay down our own glory and live for the glory of God instead. We weren’t created to live for our own advancement, and attachment to advancement only breeds pain and suffering. But if we’ll choose instead to seek God’s glory, to lift Him up and lead others to Him, we’ll find life, purpose, peace, and joy. 

Paul beautifully summarizes this concept in Philippians 1. His encounter with the risen Christ on the Damascus road (Acts 9) completely changed the purpose of his life. From that moment on, there was no confusion as to who he was living for. He lived to exalt Christ and to make Him known. “For I fully expect and hope that I will never be ashamed, but that I will continue to be bold for Christ, as I have been in the past. And I trust that my life will bring honor to Christ, whether I live or die.” (Philippians 1:20).  

As followers of Jesus Christ, we should be challenged by Paul’s words. The way he lived out his purpose is remarkable. But it seems like an unattainable goal because we want God in control of some parts of our life, but other areas we prefer to maintain some level of control. There wasn’t any area of Pauls’s life off-limits to God. Our goal should be to exalt Christ in all things.

The sole aim of every Christian heart should be to glorify the Lord and to serve Him. A life with a passion for Christ gives rise to a life of victory, where the power of faith and the sufficiency of His grace overcomes the difficulties of life and the sting of death. When we can say with Paul, “for me to live is Christ and to die is gain” we discover that a life lived for God becomes a life lived on mission for Him.

 Discussion Questions:

  1. Who are we living for on a daily basis?  
  2. What can we do this week to make better daily choices in our walk with God? 

The Blind Man

“but that the works of God might be displayed in him. We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” – John 9:3-5. 

In the Gospel of John, we see a man begin to follow Jesus based on limited information. This man, who was born blind, said he only knew one main thing—and that one thing was enough to make him curious about who Jesus really was.

The blind man makes his way to his designated spot, the place where he stations himself daily and begs for money. He may even sleep in the same place where he spends his days. The sound of footsteps is heard by this blind beggar. And then he hears an even more encouraging clue—the footsteps cease, nearby.  He must overhear the conversation between Jesus and His disciples. “Who sinned, this man or his parents?” he hears one of the bystanders ask “the Rabbi.” I wonder if the blind man has ever asked himself this question.

Jesus says,  “It was not because of his sins or his parents’ sins,” Jesus answered. “This happened so the power of God could be seen in him. We must quickly carry out the tasks assigned us by the one who sent us. The night is coming, and then no one can work. But while I am here in the world, I am the light of the world.”

As Jesus utters these words, He begins drawing nearer to the blind beggar, and then He pauses beside him. Then the Rabbi spits and two “mud pies” are applied, one to each eye. The Man has placed the “clay” on his eyes then instructs the blind beggar to go to the pool named Siloam and to wash this mud from his eyes. He promises no miracle, and He says nothing to the crowd. Then, He and His disciples silently slip away.

The blind beggar makes his way to the pool of Siloam just as he has been instructed. Can you imagine this man’s amazement as he washes the mud from his eyes? He sees light. He sees people. Can you imagine him making his way home, pausing to take in the beauty of the world around him. 

Jesus has a mission, a mission to be the “light of the world.” This is a mission His disciples share with Him, and thus they must join Him in performing the Father’s deeds, one of which is to reach out to people and meet their needs.  This priority is in line with the two-fold command to (first) love God and then (second) to love our neighbor as ourselves?

The blind man would never again be the same. He has received more than physical sight. His spiritual eyes have been opened, so that he “sees.” His life will never be the same, now that he has “seen the light.”

The facts are clear. The testimonial of the man in question is crystal clear: “But I know this: I was blind, and now I can see!” and “If this man were not from God, he couldn’t have done it.”  

Discussion Questions:

  1. Read John 9:24–25, where the formerly blind man focuses on the main thing—he could now see! How does what the man said remind you of something that happened in your own life? 
  2. Think of a season of your life that was difficult through no fault of your own. You may be in one currently. Is there something about that season God used (or could use) to shape your faith. If so, what?

The Demon Possessed Man

“The herdsmen fled to the nearby town and the surrounding countryside, spreading the news as they ran. People rushed out to see what had happened. A crowd soon gathered around Jesus, and they saw the man who had been possessed by the legion of demons. He was sitting there fully clothed and perfectly sane, and they were all afraid. Then those who had seen what happened told the others about the demon-possessed man and the pigs. And the crowd began pleading with Jesus to go away and leave them alone.” – Mark 5:14–17. 

