More than 1,000 churches in the Chicago area are doing a series of messages based on 7 common questions people ask about God. The church I attend is one of those 1,000 and like many other churches, the sermon series was started this past Sunday with the question about whether or not there is purpose in life.
Our church has two services going on at the same time, so I heard one pastor’s take on the topic and early this morning when I couldn’t sleep I listened to the other pastor online. Still not sleeping, I listened to a third – the pastor of the church where I serve in Awana. All three sermons were good, and I found it interesting to listen to the different takes on the same subject. I think all three sermons could challenge someone to respond to the gospel.
But as I was listening to the sermons, I had another thought … how intentional are we about teaching kids true purpose in life?
One of the biggest desires for kids today is to be famous. Of course, a desire for fame has been around for a long time, but in the past that fame was usually associated with a specific goal: I want to be a famous guitarist, I want to be a famous artist, I want to be a famous singer or actor. Now, kids want to be famous simply because they want to be famous and they see no talent needed in the way of getting there. YouTube and other social media platforms have contributed to this motivation. Their goal is to get a million followers, not to actually do something worthy of a million followers. Kids think a walk on the red carpet will answer all their dreams. Unfortunately for many people, reaching the top comes with bottomed-out emptiness.
In fact, Solomon (a very famous guy) wrote hundreds of years ago: Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity. (Ecclesiastes 1:2). In NIV, the translation is Meaningless! Meaningless! says the Teacher. Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless!
In the New Testament, we read a similar thought:For the creation was subjected to futility. (Romans 8:20a). Futility in that verse has the same meaning as vanity in Ecclesiastes. So life wasn’t any better in Rome than it was several hundred years before in Israel.
Yet kids often don’t understand that emptiness. Sometimes we as adults, contribute to that lack of understanding. The bright and shiny world can quickly lose its luster.
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with working toward earthly goals. We all have them. We want our kids to do well in school, we want them to develop their hobbies and talents, we want them to laugh with their family and friends … and even a YouTube channel can be good.
But any of those activities without the underlying purpose of glorifying the Lord are empty.
How willing are we to work with our kids? Do we teach our kids God’s Word? Are we willing to get them to extracurricular church activities even though that means another night away from home or volunteering to be a chaperone on a missions trip?
Probably most important, what do they perceive our purpose to be? Is making money our number one concern? Is it keeping up with the neighbors or doing that slightly dishonest thing to get ahead at work our goal? How do they see us spend out time? Do they see us skip out of church (though we make them go) to play a round of golf? Do they see us sacrifice to help the refugee family who started attending church, or to serve on the board of the local women’s shelter?
From the time I was a little girl I heard my dad say that his life verse was Philippians 1:21: For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. He would also quote that rhyme: Only one life will soon be past. Only what’s done for Christ will last. Good words for a little kid to grasp.
Yes, our kids have to choose their own purpose in life, but we can be intentional in nudging them in the right direction … and encourage them to run with endurance that race that is set before them.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, (Hebrews 12:1)