How do I Know I’m Not Wasting my life? (Part 3)

[This is the final part in a 3 part series on what the Bible says about wasting our lives. Part 1 is HERE, Part 2 is HERE. This is the most important part, and if you’re only going to read one, I’d ask that you read this one.]


Like many parents, I’ve found lockdown hard. Now don’t get me wrong: I have thoroughly enjoyed the extra time spent with my family over the past year and a half. Some of the walks we went on in the first lockdown stand out as some of our most treasured memories together to date. But if I’m being honest there have been times where they’ve driven me daft.

There have been times in the past 18 months where I’ve tried in vain to escape to the garden just to get time alone. There have been times when I just couldn’t bring myself to play with the kids any more, and have instead sat on my phone. There have been days when I’ve been happy to let them sit in front of a screen, because they’d already exhausted my mental energy for the day.

A few weeks ago my daughter went back to school, leaving my wife and I at home with our son. Since my wife has been working full time, I’ve been charged with looking after him. It’s been great, but again, there have been times when I’ve just been too exhausted, and have been happy to let him sit in front of the tele while I get stuff done (or sit in front of a screen of my own…).

Next week he starts school-nursery. He has a wee uniform and everything, it’s amazing. But, like his sister, it means that as of next week, for 5 days a week he will be away from home 6 hours a day. I’ve realised that I might not get this much time with him ever again.

Now, no parent has dealt with the past season perfectly, and we absolutely have to cut ourselves some slack. However, I’m 99% certain that when next week comes and I cuddle him goodbye at the school gate, the thing I’ll tell myself over and over again will be: “I wish I’d spent more time with him.”

For many of us our regrets aren’t about what we spend our time doing, but who we spend our time with. It’s with that thought in mind that we now turn to the final part in our series.

A Life Lived With God

There’s a passage in the Bible where Jesus is invited to the home of a woman called Martha.

In the passage we are told that one of the ladies, Mary, spends her time at the feet of her Lord, listening to his teaching, enjoying his presence and being thankful for the fact that he was there. Martha, on the other hand, “was distracted with much serving”.

While Mary is enjoying time with her Lord, Martha, is fussing around, making sure that all of the guests are looked after. Having known more than a few Marthas in my time, I can imagine what some of what her fussing was about. “John doesn’t have a cup! There’s no bread left on Jesus’s side of the table! I forgot to sweep the back room! Who forgot to clean the good bowls? There isn’t enough bread for everyone!” (Ok, assuming she knew who was sitting at her table she would have known not to worry about that one).

Most first time readers to this passage sympathise with Martha. Why is it fair that she does all of the work while her sister sits on the floor listening to the guest speaker? Why is it fair that when Martha seems stressed, her sister Mary seems utterly unphased about all that needs done? (I’ve a feeling I’m also describing a fair few marriages while typing this – am I right? Husbands take note!)

When Martha voices her concern to Jesus, as is often the case, our Lord’s answer comes as a surprise.

“But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”

Luke 10:41-42 (ESV)

Jesus gently reminds Martha that all of the fussing about doing stuff is secondary to actually being with and enjoying him.

For all I’ve said in the previous post about work, which is important, work and doing is by no means the way in which a life isn’t wasted. Work isn’t the be all and end all. How many stories have we heard of people on their deathbeds regretting how much of their life they spent focused on their careers and work, instead of living and enjoying the good things and people God had blessed them with?

Even Jesus knew this – for all of his hard work, Jesus often started his day before the sun came up in communion and prayer with his Father. If the Son of God spent so much time in prayer (not because he had to, but because he wanted to) how much more do we need it?

For the Christian, work is important, but it is always secondary. For a start, we aren’t accepted by God on the basis of what we do. We are accepted by God through believing in Jesus. It is faith in his Son which pleases God first and foremost – not doing stuff. In fact, the Bible at one point describes good deeds without faith or love for God as “filthy rags”. Doing stuff doesn’t get you closer to God. Knowing his Son does.

God made us to work – absolutely. But he doesn’t just want us to do stuff. He wants our hearts. It’s from a heart overflowing with thankfulness and love for God that the best and most effective work comes. Yet sadly, far too many Christians today, especially in evangelical circles, seem to spend more of their time serving in church, working, fussing and doing stuff for Jesus rather than enjoying time at his feet.

Whether it’s the Small Group leader who spends more time preparing (and maybe fretting over) their group than they do sitting with their Bible open for their own enjoyment, or the church attender who thinks welcoming people on the door at church is a substitute for enjoying time with their heavenly Father in prayer, or even the Pastor who only opens his Bible to study, preach and teach, and never for his own enjoyment, far too many people find it easier to do stuff for Jesus than actually enjoy Jesus himself.

In a sermon I believe should be required listening for every single pastor and ministry leader, Pastor David Platt openly acknowledges that at the time when he was most “busy” and “successful” in ministry, his life was completely without prayer. His book had just become a number one best-seller, his preaching ministry had exploded and his church was experiencing rapid growth – but Platt admits that in that season he was compeltely dry, and it took a shock of a wake up call for him to realise that he was doing all of this without enjoying the close, intimacy of his Father.

Platt acknowledges that he’d become content with the culture’s version of what “success” was, and had ignored what the Bible actually said about it, and that contentment was leading him towards disaster.

