by Dn. Mark Oleynik
My daughter mentioned to me that she was hoping to take a test (the Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test, or psat for short) in a few weeks in preparation for taking the “real” college admissions test (the sat) in a couple of years. My wife and I agreed it was perhaps a good idea for her to take a test to get a feel for the testing procedures, types of questions, etc.
Remembering that I had taken this test many years ago when I was in high school, I have wondered what kind of score would I earn if I had to take the test now (I don’t remember what score I got so need to ask). But our discussion also got me to thinking: is there a “real” measure of what a person knows—not how much a person knows but rather what does a person know. These are two different questions.
There have been some great men and women in this world—people of great distinction, people of vision, people with great intellect—who do not find true happiness in this world, no real satisfaction. Some of the world’s greatest philosophers have lived an unhappy life. There are also a great many people who, outside of their professions, concern themselves about very little else. They read the daily newspaper headlines, check Twitter, watch some tv for news and sports but that is as far as their reading goes. But that is as far as their reading goes. But as to something higher or spiritual they remain unconcerned. They are merely concerned about the things of this world. So we see life consists not in how much we know, but in what we know.
Life does not consist in what we possess. Jesus said, “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness.” Life in many ways consists in knowing Jesus as our Savior and in knowing ourselves and our true mission in life. We cannot and will never know God in the fullest sense, but He has revealed Himself to us in such a way that everyone can have some grasp of Him and of His Son, Jesus Christ. And God has given to every individual the ability to look into His own soul and see how God works in him. To know Jesus and to know what He has done for us and what He means to us: these are vital items in one’s life. Do you want to know God and what kind of a God He is? Do you want to know what is His attitude is toward you; whether He is your friend and desires your happiness? If you are anxious about these things, then you want to know Jesus. Paul said, “Indeed I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” (Phil. 3:8)
How may we know Christ better? A good start is the daily reading of Scripture and increased alertness in the House where He is proclaimed. Knowledge precedes faith. No man can hardly believe in anything that he does not know. Think about it, if you never heard of a thing in all your life, how could you believe it? People who do not read their Bibles and never come to a church where Christ is preached cannot truly know Him. Again, it is Paul who asks, “How can they believe in Him of Whom they have not heard?”
If we would know more about Jesus there would be a higher standard of living because we would live on a higher spiritual plane. If we knew more about Jesus and His principles of living we would fight more bravely against sin. If the world knew more about Jesus there would not be so many destructive forces which tend to undermine Christianity, degrade morality and destroy human lives. Jesus said to the Samaritan woman, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water” (John 4:10). Not only an intellectual knowledge, but to know Him in our hearts, to know Him in such a way as to experience Him, gives us a new life, new encouragements, refuge for disappointments and afflictions, and a burning desire to know more of Him and to be more like Him.
We should know ourselves and our purpose in life. It is the duty of every Christian to know himself, his sinful condition, his needs and his purpose of living. The sin of which we all are more or less guilty of is that we know others better than ourselves.
Often we are more concerned about other people’s business and faults than our own. However, our duty is to know ourselves and our relation to Christ. Ask yourself the questions, “What am I living for? Is my life to be spent for myself, or is there a higher purpose for my being here?” If we go to God in prayer and ask Him for wisdom from on high, we can rest assured that He will reveal Himself to us more fully, and we will be able to know more about our mission in life. The more we know and experience Him, the more eager we are to know.
Life and happiness do not consist in what we have, what we possess, but in what we are, what we do. It is not enough to have knowledge of God but to, “be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” This teaches us to practice what we believe and know. Our knowledge is vain and fruitless if it is not reduced to practice. Know in order to do.
No matter how much we know about our faith, if we are not doers of God’s will at the same time we are not living in harmony with the principles of Christ. It is not enough for a citizen merely to know the laws of his country, he must also live up to them; he must conduct himself according to those laws. The same holds true with every Christian in relation to God’s will. The mere fact that Paul became a Christian, with great faith in Christ, did not make him an outstanding personality in Scripture and in the work of God’s Kingdom. But it was the unceasing efforts that he put forth to do the will of God that was the keynote of his life. Paul was a learned man, he was capable of holding high position in secular work, but he was willing to renounce self and to give to that which God had in store for him.
To do the will of God means to renounce self, to renounce submit oneself to Christ. So many of us would like to be like Christ but we find it too difficult to renounce our own will and to be obedient to the will of God. It is quite easy for us to be Christ-like on Sunday but during the rest of the week we follow our own inclinations. Does that mean we forego everything that has been given to us? Not necessarily, but it does mean we must be like Christ in all of our daily walks of life. It means that what we do, determines our Christianity. The little word “do” is key to our life. Doing—not for oneself, but—for the glorification of God.
The fundamental principle of all this “doing” is love. Christ has given us the greatest possible pledge of love in the Cross. He has died for us, and thus, He asks us to live for Him and to love sacrificially. Our love of God will afford us joy and will bring us new experiences of His love. Life will mean more to us.
A person’s life is not defined by what he possesses or in how much he knows—it is about what and Whom he knows. Know God and experience His grace and love, and, in turn, you will know yourself.