Hard Questions

To What End?

by Mary E. Stephens
Jan. 2, 2022

 Isaiah 53:3 He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows,
and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were
our faces from him;
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

John 18:37 Pilate therefore said unto him, Art thou a king then? Jesus answered, Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice.

Man of sorrows what a name,
For the Son of God who came...

It is hard to understand why Jesus Christ, who was God in the flesh, would take on the sorrows and grief of this life. It is deeply comforting, but it is also a mystery. But as the old hymn clearly shows us, there was a purpose.

Ruined sinners to reclaim:
Hallelujah, what a Savior!
Philip P. Bliss

One question that I am trying to ask myself more is, "To what end?" In this context "end" means the result or purpose, but with a more permanent thought behind it. The means to an end reflects the idea of a plan or method that arrives at a desired goal. "To what end?" is a question that applies right across the length and breadth of life. If we will ask ourselves this and answer honestly, it can help us in determining the value of many things in life. It can direct our efforts and priorities, and it can help us "delete" things from our lives or thoughts that simply don't matter. Basically, it comes down to this: If the end result is not useful or beneficial in some way, if it does not take us further in the path God has laid before us, then it probably isn't something we should be spending our precious life on.

You see, without the purpose and end result of saving ruined sinners, the Son of God becoming a man of sorrows would have been pointless and tragic. But, the end - our salvation - made it the greatest miracle, love story, and happy ending of all time.

Jeremiah 29:11 has become a popular verse to quote and put on things in my lifetime. Curiously, it is a verse that has some strange changes in the modern translations of the Bible. I say strange because they alter the underlying mean of the verse in a way that changes the focus away from God's intention. Let's take a look.

The King James Version says this, For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.

The ESV says, For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

The NIV says, "For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."

The NASB says, 'For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for prosperity and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.'

First of all, I'd just like to point out that plans and thoughts are not exactly the same things. Thoughts encompass a lot more than plans. Comparing scripture with scripture, which is always the best commentary, the thoughts of God are far more complex and far-reaching than just His plans for us. David talked about this in Psalm 40:5, Many, O LORD my God, are thy wonderful works which thou hast done, and thy thoughts which are to us-ward: they cannot be reckoned up in order unto thee: if I would declare and speak of them, they are more than can be numbered.

The ESV talks about "welfare" and not evil. In this day and age, I find this to be a very odd translation. Welfare in the United States is dependence upon government assistance. Sometimes it is legitimately needful and sometimes not, but the context in American minds is not entirely clear of negative things. Frankly, it could be very misleading to some people who are trapped in that system already. I don't find that to be a useful translation at all.

Then there is the issue of peace or prosperity. In this age of the "prosperity gospel" when so many are preaching that if you are Christian you should be getting rich and living the good life, this is really inappropriate. And "prosper" or "prosperity" are not the same as peace - at all - just to be clear. God knows the difference between peace and prosperity and He has many times given His children peace when there was no prospering going on. We need peace far more than prosperity.

 But, the part I especially want to point out is the ending, because we're talking about ends right now.

God led the KJV translators to use very specific words here. Modern versions remove the "expected end." I believe this is at least partly because they want us to think life is about the journey. We are regularly told that "it's about the journey" and that we should be focused on the journey and "living in the present." I think I've even seen something to effect that it isn't about the end, it's about the journey. But, is that true? Christians should know that it is not.

Anyone can have hope and a future in this life - even unsaved people. Many of them do, in fact. Everyone has a future - an eternal future - be it good or bad, triumph or torment. But here's the thing: The expected end of God's people in the Old Testament and the children of God in the New is only good. For those who were believers in the O.T. Jewish nation it was the promised Kingdom of the Messiah. For us it is eternity with Jesus in our new bodies. You see, only people who are the peculiar treasure of God Almighty can expect a "happy ending" when this life is done. God's thought for those that are His are thoughts of peace and they are thoughts of an ending that is in keeping with the character of a living, loving God.

Hope and a future may not be bad. They even have good points. But, it doesn't clearly let us know that our end is going to be good, and what would be expected for those who fear God and walk in His truth. Our end is the sort that one would expect for those who are associated with the Prince of peace.

Isaiah 9:6 For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counseller, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.

The living word of God, the Lord Jesus Christ, is the one "with whom we have to do." (Heb. 4:13) He is the very embodiment of God's thoughts of peace that lead to an expected end.

For those who are children of God through faith in Jesus Christ, our end is sure, and the knowledge of that should affect our lives every day. Because, you see, there is a point, a purpose, a meaning, a reason to live every day with the end in view, not just our future here. How we live today should reflect the end that we expect from the good and lovely thoughts of God. What we do with our time, our bodies, our minds, our resources, our abilities, our words should reflect that hope and future, not some nebulous, unclear idea.

The world is terrified of their end. They spend great amounts of money and effort to put it off as long as possible. Generally this is because they really don't know what to expect. The people of God ought never to live that way.

Jesus came to seek and "to save that which was lost." (Luke 19:10) He died to bring salvation and eternal life to us. His sorrow and grief were to that end. To what end do you live? To what purpose? Prosperity in this life doesn't amount to much in the end if it isn't used to the glory of God to bear fruit in eternity. In fact, the more we do that bears fruit in eternity, the more spiritual prosperity we will have there. To live for anything less is pretty empty when you stop to think about it.

Romans 14:8-9 For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord's. For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living.

The Love of God, The End of Life

Since life in sorrow must be spent,
So be it--I am well content,
And meekly wait my last remove,
Seeking only growth in love.

No bliss I seek, but to fulfil
In life, in death, thy lovely will;
No succours in my woes I want,
Save what thou art pleased to grant.

Our days are numbered, let us spare
Our anxious hearts a needless care:
'Tis thine to number out our days;
Ours to give them to thy praise.

Love is our only business here,
Love, simple, constant, and sincere;
O blessed days, thy servants see,
Spent, O Lord! in pleasing thee!

- William Cowper -


background and graphics by Mary Stephens