THE UNFINISHED FUTURE
THE WAY TO LIVE // ∞
Merely learning these things will not do us any good unless we add them to our daily life.
There are a lot of people who believe in a lot of things, Christians included. The world doesn’t need believers. The world needs people who live their beliefs.
Jesus gave us simple rules for life: love God with all our heart and then love all people like God loves us. It is hard to practice love like that when our spirit, soul and body are so easily diverted and consumed by desires, passions, fears and lusts for things outside of our control. The Stoics can help us learn and remember what is up to us and what is up to God alone.
“It is the Holy Spirit’s job to convict people, God’s job to judge and my job to love.” // Billy Graham[i]
We must remind ourselves of the role God has given us, which is simply to love people. That is within our control; the rest is up to God.
But we should also remember that not everyone knows what we know or is striving to live like we are. Remember the words of Marcus Aurelius:
When you wake up in the morning, tell yourself: The people I deal with today will be meddling, ungrateful, arrogant, dishonest, jealous, and surly. They are like this because they can’t tell good from evil. // Marcus Aurelius[ii]
The only way to show people how to tell the difference between good and evil is to be good to them.
“...we know that ‘We all possess knowledge.’ But knowledge puffs up while love builds up. Those who think they know something do not yet know as they ought to know.” // 1 Corinthians 8:1–2 NIV
Now that we have decided to become good philosophers, let us live our philosophy more than we talk about it. Love is what will build people up, not our knowledge. Realize that you have not lived your whole life with this new philosophy, and you are far from it now.
Understanding how to live and striving to live are the hardest things we will ever do. The Navy SEALs teach us that “the only easy day was yesterday.” It doesn’t get easier, but the reward becomes clearer. Every day will be harder than the day before. We are built for this. God is faithful; he has a plan.
Now that we understand how to live, we must have the courage to give life, God, and others our life as a gift. We must strive—regardless of what is outside our control—to live our virtues. We are compelled, in every moment, to remind ourselves that true goodness only comes from controlling what we can control, the best way we can.
At the end of his journey on Earth, Jesus gave his followers a mission:
Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on Earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age. // Matthew 28:18–20
What is the meaning of life?
The goal of following Jesus is not to get us to believe better but to act better.
The New Testament uses the word hagiasmos (ἁγιασμός) to describe the journey of acting better. This word means to set something apart for the use intended by its designer. We can call this “holiness.” If you’ve grown up in church, or been in church for a while, you may have heard the English word sanctification. A pen is sanctified when it is used to write. Eyeglasses are sanctified when they are used to help us see.
Holiness and sanctification are fancy words to describe something being set apart for its intended use.
Many people go their whole life and never decide what their life means. They never find themselves set apart for their intended use. This happens whether a person calls themselves a Christian or not. They never find people that help them find the way to live. They live in darkness and never discover or follow the plan that brings light into their life. Their life never brings light into the world. They never become sanctified. They are never used for what they were intended for.
In John 1, Jesus isn’t just the logos, he’s the phos (φῶς)—the light.
“The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.” // John 1:4–5
The life of Jesus represents what happens when we live a good life. Light enters a dark world. Jesus invites us to not just follow the plan but to be light like he is light. That is our intended use.
The meaning of our life is to be the light that only we can be, in every space we enter.
Living a life without meaning is like trying to find our way around in an unfamiliar, pitch-dark room. When we live meaningful lives, we bring light into the rooms we enter. In the history of humanity, no one had to “discover” light like we discovered electricity. Light has always existed. Every light has a source. Physically, humans have had to discover how to bring light into all kinds of dark rooms. We didn’t create the sun, but we did create the light bulb and candle. Jesus is the source of light. The meaning that we make turns us into a light source. When we determine to be like Jesus, nothing can prevent us from making an impact on the world. The goal of living is to become a light like Jesus was and is.
You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father. // Matthew 5:14–16
Jesus himself was holy. He was used for his intended purpose during his time on Earth. We must also pursue holiness like Jesus did. Seek to be used by God. Seek holiness. We should see every day as a gift from God given to us to be used for his intended purpose.
As we do that, we must follow the plan—Jesus, the logos. As we become better at following the plan, we do good things, we live a good life. As we live a good life, the good things that we do are seen by everyone.
This good life, these good deeds, become light to the world.
Our light reflects our source of light, the logos, Jesus.
We now know God, we now know ourselves, and we’ve decided the role we want to play. Our journey doesn’t stop there. We must let our light shine.
In John 8, Jesus brings our journey full circle. He asks the disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” It’s one thing to know who God is because he tells you. It’s another thing to say who God is through your own experiences. The journey God has us on is not solely meant to increase our understanding of him, or our knowledge of self. God intends for us to say who we know him to be for ourselves.
