The Purpose of Life
The Purpose of Life Website Ministry
by Gerry Watts
July 2012
I really like the progressive rock band Kansas, who were very popular in the 1970's and 1980's. One of the first vinyl 'rock' singles that I ever bought was Carry On Wayward Son. I plan to do a page on them in the Music section some time. What I found really fascinating was that one of the key members of the band, guitarist/keyboardist Kerry Livgren, was on a spiritual quest during the 1970's and this is reflected in many of the lyrics of Kansas during this era. Eventually, Kerry became a Christian, as did the bass player Dave Hope, and then in the early 1980's they took on a new vocalist, John Elefante, who was also a Christian. So for a time, half of Kansas were disciples of Christ - and this also was heavily reflected in their music. Kerry's journey to new light is itself a fascinating story that was written down in his book Seeds of Change. Highly recommended. Sadly, Kerry suffered a severe stroke in 2009, but he appears to be recovering quite miraculously!

Many of the lyrics that Kerry wrote, before he became enlightened with the truth about who Jesus really was (and is), still reflected spiritual truths that are revealed in the Bible. One such song was the acoustic
Dust in the Wind, which became a hit for Kansas back in the late 1970's. I just love this song. On the Jukebox below there are two versions of Dust in the Wind, the original by Kansas, and a more recent version by John Elefante from his Mastedon 3 album.
This song was also alluded to in a favourite movie of mine, Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure (1988) starring Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter. There's a scene where Bill & Ted are in ancient Greece and they come across the Greek philosopher, Socrates (or So-crates as Bill & Ted call him), who is in the middle of a teaching session. While sprinkling dust through his hands, Socrates is saying (written in subtitles), "Our lives are but specks of dust falling through the fingers of time." Before they take him back with them in their time-travelling phone box, Bill & Ted try a little interaction with him. After introducing themselves, Bill prompts Ted to 'philosophize with him,' so Ted tries to communicate what he thinks Socrates is saying - "All we are is dust in the wind, dude." Bill then illustrates this by using the dust, blowing on it, and then pointing to Socrates, "Dude!" An ecstatic So-crates realises that Bill & Ted have got it! He replies rather joyfully, "Yes! Like sands of the hourglass, so are the days of our lives." This is so true.

I'm naturally quite pessimistic really; a realist, being often drawn to the darker, negative side of things - though usually with a little irony and humour thrown in! I can be very serious, but I also love to laugh! I think it takes people a while to fathom out where I'm coming from sometimes! For me, I think the Bible is optimistic in its overall message, because the 'gospel of God's kingdom' is not called 'good news' for nothing. Nevertheless, it also contains hard-hitting realism about life, death and God's justice in the face of evil.
I'm reminded of an Iron Maiden song entitled The Evil That Men Do, which says "the evil that men do lives on and on" and in some respects this is true. There are consequnces for everything we do, and it's especially the evil destructive things that appear to have the longest lasting effects in human history. Even the Gospel of God's Son has at its core the terrible evil done to Jesus. The difference with the biblical point of view is that God has the power to turn all this evil into good, and every deed will be judged and rectified before God in the end. Where human justice fails, God's justice will win out...eventually. This is why the apostle Paul wrote,
"Do not repay anyone evil for evil...Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord...Do not be overcome by evil; but overcome evil with good."
(Romans 12:17, 19,21 NIV)
The basic message of Dust in the Wind is the transience of life; ultimately, all becomes as dust blown away by the wind. The song is beautiful, yet with a tinge of sadness. We humans often act as though we're going to be here forever on this planet, especially while we're young - or as some imagine, forever young. With this kind of mindset, it's easy to ignore the consequences of our actions. This can often lead to a couldn't-care-less kind of attitude for many, particularly when facing the reality of our mortality - "Eat, drink and be merry; for tomorrow we die." From my teens onwards, I searched for the deeper meaning to life, often looking in all the wrong places - even though I had been raised as a Christian! Yet even though I firmly believe that I've now found the answer, this doesn't mean that I don't puzzle over, and struggle with, so much that pertains to life on planet earth, particularly the suffering and evil...and especially when I meditate on the universe and humanity's place in it. The plight of humans just seems so small and insignificant compared to the vastness of the cosmos. And the evidence for billions of years of earth history just blows my mind! But then what should we expect from an infinite Creator whose ways and works are unsearchable!

