Jump directly to the Content
Jump directly to the Content


Home > Sermons

Life: Where's the Beef?

If you don't have the life of God in you, you're dead.


Is there any cuter commercial than the one for Wendy's with the old lady who asks a simple question: "Where's the beef?" Here she is with a couple of other ladies, and they're examining their hamburger. They look at the hamburger's large bun, and the lady who looks for more than just the obvious had a very penetrating question: "Where's the beef?" She wanted to know not where the externals were, but where was the internal, where was the thing that makes the burger talk? Where's the beef? That statement has become a favorite statement of politicians, of musicians, of all kinds of people, who, when they want to discuss the essence of a thing, the meat of a thing, the internal strength of a thing, will humorously ask the question, "Where's the beef?"

Most of us don't know it, and perhaps we've never asked it, but most people are asking that question about life: "Where's the beef?" They find themselves sandwiched between birth and death, and they expect that between birth and death, there should be some beef. The only problem is, in the middle of life they look up, and they're asking the question, "Where's the beef?" People are struggling to survive, struggling to find life, struggling to find identity, struggling to find meaning, and when you break it all down, the Wendy's lady was correct in the question of life: Where's the beef?

We want to know where the beef is, too.

It was that question that the son responded to when the father came to him and said, "Now, Son, you need to get a good education." The son replied, "Yeah, Dad, but why?" He said, "It's so you can get a good job." The son said, "Well, yeah, Dad, but why?" "Well, so that you can get a high salary." "I understand, Dad, but why?" The dad answered, "So you can buy whatever you want to buy, live wherever you want to live, drive whatever you want to drive, wear whatever you want to wear." "I understand that, Dad, but why?" "Well, so you can have money set aside to pay for your children's education, so that they won't have to scrounge and try to work their way through college and study at the same time." "Yeah, Dad, I understand that, but why?" "So that when you get old, you can retire in ease, and you don't have to go back to work, and you can just relax and sit on the beach." "Dad, I understand, so I can retire and have something extra. But why?" "So that when you die, Son, you can have something to leave."

The question the son was asking was, "Where's the beef?" He was asking, "Is life just going to work, coming home, making some money, living in a nice house, driving a nice car, or is there more beef than that?" You see, the question that was being raised was: There's got to be more to life than what you have, who you are, who you know, what you're doing. There's got to be something more meaningful. Where's the beef?

That question has been raised over and over again. It's raised by the young lady who's been single for 30 years. She's been by herself. All of a sudden, appearing on the scene is the man of her dreams. He takes her where she wants to go, wines and dines her, and makes her feel good. She goes home, picks up the telephone, and says, "I've found him whom my heart has longed for." She feels so good down inside, and one day he pops the question, "Will you be my wife?" She's cool on the outside, and on the inside she says, YES! In great enthusiasm she accepts that invitation, and she becomes Mrs. So-and-so. The problem is, five years later when she reflects on the moment she said, "I do," she's raising the question, "Where's the beef?" She thought at the moment of commitment that her problems in life were solved, only to find out that even that relationship doesn't answer the question of why I'm here, who I am, and where I'm going.

Many people are finding life is like a touchdown scored in a football game: they go out and score a touchdown; they finally have achieved victory in their lives, only to find that the whistle has blown and the flag has been thrown on the play. Every time it looks like they get over, something else meets them on the other side and messes things up. Did you ever notice that? Ever notice that just when it looks like you're where you want to be in life, something else goes wrongand you wonder. Where s the beef?

That's the kind of world we're living in, where people are trying to find out what life is all about. That is giving Satan a field day, because when people don't know who they are, and where they're going, and where they come from, Satan slips them imitation life, making them believe that is real life, and he keeps them on the Ferris Wheel year after year. Not only the guy on drugs, the guy who's got a messed-up moral lifethat's one waybut if he can't take you down and out, he'll lift you up and out, as long as he keeps you out, as long as he keeps you from understanding where the beef is.

Without the life of God, we are dead.

It is to this messed-up generation that Jesus Christ appears on the scene. It is to this messed-up world that raises the question, "Where's the beef?" that Jesus Christ arrives. He makes a cataclysmic statement in John 10:10: "I have come that you might have life and that you might have it more abundantly." Jesus arrives on the scene as the answer to the dilemma posed by the question, Where's the beef? He comes on the scene in a stroke of glory, and he says, "That's why I'm here. I'm here because you don't have life."

