By the Revd Dr Peter Sanlon
“The Chief End of Man”
We all are conscious of our own trials, struggles and burdens — they make our pilgrimage to heaven difficult in ways unique to us. Perhaps some of your challenges are difficulties known only to you.
It is easy to give in to self-pity or to feel that we are burdened in ways that others do not appreciate. That being the case we all benefit from embracing a key lesson from the Bible, which at first offends and grates. That lesson is that God, not us, is of central importance in the universe and our lives.
We feel we are the centre of our lives because we make our decisions, we feel our pains, we decide how to interpret the world we inhabit. Yet when we turn to scripture we find that God is the central actor in the story. It is God who created all things — not us. So the Bible starts.
It is God who is at the centre of his heavenly city — not us. So the Bible ends. In the Old Testament it is God who calls a people — we do not call him. In the New Testament it is God in Jesus who comes to earth to save us — we do not save him. At every point we see in the Bible that we are the weak, needy, rebellious ones — it is God who takes the positive action to solve a problem we only make worse. Our sin.
Joy and fruitfulness comes as we increasingly order our lives to revolve around not ourselves, but God. So Richard Baxter said that for ‘every look at ourselves we should take ten looks at Christ.’ The Westminster Catechism opens with a famous God centred question: Q.‘What is the chief end of man?’ A. ‘The chief end of man is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him for ever.’
When we make ourselves the centre of our lives, we eventually discover that we are not enough to satisfy ourselves. We were created for God and only He can satisfy our desires. If you are struggling and burdened with worries — real pressures and fears. Try turning your focus and thoughts — even momentarily — away from self and look in faith to One who is bigger than you, and more generous than you can imagine. ‘He is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us.’ Ephesians 3:20.
Rev. Dr. Peter Sanlon is rector of Emmanuel Anglican Church, Tunbridge Wells: www.emmanuelanglican.uk