For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?
This is an age-old question people throughout millennia have asked. Why am I here? Who am I? Where am I going? What am I supposed to do? What is the purpose of all this? Do I just work hard so I can accumulate lots of stuff and go on vacations? Is that the purpose? He who dies with the most stuff wins? Yet, what does it all matter if I'm only going to die and drift off into oblivion? Or, if I believe in God, end up in heaven playing a harp on a cloud?
What if I told you that your life here on earth is just a test, a game that you must win in order to receive the prize? What if I told you that there is a God, a loving, God who created you and loved you before you were born? A God who placed you in this world we call earth and then sat back to watch you travel through the maze of your life. For our paths in this life are really just a huge maze with tons of twists and turns and forks in the road. Each decision, each move, each turn leads us down a specific path. At every turn, your Father in heaven longs for you to make the right choice. Go right! Not that way! Come back! Well done! Though He cannot appear to you in this realm, He finds a way to communicate, to direct, to urge you to follow a certain path. Why? Because He loves you with a love that never dies and that is immense and consistent no matter what you do. And He wants more than anything for you to find your way out of the maze with the prize in hand!
What is the purpose of the game as you make your way through the maze? To find the treasure, the greatest treasure of all, and hang onto it until you reach the end of the maze. When you come to the end of the maze, which is the end of your life, if you have the treasure still in your hand, you are escorted to a paradise so wonderful you could never in your wildest dreams imagine it. It is a place where you live free in an incredible paradise, surrounded by loved ones and friends, in a place without sickness, death, or pain. (No harp playing on clouds!) And the best part? It's forever! You'll have purpose and meaning and joy unspeakable forever and ever and ever. And the bestest part? The God who created you is there and you can speak to Him face to face. He'll protect and love you forever!
So what is this treasure and how do I get it? The treasure is salvation in the name and person and Godhead of Jesus Christ! Along the maze of your life, God puts His free offer of salvation through Jesus in your path over and over and over, longing for you to pick it up. Once you do, you must hang on tight to it. Don't let it go or lose it. Keep it close to your heart as you proceed. This treasure of salvation will not only get you into an eternal paradise at the end of your life, but it comes with gifts to help you through the maze, a Spirit Guide named the Holy Spirit, and power and strength to complete your journey and make the right twists and turns as you go forward. This Holy Spirit also imparts gifts to you, talents, and abilities that you can then use to help others find salvation too!
Sounds great! What's the catch?
Well, there is one small problem. You see, God didn't plan on our lives here on earth to be a maze of twists and turns. He didn't plan on us having to gain salvation in our travels. He made us to live eternally in a wonderful paradise with Him. But God has an enemy, a fierce and powerful enemy. This enemy tricked mankind into rejecting the God who created them and thus created the maze we all find ourselves on. This enemy hoped to send every person God ever created to an eternity in hell (a place of torment God created for this enemy), but God sent His only Son, Jesus, to pay the price for us, the cost of our rebellion and rejection of Him. Jesus died, rose again, and through His sacrifice, we now can find salvation. We can now be restored to a relationship with our Creator! It's a free gift!
From the second you are born into this world, into the maze, this enemy's one job is to get you to never find and receive this salvation, and if you do, to get you to lose it and lay it aside. He cannot take it from you, but he can put things in your path, do things that can make you toss it down. How does he achieve this? He puts trouble, trials, temptations and roadblocks in your way. For example.
He might create havoc in the family into which you were born, cause your parents to divorce, or introduce pornography, immorality, abuse, and alcoholism into your family as you are growing up.
As you go through school, he might use your insecurity and desire to fit in as a way to get you to do drugs, have sex, join a gang, or do other things which will only do you harm and lead away from God. He will dangle popularity and fun before you day and night.
At each turn in the maze, at each spot you come where there is a choice to go right or left, he will put some sort of enticement to take the wrong path. It could come in the form of a tragedy or a temptation, or something that he knows will feed a deep-seated need within you. He makes the wrong path look like so much fun! Filled with love and friends and parties and happiness, while he makes the right path look dull and empty. He will entice you with everything the world has to offer, fame, fortune, sex, happiness, entertainment.
As you wander through adulthood, the last thing he wants is for you to find salvation, so he lies to you through media, books, videos, etc, that people who believe in God and Jesus are lunatics and boring and crazies. Instead he leads you toward enlightenment with new age philosophies of unity, peace, love...etc. Which all sounds so nice. If you take this path, he says, you'll be liked, respected, successful, etc.. But if you take that other path, people will spurn you and hate you. Don't go there.
Yet at each twist in the road, God is calling to you, guiding you, trying to get you to come to Him and find salvation, to get on the right path, the narrow one. God never gives up on you. Even though you may keep taking the devil's bait and going down the wrong path, He is always there, calling out to you. "Come this way. I love you, my child!"
Yet, even if you find salvation, the enemy never gives up on trying to get you to let it go, to lose it. He pulls out every weapon in his arsenal to lead you astray, to make you doubt. He'll use tragedy and temptation once again. He'll make it hard to read the Bible, hard to pray. He'll whisper in your ear that God isn't real, that He is mad at you, doesn't love you. He'll use the trouble in your life--illness, loss of a loved one, financial problems, a broken heart...anything to make you turn from God.
Your purpose, your job? To keep believing, keep clinging to Jesus, keep moving down the right path until you reach the end.
Yes, that's the real purpose of life! We are in a maze, but that maze is fraught with enemies. Our purpose is to find the free gift of salvation offered by Jesus and then follow Him down the right path, allowing Him to make the choices at each turn so we can stay on that right path. It is not an easy path. We have a fierce enemy. But all he can do is tempt us and distract us with things of this world, but only if we let him.
If we make it to the end of the maze with our salvation in hand, we've won the race! We win the prize. And we can then enter into the eternal, glorious rest of God.
Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. 1 Corinthians 9:23-25
I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:14
His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’ Matthew 25:21