This would make a pretty gripping opening to a movie. It is the middle of the night. Jesus and the disciples have just been through a terrible storm. The disciples are still trying to come to terms with Jesus calming the storm in Mark 4. In chapter 5, they land the boat near a cemetery and a naked demon-possessed man (covered in blood and wearing broken chains) runs out to meet Jesus.

The demon-possessed man was in need of desperate help. Looking for shelter, he lived among the tombs. All day and all night he howled, cutting himself with stones. People often bound him with chains and shackles to protect him and those around him, but he broke out of the chains and shackles, leaving everyone around him at a loss for ways to overcome him. This man desperately needed a miracle. And then Jesus stepped out of the boat.

When the man ran to meet Jesus, the demons inside him addressed the Lord directly. “Why are you interfering with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God?” (Mark 5:7) They begged Jesus to not torture them and asked Him to send them into pigs feeding nearby. Jesus gave permission and the demons entered a herd of pigs, around two thousand. The pigs raced down the hill, crashed into the sea and drowned.

Try to imagine this scene. What would be going through your head if you witnessed this? Even though many at the scene did not fully understand Jesus, the demons knew He was the Son of God, the Savior of the world. The demons trembled in fear because they knew Jesus was greater, more powerful than the evil one, and they were forced to submit to him: “You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God. Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror.” (James 2:19).  

Due to talk within the city and country, many came to see all that had happened. They found the man with unclean spirits now clean and in his right mind. A man who had once been insane, now sane; once irrational, now rational; once out of control, now in control and sitting peacefully.

Once the movie-like scene had settled down, people were afraid after witnessing two thousand pigs run into the sea and seeing the man’s dramatic transformation. Their fear led them to beg Jesus to exit the region. But there was one man who wanted to go with Jesus: the one who had been freed of demons. He longed to go with Jesus, to be with Him, close to Him: “The man who had been freed from the demons begged to go with him. But Jesus sent him home, saying, “No, go back to your family, and tell them everything God has done for you.” So he went all through the town proclaiming the great things Jesus had done for him.” (Luke 8:38-39)

You are the only one who can tell your story. No one can adequately describe the wonderful things that have changed in your life since you have surrendered yourself to Christ. It is your story; no one else can tell it. If Christ has done great things for you, you have the privilege of sharing that good news with others.  

Discussion Questions

  1. When has the Lord delivered you from a serious sickness or difficulty in your life? How did you react? Did you keep it secret or did you tell others?

Philip And The Ethiopian Eunuch

“ As for Philip, an angel of the Lord said to him, “Go south down the desert road that runs from Jerusalem to Gaza.” So he started out, and he met the treasurer of Ethiopia, a eunuch of great authority under the Kandake, the queen of Ethiopia. The eunuch had gone to Jerusalem to worship, and he was now returning. Seated in his carriage, he was reading aloud from the book of the prophet Isaiah. The Holy Spirit said to Philip, “Go over and walk along beside the carriage.”” – Acts 8:26-29. 

What stands out in this story is that a very unlikely candidate for conversion to Christ is found and converted through the supernatural leading of the Lord Himself, and not through human planning. Philip recognized that he needed to connect with him because that’s what he needed. That’s the job of a person on a mission. 

The person was from Ethiopia in Africa and had come all the way up to Jerusalem to worship God (v. 27). So out of all the tens of thousands of Jews and Gentiles and Samaritans that need Christ, the Lord sovereignly sets His favor on this man and sends an angel to Philip, and says in verse 26, “Go south down the desert road that runs from Jerusalem to Gaza.” 

Philip goes not knowing what God has in mind. But when he gets to the road, the Spirit tells him the next step to take. In verse 29 the Spirit says, “Go over and walk along beside the carriage.” That’s all he says. Not what for. Nor who is in the chariot. Just go to the chariot. The timing of the Spirit is perfect. At that very moment Philip, no doubt wondering what he would do or say when he got to the chariot, hears the Ethiopian reading out loud the book of Isaiah. 

One of the best evangelistic tools that you have are stuck on the side of your head. It’s your ears. Philip ran up alongside and ask the man if he understood what he is reading. He figured out how to turn the conversation into something spiritual. I think the temptation for us is to never bring up the subject of God. The temptation for us is to talk about our favorite college team or the pandemic, or whatever. At some point, if you’re friends with somebody there’s going to be something that’s going to lead you into a spiritual conversation and you’re going to have to go down that road. The reason most people don’t want to go down that road is that they’re afraid of not having the right answers. 

Philip now knows what the Lord has been doing in directing him to this desolate place where there is one lone chariot and man from Ethiopia. The Lord is having mercy on a man who probably would think that the God of Israel would never care about him. “ So beginning with this same Scripture, Philip told him the Good News about Jesus.” The Ethiopian believed, was baptized (v. 38) along the road, and went on his way rejoicing (v. 39). 

