Finding Your Mission in Christ: Life's Ultimate Adventure
A Commencement address by Dr. Stephen Meyer to the graduating class of 2010
Psalm 90:12 says, “Teach us to number our days, O Lord, that we might gain a heart of wisdom.”
I love this verse because I think it gives us important counsel. It implies something that we all know—that time always passes faster than we think it will. Think back to the first time you entered Upper School. Or went to fall Icebreaker. . . or to Green and Gold Night. Doesn’t seem that long ago, does it? Where did all that time go?
The Psalm is telling us that even a lifetime is a very short time. And it also suggests that it is possible to waste time on things that don’t matter and that don’t serve any ultimate purpose.
Today, many people doubt there is anything that really matters—and as a result, they have no idea how to order their priorities. College students—which all of you will be after today—often especially feel that way. They can’t see any ultimate purpose in life, so they just get cynical and start hooking up, or doing drugs, or getting addicted to video games. . . any thing to fill a sense of emptiness.
When I was a college professor, I had a colleague who had a unique way of addressing the question of what really matters. He taught a philosophy class called “Money, Sex, and Power.” For some reason, he always seemed to get a really big enrollment!
But the point of his class was always kind of deflating. The professor acknowledged that, of course, we all need money to pay our bills, and the physical expression of romantic love is a beautiful thing, and power can be used for good purposes. But as the students studied people who pursued these things most ardently—as if they were their reason for living—the students were confronted with people who had led disappointing and sad lives.
We all know lots of examples of the super rich who are incredibly lonely and who don’t seem to have any sense of significance or purpose. Think of the Hollywood idols with their beautiful faces and sculpted bodies and revolving-door love lives. They certainly have plenty of sex appeal and partners, but apparently no happiness. Instead, we see serial divorces and stories of the most beautiful people constantly checking in and out of drug rehabilitation. These are not exactly signs of significant lives well-lived.
When I was a teenager, I had a haunting question I used to ask myself: “What’s it going to matter in a hundred years?” I meant anything. I first started thinking about this when I was reading the biographies of famous baseball players who were, as far as I was concerned, the greatest and most-to-be-admired humans who ever lived. But the problem with all the stories that I read was the same. After 15 or 20 years of glory, the player would retire with all his records intact. . . and what? What of lasting value had he accomplished? What was it going to matter in a hundred years? Who would care?
And it wasn’t just that these were people playing a sport; I had the same sense about anything that we might do or accomplish. In the end, if we all die and all human achievements are forgotten, what does anything we do matter?
I admit I wasn’t exactly a lot of fun to have at parties!
When I entered college, I encountered a philosopher who put his finger on what was bothering me. His name was Jean Paul Sartre, and he said this: “Without an infinite reference point, nothing finite can have any lasting meaning.” If there is nothing or no one who lasts forever, then there will be no one to care about what we do or did.
Do you remember the philosopher Bertrand Russell? You studied one of his books in your classes. He also was convinced there was no ultimate meaning. Here’s what he said:
Man is the product of causes which had no prevision of the end they were achieving; his origin, . . . his hopes and fears, his loves and his beliefs, are but the outcome of accidental collocations of atoms; no fire, no heroism, no intensity of thought and feeling, can preserve an individual life beyond the grave; and all the labours of the ages. . . all the inspiration, all the noonday brightness of human genius, are destined to extinction in the vast death of the solar system.
He wasn’t much fun at parties either. But he had a point. And so you have to ask a question: Is there any answer to this counsel of despair?
I actually think there is. Notice what all these purveyors of despair have in common. All of them assume that there is no infinite reference point, no personal God, no one who will remember what we have done and who will be there to meet us at the end of our journey, and no possibility of a purpose or life that can last beyond the grave. No one can have a purpose-driven life if there isn’t a purpose to the universe itself.
Now it’s been one of the great discoveries of my life to find that there is evidence of design and purpose behind the universe and that there are also good reasons to believe in God and in what the Bible reveals about His plan for humanity.
But you may wonder: Is there any possibility of me finding purpose for my life?
According to the Bible, there is. But it starts first with understanding what God Himself is doing in the world. The Bible teaches that God is actively involved in a great mission to reconcile mankind to Himself and to restore us to each other. . . what the Bible calls “the healing of the nations.” This plan came fully into view in a remote corner of the Roman Empire almost 2000 years ago, on a hillside called Golgatha where a Jewish carpenter died a seemingly meaningless and hideous death. But as we discussed in some of our sessions together this spring, every detail of this event turned out to conform to a previously prophesied plan. As a result, it revealed that this man from Galilee was not to be some random carpenter, but God’s long-promised Messiah. Moreover, by rising from the dead, he demonstrated power over man’s ultimate and primal enemy: death, the enemy that otherwise destines “all the noonday brightness of human genius . . . to extinction.”
That same Jesus, who overcame death and who has revealed God’s heart to the world, is inviting you to join Him on this mission of healing and restoration. He asks you to be one of His emissaries and to take His message of hope and meaning and healing to a lost and hurting world.
