That is why meaninglessness haunts so much of the human race. We feel despair and very alone, alienated and restless—we sense something important is missing. Because we live only in the seen world, we live without answers to life’s most important questions. We are without an anchor, yet thrown out on a stormy sea called life without sight of the shoreline. Yet, while ignorance of God is evident, there is a kind of search for meaning.
Today we can cross the Atlantic in under three hours, using a laptop we can solve complex mathematical equations in seconds, and we can send messages around the world at the speed of light. The spread of knowledge is faster than ever before—facts and figures once only available to the world’s greatest libraries are accessible to anyone on a two pound PC and with an app. It’s all at our fingertips, the answers to our questions are available in cyberspace. However, what about more important questions such as “How can I know God?” or “Why do I exist?” or “What is the purpose of life?” Where do we turn for the answers to the ultimate issues of life? As a result, people by the uncounted millions have lost all faith in a meaningful future and are living only for today. We live in continual human disorder with uncontrollable circumstances dictating our lives. And yet, we see a startling contradiction—people walk the streets saying we have no interest in God, but yet “God” is the second most popular word on the internet; it’s amazing.
Another glaring contradiction is soon discovered. 71% of all Americans say they believe in an afterlife, but almost no one wants to have a serious discussion about it. While this belief is there, it seems that for the average American trying to explain their private ideas—it can be easily shot full of holes when compared to the Bible teaching about preparations for eternity.
A psychologist surveyed 3,000 people about their thoughts on life. He asked a very simple question to each of them, “What are you living for?” He was as shocked as you may be to find that almost 95% of them indicated that they were enduring the present while waiting for tomorrow, hoping things would get better. The facts are alarming, according to the AMA (The American Medical Association), who say today’s Americans under 20 years of age are “far less prepared for life than their parents at that age.” Deep emptiness is evident, and thus the result, meaninglessness.
Newsweek, the major American news magazine, recognized the vital questions being asked and the issues being raised by people seeking to find life’s answers. “That, in essence, is the seeker’s quest to fill the hole with a new source of meaning. Why are we here? What is the purpose of our existence? The answers change in each generation, but the questions are eternal.” Yes, the answers suggested by “leading experts on how to have meaningful life” change, but there are ultimate answers to those questions that never change. The real answers come from God.
Recently, a professor at a California university said that today’s university students “are at a point in their lives where they sense the need for spirituality, but they don’t know where to find it.” Dr. Peter Masters of London suggests, “If I dismiss God and live only for the physical elements of life, there will be a missing dimension to my life. A major part of me, the soul or spirit, will not be alive or functioning. There will always be a void within me, and at times this will ache and pine, so that I can never be satisfied.” A poet wrote--
There is a movement in my brest
That will not quench and cannot rest!
Dr. Masters tenderly added, “There is the truth about everyone. It is our innermost being crying out that we should be experiencing so much more in the spiritual realm. And we shall never know peace until we find this.”
About ten years ago a Newsweek survey seemed to totally agree with Dr. Master’s comments, 58% of Americans felt a real spiritual need and admitted there was something basic not being fully addressed. Today that is expressed by a search for some mystical or religious experience and a searching for something to “fill the hole with a new source of meaning.”
On an airplane I asked a man to explain his idea of life. He replied, “I guess it’s to just keep moving, put one foot in front of the other.” Yes, but which way are we going, and why? Cannot we agree that without God we are powerless in terms of meaningful human fulfillment? We cannot do anything substantial that fully meets human needs. No invention, no scientific progress, no new breakthrough in any field does that.
In Hyde Park, London, there is a “Speaker’s Corner” where anybody can say anything. One man stood on his soapbox to offer his solutions to life—a power of positive thinking kind of speech. A woman walked up and listened for a while, then she challenged him. “Mister, I’m in a dark, deep well, and your rope does not reach down far enough to help me!” And human-made answers and solutions do not reach deep enough—the human rope is too short! The Bible clearly tells us not to trust human ideas or even 21st century breakthrough discoveries for spiritual help or hope. No human advances will ever change the spiritual realities or alter human nature. So, we remain in generation after generation fallen creatures. All of us are inadequate without God.
