Jesus spoke marvelous truth in Mark 8. Jesus began by stating the importance of saving lives. He said 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.
There is only so much you can do to prolong your earthly life. A healthful diet, regular fitness, positive attitude, and good genes can extend the quality and quantity of your life. Nonetheless, you must also prepare you soul for eternal life. Jesus called attention to priorities, and how the most important soul-extending priority is to gain spiritual life. “For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life [or soul]?” (Mark 8:36).
Brilliant! Jesus reminded us that even gaining the entire world is less important than soul health. It’s regrettably easy to forget Jesus’ lesson. Everywhere are draining distractions. There is much that competes for our time and attention. Each choice entails consequences. This cause-and-effect process is how the universe works. Many choices will have spiritual side-effects, either good or ill. Misaligned priorities result in soul-withering. This is why Jesus encourages life in the spirit over anything else. There’s no cause, no struggle, no effort as crucial to eternal bliss than soul health. Wealth, pleasure and prestige are poor substitutes for your soul. The advice is clear: choose wisely and feed your soul.
There’s a nagging problem underlying today’s discussion. Nothing is as important as the soul, yet it is invisible. You can’t go to a doctor and have your soul tested, X-rayed, or operated on. Faith helps convince that the soul exists, but there is little else to prove it. This explains why the soul is so easy to ignore. Much of what we prioritize over our soul are things that we can touch, taste, smell, hear and see. We must find a way to live in the world, but the challenge is to not let the world crush our spirit. Most of us need money so that we can buy food, pay for housing, purchase transportation, and obtain what else we need to survive. Many of us strive to accumulate more zeroes in the positive column of our bank statement. Yet, even the numbers on a page are illusory in that they are symbols for money, which is paper or metal that has the promise of being accepted for goods and services. The gist is that something as desirable as worldly wealth depends upon layers of trust, which is also invisible. Our money has printed on it an ironic statement: “In God We Trust.” Do you trust in God or are your loyalties elsewhere?
It’s challenging to constantly examine priorities and rearrange them for optimal soul health. Depending on your level of discipline, you may need to work at this a long time before it becomes a good habit. But what better to strive for than spiritual health that lasts an eternity? Your other options are not as valuable, all of which are only good for a short time on earth. Work, materialism, all forms of worldly wealth won’t go with you to heaven. On the other hand, all your time invested in eternal soul health is not wasted. By feeding your soul you are receiving joy now as well as forever more. Risk? A stock market crash or Great Recession can decimate your savings. Not so with your soul. You’ll always get more out than what you put in because God gives the increase. God’s kingdom will not crash, smash, or burn.
Let us pray for one another as we develop life-enhancing priorities. Our brothers and sisters in the faith can encourage us as we endure challenges and strive to emerge stronger. Faith fellowship helps empower the soul similar to the way in which exercise encourages muscle growth and aerobic fitness. Eternal life has eternal benefits; worldly life has fleeting rewards. Strive therefore for the higher, nobler life. It’s not that you have to let everything else go, just that managed priorities and a properly nourished spirit will help make everything else better.