The most important lesson we can learn from Philip’s life is that the Gospel is for everyone: The Gospel of Jesus Christ is for anyone willing to receive it. Ask God to create opportunities for you to share the faith and hope you have in Jesus Christ with others.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What part do you have in spreading the good news of Jesus to the ends of the earth? In what ways can you play more of a part in this mission?
  2. How does the divine-appointment factor in this story encourage you to share the gospel?

Wisdom From Above

“But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and the fruit of good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere.” – James 3:17.  

Have you ever thought about mankind’s endless search for truth in this world? Think about it. Even in the twenty-first century, in a time of the greatest knowledge in the history of man with all the technological developments that have accelerated the rate of acquiring knowledge, the restless mind of man still struggles with discovering the reason for his existence.

Part of the trouble is looking for that answer through worldly wisdom versus Godly wisdom. Worldly wisdom leaves you empty and a bit cynical. But Godly wisdom is different. “Fear of the Lord is the foundation of true knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.” (Proverbs 1:7)  If you have been following the Lord for any length of time, you know that the world’s ways do not reflect God’s ways. The world will tell you where to look for wisdom and for happiness. The world will tell you that immediate happiness is the most important goal for your life. The world will tell you there is no absolute truth. However, God’s wisdom surpasses all of the world’s wisdom. God’s wisdom gives us focus and direction when we have to choose between what looks good, what feels good, and what is good.

Living out a life of wisdom was never designed to demonstrate our wisdom, but to demonstrate the wisdom of God. The biblically wise admit they aren’t enough, but realize that in Christ they have more than enough to equip them to live bigger, bolder, and fuller lives. When we embody biblical wisdom, we cease striving for self-sufficiency and let God take control of our lives. This requires a willingness to elevate others rather than attempting to prove ourselves to the world. 

The Bible teaches us a great deal about wisdom and knowledge in addition to showing us that there is a distinction. One can gain a great deal of knowledge, but not have or exercise wisdom. However, one cannot have wisdom without having knowledge first. James tells us that “If you are wise and understand God’s ways, prove it by living an honorable life, doing good works with the humility that comes from wisdom.” James is telling us that humility before God translates to humility toward others. 

To gain God’s wisdom, we must pray for it, while studying and living out God’s Word. So many distractions in this world threaten to pull us away from God. If you need clear, precise answers—direction for where to go, what to do, and when or how to do it—God has the answers for you. When you do, you’ll not only find the answer, you’ll grow in your relationship with God as well as grow in wisdom. Your life will be transformed.

Discussion Questions:

  1. How would you define “wisdom?” How is it different than knowledge or experience? What are some ways that you can recognize someone who is truly wise?  
  1. If this week your wisdom came exclusively from your relationship with Christ and not from your accomplishments, resources, or connections, what difference would that make?    

Loving God With All Your Heart, Soul, Mind, And Strength

“And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’ The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.” –  Mark 12:30-31

Nobody wants to live passive, inactive lives. We want the opposite. We want a captivating life that brings a sense of fulfillment. When Jesus lays out the most important commandment for mankind, He starts with loving the Lord with all of your heart, soul, mind, and strength. Since we are told to love the Lord with all our hearts, soul, mind, and strength, that is exactly what we should do. But how do we go about doing it?  

Loving God with your heart means to love Him with your life. Love God with your heart by living a loving, faith-filled, and purpose-driven life. This requires letting God lead the way. It means living each day in close connection with Him so we can recognize our calling. Once we do this, once we let Him lead, lives will be changed. We will experience joy. And sharing that joy with others and loving God with our whole heart will become our primary mission. It’s hard to love someone you know nothing about, so it’s important to make an effort to get to know God. By spending time in prayer, reading Scripture, we learn about who He is, what He cares about, and why He is so deserving of our love. God sent His only Son to die for us. He forgives us. He knows all of our faults and still loves us with an everlasting and relentless love. This dimension of love is especially important for the times when we are feeling unenthused, discouraged, or even when things seem hopeless.

Loving God with your soul means to love Him for eternity. When our hearts stop beating, our souls keep living. And God wants our relationship with Him to last forever. Loving God with your mind means to love Him unconditionally–because we know that He is worthy of love–even when we don’t feel like it. Even when we feel like life is unfair or when we think He’s abandoned us: even though He never leaves our side. 

