Orazio Benanti is a well-read
leader at the church in Milan.
He works for a company that makes
pharmaceuticals, and his job is to keep their machinery
He once told me that the key to his job was
preventative maintenance, and he went on to explain that
this meant he was to keep an eye on all parts of the
machinery and try to anticipate how long parts could be
used and then upgrade or replace them right before they
were ready to break down.
He had had a good track record in keeping the
machinery functional, and the company had been very
pleased with his work.
Now listen to a set of questions:
“What's for lunch?
What's on TV tonight?
What extra money did we have this month?”
Now listen to this next set of questions: “How do
we think about how we live? What is life really about?
Why are we here?”
The first set of questions dealt with the
immediate and real objects like food, a television, and
second set of questions dealt with what's more
long-range and mental matters like our thoughts, our
outlook, and our philosophy for living.
Some researchers in the mid-eighties discovered
that Americans focus more on asking the first kind of
questions than on the second kind until a crisis takes
a break down in our lives occurs, we are suddenly forced
to reevaluate our situations and to ask those more
Why are we here?
That's an enormously important question.
You know, “… some people
have a talent for taking complex thoughts and packaging
them in just a few words.
Have you ever noticed how the salad dressing
bottle often has this line printed on it: 'Refrigerate
Now most of us would have probably said, 'After
you open this bottle the first time, make sure you keep
it cold by putting it into the refrigerator.”
We would use 20 words, but on the small label,
someone expressed our idea in just three words” (Hazelip)!
You know, Jesus was sort of like that person who
“He could capture a world of thought in the
shortest number of words” (Ibid).
Why are we here?
Let's listen to His answer to that question.
Maybe we too can practice some preventative
maintenance before breakdowns in our lives force us to
consider this question again.
There is one particular
saying that Jesus repeats several times in His ministry
that addresses this question.
The first time He says it is found in Matthew
10:39 as he is preparing to send out His disciples on a
mission: “And he who does not take his cross and
follow after Me is not worthy of Me.
He who finds his life will lose it, and he who
loses his life for My sake will find it.”
Then at the mid-point in Jesus' ministry after
Peter confesses that He is the Messiah, He says
something similar again in Mark 8:34-38: “Whoever
desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, take up
his cross, and follow Me.
For whoever desires to save his life will lose
it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the
gospel's will save it.
For what will it profit a man if he gains the
whole world, and loses his own soul?
Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?
For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this
adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man
also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His
Father with the holy angels” (Mark 8:34-38).
Again the saying comes towards the end of
Jesus' ministry while He is talking about the end of the
world in Luke 17:31-33: “In that day, he who is on
the housetop, and his goods are in the house, let him
not come down to take them away.
And likewise the one who is in the field, let him
not turn back.
Remember Lot's wife.
Whoever seeks to save his life will lose it, and
whoever loses his life will preserve it.”
In His last public speech, Jesus addresses
the issue as well in John 12:24-26: “Most assuredly,
I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the
ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it
produces much grain.
He who loves his life will lose it, and he who
hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal
anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am,
there My servant will be also.
If anyone serves Me, him My Father will honor.”
By putting all these passages together, we
can derive a six part answer from Jesus as to why we are
First of all, Jesus says
that we are here to serve others.
Isn't that what He means when He says we must
deny ourselves, we must let our grain of wheat die, and
we take up our cross?
“We quit dwelling on our own lives and we quit
seeing life in terms of what we can get” (Hazelip).
We focus on how to serve others.
Couldn't this be what is meant by the expression
to take up our cross?
Why did Jesus carry His cross?
Well, it was to be place of His execution. But
then why His execution?
Because, as Mark tells us in 10:45: “Jesus
came not to be served, but to serve [to serve whom: God
and others, right?], and to give His life a ransom for
He was carrying His cross to ransom us, wasn't He?
