Four Fundamentals for a Favorable Future

“Raft-slab”. Licensed under CC BY 2.5 via Wikipedia

I was privileged today to give a talk to some young people, mostly late high school and early college age. Here are some notes from the talk:

I. Faith – The world in which we lives says we are great if we are rich, good looking, popular, powerful, and possess many things. But none of that can save you. You can climb the ladder of success, but if it is leaning against the wrong wall you will climb it and go right over into Hell. And so Jesus says, What does it profit a person to gain the whole world and yet lose his soul? (Mark 8:36) Thus, what makes you great is if you know the Lord. In the end faith is all that matters because faith is the way we respond to God, the way we says yes to him, the way we open the door. Faith is the supernaturally transformed human element that invites and accepts the Lord Jesus, who alone can save us.

Now this first point is so important that if you don’t get it or don’t want to follow it, none of the other points will matter, since you’ll be going to Hell and then who cares about the other three points! But if you will lay hold of it, you will welcome into your life the only one who can save you: Jesus.

Yet faith is not just accepting Jesus one day; it is obeying him every day. For faith is strongly connected to obedience, and thus Jesus says, “Why do you call me Lord, Lord and not do what I tell you?” (Lk 6:46) Or again, “It is not those who cry Lord, Lord who will enter the Kingdom, but only those who do the will of my Father” (Matt 7:21).

Jesus sets forth pretty clearly who is wise and who is a fool when it comes to the central question of faith and to the obedience of faith:

Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash” (Mat 7:24-27).

So look, there’s just nothing more important than your faith and the obedience of faith. The other stuff like land,  possessions, and big hair is just a distraction. Only Jesus Christ can save you. If you grasp this and call to Him you are wise, if not you are a fool and you don’t need to worry about or pay attention to any of the rest of this talk—the exit doors are over there. Enjoy your house with its granite countertops, at least until the next wind or heavy rain comes. And then, well … you’re on your own.

II. Friends – OK, if you’re still with me I’m glad. So let’s talk about a critical issue: friends. Let’s begin with the positive: friends are a real and necessary blessing. Scripture says, 

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow; but woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up. And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him. A threefold cord is not quickly broken (Eccles 4:9-12).

Amen! So friends are necessary and good. But, be very careful about the friends you choose! Again, scripture says,

  1. I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with immoral men … I wrote to you not to associate with any one who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or robber — not even to eat with such a one (1 Cor 5:9-11).
  2. Do not be deceived: “Bad company corrupts good morals.” Come to your right mind, and sin no more. For some have no knowledge of God (1 Cor 15:33).
  3. A righteous man is cautious in friendship, but the way of the wicked leads them astray (Prov 12:26).
  4. Do not make friends with a hot-tempered man, do not associate with one easily angered, or you may learn his ways and get yourself ensnared (Prov 22:24).

 I cannot tell you how important this dimension of your future is! The friends you choose can raise you or ruin you. I remember my high school years and what happened to people who were ruined by their so-called friends, who led them astray. I’ll admit I got lucky. I just happened to fall in with good friends who helped me make better choices. But don’t you depend on luck. Be deliberate about the friends you choose. Be careful!

You don’t have to be a snob and all “stuck-up” (as we said when I was your age). Be kind and polite to all, but be careful whom you call your close friends. Scripture says,

Let your acquaintances be many, but for advisers choose one out of a thousand. If you want to make a friend, take him on trial, and do not be in a hurry to trust him (Sirach 6:6-7).

III. Family – We may and must choose our friends but we cannot do so with our family. And thus with family there is more complexity. But the general message is clear: we should honor our parents and elders and be open to learning from the generations before us. 

