Introduction | 1. Life is a Gift | 2. Life is for Sharing | 3. Life is a Response
Life is an adventure.
That may seem to be one of those rather "nice" statements that wears thin amid the harsh realities a typical "childhood" outlook which has normally disappeared by mature man- or womanhood. Somehow we instinctively believed that it ought to be an adventure. Why hasn't it turned out that way?
Perhaps we have known someone who has maintained a positive adventurous outlook through to old age, unsoured by the passing years. What was their secret? And why has the spirit of pessimism so largely taken over our present age?
We think it rather quaint that early astronomers thought that our planet Earth was the centre of the universe. Yet they were only working on the assumption that is basic to much of our human existence.
We believe that, for life to be an adventure, everything and everyone must revolve around us. Well - more or less! We have to tolerate that others think and behave on this same assumption. So life can never be ideal, and there's always a lot of pushing and shoving as we try to reach our ideal. Just think for a moment how many of our problems stem from people - other people.
Across the years I have met different folk who were sincerely convinced that the main problems in the world were caused by either the Jews or the Communists or the capitalists or the Catholics or the Protestants or the workers or... And, quite understandably, these people weren't Jews, Communists, capitalists, Catholics, Protestants, workers, or whatever!
The main problem is with people and this can certainly be seen in the breakdown of human relationships. But the problem is not just with other people.
It has been said that if we could give our worst enemy a "kick in the pants" every time he did us a bad turn we would be so sore we couldn't sit down!
The breakdown of relationships is the basic cause of so much of the unhappiness in the world. But behind it all lies the breakdown of our relationship with the Creator.
We want to live independently of God. We prefer to see life as an accident of nature, a stroke of good luck - rather than as a gift from God. As a consequence, my life is for me, for being myself and "doing my own thing". And I try to live out my stroke of luck without any deep sense of being responsible to anyone else.
But it doesn't work out!
Finding the Way
It was Jesus who said, "I am the way, the truth and the life; no one goes to the Father except by me" (John 14.6). Whatever did he mean by that claim?
What a remarkable life he lived! And under far greater pressures than any of us have ever faced! What was his secret? and what is his secret for us?
Jesus claimed to have come as God's Son to bring rescue to us in our awful predicament, to restore our broken relationship with the Creator (to whom we can then relate as "Father"). He claimed to be the very means (and the only means) by which true reality and life can be ours.
For us the secret of life lies in accepting a fresh start - a new life made possible in Jesus Christ. We call it "new life", yet it was God's plan for our life all along.
Sometimes we are afraid of God's new life. Having centred life on ourselves, we feel we would be giving up our self-identity. But the greatest cost is on God's side. Jesus gave up his life on a cross for us. We can never fully grasp how that can give us new life. But, as a start, we see in that life given for us how costly our independent and "free" life has been. It hasn't been "real" life at all. To liberate us and give us new life has been very costly indeed.
And Now to Live..
But where do we go from here? What are the guidelines for our adventure in living?
Firstly, we must accept that life is a gift from God. And I don't just mean that he started the whole process. He continues to give us life - life restored to all its fulness in his Son.
Daily thank God for his gift of life and seek to know what the implications are for that day's life. God hasn't left us guessing here! He has shown us through the Scriptures what he requires - though we do have to relate and translate these into the details of our daily living.
Accepting God's gift of life involves a change of direction, a change of attitude, a change of life-style.
It involves a change of direction since we can no longer centre life on ourselves or live independently of God. And this is not just an extra "idea" we adopt - it is a central conviction which will affect our attitude in so many areas of life, including our priorities and values. It will therefore profoundly affect our lifestyle.
This will not happen all at once, but, if we claim to accept that "life is a gift from God" and do not accept changes in these areas, it may be seriously questioned whether we have accepted the gift in the first place.
Secondly, we must accept that the life which is God's gift is for sharing.
A number of years ago I was doing a sermon series on the Lord's Prayer. A member of the congregation came to speak about someone who had stopped going to church because she felt uneasy about praying the Lord's Prayer. "Give us this day our daily bread," she reasoned, "is a reasonable prayer for the many poor folk in the world. But not for us. We have so much we shouldn't be asking for any more."
I could appreciate her feeling. However, if in the course of a meal I find that the bread, butter, jam and sundry other items happen to be in front of me, I don't say, "How lucky I am! All this is for me!" Not at all! I have the privilege of passing food to others who need it. Similarly, if we seem to have more than others within the world, it is our privilege to share.
It is important to pray for our daily bread so that we are reminded that what we have is finally God's gift to us, a gift in trust, a gift to share. Maybe our slowness to share is a sign that we haven't really accepted that God does provide our needs!
Sharing is fundamental to the life of the Church. The description of the Church as Christ's Body graphically reminds us that we are dependent on one another and incomplete without one another. The life of Christ's people ought to exhibit within the world the kind of caring and sharing which was always God's intention for human life anyway.
Thirdly, we must accept that the life which God has given and which he intends us to share is a response to him.
This has already been implied in the earlier points. Accepting life as God's gift and seeking to discover the implications of this is a response to God. Sharing God's gift of life with others is a response to God.
We need to remind ourselves here that the gift is not to be separated from the Giver. Adventurous living is a relationship in which there will continually be gift and response.
Bible study, prayer, worship, fellowship and service - all are important in the growth of this vital life-response to the Creator.
There are no stereotypes for this adventurous life - God gives liberally and with variety! However, it is true to say that the extent of our response will be seen in the priorities we set and in the way our time, abilities and possessions are used.
A group of folk were discussing the merits of various Bible translations. They turned to a silent member of the group for comment. "I like my mother's version best," he said, "she's translated it into life!"
That's the translation that counts! Then life isn't a theory, but an adventure!
Adventure in Living. Studies in active Christian living and giving © Peter J. Blackburn 1979, 1999. Permission is given for this study to be copied in its entirety for group use. Courtesy advice of the use of these studies would be appreciated. Any other proposed use must have the written permission of the author. Email Peter Blackburn. Top