He endured the cross' shame and pain because He
knew that this was the only way to bring redemption, and
salvation, and reconciliation to all people! And surely
you noticed, that even while bearing that cross, He was
continuing to serve others: He comforts women who were
mourning for Him (Lk. 23:28-31); He forgives His
persecutors (Lk. 23:34); He gives assurance to a
penitent robber (Lk. 23:43); He provides for His
mother's welfare (Jn. 19:26-27).
Jesus had served others all His life, and when
His darkest hour came, He continued to do so!
The disciple of Jesus cannot be self-centered or
Christ's follower has to die to self daily.
One commentator put it this way: “Christians do
not put their emphasis on getting the best out of life
for themselves, but they realize that they have been
given life to spend it for others, to burn themselves
out for others” (Morris). Someone else puts it this way:
“Do all the good you can, by all means, in all places,
at all times, to all people, for as long as you can”
We are here to serve others.
Secondly, Jesus says that we are here to combat evil.
This also is a part of what it means to
take up a cross.
When we take Jesus' stance for what is right, we
will be opposed.
Jesus even tells us: “Blessed are you when
people revile you and persecute you, and say all kinds
of evil against you falsely for My sake.
Rejoice and be exceeding glad, for great is your
reward in heaven, for so persecuted they the prophets
who were before you” (Mt. 5:11-12). Yes when we
combat evil, we can expect there to be others who are
wicked who won't appreciate our efforts at all.
Here's another thought on the cross found in Col.
2:15: “Having disarmed principalities and powers,
Jesus made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over
them in it [or through the cross].”
“Principalities and powers allude to Satan
and [his demonic forces].
Paul is describing Christ's victory on the cross
over the powers that opposed Him and that were against
To describe this victory, Paul uses the spectacle
of a military triumph, when prisoners of war were ...
paraded before the populace behind the conquering
Satan and his forces thought the cross would be their
victory and Christ's defeat.
In reality, at the cross, the Lord overcame His
foes, took away their weapons, and paraded them [as
helpless before others].”
The point is that the cross was a means of
combating and defeating evil.
When we decided to follow Christ, we immediately
become part of His army and dedicate ourselves to
combating evil too.
It may be that our persecution may also be our
There was once a missionary in Africa who tried to reach
a certain tribe.
After a rebellion against the government, some
rioters killed this missionary and threw his corpse into
a river for the alligators to eat.
A little later, the chief of this tribe appealed
to the government for help during a civil war.
The policeman sent to help them had been
converted by the missionary only two months before his
Before going to the tribe, the policeman overheard
someone who told him about this tribal tradition: 'If
the blood of man flowed in the river, then the people
must listen to that man's message.'
When the policemen arrived, he called for a
meeting of the entire tribe.
He told them how a man's blood had been shed in
their river, and that man had left the policeman a
The message was about God's Son, Jesus Christ, who came
into the world to save sinners.
And you can probably guess the rest of the story!
We are here to combat evil!
Thirdly, Jesus says that we are
to honor Him. According to what Jesus said, we
can honor Him by following Him, by upholding His
teachings, and by serving Him.
Matthew said, “And he who does not take his
cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me.”
Where will following Jesus take us?
It will take us to all kinds of people—from
poverty to nobility, all kinds of places—from mountain
tops to crosses, all kinds of situations—from joyful to
uncomfortable, and all kinds of persecutions—from
ridicule to abuse.
Someone else said it this way: “Discipleship
means being so committed to Christ that when He bids us
to follow, we will change, risk, grow, and leave our
[comforts and pleasures] behind” (Rowell).
To honor Jesus is to follow Him.
Mark said: “For whoever is ashamed of Me and
My words is this adulterous and sinful generation, of
him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in
the glory of His Father with the holy angels.”
The positive side of this is that we defend Jesus
and uphold His teachings.
Someone put it like this: “The world and the
cross do not get along too well together, and comfort
and holiness do not share the same room.”
Satan wants to keep our loyalties divided, but
Jesus said that people are really either for Him or
against Him (Matthew 12:30).
