What is important? That is such a simple, three word question. But the answer to that simple question is one of life's most complex answers. The basic answer to that question is influenced by three factors. Who you ask. Where that person lives. What he or she declares to be his or her needs.

If I asked that question in Russia, or India, or Africa, or China, or South America, I would not get an American answer. If the people live in a place of violent instability, or in a place where starvation occurs, or in a place flirting with economic collapse, or in a place of severe political repression, their answers will not be our answers.

So let's confine our answers to American answers. Most of us live somewhere within the spectrum of middle class America. So, middle class America, "What is important?" I ask you, "What is important?"

  1. Before we can declare what is important, we must answer this question: "How do you determine what is important?"
    1. Do you determine the important by:
      1. The desires of your body that control your life?
      2. What is urgent and pressing "right now"?
      3. Considering long term significance and consequences?
    2. For example:
      1. If I asked eight-year-olds, "What is important?" answers would focus on short term desires.
      2. If I asked teenagers, "What is important?" answers would stress, "Peers who unconditionally accept me for who and what I am."
      3. If I asked adults in their 20's, "What is important?" answers would stress career opportunities, or life style choices, or marriage.
      4. If I asked people in their 30's, "What is important?" answers would stress personal fulfillment through achieving personal goals.
      5. If I asked people in their 40's, "What is important?" answers would stress some form of success.
      6. If I asked people in their 50's, "What is important?" answers would stress preparation for retirement.
      7. If I asked people in their 60's, "What is important?" answers would stress material security.
    3. Let's ask a different group of people, "What is important?"
      1. Ask twenty-five-year-old expectant parents whose unborn child has just been diagnosed with a catastrophic abnormality, "What is important?"
      2. Ask a thirty-year-old wife whose husband was just killed in an automobile accident, "What is important?"
      3. Ask a forty-year-old husband whose wife has been diagnosed with breast cancer, "What is important?"
      4. Ask a fifty-year-old wife whose husband had a massive stroke and is in a coma, "What is important?"
      5. Ask the family of a seventy-year-old woman or man who has just been diagnosed with Alzheimer's, "What is important?"
    4. In a very real way, the question, "What is important?" is just another way of asking, "What is life about?"

  2. Hebrews 11:23-29 makes an insightful, fascinating commentary on Moses' life.
    1. Moses is one of the primary figures of the Old Testament.
      1. God used Moses as God used no one else.
      2. Moses was unique; there has never been another person like him.
    2. Exodus 1 and 2 provides us insights into the problems that enveloped the people of Israel at the time Moses was born.
      1. The Israelites had served the Egyptians as slaves for generations.
      2. The Israelite population had grown so rapidly that the King tried to create population control.
        1. He decreed that every Israelite boy born was to be thrown into the Nile River and drowned immediately after birth.
        2. At Moses' birth, his mother refused to obey that edict and, instead, hid Moses for three months.
        3. Then, instead of throwing Moses into the Nile to die, she floated him in a basket on the Nile hoping that he would live.
        4. She floated him in the area where the royal family bathed, but she could not predict what would happen when an Egyptian found him.
        5. The King's daughter found and accepted him.
          1. She had Moses' mother nurse and care for him until he was old enough to come to the palace.
          2. Then she adopted him as her son.
      3. In today's terminology, from today's perspective, Moses had it made.
        1. He was adopted into one of the world's most powerful families.
        2. He completely escaped slavery to become one of the world's most privileged people.
        3. Education, wealth, prestige, and opportunity were his as a matter of right because he belonged to the royal family.
        4. No one on earth had a better material life.
        5. He had everything he wanted, and he could do anything he wanted.
      4. But Moses knew his origin and his identity.
        1. Moses also knew that his people continued in the horrors of slavery.
        2. One day he risked everything to help just one Israelite who was being abused by an Egyptian.
        3. The Israelite did not appreciate his help, his effort backfired, and he had to flee into the remote wilderness to keep the king from executing him.
      5. Forty years later, God had plans for him.
        1. Exodus 3 and 4 tells us how God revealed those plans to Moses.
        2. When Moses learned that God wanted him to return to Egypt, he wanted no part of God's plans.
        3. Though he resisted God, God convinced Moses to return to Egypt.
      6. Hebrews 11:23-29 states these things.
        1. It was faith that caused Moses' mother to hide him instead of kill him.
        2. Moses could have considered himself a member of the royal family and forgotten all about the fact that he came from slaves, but faith would not let him do that.
        3. Moses had a choice: he could enjoy the temporary pleasures of sin, or he could share the abuse of God's people.
        4. Because of faith, he chose abuse over pleasure.
        5. Why? Why would he "make that crazy, ridiculous decision"?
        6. Moses understood God was doing something special in His work with Israel.
        7. Though Moses knew nothing about Jesus Christ, God literally was making necessary preparation to send Jesus to become the Christ.
        8. Though Moses did not realize precisely what God was doing, he understood that his greatest reward was found in serving God's purposes.
        9. Moses understood that there was greater reward in reproach and abuse than in wealth.
        10. The rewards of being used by God to achieve God's purposes would be greater than the immediate rewards of wealth, pleasure, and privilege.
        11. So he lead all those slaves out of Egypt, unafraid of the king's wrath, because he saw the unseen.
        12. By faith he kept the Passover knowing that night that Egyptians would die in order for Israelites to be delivered from slavery.
        13. By faith he led those slaves across the Red Sea, the same Red Sea that minutes later drowned the Egyptian army.
      7. "Moses, what is life about? What is important? You had it all. You had privileges and wealth that we will never know. So tell us, Moses, what is life about?"
        1. "Moses, is life about our physical, emotional, and material desires?" No, it isn't.
        2. "Moses, is life about the urgent, about the things that demand, or push you, or press you?" No, that is not what life is about.
        3. "Well, Moses, what is life about?" Life is about the important, and the important is always defined by God and His purposes.
        4. "But, Moses, where did God and His purposes lead you?" Though I escaped slavery to live in luxury, God's purposes led me back to the slaves to be their leader.