The Bible commands us to keep our family ties strong especially by honoring our parents:

  1. Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land which the LORD your God gives you (Ex 20:12).
  2. Hearken to your father who begot you, and do not despise your mother when she is old. The father of the righteous will greatly rejoice; he who begets a wise son will be glad in him. Let your father and mother be glad, let her who bore you rejoice (Prov 23:22-25).
Now today we live in a culture that ridicules adults and authority. Sit-coms feature wise children and clueless parents. The father, especially, is often portrayed as a buffoon. Do not watch these shows or succumb to the lie that your elders, parents, and teachers are fools. We are not perfect, but God intends for the wisdom of the previous ages to be handed down through the elders in your life. Remember, the wisdom of old has stood the test of time and has survived to be handed down for good reason: it works.
God insists on respect because without it there can be no teaching. And without teaching you are condemned to make foolish mistakes that were resolved generations ago. The rebellion against authority and tradition in our culture is “stupidity on steroids.” Do not succumb to foolish notions of rebellion or to the idea that you or your generation know something better than the “old time religion” that God want us to hear and heed. Calls for “relevance” and being up-to-date are usually just foolishness in hip and trendy disguise. Have nothing to do with it and seek your wisdom from the ancient, unchanging, and time-tested wisdom of God found in Scripture and Sacred Tradition. Do not despise your elders and those set in authority over you, especially when you know they speak to you for your own good.
You might say, “But my family is a mess; I’ve got some nuts falling from my family tree.” Perhaps your family is not perfect; there may even be some deep pain there. Well, how do you know that God didn’t send you to them to be a source of healing and peace? Be careful before you upbraid those whom God sets in authority.  I hope you’ll stay close to your family; this is what God intends. He’s paired us up with our family for a reason and only in very rare circumstances should we separate.

IV. Fervor – An awful lot of success in life just comes down to hard work. Even before the Fall in the Garden, God had work for Adam and Eve to do. Why? Because work builds us and perfects us; it is part of the way we become the man or woman God has made us to be and it is the way we bless each other. Work connects us and helps keep us from being selfish. God doesn’t recommend work just to make us jump through hoops. He summons us to work in order to complete us and perfect us, not just individually but also collectively. 

Scripture says,

  1. Hard work always pays off; mere talk puts no bread on the table (Prov 14:23).
  2. And we exhort you, brethren, admonish the idlers (1 Thess 5:14).
  3. Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is living in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us; we were not idle when we were with you, we did not eat any one’s bread without paying, but with toil and labor we worked night and day, that we might not burden any of you. It was not because we have not that right, but to give you in our conduct an example to imitate. For even when we were with you, we gave you this command: If any one will not work, let him not eat. For we hear that some of you are living in idleness, mere busybodies, not doing any work (2 Thess 3:6-12).
  4. You lazy fool, look at an ant. Watch it closely; let it teach you a thing or two. Nobody has to tell it what to do. All summer it stores up food; at harvest it stockpiles provisions. So how long are you going to laze around doing nothing? How long before you get out of bed? 10A nap here, a nap there, a day off here, a day off there, sit back, take it easy—do you know what comes next?  Just this: You can look forward to a dirt-poor life, poverty your permanent houseguest! (Prov 6:6-11)
  5. The path of lazy people is overgrown with briers; the diligent walk down a smooth road (Prov 15:19).

OK, you get the point. Hard work pays off; laziness is a path to poverty and a disgrace. Learn good work skills. Rest is important but so is work. Too many people today want things for nothing. Life does not work that way. Hard work is part of life in this fallen world. But hard work also brings reward. Laziness brings short-term comfort but long-term hardship. Develop good work habits. God expects it of you and others need it from you.

So here are four fundamentals for a favorable future. God’s word affirms them; experience approves and witnesses to them. What of you? Will you listen and apply or reject and invite ruin?

The Lord loves you and wants what is best for you. But you have choices to make; He will not force your answer. But the guidance is clear enough: faith, friends, family, and fervor. Do this and you will live (cf Lk 10:28). Reject it and there’s a bad moon on the rise:

11 Replies to “Four Fundamentals for a Favorable Future”

  1. This is one of my favorite blog entries yet! I’m going to print it out tomorrow at work and save a copy in my special notebook. 🙂

  2. Thank you, Msgr.! I cannot hear this message enough. It sets me up for a major cleanup in my life. And I am restarting today. God Bless you!

  3. So glad that you got a chance to speak with young people about these important issues. The cultural message of more and more money comes through loud and clear, but the faith message is often muted and even turned off.