The disciples could do this, not because they knew a bunch of information but because they had been around Jesus every day. They knew exactly who he was because of their experiences with him. Their knowledge of God helped them know themselves. By knowing themselves, they could then play the role Jesus designed for them.
Jesus modeled the way to live for his disciples, and they in turn showed their disciples. This is why the church exists today. Throughout generations, disciples have given every ounce of effort they had to accomplish this mission with their time on Earth.
We must transition from student to master. This is God’s plan. To play our part well, we must show others the way. The church shouldn’t be full of believers, it should be full of disciples who are making disciples. That is the ultimate fulfillment of God’s plan for all of us.
How are you going to teach other people to be part of the plan? How are you going to develop disciples?
“For the one who is tipping over cannot straighten up someone else, nor can the ignorant person teach, the disorderly establish order, the disorganized organize, the ungoverned govern.” // Plutarch[iii]
We can’t take people to a place that we’ve never been. For thousands of years, this Great Commission has been our mission. We’ve accomplished it with mixed results. Why? Because few people have ever had Jesus’ mission become their mission.
It’s not enough to believe in the plan. It’s not enough to believe in the light. Our cause is to commit ourselves wholeheartedly to following the plan. We are meant to do good things that bring light to the world. We must do this so people can get out of their own personal darkness with Jesus’ help.
Follow the plan, do good things, and your light will shine for the whole world to see.
But you should keep a clear mind in every situation. Don’t be afraid of suffering for the Lord. Work at telling others the Good News, and fully carry out the ministry God has given you. As for me, my life has already been poured out as an offering to God. The time of my death is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful. // 2 Timothy 4:5–7
God has given us all a role to play. Paul shows us that life is a fight, it’s a race of endurance, and if we do our part well, we win. The world needs us to run our race with everything we have and bring people with us. If we finish, we are victorious.
“So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.”// Galatians 6:9
If doing good was easy, we wouldn’t get weary. Don’t forget that. Living this life is hard, being a disciple is hard, making disciples is hard, but there is greatness in store for us—and other people—if we don’t quit. We are built for this battle.
There is no grosser or greater misrepresentation of the Christian message than that which depicts it as offering a life of ease with no battle and struggle at all ... sooner or later every believer discovers that the Christian life is a battleground, not a playground. // Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones[iv]
Decide your dots.
Connect your dots.
Only worry about what is within your dots.
“Learning how to live takes a whole life, and, which may surprise you more, it takes a whole life to learn how to die.” // Seneca
If you’re looking to delve further into Stoicism, the Bible, or developing a philosophy of life, these are great places to start.
Your Divine Fingerprint // Keith Craft
How to Be Free, The Enchiridion // Epictetus, A. A. Long
The Discourses // Epictetus
That One Should Disdain Hardships // Musonius Rufus, Cora Lutz
Meditations // Marcus Aurelius, Gregory Hays
Letters from a Stoic // Seneca
How to Think Like a Roman Emperor // Donald Robertson
A Guide to the Good Life // William B. Irvine
The Obstacle is the Way // Ryan Holiday
Lives of the Stoics // Ryan Holiday
How Will You Measure Your Life // Clayton M. Christensen
Man’s Search for Meaning // Viktor Frankl
Works of Love // Søren Kierkegaard
Courage Under Fire // James B. Stockdale
Philosophy for Life and Other Dangerous Situations // Jules Evans
Theology and Following Jesus
Theology: An Introduction // Alister McGrath
A Popular Survey of the Old Testament // Norman L. Geisler
The Cost of Discipleship // Dietrich Boenhoffer
Simply Jesus // N. T. Wright
Conversion and Discipleship // Bill Hull
The Complete Book of Discipleship // Bill Hull
The Ragamuffin Gospel // Brennan Manning
Holy Fire // R. T Kendall
Mere Christianity // C. S. Lewis
Irresistible // Andy Stanley
An Unstoppable Force // Erwin McManus
The Spirit of the Disciplines // Dallas Willard
[i] Jake Christian, “Great Quotes: It’s My Job to Love,” Deeper (blog), August 18, 2011, https://jakechristian.wordpress.com/2011/08/18/great-quotes-its-my-job-to-love/
[ii] Aurelius, Meditations.
[iii] Plutarch, How to Be a Leader: An Ancient Guide to Wise Leadership, trans. Jeffrey Beneker, (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 2019).
[iv] Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, The Christian Warfare: An Exposition on Ephesians 6:10 to 13 (Ada, Michigan: Baker Books, 1998).