Greg Laurie - Happiness: What Do You Live For?
I saw an advertisement, and I believe it was a computer magazine, quite a few years ago, and it's a picture of a guy shaving in the mirror. And it asked this question, is it an alarm clock or a calling that gets you up in the morning? I thought, well, that's a good question. And they were selling some, who knows what, computer item. But I thought it was a bigger question. Is it an alarm or a calling that gets you up in the morning? I mean, what makes you tick? What do you get fired up about? Everybody is passionate about something. What do you get up for in the morning? I know it doesn't hurt if I smell coffee in the morning. Throw in some bacon and eggs and now we're talking. Come on, the smell of bacon in the morning. For you vegetarians the smell of Brussels sprouts and kale or whatever you enjoy, but I'm talking about more than that.
I'm talking about what really gets you moving in life, what gives your life purpose or a sense of meaning, raising it above the level of mere existence because, you know, we don't want our lives to just be some blip on the screen. We don't want to be just another statistic, we want our lives to matter. So my question is, what is your master passion in life? If you were to sum up what you live for in one word, what would it be? Well, some would say, "For me to live is, you know, to just live. My to live is to live".
You know, their philosophy would be take it one day at a time. They just sort of exist almost in an animal-like state, just kind of following impulses and desires and so forth. Hey, they just sort of live for the moment. They live for the next paycheck. They live for the next weekend. They are just sort of existing. Paul talks about people like this. He says their god is their belly. And some people's gods are bigger than other people's gods, right? But when he said belly he didn't mean their actual stomach, he meant their appetites. In other words, their god is their appetite. They just live for satisfying the appetites that they have in life. Man, that is just a really lame way to live.
Number two, there are some that would say, "Well, for me to live is pleasure". You know, you're just living for pleasure, living for that experience, living for that rush, living for that buzz, living for that excitement. They might seek it through drinking. They're not happy till, you know, they get that buzz, right? Or some, they're not happy till they're passed out, I suppose, because they do it every night, or they want that drug high, or they want that adrenaline rush or whatever it is. They live for pleasure. One person said living for pleasure is one of the least pleasurable things a person can do, and I think that's really true. Others might say, "Well, you know what? I live to get even. I don't get mad, I get even". Their philosophy is not live and let live, their philosophy is live and let die. "If you get me, I'm going to get you back".
And there's, a lot of these people happen to be driving cars, I think. You know, like, you're at the light and the light turns green. It's not even a second. It's not half a second. It's just like a fraction of a second. Mah, they lay on the horn behind you. They tailgate you the whole time, cut you off. These kind of aggravated people that are basically always in a perpetual bad mood and they're always at war with someone. They always have their nemesis. They always like to be in a fight. They love to be in a conflict.
There are people like this that live for these things. Another might say, "Well, man, I live for possessions. It's to get stuff. And then when I get that stuff I want to get more stuff, and then when I get that other stuff I need to get rid of this old stuff so I can make room for new stuff". And they're just always collecting items and objects, and it's always that next shiny thing. It might be a shiny car, or a shiny ring, or a shiny computer, or whatever it is they're chasing after, but it's a object or a thing. Their philosophy would be he that dies with the most toys wins, and I would just add a dot, dot, dot. He that dies with the most toys wins... nothing, because Jesus says what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his own soul.
As I've often said, you've never seen a hearse pulling a U-Haul trailer. You know, you're going to leave everything here on this side in this life. So what are you driven by? What do you dream about? What are you passionate about? I think some people are just enduring. They're just waiting for the next thing. Their favorite day of the week is someday. You know, someday their ship will come in, someday their prince will come, someday they'll get that promotion, someday they'll build that dream house, or someday they'll retire.
I read a stat that said 94% of people who responded to a survey said they were enduring the present but waiting for something better to happen, but the problem is life passes by so quickly and before you know it a good deal of your life may be behind you instead of before you, and you'll find that you've been living for nothing. So we need to think about this because then the afterlife comes. So listen to this. Only those who are prepared to die are really ready to live.
