Back in the late 70s (or maybe it was the early 80s, I don’t recall exactly), a movie came out called “The Warriors” that was about a New York City street gang whose home turf was on Coney Island. In that movie, all the New York street gangs agreed to a truce for one night and were each asked to send nine representatives to a meeting in Central Park where the leader of the most powerful gang in the city was to lay out his plan to organize all the gangs into one huge gang that would dominate and control the entire city. But a lone member of one of the rival gangs shot and killed the charismatic leader and pinned the blame on the Warriors. Not knowing any better, the other gangs went after the Warriors seeking revenge. Hunted by all the other gangs, as well as the police, the Warriors had to fight their way through the territories of all the different New York City gangs as they made their way back home to their turf.
Now for the most part, it was a cheesy movie. The script writing was just awful. The various gang members looked more like comic book characters. And given the movie’s story line, you’d expect it to be quite violent, but it was actually pretty mild compared to movies today. It was typical of late 70s/early 80s movies. Most people remember this movie because of the scene in which the killer chanted “Warriors, come out and plaaaayaaay!” while clinking bottles on his fingers. But there was another memorable scene toward the end of the movie that also stood out. After fighting all night long and losing many of their people along the way, the remaining members of the Warriors stumbled out onto the platform of a commuter train station at Coney Island. The leader looked out over their home turf, which was nothing more than a bunch of abandoned and run down old buildings, and as he stood there looking at all the dilapidated, burned out, and boarded up stores and apartment buildings, he turned to his cohorts and said very cynically, “We fought…….all night long……….for this?” In that moment, he learned the meaning of futility. He realized he had spent the entire night in a life and death struggle and in the end, he had gained nothing.
When you really think about it, that’s what’s happening in the real world. People who live apart from God spend a lifetime struggling and fighting for things that, in the end, will gain them nothing. They fight and struggle to move up the career ladder at work. They struggle to pay for that house and that car they really can’t afford. They struggle to maintain a certain lifestyle to impress friends and neighbors, even if it means putting in long hours at work and neglecting loved ones. Of course, personal struggles are not always related to the pursuit of wealth or prestige or material gain. People often put up a good fight to keep an illicit affair from being discovered. They fight to keep their boss from finding out that they’ve been embezzling from the company. People are out there right now struggling and fighting to hide some sort of addiction. And others fight for causes that do nothing worthwhile for the kingdom of God. But in the end, just like in the movie, they will learn the meaning of futility when they look back over their lives and ask, “I fought and struggled……all my life……for this?” That’s the fate that awaits those who are not living for Christ. They will one day realize that they fought a lifelong fight, and gained nothing.
The Bible asks this question of us in Isaiah 55:
Why do you spend money for what is not bread, And your wages for what does not satisfy?
Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, And let your soul delight itself in abundance.
Incline your ear, and come to Me. Hear, and your soul shall live;
It’s not that God is against us making money and having material possessions. But He draws the line when money and possessions become our idols. When our focus is on wealth and materialism, we cannot focus on God. It’s impossible. We cannot divide our attention between the two. Jesus said no one can serve both God and money. God wants us to understand how empty the pursuit of wealth is when we exclude Him. That is why Jesus said not to store up treasures here on earth where moth and rust destroy. One day, it will all be gone. And when that day does come, those who trusted only in their wealth will truly be left ……….with nothing.
And as for those fighting to keep some secret sin from being revealed, their fight is just as futile. When the men of the tribes of Rueben and Gad promised Moses they would help their fellow Israelites subdue the lands God had promised them, Moses reminded them that failure to keep that promise was a sin against the Lord and he said to them, be sure your sin will find you out. Later, when Jericho fell, a man under Joshua’s command named Achan took some of the gold and silver articles that were specifically devoted to the Lord. He had them buried in the ground inside his tent. But as he found out, we cannot hide our sins from God. Our sins always find us out.
So whether a person is struggling to climb to the top of the mountain, or whether he’s fighting to keep some awful secret from getting out, or whether someone is fighting for a worldly cause that’s displeasing to God, the end result is always the same. At the end of his life, he will know the meaning of futility. Without God, a man’s fight is for nothing.