Skip’s Devotion – The "Why" in Life

Skip Phelps delivered this devotion at our recent Session meeting, and I wanted to share this with all of you as we, guided by the Scriptures, enjoy God in all that He has provided for us during these summer months:


A Devotion on “The WHY of Life” from A Day at the Track

“Racing is life. Anything before or after is just waiting” – Steve McQueen

“It’s easy to forget the WHY in our lives. We get busy at work, we have bills to pay and projects to complete, plenty of work to be done…but every once in a while, we get reminded of the WHY.

Hopefully it’s a celebration and not a tragedy that brings life back into focus. In my case it was neither. Just a track day at Virginia International Raceway doing what I love to do. I spent a day behind the wheel of a really fast Factory Five Race car with my good friend Wayne Presley who was there to drive our other Coupe. The smell of race gas, sound and performance of our cars at speed on the track, the smiles of people after getting a taste of real speed, and the fellowship of guys like Wayne made for a great day

Life continues to race by and there will be bills to pay and work to be done, but a
day at the track reminds me WHY we do what we do here at Factory Five.”
(Dave Smith, President, Factory Five Racing)

So, what is the “WHY” in life for each of us? Probably not a day at the track but you fill in the blank; a day at the lake, a day with family or the grandkids; in earlier years, a dogfight in an F-4 where you just cleaned you best friends clock? In my case and probably in yours, the “WHY” has changed as we have grown older and hopefully are a bit wiser.

Taking a closer look at the “WHY” in our lives, I propose there are two distinct possibilities, either the “WHY” is about the “Self” or it is about the things “Eternal”.

Looking at the “Self” first: In “The Battle for the Self” from “The Path to and From Here” by Carl Trueman (In an Article from September 2016)

“The self in ancient Greece was political man, one who found his meaning (or WHY) in engaging in life in the “polis”. Political man gave way to religious man, who found his meaning (or WHY) in religious rites and observances. Religious man gave way to economic man, who found his meaning (or WHY) in economic activity. And economic man gave way to psychological man, who finds his identity (or WHY) in his own inner well-being and happiness.

“Self-understanding has always been complicated. Thus, the Augustine of the Confessions is arguably a psychological man, finding his identity (or WHY) in his inner dialogue and struggles. The precise nature of this psychological man has been established by various forces, some sophisticated, others decidedly demotic. At an intellectual level, psychological man downplays the objective givenness of the world. Later, romanticism, too, played its part as the artistic counterpart to such philosophical developments. Of course, romanticism is a vast movement where pleasure is made to be the central purpose (or WHY) with the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings. We might add to this the role of consumerism within society. The role of advertising, easy credit, and the capturing of the popular imagination by the idea that consumption is the key to happiness is yet another element in the story that places the individual at the center of the universe. Indeed, this is a story that makes the individual believe that he is able to construct his own (WHY) or meaning and significance in life.”

(Starts to sound a lot like the “autonomous man” Steve keeps reminding and warning us about.)

The problem with the individual constructing his own “WHY” of “Self” is that the final out-working of the “WHY” of “Self” ends up absorbed about consumption and can be summed up by the old adage that “he who dies with the most toys wins”, only problem, one is never fully satisfied with the toys we have so there is always one more trip to the mall required before life is fulfilled.

How does this Self constructed “WHY” differ from the “WHY” of things Eternal? First, we need to define the “WHY” of things Eternal. A good place to start is with the opening questions from the Westminster Shorter Catechism.

Question 1. What is the chief end of man?
Answer: Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.

Romans 11:36 (ESV) Proof Text
36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

So, if the “WHY” of things Eternal is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever then how does this differ from the Self constructed “WHY”? By glorifying God and enjoying him forever are we then prevented from enjoying say “a day at the track” or “a day at the lake with the grandkids”? Are these activities inconsistent with or outside the purview of glorifying God and enjoying him forever? Are the two mutually exclusive, that is, in direct conflict with each other?

For those of us within the reformed faith the answer is absolutely not. Look at the second proof text for Question 1.

1 Corinthians 10:31 (ESV)
31 So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

Question 2 gives further specific instruction as to how we are to glorify and enjoy him.

Question 2. What rule hath God given to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him?
Answer: The word of God, which is contained in the scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, is the only rule to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him.

1 John 1:3–4 (ESV) Proof Text
3 that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed, our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. 4 And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.

We have no problem exercising and enjoying the freedoms afforded in Question 1 but when Question 2 tells us that it is only through the study and application of God’s written word as presented in the Old and New Testaments are we fully able to glorify and enjoy him. Then the problem comes when we let the freedoms in Question 1 take precedence over the study and worship required in Question 2.

Enjoy the freedom that scripture offers but be very careful to not let “a day at the track” or “a final trip to the mall” be the end of our story. We should never lose sight of the “WHY” or in the end the “WHO” that is eternal.