Now the tragedy is, most people think they have life. I know what you're thinking. No, wait a minute. I'm functioning just fine. I've got a clear mind. I've just gone to the doctor, and the doctor has declared that I'm healthy; therefore, I am alive. People perceive that physical ability to perform equals life. We've got people driving cars who are dead, living in homes who are dead, relating in marriages who are dead, but who think, because the program is so jam-packed with information, they must be alive. Jesus Christ looks out on this world and says, "This world is dead, and that's why I have come."

You see, the problem in your marriage is that you've got two people, two dead people, trying to be happy. The problem in your personal life and in your mind is that you've got a dead person trying to inform itself to life. And the Bible says, "That's why I [Jesus] have come. If you could give yourself life, I could have stayed home. I have come because you are dead."

The reason that men are dead is because they don't have the life of God in them. You may have everything else going for you, but if you do not have the life of God in you, you are dead. You may be good-looking and dead, healthy and dead, rich and dead, sophisticated and dead, popular and dead, but dead is dead.

Do you remember what happened when Adam sinned? He was kicked out of the Garden. Fellowship with God was broken because God said, "The day you sinthat day you will surely die. You will surely lose fellowship with me." People are struggling to have fellowship with God, yet they are dead.

Perhaps you remember me telling you the story of the forester named Sam. Old Sam would be out chopping down the tree, and whenever you came by you could hear him say one word: "Oh, Adam. Oh, Adam." Every time he hit that tree, he'd say, "Oh, Adam." One day the foreman came by and said to Sam, "How come every day you hit the tree, you say, 'Oh, Adam'?" He said, "Because I have to work every day because Adam my forefather sinned against God, and God cursed him and said that he would have to eat the fruit of the ground and would have to work for it now. So every time I hit this ax against the tree, it reminds me that if Adam hadn't sinned, I wouldn't have to work."

One day his supervisor came and said, "Come here, Sam." He took him to his big, plush, palatial 10,000-square-foot mansion. He said, "It's all yours. You can live in it; you can do whatever you want. You've got a swimming pool, a tennis court, the racquetball court, the servantseverything. Everything in this house is yours. I'm giving it to you because I don't want you to struggle with that Adam mentality. Now I've got only one thing I want you to do: Don't lift up the box on the dining room table. Enjoy everything else in the house, do your thing, be what you want to be, act like you want to act, but that box on the dining room table do not touch." Sam said, "No problem. I can handle it."

So Sam played tennis every day, went swimming, got to play racquetball, ate three meals a day. But after about five months, he saw that box. That bothered him. He wanted to know why, if he can have everything, that box was so important. He said, "No, I'm not going to touch it; I'm not going to jeopardize my time here." After a year it hit him. He had tried everything. He had gotten used to everything. There was nothing new anymore. There was only one thing new in that house, and that was that box. And so one day, when nobody was looking, he lifted up the box a little bit. But out of that box ran a little, teeny mouse that hid, and he couldn't catch it and couldn't find it.

The supervisor came and noted that the box had been lifted up. He went to Sam and said, "Now Sam, what I want you to do is to go back out into the forest and pick up your ax and chop again." And then when the supervisor came by he was saying, "Oh, Sam. Oh, Sam."

Don't you understand that's what God says? God says that Adam was told not to eat of the tree in the midst of the Garden. He had a thousand other trees, but he blew it. All of us have been like Adam. All of us have turned to our own way. All of us have become our own god and have bucked the will of God and have picked up the box. So it's not Adam's fault; it's our fault, because we have been like Adam, doing our own thing, living our own lives. And it is to that group of people Jesus comes and says, "I have come to give you life."

God often has a hard time getting our attention.

Now, why, if he has come to give us life, is it so hard to get people to make a commitment to Jesus Christ? Jesus says it in verse 8: "All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door. If any man enters through me, he shall be saved. He will go in and out and find pasture." We are sheep. That's the problem.

The reason God can't get human beings' attention so readily is because people are sheep, and sheep are as dumb as you get. I mean, when you come to ignorance, you don't beat a sheep. A sheep is an ignorant, independent, stupid individual. That's why God says "all we like sheep." The Bible declares that you and I imitate sheep. We follow whoever sounds the best. We follow whatever looks the best.