My point is this: if you’re currently more concerned about stuff than you are loving and enjoying God, drop some of the stuff and take time to sit at the Saviour’s feet. You can waste your time doing stuff; you can’t waste your time knowing Christ.

If you aren’t convinced, let me take you to Matthew 7. As always, Jesus has some striking and challenging words for us here:

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast our demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.”

Matthew 7:21-23 (ESV)

Notice something? Jesus doesn’t reject them because they didn’t work hard enough. He doesn’t reject them because they didn’t see enough signs and wonders. He rejects them because he didn’t know them. Christian life today isn’t defined by how much we do. Christian life today isn’t defined by how powerful the signs and wonders we see are. It isn’t even defined by how much we know – it’s based on who we know. At the end of the day, a successful Christian life is defined by whether or not we know Christ. [1]

Stuff Fades

As I type this the finals of the women’s gymnastics are on the TV beside me. Here some of the world’s most amazing, gifted and disciplined athletes are using all of their life’s training and experience to hopefully bring home a medal. Whether Gold, Silver, or Bronze, whatever they win will be well deserved. The men and women who spend their lives training and competing for these games deserve all of the praise and rewards they get. Are their lives wasted? Many would say certainly not. I’d be inclined to agree. You’ve spent your life training for something and now are enjoying the fruits of your labour? Well done – enjoy the common grace of God!

The Bible, however, would ask a different question: can you take your medals with you when you die? The answer, obviously, is no.

The Bible is honest about death, as should Christians be; everyone dies. There is no avoiding it. Science can keep your body alive longer and longer, but there is no escaping that there will come a day when everyone alive on the Earth just now will be gone, replaced by another generation who too, will eventually die. Morbid, eh? If you think I’m being fatalistic and not Biblical, just read some of the Psalms. Or Proverbs. Or Ecclesiates. Or the Gospels. Or Paul’s letters. I’ll wait.

The most important question about how we live our lives doesn’t necessarily concern this life (though that is important) – it concerns the life to come. Olympic medals, your pension fund, your company being on the Fortune 500 List, dozens of grandkids, 10 plantinum certified albums, a photo of you blue in the face on top of Everest – all of these are good things, but none of them will matter to you 150 years from now. What will matter is the simple question Jesus asked above: Do you know him?

If you know Jesus, you can be assured that not one part of your life is wasted. Whether it’s the missionary who’s given up a life of comfort and ease for the sake of the gospel, the person who denies all of their strongest personal desires for the sake of Jesus, or the one who laments that he hasn’t made a “difference” in the world; if you can say with confidence “I know Christ” you can know today with confidence that your life is in no way wasted; it’s treasured.

The Thief

Let me finish by pointing you to a well known character from the Bible: the Thief on the Cross. As he hung there helpless, what do you think was going through his head? Maybe he began to regret stealing whatever he’d stolen. Maybe he began to lament how he’d wasted his life in crime. Maybe he’d lived a good life, but one act of desperation had led him towards the jaws of death. Maybe hanging there in agony he began to think to himself “this is my only life, and I’ve blown it.”

But then he looks to his left, and here is a man who he recognises. Jesus of Nazareth – the miracle worker, who has healed, delivered and forgiven multitudes of people not unlike himself. A man who has spent his whole life loving sinners just like the Thief. A wholly innocent man who somehow finds himself suffering the same criminal’s fate that he is. Maybe I deserve to be up here, the Thief thinks, but surely not this man.

The Thief has nothing to offer. There’s nothing he can do for Jesus – not now. There is nothing he can say to him to try and win him over. With death rushing to meet his seemingly wasted life, he cries out to Jesus in desperation. “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.” And how does the King of the Universe respond?

“Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

Let me say to you with confidence: later that day, when death had passed over him, as that Thief stood at the gates of paradise with his Lord beside him, he would have known that his life hadn’t been wasted. Today, 2000 years later, I bet he’s still glad for that encounter. And 520 Billion years from now, still enjoying the presence of the God who made and loved him (though maybe slightly frustrated at the millions of people like me who’ll no doubt be queuing up to ask him questions), his “wasted” life will hardly be a memory.

If all that Thief had done in his life simply served to introduce him to Jesus in his final moments, he needn’t have worried about wasting a second.

J


Agree? Disagree? Maybe you’ve found these posts helpful? Either way, please feel free to leave a comment and to share this on social media. I’d love to hear your thoughts. You can also use the side bar over there (>>) to suscribe and be kept up to date with the latest posts!


  1. I’m aware that text also notes that it is the one who does the Father’s who will enter the Kingdom. What is the Father’s will? That we know his Son. (1 John 5)

How do I know I’m not wasting my life? (Part 2)

Warning: Breaking Bad spoilers below! (You’ve been warned).

The TV programme “Breaking Bad” is one of the most successful and critically acclaimed shows of recent years. In it we’re introduced to Walter White, a high school chemistry teacher who finds himself stricken with (what is believed to be) terminal lung cancer. With no savings and no legacy to leave behind for his family, Walt uses his knowledge of chemistry to make money by…”cooking” Crystal Meth, a dangerous and highly addictive Class-A drug.

Being such a gifted chemist, Walt’s product ends up being very, very popular with addicts and criminals alike. In fact, it’s so good that drug lords from all over the world begin fighting over it, Walt included. The series captures Walt’s rise from high-school teacher to feared drug baron. As he gets sucked deeper and deeper into a life of crime, Walt’s life becomes more and more chaotic. Yet as his life spirals out of control, he finds that he actually enjoys it. Why?