  4. Msgr. Pope,

    This post is outstanding and I, too, will be saving it for future reference. I’m in charge of religious ed for my parish and see a lot great material like this post directed to older teens. We have 6th grade Confirmation and I am wondering if you know of any sources that have similar materials geared to the younger set. Thank you for your wonderful blog! I have sent several of your posts in my monthly email to all of our parents. God bless you and your ministry.

  5. It reminds me of something else that we say every Sunday. That is we believe in a church that is one (friends), holy (faith), catholic (family) and apostolic (fervor). The four signs of the Church at a personal level.

  6. Msgr Pope,
    You always provide us with very thought provoking material. I usually find your work stimulating and encouraging and motivating.
    ” I hope you’ll stay close to your family; this is what God intends. He’s paired us up with our family for a reason and only in very rare circumstances should we separate.” I am not ready permanently sever ties with my family, but…
    I’m not sure about this staying close thing. As a child and an adult my parents have shown clear, consistent, and convincing disregard for me as a person and respecting me and setting appropriate boundaries. My father is a contentious and vexing man who looks for fights to start and then fights dirty. I have an obligation to avoid sin and the near occasion of sin. The last time I was with my parents my father said something provocative and I asked him why he felt the need to try to pick a fight. He didn’t answer but he did have a huge grin spread across his face.

    How does your suggestion jibe with Matthew 10:34-36?
    Jesus; A Cause of Division.
    34 “Do not think that I have come to bring peace upon the earth. I have come to bring not peace but the sword. 35 For I have come to set a man ‘against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; 36 and one’s enemies will be those of his household.’

    1. For health reasons time and distance were necessary for dealing with some in my family. But they know I love them, forgive them, pray for them, am patient and waiting, ready to help if/however I can. Can you do this, also?
      These verses from Matthew echo Micah 7:6 but the three (Mt 10:37-39) following verses are what matters. I see a similarity to 2 Mc 15:18. What has always struck me is in Lk 12:50 “There is a baptism with which I must be baptized, and how great is my anguish until it is accomplished!” This anguish our Lord expresses. We all know this to some degree and pray for those fallen away, but we can’t begin to imagine His anguish. Please pray for my family as I pray for yours. God bless!

  7. This blog has been one of the most enjoyable to read the last few months. The outlined points with scripture references always make it an easy, focused, and credible read. Keep it up Msgr!

  8. Last Sundays reading about seeds and good soil could also be brought in. What is an essential element of being good soil to produce 100 or 60 or 30 fold? I believe the bottom line is willing and working to believe whatever God wants everyone to know and believe. This lifelong striving to have the faith and act on it has a dimension in every day life. To consciously think, pray and decide if a particular thought or action is consistent with the sacrificial love Christ shows us and asks us to show others, is to show that we are not trusting our autopilot, it shows we are serious about making the right decisions. How many (wrong) decisions can we make without thinking, just out of old bad habits? If we are seeking to believe whatever it is God wants everyone to know and believe, we are letting God plant good seed and eventually their population will stunt the weeds already growing in our characters and maybe even change a few of them into wheat (by God’s grace). If, on the other hand, we do not consciously will to work to know and believe everything God wants everyone to know and believe, then we are not turning to God with our whole heart and we are not good soil and we will not produce 100 or 60 or 30 fold. So let us consciously will to work to believe everything God wants everyone to know and believe and thereby be good soil, no matter how bad our soil was before, we can be good soil if each day, from now on, we will to be, if we will to seek the Lord with our whole heart and soul.

  9. +Finally found a moment this morn (which moments have been very scarce of late) to . . . download . . . the above marvelous gathering of material . . . for future reference . . . thank you so much for all your hard work of preparation Monsignor . . . and may our Gracious God richly bless with understanding all . . . young and old . . . who have and will come into contact with its depths of wholesome wisdom . . . this internet blog often fulfills . . . so surely and positively . . . for so many of us whom the good LORD has brought to this site . . . the quite marvelous little quote below of our dear Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta . . .

    “TO KEEP A
    OIL IN IT.”
    – Mother Teresa of Calcutta

    “Thy WORD is a Lamp unto my feet, and a Light unto my path.” – Psalm 119:105

    . . . all for Jesus+

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