Who Are You?
If I were to ask you who you are as a man, could you tell me without giving me your name, your occupation, your job title at work, or any of the other obvious means we use to identify ourselves? If I were to simply say, “Tell me who you are,” what would you say?
It’s not that your name and your occupation don’t matter. These are very important and valid identifiers, but there are plenty of men who know their names and their occupations and yet don’t really know who they are at the core of their being. Therefore, they have no real sense of purpose in life.
Many men trudge to work every day and trudge home every night with little or no sense of why they do what they do.
When you have no purpose for what you’re doing, all you have left is the routine of what you’re doing. Many men trudge to work every day and trudge home every night with little or no sense of why they do what they do.
Since thinking about the purpose of life can raise some uncomfortable questions, a lot of men hide behind the daily routine. It becomes their escape, their excuse not to search for anything more. The routine may not be all that enjoyable, but at least it’s safe. It’s predictable.
Who Really Owns Your Life?
Many of us have lost sight of the fact that life and its labor are from God. We believe we’ve earned those things. We get up in the morning and say: “Here’s my agenda. I’m going to do this, this, and this.” Then we get irritated, aggravated, and even angry when things interrupt those plans. We’ve forgotten that our lives are not our own. They are God’s, and it is his work we are here to do. The plans, the timing, and the assignment are all his.
For this reason, James warned businessmen against setting their own agendas. He reminded them that their lives were nothing more than a “mist” that would vanish in a short time and exhorted them to plan in a new way (James 4:14). Instead of saying, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit” (v. 13), he told them that they should plan by saying, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that” (v. 15).
No matter how important or successful the person, he has to remember that life is God’s gift to him for a time. Many a man has gone to his job and never come home again; made his plans for the year and suffered a heart attack; or arranged his schedule for the week and found himself under the surgeon’s knife instead. We need to realize that even though life is given to us, life is not due us; it is gift.
If I bring you a gift on your birthday, what should my kindness provoke in you? You should be thankful to me, the giver, right? It’s a gift, so you say thanks. If you earn a dollar, you don’t have to thank anybody. When you earn it, it’s all yours; you can keep it to yourself. But if it’s a gift, that’s a different story. A gift requires a giver.
The Heart of the Matter
The condemnation of Romans 1 is that God gave man nature, the earth, a big, beautiful world. But not only were men ungrateful, they claimed it all as their own. It became their world, along with their lives, their work, their land, and their families. Somewhere in their houses, they put God away in a closet or on a mantle, and were not thankful.
The Bible says they turned their attentions toward creation and away from the Creator. To put it another way, they forgot the Giver and began to worship the gifts he had given. This is the ultimate sin. Suicide and murder, as terrible as they are, are not as horrible as the deepest sin, which was Adam’s sin. You may ask: Can taking a bite from a piece of fruit be the ultimate sin? If you see only the fruit, then you’ve missed the reason God became angry with Adam and Eve. It wasn’t the piece of fruit. God was angry because Adam (man) took the gifts of God and used them for his own purposes, so that he became his own god.
There were many trees in the garden. Adam took one piece of fruit off one of those trees, but it was the very tree from which God had forbidden him to eat. You say God was stingy? There were many, many other trees God had invited Adam to enjoy. The tragedy of this test was that Adam wanted to rule his own existence so selfishly that he chose the one forbidden tree over the many others. He wanted to be his own god and didn’t want God to control his choices. Life and all its fullness was God’s gift to Adam, but Adam refused to receive and be thankful; he wanted to be master.
Viewing Life as a Gift from God
Have you ever wondered how to stay happy with your wife? It’s simple. Remember that she is a gift. When I was in college, a man told me that he and his wife hardly ever argued as they had in the past. When I asked why, he said it was because they had started living every day with the thought that it might be their last. They didn’t want to spend their final day together arguing. The wife had begun to think of her husband as a gift that might be taken back if misused, so she had become more appreciative. And realizing that a good wife was God’s precious gift, the husband had become all the more eager to care for her.
Have you ever wondered how to stay happy with your wife? It’s simple. Remember that she is a gift.
A few decades ago (yes, I’m aging myself), I found one of my daughters banging the doll I had given her for Christmas against the kitchen sink. I took the doll away from her. She said: “But, Daddy, it’s my doll. You gave it to me.” Somehow she had understood that my giving her the doll had given her absolute independence, the right to do with it whatever she chose. To give her a better understanding of gift-giving, I explained: “Yes, honey, this doll was your gift. I bought it for you for Christmas, and I want you to enjoy it. But there is one thing that you must understand. I gave you the doll to play with and take care of, not to mistreat. If you misuse the gift, I’ll have to take it back.”
Why Men Should Say Thanks
The gift of life cannot really be enjoyed until it is received as a gift. Some people act as though they could snatch life from God’s hands or steal it while he isn’t looking. They don’t want the gift—they want ownership. But God can’t be fooled. He wants to give you life and to stay in your life as an essential part of the gift. He also wants you to be thankful for the life he gives. You can refuse the gift if you don’t like the terms, but there are no terms on which you can beg, borrow, steal, or buy abundant life. Mere existence is the only alternative, as Solomon found through trying every which way to discover meaning and pleasure in life.
If you have accepted the gift of life, how does God know you are thankful? He doesn’t know you are thankful because you go to church on Sunday. That is a small part of it, but God is just as interested in your Mondays as your Sundays. The proof of your thankfulness is in the fact that you let him run your life. Think for a moment about the model for prayer that Jesus gave to his disciples (Matt. 6:9–13). He prayed, “Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” God’s will is to be performed here on earth just as it is in heaven. How is that? In heaven, everybody and everything conforms to the will of God. It’s his will—perfect, absolute, and only.
God wants men who are so thankful for his gifts that they surrender their lives to him. When they give their lives back to him, then he is able to give the greatest gift of all—Jesus and the abundant life he brings. Nothing short of that will do.
This article is adapted from No More Excuses by Tony Evans.
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The Bible has a lot to teach us when it comes to thinking about our pasts. Whatever your situation may be, it is no surprise to God. Our challenge is to not allow the past to control our walk with God in the present.
He made it to the top and thought “There’s got to be more than this.”