Now, I've talked about what people live for. Let me tell you what the apostle Paul lived for. Philippians 1:21, "For me to live is Christ and to die is gain". And that brings me to point number one. When you live for Christ, you will accept God's will for your life. When you live for Christ, which we all should be doing, you will accept God's will for your life. See, Paul went to Rome to preach, but he ended up under house arrest. Now, how is that a good idea? Well, he was reaching an elite group of people that would have not been reached otherwise. So Paul understood God had his hand in it. Look at verse 12. "The things that happened to me have turned out for the furtherance of the gospel".
Did it ever occur to you that you are where you are because God wants you there right now? Maybe in effect you're chained to someone, and by that I mean maybe you're chained to a non-believer. Maybe it's a non-believing husband, or a non-believing wife, or kids that don't believe what you believe, or parents that don't believe what you believe, or a argumentative co-worker that you sit next to in your office space, or some guy on your construction site that's always giving you a hard time and you're thinking, "Why do I have to be here with this person"? Did it ever occur to you that God wants you there to reach that person?
You know, sometimes the people that argue the most are actually closer to coming to the Lord than those that say nothing. I think a lot of times we think if someone is pleasant and nice and we share the gospel we think that's a good thing, and then when someone's argumentative that's a bad thing, but sometimes it's the very opposite because it's been said when you throw a rock into a pack of dogs, the one that barks the loudest is the one that got hit. Try it after church. Find some dogs, throw a rock. No, don't do it. Find a pack of cats. But see, you never find a pack of cats. They're very independent creatures. But the idea is the dog that barks a lot is just the one that got hit.
So when you share the gospel with someone and one objects and they protest, and they scream, and they yell, it might be because they're under the conviction of the Holy Spirit and God's working on their heart. So don't be discouraged, be encouraged. So Paul is reaching the Praetorian Guard. Really quite significant. And God has put you where you are for his purposes. And he says in verse 14, "Most of the brethren in the Lord have become confident by my chains and are more bold to speak the Word without fear".
You see, examples of evangelism spark others to be more evangelistic. So they're saying, "Wow. If Paul's chained up under house arrest and is willing to share the gospel with the Praetorian Guard, certainly we who have freedom right now, mobility, we should be doing the same". You know, if you've ever been around an evangelistic Christian, it can be quite contagious, and there are some people, man, they're just always finding opportunities to share their faith. And you think, "How do they do that"? They're just tuned in, I think, tuned in to the Lord, tuned in to opportunities, looking for opportunities even. And you're going to run a person like that, and you think, "Well, I think I could do that". Yes you can, as a matter of fact. So Paul's example was inspiring other believers as well.
Number two, when you live for Christ, as we all should, you'll be a person of prayer. Again, when you live for Christ, you'll be a person of prayer. Have you ever wondered what to pray for when you pray for fellow believers? Paul actually gives us an answer here. Look at Philippians 1, verse 9. "And this I pray," he's saying to the church of Philippi, "that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment and that you may approve the things that are excellent and that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ, being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God". Interesting.
So Paul's praying that they would grow in both love and discernment, love and discernment. You know, sometimes it seems to me as though the two are mutually exclusive. In other words, some people seem to be very discerning but not very loving. Others are loving, but they're not discerning, and by that I mean they just accept everything and everyone. "It's all good, man. We all love the Lord, you know. Whatever they believe, it doesn't matter". Well, actually it does matter. There is a place for discernment.
But look at what Paul says here in verse 1, actually verse 9, that they would grow in love. "This I pray, that your love will grow still more". Love is a mark of a true Christian. Don't say to me, "I love Jesus, but I don't love the church". You can't love Jesus and not love the church. You can't love God, who you can't see, if you're not willing to love your brother or sister who you can see. And so a mark of real faith, of real love is that you'll love your Christian brothers and sisters. Jesus said, "By this shall all men know you are my disciples," what? If you have what one for another? Love one for another. So we should be loving.
