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A Reason for Living

Three commitments will give your life meaning and purpose beyond anything else.

NOTE: This message can also be used in the "Jesus the Messiah" series

There's an old country song that goes …

There goes my reason for living,
There goes my everything

Have you heard it? It is what is commonly known in the world of country music as a "tear jerker." The song is about a man who has lost his one reason for living—his one true love. Without her, the song goes on to say, life isn't worth the trouble.

Our culture tells us certain things are so important that they can be considered a "reason for living." The problem is that getting these things doesn't bring about the satisfaction that we thought it would.

Bob Geldof was a British rock musician who decided to do something about the famine in Ethiopia during the early 1980's. He put his own career on the back-burner and spent an entire year of his life organizing fund-raising events for dozens of famine relief organizations. He was the inspiration behind the song "We Are The World" and "Live Aid" event. His efforts helped raise more than 100,000,000 dollars toward famine relief. Later, Geldof wrote a book that sums up this experience. The book is called, "Is That It?" Geldof recognized that even though his accomplishments were significant, after all was said and done he couldn't escape a feeling of unfulfillment. For more than a year the famine in Ethiopia had been his "reason for living" and after all he had accomplished, he realized that hardly a dent had been made in the problem of world hunger, and his efforts hadn't brought him peace of mind.

This is not to diminish what he did—he certainly did a great deal for world hunger—but his experience underlines a simple truth in life: no matter how lofty your goals are, if Jesus isn't the center of your reason for living, you will never find lasting fulfillment in life.

This is the final week of the series called "It's A Wonderful Life." We've been focusing on how a relationship with God makes an ordinary life extra-ordinarily meaningful. We've looked at how Jesus gives a new perspective on life; how God treats us all the same and gives us all equal opportunity to know him and glorify him; and how Jesus' death on the cross has given us a new start on life. Today, in the final message of this series, we will examine how Jesus gives us a Reason For Living.

Have you ever thought about what your reason for living is? If someone were to ask you this question, what would your answer be? Sometimes people have trouble answering this question truthfully. They say what they think the answer should be, instead of what their lifestyle actually reveals to be their true reason for living.

Today you won't be put on the spot. You don't have to tell anyone else, you only have to answer for yourself. Here are three questions; take a moment to think about the answer.

  1. When you wake up in the morning, what is the first thing you think about?
  2. During the day, what do you spend most of your time thinking about?
  3. As you fall asleep at night, what tends to dominate your thoughts?

More than likely, the answer to all three questions is the same, and that is your reason for living.

A football coach might say that all day long he thinks about winning a championship—that is his reason for living. A novelist might say that all day she thinks about finishing her book—that is her reason for living. A parent might say that all day long he or she thinks of how to take care of the children—that is their reason for living. Others might have more immodest goals: some may say they think about food all day long, or sex, or money, or their problems, or taking the next drink, or their career. Whatever you think about all day long—that is your reason for living.

Is it a good reason? Here's an easy way to tell. Ask yourself: is it worth dying for? Is your job worth dying for? Is a little money worth dying for? Is a pizza worth dying for? Is what you're living for worth dying for?

In the Gospel of Matthew there is a story about Jesus taking a walk beside the Sea of Galilee. He saw two brothers, Peter and Andrew, and called out to them to follow him. They dropped their nets at that moment and began following Jesus. As a result, their lives—and the world—has never been the same.

This story tells how to develop a reason for living that will last for all eternity. It requires that we make three commitments. Making these three commitments will give your life meaning and purpose beyond anything else. Let's take a closer look. First of all …

1. Commit to following Christ.

(v. 18-19) Jesus saw two brothers … casting a net into the lake. "Come, follow me," Jesus said.

Throughout the world many people take the name "Christian" in a generic sense, without any implied commitment. When they say they are Christian, they mean they were baptized in a certain church, or their family has a certain historical tradition that is affiliated with Christianity. Many times the term "Christian" identifies people of a specific ethnic group or political group—they're called "Christian" as opposed to "Muslim" or "Jew." There is more to being a Christian than just being identified with a certain political ideology.

In some parts of the world people who bear the name "Christian" are guilty of violent crimes against innocent people. Again, their motives are more often political than religious. A good example in the conflict that we have seen in Northern Ireland between Catholics and Protestants. When you read the Gospels it becomes obvious at once that this is not what being a follower of Christ is about.

Many people have walked an aisle, or been baptized, or confirmed, or joined a church—and they think they have done all it takes to be Christian. Jesus calls for deeper commitment. He calls us to follow him. He even warned …

Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father …(Matthew 7:21)

Following Jesus means making an effort to do the things he did and live the way he lived. He challenges you to love your enemies, do good to those who hurt you, give to those in need, and live a life of holiness.

Becoming a Christian begins with asking Jesus to come into your life and forgive you of your sins. He does this freely. (Romans 6:23; Romans 10:9,13) There is nothing you can do to earn your salvation; salvation is God's free gift.

However, living the Christian life involves a commitment to following Jesus—living the kind of life he showed us how to live. Our reason for living is to become like Christ. Nothing we accomplish in life will mean anything if we neglect to follow Jesus.

A good example can be see in our nation's leadership. During his first term of office, those closest to Bill Clinton said he was obsessed with his "legacy"—he wanted to do something great in office that would make a dramatic difference in the world and would cause him to be remembered well in the history books. I have no doubt that this was a sincere desire. As the most powerful man in the world, he realized that he had the opportunity to make a powerful difference in the lives of many people, and to implement changes in our society and global economy that would have a positive impact for generations to come. And the fact is, he has done some good things in office. For example, he has done more for world-wide religious freedom than any other president in history. However, you and I both know that this is not what Bill Clinton will be remembered for. He may have had some lofty goals, but clearly he got off track. I don't think I am being judgmental when I say it is rather obvious that Jesus wasn't at the center of Bill Clinton's reason for living.