Eddie Murphy is a hugely successful comedian-actor. He was interviewed by a popular magazine and he said, “I don’t think there’s anyone who feels like there isn’t something missing in their life. No matter how much money you make or how many cars or houses you have, or how many people you make happy …” A very obvious example relates to the atom and the discovery of nuclear fission. What did we do with it? We produced the atomic bomb immediately. The Los Alamos Project was started under the direction of the brilliant scientist J. Robert Oppenheimer. When asked about his life achievements just months before he died, he quipped, “I am a complete failure! [My achievements] They leave on the tongue only the taste of ashes.” So here was this scientist at life’s end admitting disappointment and discontentment, hopelessness and a great sense of having missed the mark. That’s a heavy price tag for short lived success and human praise.
Here is the simple truth, anything we can invent or discover can be turned inside out and bring hell and heartbreak to the human race or even your little circle of acquaintances. To think differently is either turning a blind eye to human history or living in self-imposed naivety. Technological breakthroughs have never produced inner happiness or human fulfillment. All our advances in all disciplines have regularly been used wrongly by us to bring pain and heartache. We cruelly disappoint ourselves; that’s the consistent human record.
The Bible says it in a simple way that all can understand, “We are crooked and we cannot make ourselves straight.” We all, to some extent, are like the pop icon Madonna, who confessed that she was “a tormented person.” She said in an interview, “I have a lot of demons I’m wrestling with. But I want to be happy. I have moments of happiness. I’m working toward knowing myself, and I’m assuming that will bring me happiness” (quoted from June 1990, Us Magazine). Like Madonna some of us occasionally get a glimpse of our true selves. We see the worst, but we are powerless to hold back our passions, to control our temper flashes, or mend our ways. We are like John McEnroe, the famous tennis star of twenty years ago, who said, “Look, I try to be good, but I’m just not that good!”
It’s amazing that nearly 3,000 years ago a remarkable man had real insights into life and he pointed out man’s inadequacy to find lasting fulfillment and ultimate purpose and perpetual happiness without God. He pronounced the conclusion and the final verdict in the Bible book called Ecclesiastes. He said in verses 2 and 3, “nothing is worthwhile; everything is futile … Generations come and go, but it makes no difference.” He adds, “we are never satisfied; no matter how much we hear, we are not content.” (Ecclesiastes 1, Living Bible) That entire book from the Old Testament urges us to think things through to discover that life is full and satisfying only when God is alive within us. He makes a powerful argument for the fact that life without God is ultimately destitute of real and lasting meaning.
The only thing that really changes life is new life offered to us and found only in God. That was the message of Jesus, who said we “must be born again” (John 3:3). It is an awakening we need. As much as we resist the idea, we need to think deeply about ourselves and how we stand before God. This spiritual awareness is often a positive sign. The very fact that you are still reading these words is also something positive. This interest, this concern is even supernatural—it is the beginning of a God-sent spiritual awakening.
This awakening is more than just thinking, “I have not met my life goals or that I am not all I want to be,” it includes the stirring of God. When we become conscious of our sin and sinfulness—only then real change starts to take place. When I discover that I need to be forgiven for offending God, real change starts. The British professor C. S. Lewis became a Christian. When he looked back over his journey, he came to a conclusion, “A recovery of the old sense of sin is essential to Christianity.”
When C. H. Spurgeon, a famous nineteenth century preacher, was only 14 years of age, he experienced this awareness and this awakening. He saw his own sinfulness. It was frightening to him to sense guilt and a crushing sense of how condemned and unworthy he was before God. No one would find that a pleasant experience, but it’s all part of true conversion. Jesus said He came for sinners. He died for sinners, and until we admit we are sinners, we will not admit we need Jesus Christ to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves—save us! Spurgeon looked back to that time and said, “I do not hesitate to say that those who examined my life would not have seen any extraordinary sin, yet as I looked upon myself, I saw outrageous sin against God. I was not like other boys, untruthful, dishonest, swearing, and so on. But [all] of a sudden, I met Moses carrying the Law … God’s ten words … and as I read them, they all seemed to join in condemning me in the sight of the thrice holy Jehovah.”