Now, Paul tells us how living for Christ affects us in this life and the afterlife. Look at verse 21, Philippians 1 still. "For me to live is Christ and to die is gain, but if I live on in the flesh, that will mean fruit for my labor. Yet what I shall choose I cannot tell, for I'm hard-pressed between the two, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better, nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you. And being confident of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy of faith, that your rejoicing for me may be more abundant in Jesus Christ by my coming to you again". Look again at verse 21. "For me to live is Christ".
Now, when we hear someone say, "For me to live is Christ," we wonder, you know, are these people in touch with reality, really, to live is Christ and what does it even mean? Some will say, well, you know, some are so heavenly-minded they're no earthly good, and my counterpoint to that is some are so earthly-minded they're no heavenly good. And I think when you're really heavenly-minded, when you're really living for Christ, you will be of the greatest earthly good. C.S. Lewis said, quote, "The Christians who did the most for their present world were precisely those who thought most about the next world," end quote. And I think that's true.
You see, real spirituality is practical, and Paul was a balanced Christian. And the most godly men and women I've had the privilege of meeting over the last 40 plus years have always been very down to earth. You know, not holier-than-thou kind of people looking down on you, but very genuine people, often fun-loving people, people with a self-deprecating sense of humor, not that spacey, wide-eyed, one clown short of a circus look. You know what I'm talking about? Heavenly-minded people are gracious, they're approachable, they're assessable, and religious people are just weird. I so don't want to be a religious person. You know, when they get this religious vibe and they talk religiously and they look at you weird religiously, it's like, "Just stop". And here's my suggestion. They were always weird to start with, okay? Their faith in Christ did not make them weird. They were weird, and now they just talk about Jesus and they're still weird.
Now, maybe they're saved weird, I don't know, but they're weird, okay? It's all I know. Your faith in Christ will not make you that person. If you have faith in Christ and know what it means to live for Christ, you'll have your feet on the ground but your heart and your thoughts will be in heaven, and I think Paul is an example of this in so many ways. I mean, there's no greater example of this than Jesus himself. You know, Jesus was a practical man. He was God in human form walking among us, but Jesus lived a real life on planet earth. He was a real, living human being, but he was God walking among us.
So Paul is saying to live is Christ, and that was pretty much not just Paul's motto but, I think, the motto of pretty much everyone in the early church. You know, if you look at the church of the 1st century, they changed the world. They changed the world. They turned the world upside down, and imagine it, they did it without media. You know, Thomas didn't have a Twitter account, Peter didn't have an Instagram page, Paul didn't have a Facebook page, but they had a lot of followers and a lot of friends, and they changed the world that was there at the time, the world that was under the rule of Rome. And it's amazing to think about how they did it.
The first Christians did not out-argue the pagans, they outlived them. They didn't conquer paganism and dead Judaism by reacting blow by blow. Instead, the Christians of the 1st century outthought, outprayed, and outlived the non-believers. Their weapons were positive, not negative. They didn't stage protests, and they didn't hold boycotts. Have you ever noticed that? They didn't have a campaign to unseat the emperor. They would have died if they did that. It said they prayed and preached and proclaimed the message of the death of Christ on the cross and his resurrection from the dead, and they backed up that message with actions to match and they changed the planet. They were out there loving, and giving, and healing, and doing all the things God called them to do.
So, the slogan of the 1st century church, the church that changed the world, was to live is Christ and to die is gain. What would the slogan of the 21st century church be? "What about my needs, man"? Something like that, maybe? You know, I go church shopping, and I'm gonna try to find a church that meets all of my needs, or maybe I go to multiple churches. Well, listen, if we train people to be consumers instead of communers, we'll end up with customers instead of disciples. So this is the church that changed the world, and I pray that we could be the church that changes our world as well. Paul lived for Christ, but he was human. He was not perfect.
Did you know the apostle Paul was not perfect? He'd get irritated at times. You know, when he was being mistreated by the high priest's servant and actually guy struck him, he shot back, "God'll smite you, you whitewashed wall". Guy's like, "What'd you say"? "Ah, didn't know you're the high priest servant". He got ticked off. Who likes to get hit in the face? Not the apostle Paul. When it was revealed to Paul that there were some guys that wanted to kill him, Paul didn't walk out into the town square and say, "Here I am, kill me," no. He was lowered over the side of the wall in a basket, why? 'Cause Paul wanted to live to see tomorrow.