So, Clinton is an easy target; his mistakes are well-documented. Let's move to the subject of you and me. We must ask ourselves daily: What is my reason for living? Am I living out my commitment to follow Jesus, or am I just "doing my own thing"? (Forgive my digression to the 60's.)

Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, "When Jesus calls us, he bids us come and die." Our goals, our ambitions, our dreams are meaningless if we pursue them outside the parameters of following Jesus.

God doesn't want you to abandon your lofty goals, he wants you to let him make them holy but putting Jesus at the very center of your goals. When you make a commitment to follow Jesus one of two things will happen: it will either change completely what you think about all day long (from doing wrong to doing right), or it will help you sharpen your focus (from simply doing "good things" to doing the work of God). Both ways, it will help you pursue your life with more God-given intensity than ever before.

Jesus gives us a reason for living—this is why I say with confidence that It's A Wonderful Life. Your reason for living begins with a commitment to follow Jesus. Secondly …

2. Commit to helping other people.

(v 19.) "Come follow me," Jesus said, "and I will make you fishers of men."

A relationship with God is an intensely personal experience. You probably already know that the word "gospel" means "good news." When I consider the fact that the creator of the universe has forgiven my sins, and he lives in me, and he fills me with peace and joy, and he gives me strength from day to day—well …"good news" doesn't begin to describe the wonder of his love. My relationship with God compares with no other relationship I will ever have.

However, God doesn't want us to keep him to ourselves; he urges us to share the good news with others. Our reason for living must include helping others make a life-changing connection with Christ.

Jesus told Peter and Andrew that he would make them "fishers of men." Obviously, Jesus used this phrase because Peter and Andrew were already fisherman. However, it is a metaphor that still has meaning today. In reaching out to others, there are certain things that we, like all good fishermen, should do.

Three things all good fishermen do: 1. they go to where the fish are biting, 2. they use bait the fish will take, and 3. they do their best to keep themselves from being noticed by the fish.

There's a pond behind my house. In the summertime my sons go there two or three times a week with their fishing poles and break every one of these rules. First of all, I doubt seriously there are any fish in the muddy little water hole. If there are, they're apparently not hungry. Secondly, the boys use those cheap rubber worms for bait and no self-respecting fish would ever fall for that old trick. Third, with all the splashing, yelling and rock throwing the boys do, the fish are probably scared out of their wits and desperately trying to find a place to hide. There's no way they're going to come back from these excursions with any fish. Of course, I don't object to their going down there and stomping around in the mud—they have a lot of fun. But the fact is, if our family HAD to catch fish or starve, we would drastically change our strategy.

As a church we need to make sure that we fish wisely. We need to go to where the people are, we need to help them where they hurt, and we need to make sure that we don't draw attention to ourselves. The focus of our efforts should be directed toward Jesus. Our church softball league, our community-wide Thanksgiving meal, our "Toys for Children" Christmas ministry, our Pre-school—these are all things we do to in an effort to be fishers of men. We go to the people where they are, we offer them what they need, and we direct the attention not to ourselves, but to Christ.

This is what Jesus wants each individual to do in their personal lives as well. He wants us to be committed to following him and helping others—sharing what he has given us with the world around us. Jesus said …

Freely you have received, freely give.(Matthew 10:8)

Our reason for living can be summed up this way:To know God and to make him known to others.

The third commitment we must make …

3. Commit to doing it right now.

After Jesus called Peter and Andrew to follow him, the Bible says …

(v. 20) At once they left their nets and followed him.

I have never met a follower of Christ who said, "I'm glad I waited to give my life to Jesus. I'm glad I got to sow my wild oats and do my own thing (there I go again) and live by my own rules for so many years before I got serious about living the Christian life." No one ever says that. Instead they say, (and I have said myself) "Why did I wait so long? If only I had done this sooner I could have saved myself so much pain."

Jesus gives us a reason for living—to know him and make him known to others—but it only works if we put it into practice in our lives. That can't be done "tomorrow"; it can only be done today.


When I asked those three questions earlier, some of you came up with an answer you didn't like. Undoubtedly some of you thought, "I want to be consumed with the idea of doing great things for God, but instead I am overwhelmed with problems." Or you may have thought, "I need to do more with my life, but my plate is so full I don't have room for anything else." Believe me, I know the feeling.

Jesus doesn't want you to be added to your plate of projects. He wants to take the place of the plate. Following Jesus isn't a matter of fitting him in beside all the other activities you pursue; it's a matter of abandoning everything and putting him first.

For Peter and Andrew, this meant leaving their job and living with Jesus. Does this mean that the only way to follow Christ is to quit your job and become a full-time minister? No, it doesn't, but it means this: When you decide to make Jesus the center of your reason for living, you commit to keeping those things he wants to keep and removing those things he wants you to remove.

I heard an artist say once that sculpting is very easy. If you want to create a sculpture of, say, a horse, you get a piece of marble and chip away everything that doesn't look like a horse. I think he may have been over-simplifying things a bit.

But, do you know what? If you want to become like Jesus, that is the very process that you take. Give all of your life to him, and let him chip away everything that doesn't look him. As you go about your life, he remains at the center, and it is your relationship with Jesus that gives you a reason for living.

Steve May has been a pastor to pastors for more than 20 years, helping preachers and teachers to become more effective communicators of the gospel.

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Sermon Outline:


I. Commit to following Christ.

II. Commit to helping other people.

III. Commit to doing it right now.