This awakening as terrible as it was, was a positive thing because he was spiritually aroused and aware that he needed forgiveness and to escape his condemnation. In his spirit, he was almost like a man in a house on fire looking for the escape to safety. Yet, beware, a person may know that he is lost, and yet that person may never be saved. The vital thing is to escape the sure danger of being lost and being without God. Remember, awakening is not enough. To illustrate, a person may know he is ill and never go to a doctor and die as a result. Or, a person may find out that he is bankrupt, but that realization will not pay the debts or put money into the bank. A sense of need spiritually is a good thing, but it is only the first step. I was told by someone who raises horses that if the horse stable caught fire, horses cannot be made to leave their stalls! They, it seems, become paralyzed with fear. Incredibly, the fear of fire actually prevents them from escaping the fire!
But this awakening is not conversion. Think of it this way; it is one thing to be awakened at five o’clock in the morning, it is another thing to get out of bed and start a new day.
The late John R. W. Stott of England said, “the only way to arrive at faith … is along
the road of self-despair.” So, to feel sinful and guilty before God is not unhealthy or neurotic in any sense of the word, it is a clear understanding of our real condition before God. Awakening and awareness of your basic spiritual need should drive you into the arms of the loving Jesus. If you are now convinced of your sinfulness and need of forgiveness, listen to these words; Jesus said, “… some will come to me … and I will never, never reject them.” (John 6:37, Living Bible)
Earlier I mentioned Spurgeon; in the most simple language he explains, “Even so, to believe that you have sinned, and that your soul is forfeited to the justice of God, is a very proper thing; but it will not save. Salvation is not by our knowing our own ruin, but by fully grasping the deliverance provided in Jesus Christ.” So then, what is Jesus Christ as Savior willing to do for us if we turned to Him in repentance and faith? What is the “deliverance provided” that Spurgeon spoke of? It is amazing; by an act of His power He not only receives us but gives us a whole new dimension to life. That means we now have a very real relationship with Himself. The Holy Spirit of God lives within and, furthermore, He pardons and forever forgives, taking our guilt away. If you were to ask, “How is this possible?” the only answer would be based on what Jesus personally did for us on the cross on which He died. There on that terrible cross made for death He personally took the punishment that each of us deserves. “By his stripes we are healed,” said Isaiah, for He suffered all our pain and punishment, the agony and alienation rightfully due to us. “He personally carried the load of our sins in his own body when he died on the cross so that we can be finished with sin and live a good life from now on. For his wounds have healed ours!” (I Peter 2:24, Living Bible)
So then, if we turn our lives, without reservation, over to Him, He gives us a new
nature that includes the power to live a holy life—the kind of life we could never live before. There is even more, by the Holy Spirit He gives us an inner assurance that we have been accepted by God. He fills us with His love that gives evidence that He is alive within us. As part of that wonderful process another miracle happens, He gives us minds to understand the Scripture and the desire for that radical new life that He has for us. Newton’s great hymn says,
“I once … was blind, but now I see.”
So, what is involved in this? Nothing less than an empty-handed turning from sin to the Savior. It is a radical break from this world’s trash to heaven’s treasure. We should think of it this way: A Christ-changed person is as great a miracle as any that Jesus did while on the earth 2,000 years ago!
The sign of true conversion is when a person’s heart is melted to love all there is about God and has a will to daily follow Jesus Christ. Someone long ago said, “Throw your life at His feet and He will take you in His arms.” Surely that would include an act of surrender of our all, submitting ourselves to Him, holding back nothing. Someone rejoiced at this experience with Christ and said, “Jesus Christ gave my everyday life a joy and my eventual death a glory which nothing and no one in this world could offer me.”
A female writer said, “When I did this, it was not that Jesus came into my life, He invaded it and now possesses it completely.”