Walt felt “stuck” teaching chemistry to high-school students who’d rather be anywhere else in the world than in his classroom. As an infamous criminal mastermind however, Walt finds the respect and admiration he had always thought he deserved. Walt ends up with everything he never had before, and is finally recognised as the brilliant scientist that he is, even though it ultimately ends in his death and in the ruined lives of those closest to him. In the end he admits that it was never about providing for his family; it was about him. In the final shot of the series Walt lies dying with a smile on his face, having got the fame he deserved, convinced that his gifts and abilities weren’t wasted after all.

Similarly, in the Disney film Soul (which you should absolutely watch, especially if you’re a musician), protagonist Joe is given the good news that he’s finally being offered a full time teaching position at his school. This would give him job security, a pension, a good medical care plan, and would generally see him set for life. Instead of being pleased with this good news, Joe laments; deep down his greatest desire is to play jazz piano for a living, and all this news does is reinforce the fact that he’s stuck in a 9-5 job not following his dream. Even though he has the job security many would dream of, he feels his life is wasted.

Then it all gets a bit…weird…but you should still watch it.

It’s not as if TV producers have made these stories up out of thin air. The fear of a wasted life is a very real one. I’m not going to link them all here, but if you do a quick google search on this topic you will be met with pages upon pages of forum posts, blogs, vlogs, TV interviews and articles of adults in their 30s, 40s, 50s and beyond talking about this. Whether it’s mums who regret spending 20 years of their lives raising kids, or men in their 40s who believe that they’re now too old to live out their dreams, there’s no shortage of evidence to suggest that this is a very real concern for many people in our culture.

My view is that this topic is one worth looking at, especially from a Christian perspective.

With that in mind, we’re in part 2 of a 3 part series looking at what the Bible says about wasting our lives. Part 1 talked about humanity and the purpose of our lives – today we’re going to talk about the stuff we actually do, including our jobs.

To Glorify God: Created for Good Works

How would you feel if I told you that God made us to work? Maybe you’d agree. Maybe you’d disagree – strongly. Maybe the very thought makes you angry, or maybe you just aren’t sure. All of those would be valid reactions.

Now, let me be clear; when I say God made us to work, I don’t mean he made us to serve and slave under men and women who exploit us, use us and treat us unfairly. He didn’t create us to work endless 60 hour weeks, without rest or the opportunity to enjoy the good things he’s given us. He didn’t create us to idolise our career and put it above everything else. But he did create us to work with him and for him.

In Genesis 1, when God creates man, he puts him in control over the whole of creation; man was called to have dominion over the whole Earth, to subdue it and to multiply. Man was called rule over the beasts, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea. Man was instructed to take his food from the good trees and plants that God had created (Genesis 1:28). As his image bearers (Genesis 1:26) man was tasked with carrying the glory of God into all creation.

Work isn’t a result of sin, as some may like to believe! Work was something God created for his glory, and like everything God created in Genesis 1, it was good. However, like everything else, once sin came into the world work was tainted.

You see, it’s only after Adam sinned that work became a bad thing. When God cursed the land because of sin, what was originally the joy of working side by side with God suddenly became hard toil.

Man was still called to eat and multiply, but now the world itself would struggle against our efforts. Weeds, thorns and thistles sprouted up from the ground to entangle themselves with the good life-giving plants God had created. The ground itself became hard and unfertile, and the joy of childbirth became incredibly painful.

People, now knowing good and evil, would become hard to work with. To any parent, teacher, pastor, boss, office worker, nurse, doctor or anyone else who works with people out there – imagine how much easier your job would be if people weren’t sinful? If everyone was perfect, loving and kind, and no one looked out only for themselves, how much better would your job be? Quite a bit, I’d imagine.

Having walked and worked side by side with God in the Garden, after Genesis 3 man would now have to work seperated from God’s presence by his sin. Work became something we had to do, instead of something we got to do. [1]

Work continued all through the Old Testament into the New Testament, when Jesus was born. In the Gospels we read that Jesus’s adoptive Father, Joseph, was a carpenter, which probably meant that Jesus himself laboured as a carpenter too. The Son of God knows what it means to put in a hard day’s graft!

Jesus isn’t the only New Testament figure who may have worked a day job. The Apostle Paul was a tentmaker, along with Priscilla and Aquila. Peter, Andrew, James and John were fishermen, Matthew was a tax-collector, Luke was a physician, Lydia made a fortune selling purple cloth, some of the early converts were Roman soldiers, etc…

The Bible even suggest that work will continue in the new earth. There are hints all throughout the book of Isaiah for example, indicating that in the New Creation humans will once again work alongside God in perfect peace and joy, free from the troubles and the stresses of today, just as it was in Eden.

As you can see, the Bible isn’t silent on the subject of work, and it’s the work we do today that we will now look at.

A Change of Priorities

When Jesus called his first disciples, they were working. They were fishermen, who spent their days and nights toiling on the sea, trying to haul in enough fish to earn a living for them and their families.

Notice, then, that when Jesus calls them, he doesn’t call them away from work.

While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”

Matthew 4:18-19 (ESV)

Jesus didn’t change their job title. They were still expected to work – they were still fishers of some sort. Only now, they would be working for the things of God, and not for their own needs. Later on Jesus promised that if they served God, God himself would provide everything they needed (Matthew 6:33). [2]

The same is true for us today. For most of us, when Jesus calls us he doesn’t immediately call us to be monks, or pastors, or to quit our jobs and move to the Congo as missionaries.

