What counts? Often, it’s NOT what we expect.
Contrary to the messages we get from all around us, it’s not the American Dream lifestyle — money, prestige and possessions.
I just watched a video on a man nicknamed “Slomo” who had all those things and was miserable. He had a successful career in neuroscience, but he gave that all up and pursued the one thing that was spiritual to him: rollerblading by the beach.
Now I wouldn’t recommend skating as the ultimate spiritual pursuit, but Slomo did recognize that he had built his life around meaningless things, and reached for something better.
Jesus loved to turn people’s expectations upside down in order to show them what really counts. Mark 2 is full of examples of this. People expected Jesus to heal a paralyzed man, and instead he said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.” He called a tax collector to follow him, and ate dinner with sinners. He didn’t fast or keep the Sabbath as they thought he should.
Jesus showed that what is of genuine importance is being forgiven — being right with God. It’s not just legalistically following the law, but having mercy, caring for others and meeting needs.
Paul also had his expectations turned upside down, and more than that. He went through major upheaval. He was the most zealous of Jews, and he persecuted Christians with a passion, “But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off both men and women and put them in prison.” (Acts 8:3)
Then, Paul had a wrecking ball kind of encounter with Jesus, and his entire perspective and life changed.
See what he wrote later in Galatians about what really matters:
For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Gal 5:14)
For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love. (Gal 5:6)
Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is the new creation. (Gal 6:15)
So what counts?
- Love I was just taking to my son, Max. He has a free weekend coming up, and he decided to go see his grandfather in Florida. There are many things he could have chosen to do with that free time, but he felt that this was most important. He chose love.
- Prayer. We are so excited that our new church leadership couple, Mike and Marge, are here. Last night Mike said, “Whatever we do, it must be driven by prayer.” He doesn’t plan to do anything on his own power. He doesn’t plan to run after his own ideas. He wants to pray so much that whatever he does, whatever direction he takes the church in, he knows that is God’s plan for it to go in that way. Mike and Marge choose prayer.
- Being a New Creation. Mike preached this past Sunday on how each of us has a miracle story of what Jesus has done in our life — something we could not have done on our own. He shared this quote by Ian Thomas: –“The only explanation for me, beyond a shadow of a doubt, is Jesus Christ.” We all need to choose Christ.
Today, I am trying to make a decision about taking a part time job. And the question of what is most meaningful plays a big part in my decision. I haven’t had a job because I have been helping people discover what is truly important and meaningful in their lives. And doing this is what is most important and meaningful to me.
Yet there is this very loud part of myself that wants to accomplish, wants to be recognized, wants to be validated, wants to use my talents. As I am thinking about this, I am meditating on another quote by Ian Thomas:
“The Christian life can be explained only in terms of Jesus Christ, and if your life as a Christian can still be explained in terms of you — your personality, your willpower, your gift, your talent, your money, your courage, your scholarship, your dedication, your sacrifice, or you anything — then although you may have the Christian life, you are not yet living it.”
Can my life only be explained in terms of Jesus? Do other people know the parts of my life than can only be explained in terms of Jesus? Or do I want people to see the success, the personality, etc. that reflects ME, not God? How much of my search for a job stems from my desire for validation, and is this desire legitimate? How much of my desire to accomplish is just the way God made me, and something I should accept?
I don’t know the answers to all of these questions, but I have come to one conclusion: What counts is being GOD-DRIVEN, not SELF-DRIVEN. I only want my life to go in the direction God wants it to go. I need to trust in God, as I lay everything at His feet in prayer, that He will be directing me as He wants me to go. I am at peace.
God has been the driving power through all history. Even the most powerful of men are at the mercy of the Lord.
- (The King of Greece) will consider himself to be great and destroy many people when they don’t expect it. He will oppose the Commander of Commanders, but he will be defeated, though not by any human power. Daniel 8:26
Let me be humble before Him, not defined by my own accomplishments.
- Healthy people don’t need a doctor; those who are sick do. I’ve come to call sinners, not people who think they have God’s approval. Mark 2:17
- May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.
In closing, I want to share a video about a young man who discovers what counts. It’s actually a Thai life insurance commercial. In it, everyone shakes their head at the young man who gives to others as he goes about his day — sharing his food with a dog, placing money in the cup of a beggar girl, helping an elderly woman push her vendor cart. Why does he gain by doing that? What will he receive?
The end of the commercial answers those questions: “What he does receive are emotions. He witnesses happiness. Reaches a deeper understanding. Feels the love. Receives what money can’t buy. A world made more beautiful.”