There is a popular board game called "The Game of Life" that over the years has been played and enjoyed by millions of people. To millions and millions of more people, though, life itself is nothing more than a big game and they play it to the hilt. Living for self and self-gratification, they are consumed by sin and the pleasures of sin. (see Hebrews 11:24-26) They acknowledge no responsibility to God nor His word.
Life, in reality, is more than a mere game to be played. It is a time of great purpose and meaning, thus, a time of great responsibility. It is to be a time of preparation for another world -- a better world. It is not to be considered an end in itself.
Our brief period of time on this earth (see James 4:13-14) is to be spent in obedience to God and His will so that we might attain heaven and the eternal life God has promised to those who will serve Him.
In Philippians 3:1-16, the apostle Paul, by stating his purpose in life, reveals what should be the purpose and goal of every individual. He declares, "Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. For me to write the same things to you is not tedious, but for you it is safe. Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the mutilation! For we are the circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh, though I also might have confidence in the flesh. If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so: circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. But indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this mind; and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you. Nevertheless, to the degree that we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us be of the same mind."
Paul is an excellent person for us to imitate. His example is one we ought to follow. He was so much like the Christ that he was able to make such statements as "I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me" (Galatians 2:20) and "Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ" (1 Corinthians 11:1).
Paul, though, did not always have that attitude or live that way. As the young man Saul he, as many people do today, took much glory in this present life. As seen in the text of the third chapter of Philippians, he, in the eyes of men, had much for which to boast and in which to glory. He was of the elite, ruling sect of the Jews. He had enjoyed the finest schooling and was highly respected by his peers. Yet, when he learned the truth of the gospel and realized that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God, he forsook the former things in which he had taken such great pleasure counting them as "loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord." (Philippians 3:8) As a matter of fact, those things became "rubbish" to him when he learned the real purpose of life. Though at one time they were his life they no longer had meaning. Great wealth, the prestige of his contemporaries and the religious and political power he possessed were all secondary, if not meaningless, to him and his new objective. His new life's goal became his consuming passion.
His goal? To gain Christ and be found in Him. To know Him so that he might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. (Philippians 3:8-11) From the time of his conversion to his death he wholly gave himself to this goal. He did not let the enticements of the present world deter him or turn him aside from attaining it. He was always pressing on in life, reaching toward that goal. (Philippians 3:13-14)
He labored preaching the gospel so that others would have the same attitudes toward life that he had so that they too might be found perfect and complete in Christ. (Philippians 3:15) He realized all must live their lives for Jesus. He knew Jesus was "the way, the truth and the life" and that no one could gain fellowship with the Father without Jesus. (John 14:6) He knew that Jesus alone had "the words of eternal life." (John 6:68) He knew that others needed to know and understand these facts. He knew that they had to believe them and act upon them. He knew they had to submit to the rule of Jesus for the salvation of their souls. He knew that they needed to live their lives for the purpose of glorifying God. He realized that was the only way their lives could have purpose and meaning.
In 2 Timothy 4:7-8, nearing death, the apostle wrote to the young evangelist Timothy about life and death. He spoke of his life and his accomplishments. He said, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing."
In this text, life is depicted as a race for the crown of righteousness. That crown is given to those who finish the course. The apostle Paul had run the race, he had finished the course, therefore, a crown was awaiting him. His life illustrates what the real purpose of our existence here upon the earth is.
The wise king Solomon, writing in Ecclesiastes 12:13, summed up life's purpose by saying, "Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man." The translators of the Bible have added the word "duty" to this text thinking that they were aiding our understanding of its original intent. In reality, though, they have done us a disservice because rather than being a statement of what our duty is, it is an expression of the purpose of our existence -- to revere God and be obedient to His will. The apostle Paul had accomplished that purpose in his life. We need to do likewise in ours. If not, life is nothing more than a meaningless game which in the end has no winners.
Do not let your life be just a big game and nothing more. Let it have real purpose. Look to Jesus Christ. Give obedience to His gospel and the commands it contains for the salvation of your soul. Start today to give your life true meaning and purpose. Submit to the rule of Christ and begin living for Him now. If you will live purposefully and obediently for Him now, you will live with Him eternally in the life to come. You will be a true winner along with the apostle Paul for the "crown of life" will belong to you too.