          [Pause here.]

  3. You are not going to die.
    1. "David, that is the most ridiculous thing that you have ever said to us--if you mean that, you have just destroyed your credibility."
      1. I am quite serious; no one in this assembly is going to die.
      2. Your body will die, and my body will die, but you and I won't die.
        1. In our blindness and short-sightedness, we think we are our bodies.
        2. We rarely think of ourselves apart from our bodies.
        3. If our body is beautiful, we think that we are beautiful.
        4. If our body is in shape, we think that we are in shape.
        5. If our body is sick, we think that we are sick.
        6. We think, "My body is me, and I am my body."
      3. Not so! My body is just where I live; it is my temporary address.
        1. If I say that life is about satisfying my desires, I am saying that life is about my body, not about me.
        2. If I say that life is about being ruled by the urgent, I am saying that life is about emergencies that concern my body; life is really not about me.
        3. However, if I understand that life is about the important, I know that the basic considerations of life are determined by significance and consequences.
        4. Nothing is more significant than what happens to me when my body dies.
        5. My body will stop existing, but I won't.
        6. No consequences are greater than the consequences that I carry with me after my body dies and I change addresses.
    2. So which is important: the pleasures of the moment, the emergencies of the day, or eternal joy and peace?
      1. Which is more important, neglecting life to care for the urgent, or living life for God now to prepare to live with God eternally when my body dies and I change addresses?
      2. If my definition of the important ignores and neglects God, my life will be entangled in my desires and trapped by the urgent.

Does your body decide what is important, or do you?

[Song of reflection.]

I have never lived in a place that I did not enjoy living, but I have never enjoyed living in a place more than in Fort Smith. The more enjoyable it is to live in a place, the harder it is to live by faith.

Our country is so blessed, so advanced, and so prosperous that it is hard to live by faith here. Our prosperity and our technology make faith seem backward, unimportant, and unnecessary.

To make Moses' choice, we must see what Moses saw. All godless pleasure is temporary. Lasting wealthy is not material. Lasting wealth is found only in God. But to find it, you must see the unseen.

Each day you decide and declare what is important. Do you make your body the lord of your life? Or do you make Jesus Christ Lord of your body and your life?

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 20 September 1998

This sermon is also available in French.

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