He has made an invitation to you to join Him in this mission. Here is what He says: “If anyone would come after me he must deny himself and take up his cross [daily] and follow me.” As you think about what to invest your life in and your own life’s mission, I want to suggest three reasons to accept this invitation:
First, what you accomplish for Christ and in service of His mission will have eternal value and will not cease to have importance when you die or even when the universe itself expires. Jesus said, “Store up your treasures in heaven where neither moth can eat nor rust destroy.” Jesus understood our dilemma. From the standpoint of earth alone, nothing that we pursue ultimately does last. Eventually, all things wear out and even our greatest life’s accomplishments, treasures, and trophies will rust and be destroyed.
But notice that Jesus is also suggesting that there is more to the story. There is an infinite reference point, an eternally loving personal God who has prepared a place—indeed a paradise—for us and who has purposes that will outlast this world. There is a God who will remember our deeds and who writes down our names in His Book of Life and who will not forget even “a cup of cold water given in His name.” Everything you do for Him will become part of the great story of the healing the nations and of the Kingdom He is building in which every tear will be wiped away and even death will lose its sting.
Second, at a certain point in life most of us learn that living only for ourselves is not satisfying. Living for others, and for a cause beyond oneself, is paradoxically the only thing in life that brings deep satisfaction. Elaine and I have a friend named Dick Montgomery who epitomized this. He and his wife Dixie have adopted 17 orphans from desperately poor backgrounds around the world. Dick was a painter and taught each of the kids his trade. He and Dixie also taught them about life. Three years ago Dick died tragically in an auto accident. I attended the funeral in Monroe. The place was packed. Through his kids, this man had touched many people with the reality and love of God. Someone once said to me that at the end of life, people are your trophies. In the kingdom of God, when those kids whom Dick and Dixie rescued from hopelessness sit at his feet and give him honor, he will not think that he wasted his time on earth. If you live a life devoted to the service of others, you will not either.
There is a third reason to consider finding your life’s mission in service to Christ: as you follow Christ, and serve Him in the specific way that He calls you to do, you will find that you are in for an awesome adventure. I love the recent David McCullough biography of John and Abigail Adams, whose Christian faith and convictions about the dignity of man inspired them to shape a new nation. John argued the case for independence from Britain in the summer of 1776. He handpicked both the general who led the war effort and poet who wrote the Declaration of Independence. He crossed the Atlantic Ocean with his 10-year-old son John Quincy with British cruisers giving chase in the middle of the winter of 1778. He visited the courts of Europe to get the Dutch and the French to help finance the Revolutionary War; he wrote a state constitution that became the model of the U.S. Constitution. And later he became President himself. And he and Abigail raised children and grandchildren and also shared a profound romantic love. What a life!
But does that mean we have to be a great saint or statesman to serve God in a purposeful way?
No. When we decide to serve Christ, He takes seemingly ordinary things and makes them extraordinary. Think of your parents and all those supposed ordinary things they do for you and how much they mean to you as you all beautifully expressed in those moving tributes at An Evening of Honors. Think of people right here in the Bear Creek community who turn seemingly ordinary things into opportunities to bless others in extraordinary ways. Think of Sini Fernandez with her photography. Think of Mr. Paylor. Has there ever been anyone who has ever expressed so much of Christ’s love and commitment by the way he drives a bus?
As you heed the call to use your gifts in service of God’s purposes, you will find your own sphere of influence in which His love will flow through you. As you do, you will find that whether you are used in a way that is widely recognized or only known to Him, you are in for a life of significance and adventure. God is pleased when you are excelling in what comes most naturally to you because He gave you those abilities and He designed you to use them.
So when you arrive at or begin college: challenge yourself. Explore and develop your strongest gifts and as you do, commit them to God’s service. If you do, you will begin to find that you are living a life of significance. Not one without setbacks or disappointments or strain or suffering, but a life with an overriding sense of purpose that will enable you to endure these things.
Let me close by reading a passage from one of my favorite British authors. His name is Malcolm Muggeridge. Muggeridge was a curmudgeonly British intellectual who became increasingly convinced of the reality of Christ late in his life after trying everything to find meaning. Here’s what he had to say in defense of the Christian message:
Words, just words I can hear you saying. Well, yes, words; but there is something else—a man who was born and lived like us, whose presence and teaching have continued to shine for generation and generation. . . A man . . . who turned all the world’s values upside down, telling us that it was the weak not the strong who matter, the simple not the learned who understood, the poor not the rich who were blessed; a man whose cross on which he died in agony has become the symbol of the wildest, sweetest hopes entertained and the inspiration of noblest and most joyous lives ever lived.
And now? Well, all I can say is. . .that I have found nothing other than this man and His words which offers any hope to the dilemmas of this tragic, troubled time. If His light has gone out, then, as far as I am concerned, there is no light.
Class of 2010, you know that the light of Jesus Christ has not gone out. You have seen too many examples of it shining in your own lives. I encourage you, therefore, to go forth and live joyous and noble lives—lives full of purpose and adventure—in the service of God and man.
Dr. Stephen C. Meyer, is a distinguished faculty member at The Bear Creek School and director of the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture. He received his Ph.D in the philosophy of science from Cambridge University. His most recent book is Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design (Harper One 2009). To learn more about Dr. Meyer visit www.signatureinthecell.com or www.discovery.org.