What Matters Most?

Can a person’s responsibility to others take precedence over his or her own life?

Interestingly, a survey was conducted by OECD (the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) of 60,000 people in more than 180 countries asking “What matters most to you?” Based on what their website shows (link further below) the responses were limited to 10 categories and then the top category for each country that was surveyed was identified.

Here are the ten categories alphabetically:

  • Community
  • Education
  • Environment
  • Health
  • Housing
  • Income
  • Jobs
  • Life Satisfaction
  • Safety
  • Work-Life Balance

What, you might wonder, was the top category in the United States? It was “Life Satisfaction”. What about our near neighbors Canada and Mexico? Health and Education respectively. Most of the South American countries also prioritized “Education”, yet not surprisingly in these times, the top category in Venezuela was “Safety”. The countries in Africa vary remarkably in responses compared to those in South America. European countries are much more similar and were mostly in the “Life Satisfaction” or “Health” categories.

Although I can understand that each of these categories is important, more interesting to me is that my top category is not among the ten they chose to ask about. You see, for me, I go back to the most difficult days of my life and ask “What were the key factors that got me through that dark period?” The answer for me was “Faith, Family, and Friends.” In that order. Family and Friends would no doubt fall under “Community” in their survey, but where is Faith?

Looking at Paul the Apostle’s life, he risked everything including his life and his health for his faith.

In Pauls words we read:

Acts 20:24

But I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, so that I may finish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God.

Can a person’s responsibility to others take precedence over his or her own life? Of course, and it happens all the time. Look at the first responders going into the World Trade Center after 9/11 or during earthquakes, volcanic explosions, floods, fires, etc. Look at our men and women in uniform defending our country in the Armed Services or the Police Officers attempting to save hostages in a school or office complex.

Paul risked his life for many years, even after having been imprisoned multiple times, beaten with rods, stoned, shipwrecked and threatened with many other dangers. You can read his words in his 2nd Letter to the Corinthians, in the 11th chapter.

Why would someone go through such ordeals and dangers over such a long period of time, eventually even being beheaded in Rome? For his faith. Because he knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that his very life was a gift of grace from God through Jesus Christ who spoke directly to Paul on the road to Damascus.

As I ponder the reality of what Paul’s commitment to Jesus must have looked like I am humbled mightily. Yes, categories such as Safety, Housing and Jobs are important. But this one man, Paul, had a higher calling than even these. He knew for certain that he served the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. He knew that if we build up treasures in this life they will be eaten by moths or destroyed by rust. His eyes were set on the things above, on the building up of treasures in heaven. Paul proclaimed the good news of the gospel to those who were lost.

You can see the survey mentioned above at this site: https://www.visualcapitalist.com/what-matters-most-to-people-in-each-country/

You can see why Paul was willing to risk everything by reading the New Testament in your Bible.

Prayers For Our Children

One of the many questions we face in our lives is “Will we be good parents?”

One of the many questions we face in our lives is “Will we be good parents?” After all, it is one of the most important roles we will have.

Think of the years we spend in school learning mathematics, languages, history, sports, science, business… Now think about how many classes we took that dealt with how to raise a child. (crickets…)

It is clear that public education is woefully inadequate in preparing us for the role of parenting. Perhaps that’s why bookstores offer so many books on this subject. Even so, can reading books prepare us for our role as a father or mother? Should schools suddenly decide that parenting classes are important, would such classes actually help? Or are we somehow able to learn to parent from our own experience as children? Can we completely rely on the example of our own parents? Do we even recall all the trouble we put them through?

The Past

My sister and I were blessed with good parents. Our parents truly loved and nurtured us. Our father was successful in business and thus was a good provider. He loved the outdoors, specifically fishing and bird hunting, and instilled a similar passion in me. Our mother doted on us and seemed to be always anxious about our health and our friends. We lived in safe, stable neighborhoods, free from crime, drugs, prostitution, gangs. We went to church on Sundays. We were in religious schools through the sixth grade. As our father served in the Marines during World War II, we proudly displayed the flag of the United States of America next to our front door on many holidays.

When my wife Cindy became pregnant with our first child, Brian, I was elated. I expected that she and I would have a family experience similar to my own. She had also grown up in a family with good parents. Her father had been a fighter pilot in the Air Force. He would eventually build his own business. Her mother lovingly raised Cindy along with her two sisters and two brothers. The church was part of their lives when they were young.

We thought we were more than ready for a baby. Let’s do this!

For those that are reading this that have children, you know that there is absolutely no way to be adequately prepared for the role of parenting. It is complex, demanding, frustrating and yet rewarding and totally worth all the effort.

All our weekend trips and vacations were family events, with a few exceptions that were company-sponsored events. We spent a lot of time with our children visiting beautiful, diverse locations such as Alaska, Washington, Wyoming, Florida, California, and Arizona. Memories to last a lifetime. We also invested in them spiritually, through church and through reading God’s word. They knew what Christmas and Easter were really about.

The Present

So one would look at our past history and think that all should be well with our children these days. Yet we live in a world full of danger as well as promise. It probably only took five seconds for a car to pull out in front of our first-born son when he was 18 years old, riding his shiny, blue and silver motorcycle. There are a lot of 5-second intervals that need caution in 18 years. You can’t be prepared for all of them.

Even in the best of schools, in the best of neighborhoods, there are drugs and alcohol that endanger our children. Our middle child was convinced that he would not become addicted when he sampled them. Most children, especially boys, think they are invincible. He is now, thankfully, on a path that can lead to lifelong sobriety. But he has experienced much pain and anguish over a number of years to get to this point.

There are also deceptive dangers in this world. The good life of money, cars, fancy clothes, rock stars, and fame can be enticing. What could be wrong with such things? Yet we have worried about our daughter who finds enjoyment in such things. The Bible tells us that where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. In the end, such things are empty of value and leave us unfulfilled. That can be a bitter pill to swallow.

Prayers

So we continue to pray and we encourage all parents to draw near to God. As your children become adults, as ours have, entrust them to the will of God. For no matter how much we might want to take action in the lives of our children, the simple act of falling to our knees in prayer is always the best place to start.