There is a great need in every man to feel purpose and to feel loved. But above all, there is a deep desire to be whole spiritually. Look around, there has never been a culture found in the world that did not have a religion as a basis for its livelihood—from Kenya to New Zealand. We have a desire to be right with the Deity that is over the world. Even though he is invisible, all know he is present, by faith. The only who would disagree would be the modern Atheists (“New Atheists” like Richard Dawkins). While they do not believe in God, per se, they do have faith, and it is a great faith indeed to go against the rest of the world and to believe we are hopelessly alone. But as humans, when life gets difficult and problems arise, we are forced to our knees to beg and pray that if there is a God, that he would listen. Yet in there lies a great restlessness, and the things we do to reach God do not give us permanent satisfaction, it just leaves us with a greater spiritual “hunger” to have purpose in life by being right with God. The great, early Christian theologian, Saint Augustine, put it well, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.” Growing up among the great thinkers of his time, Greek philosophers and Christian theologians, he invested much time and energy into different ideologies, yet every time they proved weak and lacking. He was restless, full of guilt, and desperate to find an answer to his heart’s longing. It was sin that consumed him; he felt that his worst enemy was himself, and that if there was a God, he would never be accepted by him.
Now, I grew up in a Christian family and I knew the Bible very well from an early age. I often heard, “Jesus loves you”, and “He paid for your sins”. One night, when I was about six years old, I said a “prayer” with my mom. We had been having a big conference and the speaker started talking about sin, and it made sense to me. Even at that early age, it was obvious like the nose on my face that I was a sinner in need of God’s mercy. If you read to me “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23), I would promptly nod my head in agreement. I knew sin was “bad”, yet later I came to realize that “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). To be honest, I was saved out of fear. Many people say that it is not right to make any decisions based on fear, especially not something as essential as your relationship with God. We disprove this in our own lives though. Why do people take out health insurance? Why do we get car insurance? Why do we give so much of our money to the Social Security every month? We have a choice not to, but it is out of fear that we make these decisions. And few people will say that is a bad choice. In just the same way, I decided to believe the Bible because it was clear to me that I was sinful and that I deserved punishment from God. I could not even please my mother on a daily basis, how could I please God, who was perfect?
I needed to put my trust and hope in Christ to rid me of my sin and to receive grace (freedom from God’s wrath) from God because my sin hurt him. While my mind was simple then, I believe the prayer was earnest. Verses like Romans 5:8, “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us”, and John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life”, made a lot of sense to me. I realized that it was my sin that was keeping me from heaven, the place I wanted to go to, and Jesus Christ, through his payment for my sin on the cross, made my dream a reality. So when I prayed to God, even as a small child, I told him that I was sorry for my sin, but that I couldn’t do anything about it.
In time I have realized that sin is actually a horrendous evil that separates us as humans from our Creator, and it controls and overcomes us. As Augustine noted, we are helpless to please God with our own “good works” because all we can do is sin. Yet Ephesians 2:8-9 gives us hope: “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” We must put our faith in Christ—the way God has shown us grace—to trust that the death he died on the cross 2,000 years ago is sufficient to give us a right standing before God’s holiness. Christ’s payment for our sin takes away the enmity that naturally exists between us and God, and because Christ, as history asserts, rose from the dead, we can have the promise of eternal life in heaven. For this to take place we are asked by God to put our trust in his Son, to depend only on his payment to set us free from the chains of sin.
While I put my confidence and trust (“faith”) in Christ’s work, even at that age, I remember that doubts arose and my trust in Christ faltered. I remember around when I was ten, arguing with the “Devil” in the bathroom many times—a crazy imagination, or was something demonic actually attacking me? I was very aware of Satan’s power and prayed that God would save me from him and assure me of my salvation. Even though I was baptized at 12, no real change happened in life until the year before college. I had always done the “good boy” drill, and knew “Christianese” as well as any. But God was not going to let me waste my life and when I came to the US to start college he really began to get a hold of me. God worked hard to transform my life into something valuable and useful! Because of the hope that Christ has given me of eternal life, I have been willing to give up my dreams and aspirations in order to let others know how great Christ is. He is my best friend, he understands all my problems, and he is the best person I can introduce to the people that I meet.
Yet in there lies the irony, while I have in a way “thrown my life away” in order to do what God wants me to do with my life, I have in essence “found” what is worth living for. Something bigger and better than myself! I found purpose and direction in life, and found that it truly is “better to give than to receive”. For several years now circumstances and great books (Don’t Waste Your Life by John Piper and True Discipleship by William MacDonald, for example) have started to light a fire in my soul to live for God, and to invest my life into serving, glorifying, and enjoying him. It has been worth it beyond anything I can describe and I wish that all people could have the relationship with Christ Jesus, the Son of God, that I so enjoy. As Augustine I have found that a life lived for Christ for the glory of God fulfills my deep spiritual hunger, that restlessness for meaning, giving me a reason to live.