When Jesus calls us our day-jobs may not change, but our allegiance does. Instead of living for ourselves or for our next paycheck, we’re to live for him. Instead of living to promote ourselves, we are to use our God-given giftings and abilities to bring glory to him.

Writing to the early believers in Corinth, the Apostle Paul says:

“Let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him…Each one should remain in the condition in which he was called.”

1 Corinthians 7:17, 20 (ESV)

Paul’s advice to believers was that they shouldn’t rush to change their circumstances just because Jesus has called them – unless he makes it very clear otherwise. [3]

Later on, Paul writes to the church in Thessalonica:

“Aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one.”

1 Thessalonians 4:11-12 (ESV)

God isn’t opposed to Christians working day jobs. In fact, we are encouraged to work, in order that we might provide for ourselves and not be dependant on anyone – and so that we’ll have enough resources to provide for others in need.

So what am I saying? This: Are you a shopkeeper? Keep keeping that shop, unless God calls you into something else. Teacher? Keep on teaching, loving and witnessing to your colleagues and to the precious children God has entrusted to you. Caretaker or groundskeeper? Keep caring for that wee corner of the world God has given you dominion over.

Now, this isn’t always the case. If, for example, you’re a hitman who finds himself suddenly called to serve Jesus, it may be the case that the Lord doesn’t want you killing folk for money any more. Similarly, if you’re a drug dealer or sex worker, you may find that the call of Jesus is incompatible with your current line of work. Don’t worry – God has something better for you.

Serving and living for God doesn’t mean giving up our careers. It just means a reorientation of our priorities.

Working…For God

I often hear pastors and preachers say things like “God isn’t your boss – he’s your Father!”, often to a chorus of “amens!”. While this is true to an extent, it doesn’t paint the full picture. God is God. There is no single direct human term we can use to describe him – it’s impossible. This is why the Bible uses so many different words to describe God and how he relates to us. Don’t get me wrong – He is our Father, our provider and our helper – absolutely – amen to all of that! But he’s so much more, too.

Jesus often uses the terms “Master” and “Servant” in his parables. He is the Master, we are his servants. Yes, he calls us brother, sister, friend. Yes, we are sons and daughters of God the Father, Brothers and Sisters of God the Son and empowered and filled by God the Spirit. But God is still God; he is Lord, we are not. He is our kind and loving Master, who is a joy to work for and serve. He looks after us, provides for us, gives us all we need, and we in turn give our lives to serve him.

As a worker, you are to work diligently for your current employer (whether or not you hate them) as if you were working for God himself (Colossians 3:23).

As a follower of Jesus you are to adhere to his teachings, follow in his example, and be a witness to his resurrection.

And as a member of the Body of Christ – The Church – you are to serve His church with whatever gifts, abilities and passions God has given you (1 Peter 4:10-11, Romans 12:4-5, Ephesians 4:16). For some, that may mean helping teach at children’s church. For others it may mean playing music and helping to lead people in the sung worship of God, or offering a happy smile on the door, moving chairs, or maybe even teaching and leading others in a team or home group, depending on the model of your local church. As we’ve seen above, in most cases the New Testament expects that believers will do these things alongside a day job.

In my time as a Pastor, I’ve heard people say “I’m not called by God into full time ministry, so I sometimes feel like a lesser Christian.” Let me tell you in love: that is utter nonsense. The call of Pastor is one calling among many. Where we stand in the Kingdom isn’t based on the title we have – it falls on how obedient and faithful we are.

The Bible often talks about treasures in heaven. We don’t get into heaven based on the works we do, but depending on the work we do we will recieve different levels of heavenly rewards. This may be a controversial take, but I fully believe there will be plenty of God-fearing, faithful “ordinary” believers – precious people who have quietly served the church alongside their God-given day jobs – who will find themselves with greater treasures in heaven than some Pastors who have led their churches at the expense of living faithfully under God’s word. Just because you haven’t been called into full time ministry does not mean you are of any less importance in the Kindgom of God. If you take anything from this post, please let it be that.

Whether you are a school-teacher who faithfully leads a weekly Bible study for those in your community, a nurse who works 60 hour weeks while actively sharing your faith with your colleagues, or an office manager who helps lead God’s people in worship by playing guitar on Sundays, you can rest knowing that you are doing the work of God.

If you’re retired and do what you can by putting chairs out for people on a Sunday, or by sweeping the church floor after services, by serving your neighbours and actively sharing your faith with those on your street, you are doing the work of God.

Whether you’re the Senior Pastor, or the one who cleans the church toilets (maybe you’re both) – if you are serving the Lord and his church in whatever way you can in whichever way he has called you, you can rest confidently knowing that you are not wasting your life, and that you are storing up treasures for yourself in heaven.

The little things we do for the Kingdom are not wasted. God sees every tiny, insignificant looking thing we do, even when no one else does. To put it another way, in the words of my favourite line from Chariots of Fire: “You can praise God by peeling a spud if you peel it to perfection.”

