I tell you the truth, unless a man is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. John 3:3
The headlines of the newspaper read, "GUNSHOT BLAST KILLS HEMINGWAY!" It was dated Monday, July 3, 1961. One of my literary heroes lay dead of a self-inflicted wound, bringing his life to a tragic end. Hemingway was a man's man. I admired his style of writing, and I admit I was rather fascinated by the way he seemed to stare life in the face and go after it. He wrote about wars, bullfighting, big game hunting, physical adventure as man was pitted against his environment--things that were of interest to a young man in his mid-20s.
But then he lay dead, apparently, the victim of himself, his 12-gauge shotgun lying near his body. He drank too much. He lived too hard. And he never really found the happiness he alluded to in some of his books.
I thought of Hemingway, as I pondered about another man who was successful, but not very significant. Actually, about the only thing that he and Ernest Hemingway would have in common is the fact that both were successful and searching for what made life worth living. Hemingway apparently gave up on his search and ended his life. The other man apparently found something that gave him new purpose and direction.
Let me tell you about him. His name was Nicodemus. You can read about him in John 3. Nicodemus was successful all right. He was a member of the Jewish ruling council, which meant that he had influence and prestige, but he also had an empty heart. Searching for an answer to what life is about, he secretly came to Jesus by night. Frankly, he wanted the cloak of darkness to cover his identity so that he could avoid the scorn of people who said, "You are really a fanatic!"
Unimpressed by his social standing, Jesus cut to the heart of the issue and said, "I tell you the truth, unless a man is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God" (John 3:3). Jesus was not influenced by his money, his prestige or his status.
In this conversation, Jesus spoke those words which have been so well loved and quoted: "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16).
Nicodemus, apparently, was touched by what he heard the night he dialogued with Jesus Christ. Later, he defended the actions of Jesus, and at Jesus' death sought permission to give Him a proper burial at no small personal cost.
Scores of people today, like Nicodemus who came to Jesus long ago, and like Ernest Hemingway who despaired of life, lived successful lives but not very significant ones. Having set out to reach the pinnacle of success in their given field, they arrived only to discover that what they had thought would bring them happiness only left them disillusioned, empty and frustrated.
On a later occasion, Jesus said, "What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?" (Matthew 16:26).
How would you define your life? Successful or significant? The two terms are not mutually exclusive of each other. To the contrary, a significant life--one of purpose and meaning--takes on a new measure of success. But scores of people define success only in terms of fame, fortune, power, or achievement and miss the significance of making their lives count for more than accomplishment.
Take time to read John 3, and see, if perhaps, what Jesus told Nicodemus is the solution to your need as well.
Resource reading: John 3:1-21