The psalmist, David, felt the same way:
"When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him,
the son of man that you care for him?
"
(Psalm 8:3-4, NIV)
The prophet Isaiah gave us the following humbling words, which totally puts us in our place, even if we are 'images of God.'
“All people are like grass,
and all their faithfulness is like the flowers of the field.
The grass withers and the flowers fall,
because the breath of the Lord blows on them.
Surely the people are grass.
The grass withers and the flowers fall,
but the word of our God endures forever...

...Surely the nations are like a drop in a bucket;
they are regarded as dust on the scales;
he weighs the islands as though they were fine dust.
"
(Isaiah 40:6-8, 15, NIV)
Copyright © Gerry Watts, July 2012
Apostle James changed the metaphor slightly, but echoed the same basic theme of the temporal nature and fragility of life, when he warned some of his Jewish Christian brothers to be careful when boasting about the plans of life; and this was in light of the coming destruction of Jerusalem and Palestine, which Jesus had prophesied about, which occurred in AD 70.
Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.
(James 4:14, NIV)
Now that's a sobering perspective! There's a book in the Old Testament called Ecclesiastes, traditionally believed to have been written by king Solomon of Israel. The content of this book is often misunderstood for it is filled with seemingly negative statements about life in this world. I have to say, I totally get it! I too have pondered on many of these things and have often come to similar conclusions as the writer of this book. It needs to be emphasised, though, that this book is viewing life from an incomplete perspective in relation to the future of God's plan and purpose for all mankind. The writer acknowledges that we shall all be judged before God at some point in time, implying a resurrection of the righteous and the wicked, but his main focus is on this creation and humanity's place in it. His conclusion is that the whole cycle of nature and life appears meaningless, a chasing after the wind, with no ultimate purpose; going round and round in circles to finally end up in the grave! "All we are is dust in the wind."

Here are some relevant quotes from Ecclesiastes.
Everyone comes naked from their mother’s womb,
and as everyone comes, so they depart.
They take nothing from their toil
that they can carry in their hands. (5:15)

...for death is the destiny of everyone;
the living should take this to heart.(7:2)

Since no one knows the future,
who can tell someone else what is to come?
As no one has power over the wind to contain it,
so no one has power over the time of their death.(8:7-8)

This is the evil in everything that happens under the sun: The same destiny overtakes all.
Enjoy life with your wife, whom you love, all the days of this meaningless life that God has given you under the sun—all your meaningless days. For this is your lot in life and in your toilsome labor under the sun...
Moreover, no one knows when their hour will come... (9:3, 9 & 12)

...the dust returns to the ground it came from,
and the spirit returns to God who gave it.
“Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher.
“Everything is meaningless! ”

Fear God and keep his commandments,
for this is the duty of all mankind.
For God will bring every deed into judgment,
including every hidden thing,
whether it is good or evil.
(12:7-8, 13-14)
Kerry Livgren's Website
The one thing we're guaranteed to get out of this life is death! Now the purpose in saying all of this is not to make one feel depressed, but to encourage sober thinking and honest reflection. I am convinced that the overall message of the Bible is Good News. I believe that there is a resurrection for everyone due to what Jesus the Messiah has achieved. Death will not have the last say! Yet for everything we do in life, we will be held accountable. Therefore, I would encourage you to live in honour of the One who made all things, accepting the grace that has been provided through His Son. In Him, all things are made new and wiped clean! It's either Light or Darkness; Life or Death.

In the words of Bill & Ted, "Be excellent to one another;" and this in turn echos the words of Jesus, "Love God & love one another."
John Elefante's Website
Enjoy the songs