How would it feel to find out that our lives have been useless?
It can feel like our lives are useless if we aren’t doing something very important or meaningful - if we don’t have an important job or earn a lot of money. Or we may feel that way if we aren’t married or don’t have kids, or if we are “stuck” at home full-time looking after children.
Just living a ”boring” life - going to work, school or college, coming home, eating, going to bed (the same routine every day) - can feel empty and pointless. But what we do, or don’t do, isn’t always a sign of a useless life, and great human achievements aren’t always a sign of success.
The only really useless life is …
I have discovered what a really useless life is, and it is described by the saddest words in the Bible:
“On judgment day many will say to me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name. But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws.’” Matthew 7:22-23 (NLT).
How very sad it would be if I thought I was living a good life in the service of God, only to find out that I never really got to know Him at all - if I meet Christ at the end of my life and He looks at me and says, “I don’t know you.”
How can that happen?
It’s possible for me to have a form of “Christianity”. I believe that Jesus died for my sins and has opened up a way to heaven, and I accept Jesus as my Saviour, but that’s where it ends.
With this type of belief, I helped in youth clubs and did many good things and I thought that was enough. That was the kind of Christian life that I lived when I was younger. My husband and I lived very “active” Christian lives at our local church; we served on committees, ran a youth club, and more.
But still …
When we looked at how the Christian life was described in the Bible, there were verses like:
“For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world.” 1 John 5:4 (ESV).
“Do not let sin control the way you live …” Romans 6:12 (NLT).
“… according to the power that works in us …” Ephesians 3:20.
“… because the one who has suffered in the flesh has finished with sin.” 1 Peter 4:1 (NET).
“I have been crucified with Christ …” Galatians 2:20.
But when we looked at how we were living the Christian life, we knew that it was not like these verses described. We realised that even though we had accepted Jesus as our Saviour, we weren’t actually living the life that Jesus came to give us. It scared us when we realised this, but at the same time, it was wonderful to know the truth.
Making sure Jesus knows me
After we understood the difference, we decided to be people of which Jesus could say: “I know you!”
We decided that to become such people would be the biggest success that we could ever achieve in life – it did not matter how much money we earned, whether we had kids and a big house, what kind of job we had or if important people respected us. We decided that the biggest success we could personally reach in life was first of all to know how Jesus overcame the temptation to sin in His own life, and then to follow Him through it …
This is what it is “to share His sufferings”. (1 Peter 4:12-13; 1 Peter 2:21.) It is a suffering to say No to my own human lusts and desires, to not give in to them. But if I continue doing this when I am tempted, I will get more of Jesus’ nature bit by bit.
It doesn’t have to be in big things. Maybe God shows me how selfish I have been in a specific situation. Then I can admit that I was wrong and ask God for forgiveness and for help to not be selfish the next time I am tempted in a situation. I learn to talk to God and to follow Jesus.
When I live in this way, my life is not useless, no matter what my circumstances are. I know I am not a successful person by human standards - I don’t get a huge salary; I don’t have an important job; I don’t live in a nice, big house. But a “successful life” for me is to hear these words: “You have done well, good and faithful servant… Come and share your master’s happiness.” Matthew 25:21 (NIRV).