Loving God with all my strength means stepping out in faith. It means stepping out of my comfort zone. It means stepping out to help someone. Faith without works isn’t worth much. But faith with works can change a piece of the world for the better. Like the other concepts, loving God with all my strength is simple to say but not always easy to do. We need to remember that we don’t work any of this out by ourselves. We have a strength working within us that enables us to keep on going forward. In reality, loving the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength is simply a response. For we love because He first loved us.

As followers of Christ, we are called to fearlessly love God with all our hearts, all our souls, minds, and strength. Fueled with that complete and perfect love, we are empowered to take that love and share it with the world. And our broken, lost world desperately needs His love.

 Discussion Questions:

  1. What can we do this week to love God with our heart, soul, mind, and strength?

Getting Involved

“Then a despised Samaritan came along, and when he saw the man, he felt compassion for him…. Now which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by bandits?” Jesus asked. The man replied, “The one who showed him mercy.”Then Jesus said, “Yes, now go and do the same.” –  Luke 10: 33, 36-37

The story of the Good Samaritan is a story of compassion.  But it is also a story of getting involved. A man is robbed and left for dead on the side of the road when three people pass by. First up is a religious leader, soon followed by a teacher of the religious law. Arguably both Jewish leaders should have stopped to help, but they don’t. It’s the third man, a Samaritan, who stops to help. Only one of the three got involved. 

The best part of this story is that the man lying in the road didn’t have to earn anything to be given grace by the Samaritan. This parable is actually a picture of what Jesus has done for us because Jesus is the ultimate “Good Samaritan.” It’s Jesus who steps right into the middle of our mess, who walks into the midst of our deepest need and does for us what we could never do for ourselves. From our stranded, beaten and broken state, Jesus picks us up, binds our wounds, and offers us new life. But it doesn’t stop there.

Jesus takes it one more step. He takes our place. Jesus became the one beaten and left for dead on the side of the road. He was stripped and robbed of all His glory, bearing our sin and shame all the way to the cross. While others pass you by, Jesus will always see you and stop. Jesus will get involved. When this really begins to sink in, we should be gladly be on mission with Jesus to show the world the love and mercy Jesus provides. Out of compassion, Jesus swapped places with us. Jesus is the mercy of God freely given for you and for me.

God doesn’t want His people to simply follow a list of rules; He’s after the heart, and He wants His followers to love others as He does. We are to respond to others as God would respond to them, just as the Samaritan responded to the half-dead man on the side of the road; the same way God responds to us when we are dead in our sins and in need of radical grace. This kind of change can’t come from following the law and that’s what Jesus was pointing out to the man. When you serve others, you’re joining the Lord in the work He’s already doing. He’s always working. We simply need to open our eyes, direct, and see the opportunities to be a blessing to our neighbors.

What can you do to help make a difference in the lives of your families, neighbors, or co-workers? How many times do we walk by someone’s troubles without even giving a thought to rolling up our sleeves and getting involved? When’s the last time you shed real tears for the people around you? When did you last get involved. 

 Discussion Questions:

  1. What can we learn from the story of the Good Samaritan? 
  2. Since God is so involved in our lives, what can we do this week to get involved in the lives of people in need?

A Passion To Serve

“Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the cause of orphans. Fight for the rights of widows.” – Isaiah 1:17.

The church was once the workshop for the greatest art the world has ever known. Wander through an ancient cathedral. Rest in front of a Renaissance painting. Listen to a 19th century hymn. All of this art evolved from a passion to lead creation toward its Creator. Nothing great is ever accomplished in life without passion. Nothing great is ever sustained in life without passion.

The apostle Paul accomplished an astounding amount in two decades of ministry. What made him tick? What drove him to carry out the work that he did? We find the secret in Philippians 3:7-9: “I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ and become one with him. I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ. For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith.”

This passage clearly exhibits Paul’s passion for his calling. Leaders, like Paul, are people who have figured out what they stand for. They have identified their purpose and pursue it with a passion.  So what gets you out of bed in the morning? What is your purpose or mission in life? Most people would probably have trouble crystallizing a clear purpose for their lives. In Paul’s second letter to the church at Corinth, He sheds some light on our journey while on earth. “That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.” 

This passage outlines God’s unique purposes for our lives, and reminds us to develop an eternal perspective so that we will have a passion to give our lives in exchange for the things that God tells us will endure. The word of God and people are the only things that will endure in this world. So we need a passion for both. Serving brings purpose to our lives. I’ve discovered that I’m the most fulfilled and content when I’m serving others, and not just my own self-interests. 

Passion is a driving force. Passion makes our life worth living and gives us a purpose to live and die for. It compels you to act: it forces you to get out of your comfort zone.