Of course, sometimes the Lord will call people to change their circumstances. Those Fishermen Jesus called eventually became full-time missionaries, many of whom died horrible deaths as a result (don’t let any one tell you that following Jesus will mean everything will turn out well for you in this life – but that’s a topic for another post). But if he hasn’t called you to that, don’t worry about it. Live your life quietly, serving the Lord in whatever way you can. Be a faithful and open witness to Jesus’s ressurection. Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, mind and strength, and love your neighbour as yourself. That’s all he asks of you. [4]

Find it by losing it

Let’s finish by comparing two people. Both are travellers. Both find themselves at the far ends of the world. The first person has been called by God to go to the other side of the planet, far from home, friends and family, and to live as a missionary in some of the most difficult situations imaginable. For this person, trouble and hardships are the norm, and the comforts of modern life are non-existent. It’s a hard life, but despite all of the pains and difficulties, God uses this person to bring many to faith and to show the world his glory.

Compare this to the second person, who also spends their life travelling the world, but in this case they do it because they can. They travel all over to the most exotic, exciting locations, enjoying it all, taking it all in and living for themselves.

Imagine they both died at the same time, at the same age. Which of those people would you say have wasted their lives? Western culture would probably tell us that the person who spent most of their life suffering and toiling for others for little gain was the one who wasted it. If the “you’ve only one life” mantra is true, surely the person who spent it exploring and enjoying it was the one who lived it to the full? On the contrary: according to Jesus, the person who spent their life living for themselves is one who wasted it, and they will soon lose it. The person who willingly chose to live sacrificially for the gospel, on the other hand, will soon find it.

Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

Matthew 10:39 (ESV)

So go work at that job God has given you, whether it’s part time, full time, career enhancing or just temporary, and use every opportunity you have to serve others and point people to Jesus. If you do that, you can rest tonight knowing that your precious time on this earth is being used well.

In short? A life lived in service to Jesus, whatever that looks like, is never wasted.


Agree? Disagree? Either way, please feel free to leave a comment, and if you found this post helpful do share it on social media.


  1. Note however that as believers in Jesus, who’s identity is now found in the Son and whos lives are filled and empowered with the Holy Spirit, we once again get to partner with God. In Christ, the state we found ourselves in in Genesis 3 moves closer to that of Genesis 2, to be fully consumated when Jesus returns.
  2. The fact that Jesus found them fishing the morning after rising from the dead tells me that they either kept that job going during his ministry, or went straight back to it when they thought he was dead.
  3. While the context here is specifically about slavery and circumcision, I’m of the understanding that the principle of the text applies to our day to day lives as well.
  4. As a side note, in talking about this I sometimes also hear people implying that God’s will for your life is based on your career. “God wants to move you up a level, he wants your business to succeed, he wants to give you success beyond your wildest dreams!” are the ones commonly heard. Maybe he does for some, but I simply cannot in good conscience stand behind a pulpit and make that promise for every single person in my congregation. Aside from being unbiblical (the American Dream isn’t in the Bible) that’s much less exciting than what God actually has in store for us. Our jobs are important, but the Bible puts far more emphasis on our spiritual fruit and obedience to Jesus than it does our careers. Don’t be bought into the lie that God’s “will” for your life is simply to enhance your worldly status, boost your career and make you rich – what he actually has for you is so much better!

How do I know I’m not wasting my life? (Part 1)

I recently hit a major milestone in my life. I turned 30.

30 is a weird one. It’s not quite as significant as 20 (“I’m no longer a teenager!”) or as crisis-inducing as 40 (“how did this happen?”). It’s not old, not young, and not middle-aged. It sits awkwardly between the three.

By 30, some people will have a rough idea of what they want the rest of their life to look like, while others will still be wondering how on earth they managed to fake it this far.

On a personal level, the approach to 30 caused me to take time to reflect on my own life. For many our 20s are a time for us to enjoy, explore, experiment and experience.

And true enough, over the past ten years my social media feeds have been filled with images and videos of school friends exploring the world; from New Zealand to Thailand, Dubai to New York, a large number of my friends have spent their 20s discovering themselves, the world, and their place in it. Some spent their 20s chasing after their dreams, touring and playing music in stadiums all over Europe and the US, while others I grew up with are now internationally recognised sports stars.

Some “accomplish” more in their 20s than others do in their entire lives. It’s not uncommon to hear of people on Wall Street making their first million early in their 20s, ending up with enough money to retire by the time they hit 30.

Many of the most famous and successful musicians of the past 50 years wrote and released their most successful albums in their 20s. Kurt Cobain, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Amy Winehouse, Janis Joplin – all of these musicians died in their prime at the age of 27, having become musical legends in the years before.

The past few months for my family and I have been…tumultuous, to say the least. As my wife and I both enter our 30s we’ve found that our lives are a bit more unsettled and open-ended than we thought they would be at this point. Having done so much in our 20s (married, had two kids, bought a house, planted a church, etc) we now find ourselves pondering what our place in the world together looks like going into our 30s.

Upon reflecting on all of this over the past few weeks I began to ask the question: how do we define a life lived well? How do we know that we aren’t simply plodding thorough life and wasting our short time on this Earth? I’m sure it’s a question that many of us have asked (or will ask) at some point in our lives. In fact, as a pastor, I’m 100% sure that some of you reading have asked these questions – I’ve BEEN asked the question in the title several times!

So I decided to do what I normally do when I reflect on life’s big questions: I turned to the Bible. The rest of this post will deal with looking at what the Bible says about how we live our lives, and how can live knowing it’s not wasted.