An old hymn has it right: “I'm not ashamed to own
my Lord nor to defend His cause, maintain the honor of
His word, the glory of His cross! ... Then will He own
our worthless names before His Father's face, and in the
new Jerusalem prepare for us a place!”
To honor Jesus is to uphold His teachings. John
said: “If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and
where I am, there My servant will be also.”
Jesus taught that no person can serve two
masters; one will prevail and dominate in our lives.
Maybe this prayer should become our prayer too: “Teach
us, Lord, to serve You as You deserve, to give and not
to count the cost, to fight [for right] and not to heed
the wounds, to toil and not to seek for rest, to labor
and not to ask for any reward save that of knowing that
we do Your will [in all circumstances]” (Rowell).
To honor Jesus is to serve Him. Jesus once said
in John 5:23: “He who does not honor the Son does not
honor the Father who sent Him.”
We are here to honor Christ!
Fourthly, Jesus says that
we are here to develop souls. Remember Mark's
questions: “For what will it profit a man if he gains
the whole world, and loses his own soul?
Or what will a man give in exchange for his
Even though the Bible uses the word “soul” about 750
times, we don't talk much about it.
It's that immaterial part of our being that is
It is that non-material part of our ego in contrast to
Because of the influence of science, which deals with
the observable, people of today don't like to discuss
much, the things that they cannot see.
About the only time we hear the word “soul” is at
Jesus has taught that we can possess our souls and that
we can find rest for our souls (Luke 21:19; Matthew
here He tells us of the soul's tremendous value and that
we should guard against letting Satan offer us something
in exchange for it.
Someone has rightly observed: “We spend all kinds
of time nurturing, exercising, and caring for our
bodies, which will only last for a lifetime, while we
starve, shrivel, and ignore our souls, and they will
last for an eternity” (Rowell).
The Russian philosopher, Alexander Solzhenitsyn
said it this way: “The meaning of earthly existence lies
[in other words, this is why we're here], not in
prospering, but in the development of the soul.”
Are we developing our souls and the souls of
Proverbs 11:30 tells us: “The fruit of the righteous
is a tree of life, and he who wins souls is wise.”
James 5:19-20 encourages us: “Brethren, if
anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone
turn him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner
from the error of his way will save a soul from death
and cover a multitude of sins.”
Hebrews 13:17 admonishes us to be obedient and
submissive to our elders because they watch out for our
souls as those who must give an account.
According to 1 Pt. 1:9, the goal of our faith is
the salvation of our souls.
Remember, all people are valuable because they
have real and eternal souls! We are here to develop
Fifthly, Jesus says that
we are here to think “Eternity!”
In Mark, we saw that Jesus says He will come in
the glory of His Father with the holy angels.
In Luke, we read: “In that day [the Judgment
Day], he who is on the housetop, and his goods are in
the house, let him not come down to take them away.
And likewise the one who is in the field, let him
not turn back.
Remember Lot's wife.” Material things won't
have much value when Jesus returns if our hearts have
been set on heaven.
Otherwise, if we get too attached to what this
world offers, we'll be like Lot's wife who couldn't tear
herself away from her beloved Sodom.
In John, we noticed how Jesus states: “... he
who hates his life in this world will keep it for
Isn't Jesus encouraging us to remember that
there will be an eternal dimension beyond this life?
Our secular world shouts at us through all forms
of media: “Think only here and now! Don't ask the
long-range questions! Focus only on your present needs!”
Worldly voices want us to think that only today
is reality. Isn't it wonderful how Jesus and the Bible
shatter such a devilish and depressing perspective!
I'm going to ask a question and would like to see
you raise your hand if it applies.
Here's the question: How many of you have ever
visited Koforidua, Ghana?
Well, it's an interesting place.
It's nickname is Koftown.
And it has a unique public transportation system,
a unique sewer system, and unique city ordinance for
One of the preachers there is named Gyan Mante.
