What Really Matters

May 30th, 2007

Have you ever had a wake-up call happen in your life? We all grow up; maybe not fully, but at least a little bit. And growing up is full of wake-up calls. I'm not talking about a noisy alarm clock in the morning kind of wake-up call though. I'm talking about a two-by-four across the back of the head wake up call.
"Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." (James 1:2-4)
Our trials and battles are necessary elements in forging who we are and striving towards learning the meaning of life. It is said that HaShem allowed evil to exist for without it we wouldn't know true love and compassion. Our innermost strength is sometimes conjured up after a wake-up call, not because we're actually strong, but because we've been humbled enough to finally see the truth. But truth is what can ultimately drive us to achieve, and this only comes thorugh those difficult life experiences, those... wake up calls. Just think about times in your life where you have been filled with utter determination; what event in your past caused you to be filled with that kind of passion? For me, I know that it's been a two-by-four across the back of the head wake-up call. At the time it hurts, but it helps you to grow and move on to better things with a stronger will, heart, and appreciation.

Consider eating some flour and raw eggs. Not the most pleasant meal in the world now, is it? But if you take them and and combine them with several other ingredients, and, heated over a period of a couple hours, you've now got yourself a chocolate cake. Right on!

Now stop for just a moment. Think about all of the wake-up calls in your life. At the heart of every major wake-up call there lies the question of "what really matters?". We need to routinely look at ourselves in the mirror and ask what really matters to us? After we've determined that, we need to try and list some ways that we demonstrate our appreciation for or carry out that thing that really matters.

But if you're anything like me, you may find that you could be lacking and have strayed away from those important truths; those goals and visions that we are really supposed to be striving after instead of all the vanity within this world. It would be a good idea to take about thirty minutes and sit down with a pen and paper. Let's divide our lives into some major categories of responsibility, such as friends, family, job, sport, school, spouse, Shul, etc. and as honestly as we can, let's ask oursellves and jot down any wake-up calls that we think we may need in any of those areas. This could take some time, because even if we feel something is missing, we might not be able to determine what that is or how we can fix it. It is in these situations where we have to lean on HaShem and ask Him for guidance. We can also ask for input from a close friend or family member, anyone who knows us well, can (though, we better be prepared to hear some things that might not be so pleasant!) Essentially what we're doing here though is that we want to determine any problem areas. After we have done that, we need to jot down some things we can do to make that situation better the following week. And right at the top of that list better be a prayer to HaShem asking Him for the strength and guidance to do that, because if you think you can do it on your own you will surely fall short because if this exercise were to teach you only one thing, it's that you are already falling short in some areas.

Now if you're looking at yourself and you say "I have no flaws", then you deceive yourself and the truth is far from you. So far in fact that you need to pray and ask to be shown what areas you can work on. Be warned however that this won't necessarily be an easy process. I myself had to give up trying to be self-righteous as my blindness was taken from me and where, upon clearly seeing my flaws, I was left humbled. This was actually a two step process. Step one was being knocked out by the two-by-four and step two was regaining consciousness, attempting to figure out what happened, and then finally, after a period of time, seeing everything become crystal clear. This happened more than once. The first time was HaShem drawing me back into the faith, and the second time was His response to a prayer that I had said.

Now when I originally wrote this article years ago, I didn't quite understand what those events really were. I understood the mechanics of them, how they humbled me and taught me things that would eventually mature me as a disciple of the Mashiyach Yeshua. But little did I know that what I had experienced was what the prophet Malachi calls "the refiners fire". This is that time of testing that the Israelites went through in the wilderness prior to possessing the promised land, and every single Believer must go through a similar process as James, the brother of our Master proclaimed in our opening passage. He furthers goes on to say in the chapter that,
"Blessed is the man who endures under trial, for when he has been tested, he will receive a crown of life which G-d has promised to those who love him" (James 1:12)
It is in those times of testing that it all comes down to the question of "what really matters?". The pursuit of strength, whether it be mentally, physically, or spiritually, leads us down some of the most peculiar paths. But everything is a means to an end, never an end unto itself. If we think that we will be satisfied with just one more piece of furniture, ten more pounds on our bench press, 50 more horse power on our engine... then we've got it all wrong. When I came to the faith, HaShem blessed me with so much, and so I thanked Him and said "now, whatever you have in store for me, let me have it, because I'm ready to serve you". I had no idea what I was really asking for, but this was that prayer I mentioned earlier which sent His refining fire down upon me. As difficult as that process was, I am very thankful for it now, because that was when I began to learn what really mattered in this life. And it was King Solomon who I found was able to answer this question so clearly for me, for King Solomon was a man who the world would say "had it all". He had more women than probably anyone else in history, he was given all the wisdom one could ask for and "world famous" because of it, and he was the king of Israel. And yet, even though he had all of this he lost what was most important, and in losing that, he saw how utterly meaningless everything he had really was. And this was when he wrote the book of Ecclesiastes. A three thousand year old rant that goes on and on about how vain and meaningless everything truly is. His final words however, is what I wish to end off this opening article with, and that is that,
"The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear G-d and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person. For G-d will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil." (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14)
May we be humbled enough to be willing to submit to His perfect Kingship and His cleansing work through Messiah. Truly, it is only after this that His Spirit can then work through us, writing the Torah upon our hearts (Jeremiah 31:33) and causing us to walk in His statutes (Ezekiel 36:27). For we know that the Torah is spiritual (Romans 7:14) and so therefore let us rejoice in the Torah of G-d, in the inner man (Romans 7:22). For the grass whithers, the flower fades, but the word of our G-d endures forever (Isaiah 40:8). Amen. This is what the original Netzari faith (Acts 24:5) of Yeshua and His disciples was about. It was never about doctrine or theology, but unity based on the nurturing of righteous character according to the image of G-d as revealed in the footsteps of Messiah (1 John 2:3-6).

I hope I can articulate this through some of the material on this website.