________

When I first proposed the topic of this post to my wife, her first comment was “The Bible says a lot about that. How are you going to fit it into a single post?”. As it turns out, she was right (as usual). It would take a whole book for me to reflect on everything the Bible has to say about this subject.

With that in mind, I’ve split this post up into two sections. Or at least, I did. Then I realised that even 2 posts wasn’t enough, so you’re getting 3 Parts. Parts 2 and 3 will be released in the coming week. You have to promise me that you’ll read all 3, otherwise you won’t get the full picture and will end up with an unfinished, unsatisfying answer. Promise me? Okay. You can read on.

Before we begin to ask the question about how we live our lives, we first must ask: why do we even have life in the first place? Again, not exactly the kind of question you can answer in a single blog post, but thankfully the Bible has something of an answer to that.

Moulded and Shaped

According to the book of Genesis, God created man and woman (Genesis 1:26). He created us from dust and personally breathed life into our nostrils (Genesis 2:7). Regardless of whether you believe in a literal or metaphorical interpretation of Genesis 1-2, the point is this: mankind is a physical being, and it is God who gives us life. More than that, it is God’s very essence (his breath, which can also be translated “spirit”) that gives us life. God is the one who formed us, and God is the one who gives us life. Whether you’re a devout and humble priest, or the most cynical atheist alive, the Bible claims that the only reason you currently have life in you is because God allows it.

The amazing thing about this is that God didn’t have to create us. He could have spent eternity in fellowship with Himself: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit would have existed together as One in perfect joy and unity. He could have created the angels and stopped there, but he didn’t. He could have created the animal kingdom, the mountains, the seas, the stars and the universe, and simply enjoyed his good creation and stopped there. But he didn’t.

God created us. He created you. He created me. How he did it is a conversation for another time – but the fact of the matter is that God made us because he wanted to.

Think about that for a moment.

God is wholly in control and sovereign over everything that happens; the fact that you are alive today to read this sentence is no accident. The Bible says that before the beginning of time, God thought of you, planned you and created you. He concieved the idea of a universe without you, and decided against it. The same God who flung the stars into space and who paints supvernovae in distant universes created little old you. You aren’t an accident; you aren’t like a weed, grown up unwanted in the garden of God’s good creation; you are more like a pot, personally moulded and shaped by God himself.

Now, you may hate the idea of there being a God who is in control of everything. You may not even believe that he exists in the first place. Or maybe you think that you don’t even deserve to be on this Earth. That doesn’t matter. According to the Bible, if you’re reading this, you’re alive because the God you may or may not give any attention to wants you here – whoever you are, whatever you’ve done. You’re able to read this blog post because you have breath in your lungs, eyes to read with, and a device to read it on. God has given you these things regardless of whether you acknowledge him or not. This is what theologians would call the common grace of God.

I say all of this because it’s important. Before we understand anything about how to live our lives now, we have to first understand why we have life in the first place. And in our case, the Bible is clear: we’re here because the God wants us to be here. Isn’t that a wondeful thought?

The Chief End of Man

This summer Scotland has, like many places in the world, seen a series of unusual heatwaves. For us pasty white, ginger haired, freckled Scots, the heat is unbearable. I mean, some days it gets as hot as 16℃ . (You think I’m joking, but the truth is I once got sunburnt in a snowstorm).

(It’s almost as if the Earth is getting hotter – warming on a global scale, if you will…)

In the midst of this heatwave, my wife and I have come to rely on electric fans (for my US friends, most homes in the UK don’t have Air Conditioning). We have two electric fans which have stayed on pretty much all of the time, much to the delight of our electricity company. There have been many nights this summer when I simply haven’t been able to sleep if the fan wasn’t on (and many nights when my wife hasn’t been able to sleep because the fan was on…The key to a happy marriage is accepting that you can’t win).

In fact, as I type this sentence our fan is on besides me, blasting my face with cool air. It’s doing what it’s designed to do, and it has been for the past several weeks. It’s a cheap fan, and didn’t cost much money, but because of the use we’ve got out of it I can say with full confidence that it was money well spent. It has served its purpose well, and will hopefully continue to do so until Autumn comes and we get a very welcome break from this blistering heat.

The life of our fan isn’t wasted because it’s faithfully doing what it was designed to do: keep us cool. If it didn’t do that, or if it did the opposite and somehow blasted hot air, it would not be fulfilling it’s purpose, and thus would be considered a waste of money.

The same is true for anything. If something is serving its purpose well, it isn’t wasted. Food that is eaten and enjoyed as it should be isn’t wasted. The money that goes into my bank account to pay my mortgage and feed my kids isn’t wasted. The hammock I got for my birthday and have used at every opportunity since (and am currently lying on as I edit this sentence) hasn’t been wasted – it’s been treasured.

Treasured.

This principle is also true of us. If we’re to know whether or not our lives are wasted, we need to think about what the reason for us being here is in the first place. For Christians (actually, for everyone, if what Christians believe is true…) our purpose in life can be found in the Bible. But since the Bible says so much about this topic, I decided to find something to help me sum it up: The Westminster Shorter Catechism [1]

The first question of the Westminster Shorter Catechism famously asks the question: What is the chief end of man? In other words, what is the purpose of mankind? Why are we here?

The response is simple, but glorious. The WSC answers: “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.”

Why do human beings exist? What is our ultimate purpose? To glorify God and enjoy Him forever. That’s it. That simple statement superbly sums up the purpose of our lives. The rest of this post will look at what it means and looks like to glorify God in our day to day lives.

