Monday, January 11, 2021

Focusing On the Things That Really Matter in Life

Whenever possible, I give credit where it’s due, whether borrowing an insight from a friend, quoting from a book, or even using something I’ve read on social media. However, recently I came across a list called “Things That Really Matter in Life” and although I would like to give proper attribution, I have to admit I don’t know the originator.


Nevertheless, it’s too good not to discuss. So I’ll cite and comment on parts of it, with appreciation to Mr. or Ms. Anonymous. Each item on the list starts with, “3 things in life that….” Here they are, for your consideration:


3 things in life that never come back when gone: Time. Words. Opportunity.

3 things in life that should never be lost: Peace. Hope. Honesty.

3 things in life that are most valuable: Love. Faith. Prayer.

3 things in life that make a person: Hard work. Sincerity. Commitment.

3 things in life that are constant: Change. Death. God.


Reading through this thoughtful list, I’ve noticed one common theme: Not one of these can be purchased with money. They are, in fact, priceless. Which is interesting, because of the things we spend the most money on – cars and houses and clothes and gadgets, education, travel, power, career advancement, status – none of them appear on the list above.

We can spend money on “time management” systems and devices, but in reality, time passes at the same pace, no matter what we try to do. We can’t stop its passage. All we can do is decide how to use the time we have – when we have it.


The saying, “Talk is cheap,” is true to an extent. But talk can also be costly, when we say the wrong things to the wrong people at the wrong time. When we miss out on an opportunity, we usually can’t buy it back no matter how hard we try.


With the chaos and turmoil of the past year – which threatens to continue into this new year – what we wouldn’t pay for peace and hope, right? And honesty? These days that seems in shorter supply than toilet paper!


Most of us received gifts for Christmas; some got lots of them. But you can’t buy genuine love. Faith is another priceless intangible. I’ve learned it’s worth more than the combined net worth of Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Jeff Bezos, Oprah Winfrey, Elon Musk and as many other multi-billionaires you can think of. And you can’t put a price tag on prayer, the sacred privilege of communing and communicating with the Creator of the universe.


In today’s world, so many people seem determined to get “free stuff,” things they have not earned and, probably, don’t deserve. But what employer wouldn’t want to hire people dedicated to working hard, are sincere in everything they do, and committed to doing their very best, regardless of the circumstances?


Many of us like change only when it’s on our terms, but things still change whether we like them to or not. And often, the changes are not of our preference. Death was much in the news over the past 12 months, but it’s the destination for us all, pandemic or no pandemic. Which leads us to the last, but most important of the three constants listed: God.


In his grand, but often cynical Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes, King Solomon essentially affirms the theme of the above list. He opens by declaring, “’Meaningless! Meaningless,’ says the Teacher. ‘Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless!’” (Ecclesiastes 1:2). Tell us exactly how you feel, Solomon! Don’t beat around the bush, okay?


He proceeds to explain, “I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure. My heart took delight in all my work…. Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 2:10-11). 


Wow! Clearly, the great king of Israel didn’t have the spiritual gift of encouragement. But after elaborating about how futile are many of the things we pursue so earnestly, he arrives at a reasonable conclusion: “So I commend the enjoyment of life, because nothing is better for a man under the sun than to eat and drink and be glad. Then joy will accompany him in his work all the days of the life God has given him under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 8:15).


What Solomon meant by this becomes clearer as we read the book of Proverbs, most of which he wrote. He speaks extensively about such things as discipline, hard work, wisdom, prudence, faithfulness, relationships, generosity, humility, honesty, integrity and right living. Maybe this wise man served as the inspiration for the list above.


As Solomon observed, “[God] has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men…” (Ecclesiastes 3:11). Another wise man, C.T. Studd, famously wrote, “Only one life, ‘twill soon be past. Only what’s done for Christ will last.” We could do worse than make these things the focus of our lives.

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