Sunday Message for 16 September 2018: “Priceless Life”

Jesus spoke marvelous truth as reflected in today’s lectionary selection, Mark 8:27-38. Jesus stated the importance of saving lives, saying that “those who want to save their life with lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it” (Mark 8:35). This is a remarkable play on words that demands attention. Most people want to save their lives, but far fewer may know what this means in a spiritual sense.

Unlike the spirit, your physical life can only be prolonged for so long. A healthful diet, fitness, positive attitude, and good genes can extend the quality and quantity of physical existence. But that is nothing compared with a spirit-based life-extension. Jesus spoke about how to accomplish this through priorities, and how the higher priority involves nurturing a soul-saving spiritual life. “For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life [or soul/spirit]?” (Mark 8:36). Jesus’ wisdom here is a reminder that gaining the entire world is less important than your spiritual health.

It’s regrettably easy to forget Jesus’ lesson. Distractions are everywhere and there’s so much that competes for your time and attention. Life’s dizzying options can entail good or bad consequences. Many choices will also have spiritual side-effects which can either promote or diminish this vital aspect of existence. Misaligned priorities result in a spirit-withering apathy. Therefore, Jesus encouraged life in the spirit to take priority over anything else, including gaining “the whole world.”

There’s no cause, no struggle, no effort as crucial to your eternal bliss than spiritual health. Wealth, pleasure and prestige are incomplete substitutes for spiritual wellbeing. The advice is clear: choose wisely and feed your eternal spirit. This raises a nagging problem underlying today’s discussion. That is, nothing is as important as the spirit, yet it is invisible. You can’t go to a doctor and have your spirit tested, X-rayed, or operated on with a scalpel. Although the spirit is unseen, faith helps convince that it exists. The spirit’s elusive nature partly explains why it is easy to ignore. Understandably, much of what people prioritize over their spirit are things that they can touch, taste, smell, hear and see. All us humans must find a way to live in and relate to the material world but the challenge is to not allow earthly matters crush or obscure the spiritual realm.

Most people rely on money to buy food, pay for housing, purchase transportation, and obtain whatever else is needed. Yet even the numbers on a financial statement are illusory in that they are symbols of wealth like paper or metal money, all of which are accepted on a faith that these instruments can be used in purchasing goods and services. The gist is that something as desirable as worldly wealth depends upon layers of trust, which provide the foundation for people relying on currency and the entire banking system. Regarding spiritual health, place trust in God and that is all the true wealth that you’ll ever need. No adverse exchange rate here because God translates your faith into momentous spiritual wealth.

Speaking of economics, the United States’ first official motto reads as follows: “In God We Trust.” This controversial statement on U.S. currency has many angles, including a relevant one about loyalties. Slogan or not, do you trust in God or are your priorities elsewhere? It’s challenging to constantly examine priorities and rearrange them for optimal spiritual health. Depending on your level of discipline, you may need to work at this before it becomes a good habit. But what better to strive for than spiritual health, which will help you live a better life now and through eternity.

No other aspect of your existence is as long-lived and vital as is your spirit. All other priorities are only good for a short time on earth. Work, materialism, all forms of worldly wealth won’t go with you to heaven. In contrast, all your time invested in eternal spiritual health is not wasted. By feeding your spirit you are receiving joy now as well as forevermore. Risk? A stock market crash or Great Recession can decimate your savings. Not so with your spirit. You’ll always get more from your spiritual health than what you put in because God gives the increase. Unlike world systems, God’s kingdom will not crash, smash, or burn.

Let us pray for one another as we develop life-enhancing priorities. Let us share encouragement as we endure challenges and strive to emerge stronger in all life areas. Faith fellowship at church helps empower your spirit, similar to how going to a gym for physical exercise promotes muscle growth and aerobic fitness. For a life of true holistic wellbeing, each of us can pursue health in mind, body and spirit. And just because the spirit is easy to ignore doesn’t mean that it isn’t the critical piece. Strive therefore for a richer life guided by God’s transforming Spirit. Rearranged priorities and a properly nourished spirit will help make everything else better—forever.

–Reverend Hoxey