In order to find your passion and purpose, you need to look inward and see what truly inspires you – what makes you feel alive.  

Discussion Questions:

  1. What is one need that you are personally passionate about meeting in people?
  2. What are your abilities and gifts that could help make a difference in the lives of people around you?

The Good And The Indifferent

“Then a despised Samaritan came along, and when he saw the man, he felt compassion for him.” – Luke 10:33

One of the many great stories in the Bible is the story of the Good Samaritan. Jesus is asked a question by a lawyer: “Teacher, what should I do to inherit eternal life?” (Luke 10:25) He answers his own question by saying, “love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.’ And, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.” (vs.27) He then asks Jesus another question: “And who is my neighbor?” (vs 29) Jesus replies with the story of the Good Samaritan. 

Most people have read or heard the story of the Good Samaritan any number of times. But it is the type of story that can change your perception and your awareness every time you read it.  It forces some hard questions:  Am I truly a Good Samaritan? And how often do I cross the road to avoid someone in need? Do I see a need when I encounter people I meet on a daily basis? Do I see the opportunities to serve? Or do I unintentionally walk by?  Am I rushed or distracted? Am I indifferent? When I read the story of the Good Samaritan I wonder how the priest and the Levite could walk on the other side of the road and ignore the plight of the injured man.  But am I not capable of doing the same thing?  

“Loving your neighbor” doesn’t have a qualifying caveat like when you have time, or when you are in a good frame of mind, or when it’s a person you like or at least comfortable with. Loving your neighbor does not come with any conditions. There is no small type. God calls us all to care for His children. There are no boundaries, no rules, nor qualifiers that limit this command.

The message is clear. Our neighbors are everybody we have contact with. We need to open our eyes and see. Beaten, bloodied, and bruised people aren’t hard to find. Maybe not in a literal sense. But there are people in need. Homeless people are all around us. So are people who lost their jobs and have basic needs. These are the people that need a Good Samaritan and people who look through a lens of compassion.

Real compassion makes it more personal. Real compassion leads to involvement. It leads to commitment. Compassion does not allow us to watch from a distance. Compassion makes it difficult to watch and wait. You want to help, you want to do something. When we are hurting and when we face trials of life we want someone to walk beside us, share our burden, and say, “I love you. Let me help.” This is what love and compassion does.  

We need to see the broken and wounded, the weak and the lost. We need to get out of our comfort zones and remove our fears, our judgments, our daily distractions. We need to cross the road. 

Discussion Questions

  1. When you think of serving others what is the first thing that comes to mind?   
  2. In what situations is it difficult to cross the road? Why?
  3. What can we do this week to be of service to people in need? 

The Hurt Of Rejection

“And ‘don’t sin by letting anger control you.’ Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a foothold to the devil.” – Ephesians 4: 26-27.  

Most people have felt the sting of rejection. It’s called the sting of rejection because that’s exactly what it feels like: You reach out to embrace what you see as an opening only to receive a surprising and upsetting brush-off that can feel very much like an attack. It’s enough to make you think twice about putting yourself out there again. And the emotion that often results from rejection is anger. 

We believe we have a right to be angry and we are justified when we don’t forgive. But giving in to those emotions tends to steal your peace and ability to be happy. Because we are consumed by what has been done to us, it makes it nearly impossible to have positive thoughts and feelings, much less enjoy life. James 1:19 reminds us, “Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.” In this passage, James is imploring God’s people to understand the damage negative thoughts and emotions can cause. Culture will tell us we have every right to be angry, but God’s word says our anger and unforgiveness will hold us captive.  

James 1:22 says, “But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves.”  In every area of life, including managing strong emotions and practicing forgiveness, God calls us to be “doers” of His Word, not just “hearers” — even when nothing in us wants to.

We can be rejected for our faith or when sharing our faith as well. People avoid you, leave you out of the clique, or even make fun of you because you are a Christian. It will happen to every committed Christian at one time or another. Jesus wants you to know that when you are rejected by others or shown hostility for your beliefs, you are not the one being rejected. People are hostile at Jesus, not you. They are rejecting Jesus, not you. 

And that is where we need to follow the example of Jesus most of all. When you are rejected due to your devotion to Christ, you need to respond just as Jesus did when He was rejected on the cross. He said, “Father, forgive them. They don’t know what they’re doing.”

If you are rejected, face hostility, or even persecuted, you need to forgive as Christ forgave on the cross.

Discussion Questions:

  1. How do you respond when you have been rejected? 
  1. What can we do this week to show the love of Christ to others?