How often do you stop to think seriously about the ultimates of your human existence?
That's a heavy question, isn't it? This week I have been pondering that question for myself. I have to conclude that although I am a very reflective person, I do not that often strip life down to its ultimate questions.
Why not? I don't because I am usually caught up in the tyranny of the urgent. And when I am not caught up in the tyranny of the urgent, I am usually seeking diversion from those urgent matters that so preoccupy my thoughts.
This is not to minimize or trivialize the urgent. My urgent is important! And so is yours! But how often do we shut our systems down long enough to set priorities by asking ourselves some tough questions?
One year my church gave me, as it did each of us on the program staff, a three-month sabbatical. That was a dangerous thing to do. Why? Because for the first time in 47 years of life I was freed from any externally imposed deadlines. I was in complete control of how I would use my time.
As I spent those weeks alone, commuting from the campus of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in the northeast suburbs of Boston to my classes at Harvard University, there was plenty of aloneness, no tyranny of the urgent, and stimulation of ideas that were not utilitarian in nature. In that environment, life gets stripped down quickly to its essentials. Everything becomes re-examined. That's the luxury and the danger of a sabbatical.
Another environment enables this to happen. It is the environment of death. Jesus consecrates it for us. The night before He was crucified, He stripped matters down to essentials in a way we can all find helpful. If you knew you were going to die in the next few hours, you would do this too, wouldn't you? You would think and talk seriously about the ultimates, both for your own sake as to your own future, and for the sake of your loved ones as to their futures.
Jesus did this. He talked about His life and death and that which is of most importance to others. He talked in terms of four priorities. He talked about the way to live and die. He talked about the truth about living and dying. He talked about the way to live Life, spelled with a capital L. And He talked about how to have a healthy connect with God.
Would you agree that these are the most important topics? Don't all four of these embody the ultimates of your human existence. He made this statement about all four; Jesus said, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me" (John 14:6
). All four of these are important to me. How about you?
I. I need and want to know the WAY.
I have discovered over the years that, for me, the best way is not always my way. There are times in which I could sing along with Frank Sinatra, "I did it my way." The results were not always the best. A lot of people have messed things up doing it their way. How about you?