You see, Madison Avenue understands that we are sheep, and they understand that if they can get the commercials just right, we'll buy anything. Madison Avenue understands that we can buy one thing yesterday, they can make it better tomorrow, and we'll still pick up the better thing tomorrow and not be satisfied with the thing we just bought. They understand that we are fickle people. The cults recognize this. All of your cult leaders recognize that people can be led. Jesus says that you are sheep, but "I have come to give the sheep life."

Now he says, in verse 9, "I am the door." If you lived in the time that Jesus lived, there were two kinds of sheepfolds: one type in the city and one in the country. In the city, all the shepherds would bring their sheep together in the fold, and each shepherd would come and call his sheep when he was ready to lead them. But in the country, it was a little different. You made this little fold with bricks and rocks and sand, and you had one entrance, or one door, to the sheep. The door was not a door you opened and closed; it was just an opening. Now at nighttime the shepherd would come in. He would sleep across the opening to make sure no sheep got out and to make sure no wolves got in.

Thus Jesus comes on the scene and says, "I am the door. I am the way you get into God's fold. I am the means by which you get into God's protective custody. I am the way. I am the door. The way you come into God's fold is the opening that I am sleeping across." And he said, "Anybody else is a thief and a robber."

Most people don't understand that they're being kept out of God's fold by thieves and robbers. They're being kept out of God's fold by people who in the name of God come and give them a story, but who do not understand that Jesus is the only means by which a man comes into a relationship with God. They're being duped. That's why Jesus says at the beginning of verse 10, "The thief comes only to steal, to kill, and to destroy." Most people don't understand that they're being stolen from, being ripped apart, and being destroyed by thieves, by systems and religions and preachers and deacons and media that are out to cause them to bypass Jesus Christ.

A sister shared that she had been in church all these years and didn't know she had to come to Christ. She knew about church and about sermons but not about Christ. It's Jesus Christ who provides the mechanism by which a man gets to be where God is. If you don't have the life of God in you, you're dead. Jesus says, "That's why I've come. I've come that you might have life."

The meaning of abundant life

But he didn't come only that we might have life. He throws something else in. He says, "I've come so that you might have it more abundantly." He didn't come just so that he could make you alive; he came so that you can enjoy life to the max. Jesus didn't come so that you could try to make it; he came so that you could make it. Jesus came so that you could have the fullest that life could offer. That's the problem with teaching people the Word of God. They really don't believe that God has their interests at heart when he tells them, "Do this; don't do that." But God understands that if you buck his way of doing things, you'll never experience life to the fullest.

One day I talked to a young lady who was single and unhappy. She married a non-Christian, which God says, "Don't do." Now she's unhappy. I asked her which unhappiness did she prefer? She said, "Make me single any day, because it's one thing to be miserable by yourself, but it's another thing to have people making you miserable that you've got to live with, and making the children miserable because you two are miserable. I'd rather be miserable alone." She had come to realize that when God says something, it's because he wants us to have abundant life, not because he wants to make us miserable. Jesus said, "I have come not only that I might make you alive, but that I might make you abundantly alive."

What does that mean? It is very important that we define abundant life, because if we do not define abundant life, you may think that what God is saying is that he is going to make you a millionaire. You've heard it; it's the "King's kids" philosophy: I'm a child of the King; God owns everything; so I own everything. Since God is rich, I ought to be rich, too. Or you might take it to mean that you'll never get sick or never have problems facing you. That is not abundant life at all.

What is abundant life? Well, he tells us in the previous verse. When Jesus says in verse 9, "I am the door," he says, "If anyone enters through me, three things happen." You can remember them by the three S's.

The first thing that will happen is you will be saved. The word saved is the antithesis to danger. If somebody's in danger, he needs to be saved or delivered from the danger he's in. The Bible declares that men are in danger, and what they are in danger of is the wrath of God. So what God does is save them through Jesus Christ. He delivers them from the danger they are in. The danger is hell. The Bible declares in John 3 that the man who does not know Jesus Christ is condemned already. He's hanging over hell. The Bible says the moment he closes his eyes all he's got to do is die there's no more debate. He drops, because that's where he's hung; he is condemned already.