You know, a Christian doesn't have a death wish. We don't walk around saying, "Man, I hope I die today". But here's what we do say, to live is Christ and to die is gain. I want to live today, and I want to live tomorrow, and I want to live as many days as God has given me to live. And when that day comes when I'm called to heaven, then that day will come, but I'm going to do everything I can to live in this day. So Paul was a practical guy, and he cared about the church.
Look at verse 23. "I am hard-pressed between the two, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better, but it's important for me to remain in the flesh for you". Yeah, he wanted to help them, but notice what he says. He says having the desire to depart with Christ, which is far better. Listen to this. Death for a Christian is something that's going to happen as it will happen for every person, but Paul understood that when death came, and it did come for him, it was a conscious existence, not an unconscious oblivion. It was to be with Christ, "For me, to live is Christ, to die is gain". In other words, he was not just gonna go into a grave, it was the continuation of life, not the conclusion of life, and that life ahead was a greater and better life. Death for the believer is a promotion, death for the believer is a graduation, death for the believer is a coronation.
Bringing me to point number three. When you live for Christ, you're not afraid to die. When you live for Christ, you're not afraid to die. Again, only the person who has said to live is Christ, then can then say to die is gain. Heaven's better because it's immediate. Heaven's better because it's immediate. Verse 23, "I'll depart and be with Christ". That's very important 'cause often people says, "What happens when we die"? You go straight to heaven. Simple answer. The moment you take your last breath on earth, you take your first breath in heaven. You don't go to a holding tank. He did not say, "I'll depart and just kind of hang out for, you know, a few hundred years, or I'll depart and go to purgatory, or I'll depart and go to a soul sleep," no. "I'll depart and be with Christ". You go right into the presence of Jesus Christ. Many verses affirm this.
2 Corinthians 5:8 says, "We're confident, and I say we're rather willing to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord". Thirdly, heaven is better than earth because all my questions will be answered, all my questions will be answered. We all have questions in life. I really wonder if when I get to heaven I'll have my list. "Lord, it's good to be here, but I have this list". I kind of think once I see him I'll just say, "Never mind. It's all good, very good". But we'll know all things in that day. 1 Corinthians 13:12 says, "Right now we see him perfectly as in a poor mirror, but then we'll see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely just as God knows me now".
And I believe that when I get to heaven, I'll spend all eternity learning and learning. I don't think it's like God dumps all this knowledge into my brain. I'd be like some weird bobblehead. You know, just huge head, little body walking around, no. I think you're learning and learning and growing and discovering all through heaven, and then ultimately when heaven comes down to earth again. This is the hope of the Christian and only the Christian. And lastly, heaven is better because I'll be with Christ, be with Christ, I'll be with him. Yes, you'll be reunited with loved ones that have preceded you, yes, all of your questions will be answered, yes, you'll trade in your tent for a mansion, yes, it'll be so much better on every level, but yes, you will be with Christ, and that's what makes heaven heaven.
So wrapping this up, what do you live for? If you'd say, "For me to live is money," then for you one day to die is to leave it all behind. If you'd say, "For me to live is fame," then one day for you to die is going to be that you'll be forgotten. If you'd say, "To me to live is power," then I'm telling you one day to die will be for you to lose it all. But if you'd say to live is Christ, then you can also say to die is gain. What do you live for? You live for something. You live for something. It gets you up in the morning, it fires you up. But that something or that someone that you live for, will they be able to save you on the final day?
See, when you live for Christ, it's win-win. It's win-win. Why? Because you have heaven, guaranteed, absolute heaven. But this life on earth is life lived to its fullest. The Christian life is the best life. Jesus said, "I have come that you might have life, and that more abundantly". So, he wants to give you a happy, fulfilled, joyful, purposeful, meaningful life on planet earth, and then the absolute assurance that there's an afterlife for you in his presence in heaven.