Bro. Mante and I have written to mutually
encourage each other for about 20 years now.
So what does Koftown have to do with eternity.
Just this—you've never seen the place, but you
can believe that it really does exist because I have
been there and seen it personally and have kept in
contact with one of its citizens for many years.
In the same way, Jesus came from eternity to this
been with God and He knows that eternity's real; He's
experienced personally, and He wants us to have eternal
life and think beyond our brief lifetimes.
Listen to His fantastic opening words in His
prayer found in John 17:1ff: “Father, the hour has
Glorify you Son, that Your Son may also glorify You, as
You have given Him authority over all flesh, that He
should give eternal life to as many as You have given
this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only
true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.
I have glorified You on the earth.
I have finished the work which You have given Me
to do. And
now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with
the glory which I had with You before the world was!”
Jesus was from eternity, He offers eternal life
to all people right now, and He points to the time when
eternity will begin once again.
Just as surely as you believed me that there
really is a Koforidua, Africa, you can believe Jesus
that there's more to existence than only the here and
Eternity is a reality, and it's going to begin anew when
He comes again.
We are here to think “Eternity!” and to prepare
now so that we can embrace it with all the righteous!
Lastly, Jesus says that we are to please God.
Jesus says in John: “If anyone serves Me, him
My Father will honor.”
One commentator said that disciples must be willing to
sacrifice themselves and the things of this world to
follow Christ, and in so doing, God will honor them
Another said: “As God honored His Son, so will He
honor all who serve His Son” (Lipscomb)!
God will reward us in the same way that He has
rewarded Christ IF we will always seek to be pleasing to
Christians should have a passion to please God.
We are to delight in honoring Him. It is our own
greatest pleasure to please our Redeemer.
We all begin the Christian life with this
intention ...” (Sproul).
Let's fight together and not allow Satan to steer
us off this course.
Let's keep each other accountable in our efforts
to please God.
Hebrews 11:5-6 makes an interesting affirmation:
“By faith Enoch was taken away so that he did not see
death, 'and was not found because God had taken him'.”
Now you probably recall how Enoch never died;
that's a pretty unique experience for a human.
But now notice what else the passage adds:
“for before he was taken, he had this testimony—that he
Everybody in Enoch's world knew that he was a
man who was trying with all his heart to please God.
They could testify that this was his lifestyle!
And then verse 6 says: “But without faith it
is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God
must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of
those who diligently seek Him.” Do we believe that
Are we diligently seeking Him?
Do we believe that He will reward us?
Could our tombstone have these words engraved on
them: “She or he strove to please God”?
Victor Frankl was a Jewish
psychiatrist who was arrested by the Nazis and sent to
He sewed a manuscript of his recent book into the lining
of his coat, only to have the coat removed after his
was given the rags of gas chamber victim to wear. He
realized that now he would have to live out what he had
written in his book and what was written in God's book.
He believed that if a man had a purpose to live
for that he could survive all the hardships that came
His mission at the camp became that of reminding the men
there of their families, their past achievements, and
their dreams of what they would do when they would be
continual reminders helped many a man to endure all the
hardships that the Nazis were putting on them.
He concluded that he who has a why to live for
can bear with almost any how.
Jesus gives us a why to live!
He explains repeatedly that we are here to serve
others, to combat evil, to honor Christ, to develop
souls, to think: “Eternity!”, and to please God.
If these goals have not been a part of your life,
wont' you give them some serious thought?
Jesus once said: “I have come that they may
have life, and that they may have it more abundantly”
Jesus wants you to have an abundant and meaning
you following His game plan?
Do you need to practice some preventative
maintenance before the crisis hits?
Are you trying to avoid the serious questions?
Jesus is calling you to a productive life filled
with significance! “Whoever loses his life for My
sake and the Gospel will save it.”
Won't you accept His invitation and commit
yourself to living out His teachings?