But Jesus, when a person comes to Christ, saves him. He delivers him from that wrath, so that he is delivered in three ways: 1) he is delivered from the penalty of sin; God no longer holds him guilty; 2) he is delivered from the power of sin; he doesn't have to sin anymore; 3) he will be delivered from the presence of sin; he gets to be with God forever.

But there is a second thing that happens. You will be able, verse 10 says, "to go in and out." This phrase was common in the New Testament world. Whenever somebody said, "Are you going in and out?" they were asking, "Is your city at peace or is your city at war?" You could only go in and out if there was peacetime. If it was wartime, you had to stay in. You and I live in a country that is not at war. We can pretty much travel most of the world. But if you remember, during some of our conflicts in the past, visas would be restricted, and you could not go in and out because there was danger. Jesus not only saves us, but this phrase "in and out" means he protects usthat is safety.

One of the things that make life abundant is that nothing can happen to this preacher outside of the will of God, because I am under protective custody until God moves the hedge from me. That is why, when you read the Book of Job, Satan had to ask God's permission to touch Job. Job had God's hand around him, and Satan could not go near Job unless God permitted it. One of the great things about being a Christian, if you walk with the Lord, is that you never have to worry about dying at 30 if God is going to put his hedge around you till 60, because what God does is guarantee you the freedom to go in and out. Abundant life means the safety of God's protective provision until such time as he wants otherwise.

Finally, you will find pasture. Pasture means satisfaction. When the sheep went out and found pasture, he was satisfiedplenty to eat, and a nice, soft cushion to rest on. That's why Psalm 23 is so precious: "The Lord is my shepherd" (see, he's using the sheep motif) "and I don't want anything;" I'm satisfied. When it gets hot and sticky, "he makes me lie down." When I don't know which way to go, "he leads me in the path." When I get all afraid, "in the valley of the shadow of my death," the rod and the staff show up, and I feel comfortable. When I don't know when my next provision is coming, that's okay, because he knows how to put "a table before me in the presence of my enemies." And when I'm frustrated and don't know what my direction is ultimately, "goodness and mercy" show up and lead me home. When you've got that kind of shepherd, you're satisfied.

Andrae Crouch put it this way: "If heaven were never promised to me / Neither God's promise to live eternally, / It's been worth it / Just having the Lord in my life, / Because living in a world of darkness, / He showed me light."

If there were no such thing as heaven, it would still be great to be a Christian, because God satisfies. He comes in and meets you at your point of need. God does not ameliorate all the hurts of life, but in the hurts of life, he satisfies. He comes and provides you with that cushion of grace that you need.


Are you asking the question, Where's the beef? The beef is located in Jesus Christ. He is the substance of life. And while you are sandwiched between birth and death, God wants to sandwich you with his Son. That's why if you were talking to the apostle Paul, Paul would simply put it this way: "I'm crucified with Christ; nevertheless, I live. Yet not I; it's Christ who lives in me, and the life which I now live, I live by the faith of the Son of God."

They threatened Paul and said, "Paul, we're going to kill you." Paul said, "That's okay. For me, to live is Christ, but to die is gain." "We're going to let vou live." Paul said, "That's okay, because the life I now live, I live by the faith of the Son of God." "Well, we're going to make you suffer." Paul said, "That's okay, for the suffering of this present day is not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed to me."

Paul understood that the beef was Jesus Christ. Unless you come to Jesus Christ, unless he has forgiven you for your sins and is operating as the sustenance by which you live, you will always be searching for the beef and never find it. God is opening up a spiritual Wendy's this morning. He knows where the beef is. The beef is in his Son. Jesus Christ is the answer to life. He is the reason that we have been born, he is the hope for when we die, and everything in between is meant to center on the Lord Jesus Christ.

Tony Evans is founder and President of The Urban Alternative. He pastors Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship Church in Dallas, Texas. His most recent book is Kingdom Man.

Related sermons

Where's the "Gift Return" Receipt?

How to appreciate the gift of suffering

Facing Off Without Falling Apart

Seven principles for proclaiming the gospel in hostile territory.
Sermon Outline:


I. We want to know where the beef is, too

II. Without the life of Christ, we are dead

III. God often has a hard time getting our attention

IV. The meaning of abundant life