To Glorify God: Created with Purpose

If you’ve read the Bible or been in church circles much, chances are you’ve heard the word “glorify” a lot. It’s a word featured in many of the most famous and well quoted Bible passages, it’s in countless worship songs, and it’s a favourite-go-to jargon phrase of anyone who’s ever been lost for words in a prayer meeting.

What does it mean to glorify something? In its simplest form, to praise, worship or make much of it. If I get a fancy new haircut (hah) and someone says to me “Wow, your hairdresser made a great job of that!” you could say (weirdly) that my hairdresser was receiving glory for the work he/she had done. When my daughter or son draws me a particularly good picture, I want to put it on the fridge for everyone who comes in our house to see – I want them to see the beauty of my child’s creation and to praise them for it. You could say I’d want them to receive glory for it. When a musical artist sells out an arena and thousands of people flock to hear them and cheer at them, that artist is, in a way, being glorified.

As human beings who have been made, shaped and worked on by God, our purpose, similarly, is to bring glory to the God who made us.

Psalm 115 is a Psalm that talks of all of the great deeds God does and has done, and how he cannot be compared to anyone or anything else in all of creation. It famously begins with the cry:

Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory,
    for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness!

Psalm 115:1 (ESV)

The Psalmist starts this Psalm of praise with a declaration: we don’t want praise! We don’t want glory! Only God alone should receive that!

Human beings should not receive any glory that is meant for God. It is right and good for us to be praised, encouraged and applauded for doing good, but at the end of the day, the glory should never be about us.

In Isaiah 43, God speaks to his people and reminds them of his love for them, and of his constant presence with them. Look at this verse here:

bring my sons from afar
    and my daughters from the end of the earth,
everyone who is called by my name,
    whom I created for my glory,
    whom I formed and made.”

Isaiah 43:6-7 (ESV) [emphasis mine]

God explicitly says to his people here that they were created for his glory. They were created to glorify him. They were created so that people from all nations would see them and give praise to the God they followed. In Christ, the same becomes true of us. In Jesus we become part of God’s family, meaning the above verse becomes true of us too, wherever we’re from. Christians are God’s people. We are here for his glory.

Let Your Light Shine

How do we do this, then? How do we glorify God? There are several ways. Jesus himself gives the answer to his disciples in Matthew 5:

“…Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”

Matthew 5:16 (ESV)

Believers in Jesus are to live our lives in such a way that when people see us and the good things we do, they will bring glory and praise to God. It’s a hugely challenging command. I mean, if we’re being perfectly honest, how many of us think that’s the current case when people look at our lives today? I certainly don’t think so.

Whether it’s the way we talk, the way we act, the things that we do (and don’t do) – they are all to serve as signs pointing to Jesus.

Jesus’s teachings show us how to do this. They sound easy to do on paper, but they are much harder in practice. For example, Jesus tells us that when we see someone different from us, we’re to love them. When people try to take things and hurt us, we’re to bless them. While others would curse, scoff, and laugh at others, we’re to seek to love them and build them up.

When others talk slanderously and with vulgar words, we’re to speak gently and kindly.

When others would pass by an opportunity to help someone in need, we’re to step in and provide what we can, even if it costs us.

These are all things Jesus commands his followers to do, whether we’re a CEO or a doorman, whether we’re currently living our dreams or are stuck in limbo. Doing these simple things while being open about our faith is one of the many ways we can bring glory to God in our day to day lives, whichever situation we find ourselves in. Don’t buy into the lie that you have to wait for the right time in life to live for God!

Don’t buy into the lie that you have to wait for the right time in life to live for God!

Living Differently

Now, the simple truth is that sometimes living differently will make us seem weird to the non-believers in our culture. Many in our culture simply can’t understand some of the things Christians do.

Whether it’s saying no to something, or doing something that could be seen as beneath you, how insanely generous you seem to be with your money or possessions, or how you respond to the way others treat you – there will be times when people just don’t get how or why you do some of the things you do.

Our church has recently gone through a bit of a tough time. The former staff, including my wife and I, found ourselves without paid jobs, and it has been a tough couple of months on top of that. But we haven’t gone without – the generosity and support of our church has been astonishing. The church members set up a support fund to support the former staff, which has been a huge blessing. On a personal level, people have annoymously given us money. A couple of weeks ago a woman from our church got in touch to say she wanted to help pay for our mortgage the month. Last month our car died, but someone annoymously bought us a new car!

It’s been amazing, and my non-Christian friends and family are baffled. I have a good friend who just can’t wrap his head around how people can be so selfless. A non-Christian family member even commented that they should join our church if that’s what the people are like!

We’ve had support from other churches and networks, too. Leaders from other churches and denominations – even those from churches completely different to ours, who we may sometimes disagree with on secondary issues – have all poured out their love, support and provision, which has been amazing to see. The support from all sides of the Evangelical spectrum has been overwhelming, and the sense of unity among God’s people right now is wonderful.

When Christians act the way the Bible teaches us to, it’s totally counter-cultural and noticable to everyone looking in. The past two months have been difficult, but through the difficulty God’s church has shone it’s light for all to see. Through the trials, God is seeing to it that he is glorified in everything.

But it’s not just the things we do: God can also be glorified in the things that we don’t do, too.

