If In This Life

“If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.” I Corinthians 15.19

Have you ever thought about what drives you to live? I am not speaking about the purpose of your life; rather, what makes you go? What makes you tick? What keeps your engine running? What is the spark that animates all of your actions?

Go with me beyond family. I realize that having a loved one(s)—be it a husband or wife or son or daughter—can be the most powerful of motivators. I grasp that money, prestige, and power are potent drives that can impart vitality to a person for decades and decades. Simple comfort is another major incentive for actions: e.g., I’m doing this job so I can get money so I can provide for my family so they can be alive and happy and thus we will all be comfortable.

But let’s get even more elemental than this.

Some posit that self-preservation is the absolute deepest, most intrinsic and fundamental of human motivations. The reasoning goes like this: Everything I do in life essentially comes from a preservation instinct built into me to stay alive. In rare cases, an individual will give their life for another, which may be a kind of transference: i.e., I won’t live, but the one I’m saving will, and so life is preserved.

In my opinion, the self-preservation piece is a very compelling answer to the questions posed above. This fruit is so low-hanging as to even merit frustration in a person for suggesting this as an answer. Of course the motivation for life is to live! Forgive me—I hate it when a person asks me a question and either only wants the answer they are looking for or wants an answer so obvious as to make the whole interaction absurd.

Despite what you may have heard, I don’t think that the said self-preservation is an inherently evil tendency. Indeed, the Gospel invitation to us draws heavily on this. In a divine conundrum Jesus states, “He that finds his life shall lose it: and he that loses his life for my sake shall find it.” Losing your life will appeal to you because losing it is the only way to save it. Perhaps the very pull for a longing to be saved is—at least initially; after we come to Christ He converts our sordid motives into one overriding motive: love—a desire to stay alive, in this case forever.

If you grew up Adventist it is likely that you have grappled with the idea of salvation. And here I can be even more precise: struggled with the idea of not being saved. I don’t regret this part of my heritage. Being lost and hell is a reality. In fact, I’ve heard it said that Jesus mentioned hell so many times—more than He spoke of heaven—because He knew that’s where most people would be going. Whatever the case, it is one of the most important questions of your life: What must I do to be saved? In the negative: What must I do to not be lost?

I realized that deep down, one of my most profound and authentic longings is to be saved and not be lost. Although not my overriding conscious motivation all the time, ultimately everything I do is with the belief that I will be saved. I’d hazard that this is true for you also. Do this test with me: If you knew that you would be lost, would you want to keep going? Would you get up in the morning cheerful? Would you go to work and perform your duties at a high level? Would you enthusiastically strive to be a good spouse or parent? Would you even have kids? Why do any of it if the ultimate end is eradication and then non-existence? If you believed that this was your fate, I think all the other motivations would lose their meaning, pale, disintegrate.

What does all of this have to do with the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus? In short, everything. When Jesus lived a perfect life and died a death in which He experienced hell for all of us, He ensured that we could live forever, and not go to hell, not have to experience what He did. Because as God He was eternal, and had lived forever before His death (language here cannot properly convey my point), when He died it was enough to comprehend and cover eternity for innumerable others, to all who would accept it. Jesus’ resurrection was the greatest symbol that what He did was accepted—salvation was clinched, the world was redeemed, life would not die.

In our Scripture meditation Paul writes that if Jesus was not resurrected, we’d be the most miserable people on the planet. If our Lord and Savior was still dead, all of this would be the cruelest of hoaxes—all our hopes and dreams and plans and loves and energies for naught. The universe would go haywire. I really don’t know what all would happen, but it would be miserable, terrible, hopeless. We’d die the death, dead forever. The human race would go extinct. It would be total misery.

But because Jesus did rise from the dead, we can live, and I mean live. We can wake up in the morning looking forward to the day; we can get married because happiness and love is worth investing in; we can have children; we can raise our children with the hope that we will be united and be together forever; we can love God and love each other knowing that the love we share will last forever; our thoughts can be bright with hope; we can work knowing that our accomplishments have eternal significance; we can lead others to a God that really does save; when we see all that’s wrong with the world we can be assured that it will be made right; when we cry and others cry we can know that one day the tears will be dried; our smiles can be genuine; we can know that death is not the end of the story…

Yes, Jesus means everything to us. He is our hope. He is so profoundly, so meaningfully, so essentially, our life.

Benjamin Baker, PhD, writes from Rockville, Maryland.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/6888

the rich young ruler and the jailer asked the same question. they got different answers, or did they? Both were asked to follow Jesus, one didn’t the other did.,
What is more precious to you? Trust in Christ or trust in your own merits? that issue faces us all. I do it myself is a very childish rebellion. yet it afflicts us all. following Christ is one of gratitude as the jailer and consequently Generousity. To receive Grace one must be gracious., Tom Z

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" In fact, I’ve heard it said that Jesus mentioned hell so many times—more than He spoke of heaven—because He knew that’s where most people would be going. "

Who did you hear it from? (mentioned hell more than heaven)
Did you verify if this was accurate? He might have because we don’t have access to audio recordings to all that he said but if an exhaustive concordance can be used as a measure…nope.

I would not challenge that most people will be lost based on what he said in Matt 7:14

This last SS lesson (Crucified & Risen) , garden of Gethsemane, about Judas, evil religious leaders, death , resurrection, few days after…

What do you think the top/chief interests/concerns/issues are of Adventists in 2015 related to those events or themes similar to it?

Would some/many/ most Adventists , if living then… join the crowd and say…"we have no king but Caesar, give us Barabbas, crucify Him, deny knowing him like Peter ?

How can one know where they stand? Is this even a concern? Is there other competing concerns?

What is more likely to save a person…the blood of Jesus or keeping the law?

That was God’s part.

But I had to live my part of the deal which was a drawn out process of growth and maturation. As a child, I expected and demanded that God provide for “my” needs, whatever they may be. Then I entered a stage where I believed if I obeyed Him blindly, that He would give me what I wished for. Up to that point, the one factor that drove my behavior was “my selfishness.” Then I began to wonder about others instead of just myself and discovered that my well-being was closely tied to my family, friends, work and church’s well-being. It wasn’t just “me” anymore but about “us.” Then as I matured more, it dawned on me that my behavior should not be dependent on any “reward and punishment” but should be based on the intrinsic value of the behavior itself, it is the right thing to do. That whatever comes after that level is none of my business, but a gift from God.

And this is what prevents me from being “miserable,” that fact that I behave because of the intrinsic value of “good” behavior, instead of being rewarded for my good behavior.

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