Oklahoma Conference of the United Methodist Church

What's the point?


"For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it.-Matthew 7:14 (NRSV)

By Bishop Robert E. Hayes Jr.

Sociologists and psychologists declare many Americans neither have nor can find a purpose for their lives. A sense of direction, a singular focus, leads to a meaningful and happy life. Yet many among us persist in living pointlessly.

A lifestyle of pointless living means being in a hurry to go nowhere. The term describes lives that are a series of contradictions and conflicts.

Some people can't say what they truly want and have no idea what will bring happiness-or are helpless in obtaining it. Those people have an abundance of uncoordinated and undigested enthusiasm.

Without direction or purpose, however, enthusiasm burns itself out, yielding only disillusionment. Energies are misused, and powers are never fully realized.

A football game provides an appropriate seasonal illustration. Notice that goal line-it's the focus for the players on the field. That is their point, their reason for competing. Sometimes, my favorite team appears to run up and down the field with no clue as to why the players are there. What a difference that makes in winning or losing the game!

If you consider nothing more important than anything else, if you go in all directions at one time, and if you seek thrills instead of values, then you have arrived at pointless living.

Pointless living does not discriminate. It affects people of every age. Talking recently with a counselor for teenagers, I learned juvenile delinquency is not particularly a problem that results from poor parenting. The counselor said delinquency is primarily a result of pointless behavior-behavior without focus, which seeks excitement, and often ends in trouble.

The same applies to adult behavior. When adults languish in pointless existence, they are more apt to seek relief and enjoyment in pursuits that often lead down wrong paths.

I am willing to go so far as to say many sins swell from lack of a central focus to guide and direct one's life.

Why we need a Savior

Jesus knew about the snares of pointless living. Much of his teaching focused on how to live purposefully.

Jesus said, "I came that you may have life, and have it abundantly" (John 10:10).

"I am the way, and the truth, and the life" (John 14:6), Jesus said. In Matthew 7:14, he speaks of the narrow gate to life.

The difficulty is not in wanting to be a follower of Christ, but in understanding there is only one road, one gate, one Savior leading us to life.

His name is Jesus!

Only Christ can pull together our conflicts and our contradictions. Only Christ can bring our distracted energies into clear spiritual focus.

The apostle Paul pointed his life toward Jesus. He wrote, "For me, to live is Christ" (Philippians 1:21) and "This one thing I do, forgetting all else. I press on toward the high calling of God in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 3:14).

In the 1730s, notorious slave trader John Newton was transformed when he took to heart a book by Thomas A. Kempis. Titled "The Imitation Christ," the book so changed his life that he penned: "Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me! I once was lost, but now am found; was blind, but now I see."

Just as Jesus calmed troubled seas, the Savior can transform turbulent, misdirected lives and calm impulses and desires.

Heading in the right direction

A customer asked a store clerk for a compass. She replied: "Do you want the kind of compass that takes you places, or do you want the one that only goes in circles?"

Some people possess compasses that send them around in circles. They repeat mistakes, encounter recurring disappointment, and conclude life is supposed to be thus. It is not! When Jesus is your spiritual compass, your life has clarity.

We need purpose in life. We need to live to the point, to know what we want and in which direction we are going. We need Christ Jesus, for he brings out the best in us.

"Oh, in the morning when I rise, in the morning when I rise, in the morning when I rise, give me Jesus. You may have all this world; give me Jesus." (African-American spiritual)


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