In the early days of the church Christians could be arrested and sometimes executed for refusing to partake in the sinful practices of their day. For example, there were times in the early centuries of the church when it was required that citizens of the Roman Empire had to make offerings to the Emperor. Many Christians, believing that God alone deserved worship, often said no to this.

The result was that some were arrested, some were tortured, and some were killed.

Those early believers could have chosen to go along, so as not to be seen as weird, or to save their own lives, but the early church took the words of Jesus seriously when he said “Do not fear those who can destroy the body – fear the one who can destroy the soul”. When they heard the words of Paul, who proclaimed “Your life is not your own – you were bought with a price” – they took it seriously.

The early church in particular were so concerned with bringing glory to God that they allowed themselves to be mocked, beaten up, imprisoned, and sometimes even killed by those in power if it meant choosing to glorify God above the world. That didn’t kill the church – in fact, if anything, it caused it to grow.

For many of us today, glorifying God with our lives probably won’t result in death. But saying “no” to something the world says is okay when the Bible claims it’s sinful might mean being sneered at, mocked or abused.[2] That’s okay, though. Jesus tells us to expect it (Matthew 5:11).

Our lives are not our own. We have been bought with a price. And when we live our day to day lives in the love, security and fear of the God who made us, knows and loves us, it acts like a giant neon sign above our heads that flashes constantly and points to Jesus. People may scoff at it, and they may even get annoyed by the constant flashing. But as Jesus says, our faith, when lived out, will be like a light that simply cannot be hidden.

So, what’s the first way we can tell we’re not wasting our lives? If we’re living for the purposes of God. It doesn’t matter if you’re a student, unemployed, in your dream job, or just in a transitional period – if you are currently living your life for the glory of God above all else, you can know that your time isn’t currently being wasted. And if you’re not, then hey – there’s grace for you to start right now.

So there you go. Part 1. Your purpose in life is to glorify God. Next time we’ll look at our jobs, and the work that God calls us to do.


Agree? Disagree? Want to say something? Please leave a comment, and if you enjoyed this post please feel free share it on social media!


  1. For those unaware, the WSC is a document compiled by the Churches of England and Scotland in the 1600s, who sought to sum up some of the key doctrines of the Protestant Church. The Shorter Catchemism is laid out in a series of questions and answers, with each of them based on the teachings of the Bible.
  2. Note that when I talk of refusing to partake in sinful things I’m talking of things the Bible is clear about. I am NOT talking about things like masks, vaccines, voting, politics, etc. We need to choose the right hills to die on, and topics like that are NOT that. In fact, those things aren’t even hills.

Why are you writing a blog?

Great question! One I’ve asked myself many, many times over the past few months…

My name is Jordan. I live in a small town in the south of Scotland, just outside of Edinburgh. I am a Christian.

I became a follower of Jesus in 2012, after having no religious upbringing at all. Years later I found myself serving as one of the Pastors at City on a Hill, Edinburgh. I’m currently on a temporary break from that role, so I am taking this time to do something I’ve always wanted to do: write.

I was raised in a small town in the South of Scotland. (If anyone wants to know what that was like, go and listen to Scottish comedian Kevin Bridges’ first two live shows. No one else sums it up as accurately as he does.)

My worldview was shaped in that wee town, and by the time I was 21 I thought I had things mostly figured out.

Then I met Jesus Christ. I fell in love with him and his word, and he began to shape and change me. 9 years later, my worldview has changed, but without the theological or cultural baggage that many people who grew up in church have.

I don’t hold particularly strongly to any evangelical/cultural worldview. I don’t understand or care for church tribalism. I’ve no denominational loyalty. I’m still a member of the church I was saved at, so I’ve only really known this one beautiful, messy church family that I’m a part of today. I love the local church; it has changed my life.

I am a man who finds himself politically and culturally homeless. My views are usually too conservative for my liberal pals, and too liberal for conservatives. I’m too left leaning for righties, and too right leaning for lefties. I’m too unapologetically charismatic to be reformed, but almost reformed enough (little r, not big R) to make some of my fellow charismatics a little uncomfortable.

So rather than giving myself an anyeurism by holding in all of my conflicting opinions and thoughts, I thought I’d give myself an outlet through this blog.

I’ll post about stuff that’s going on in the world – stuff relevant to my life, at least, and stuff that I know enough about to talk about (fellow bloggers – take note).

As a lover of the Bible, I’ll also post regular devotionals and reflections on certain passages as they come up in my life.

I’m also a musician and worship leader, so I’ll occasionally post about music of all sorts.

When I write, I write with the ordinary folk at my church in mind. For those who haven’t been theologically trained, for regular folk who follow Jesus, and perhaps even for folk who don’t know him. This blog isn’t particularly academic, nor does it try to be. Most posts are in the form of easy to read articles, with a smattering of millennial pop-culture references you will either get or shake your head at.

I’m educated, but I don’t have a PhD. I’m definitely not a leadership guru. I don’t want to be an influencer. I don’t care about people knowing my name. I’m the most unlikely person I can think of to be in the position I’m in. I’m often wrong (as you’ll see), and I’m always open to having my viewpoints challenged and changed.

At the end of the day, I’m just a sinful man who was loved, purchased, saved and made holy through no doing of my own. I’m surprisingly sacred.

If you enjoy my rambling, feel free to comment. If you don’t, thanks for the page view.

Looking forward to disagreeing with you soon!

-J