Just some early morning thoughts from me to you…

For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? Matthew 16: 26 (ESV)

The skies were a crystal blue without a cloud in sight as the players from Penn State University walked onto the football field this past weekend, arm-in-arm in a display of solidarity and support. A display for each other perhaps, because at that moment it would have been hard to find something or someone to support, other than each other, as the allegations regarding the horrific, unbelievable and sad events continued to unfold during the last few days.

An alumnus was heard last week to say, “How did it happen here?”

A place referred to as Happy Valley, held high in the esteem of others for so many years. A place where doing things the right way had always been the way, or so it had seemed. A place where “Success with Honor” was the motto adopted and believed. A place where a “Grand Experiment” was begun over four decades ago setting in place a mission designed to prove that academic success and athletic achievement could exist successfully together. A place where words from the Alma Mater—“May no act of ours bring shame to one heart that loves thy name,” now are more than likely choked out through tears as they’re sung, if they’re sung at all.

How did it happen here?

We are just now beginning to find out.

But this is not the first time or place that what we thought was—really wasn’t. This, of course, is not the first time we have been surprised when something or someone we previously held in high esteem fell from grace for whatever reason, and shook our belief to the core in all which is supposedly good about the world.

How does it happen anywhere?

Whatever the circumstances or facts, whatever the situation, how does it happen that we move from doing that which is right in every setting, to doing that which is wrong? And we are always surprised when those whom we least expect to fall—fall. We have seen it happen in our homes. In our schools and other noteworthy and previously thought to be—exceptional universities. It happens in our communities, in our businesses and corporations and investment houses, our churches and, of course, in our political systems—among those trusted individuals we elect to lead.

How does it happen here or there?

It seems to happen when the temporal or the transient things of the world become our “gods.” When things like success, wins over losses, money, image, power, breaking records, trophies, résumés and awards—all highly honored by society—become the things against which we measure our worth and value. And so we embrace and reach for them—the temporal, the worldly—because that is what those around us pay homage to and award and hold us up high for achieving, accomplishing or acquiring—all those temporal things. And when we fall short, sadly we don’t fall into the arms of God, but, sadly, too often, into the lure of things which temporarily take away the sting of falling short—drugs, alcohol, illicit relationships, and other ways and habits which become further destructive to the life God intended for us to live.

We’ve seen it before. We’ve seen it too many times.

Webster’s New World Dictionary, College Edition defines “temporal” as “lasting only for a time; transitory; temporary: distinguished from eternal; of this world; worldly: distinguished from spiritual.” “Eternal” on the other hand is defined as “without beginning or end; existing through all time; everlasting; timeless; forever the same; always true or valid; unchangeable.”

How does it happen here, there, anywhere?

It seems to happen when the temporal things of the world become more important than the eternal values set before us by the God who created us. Those things with eternal—everlasting—value like a relationship with God through His Son, Jesus Christ. Eternal things such as a heart desiring to serve and follow God, which seeks to put others first, and puts others’ needs first before our own. Things and people like those sacred gifts of our families, friends and others, and the time we should set aside with them. Things like simply doing what is right—as God smiles down from above.

But the lure of the worldly is strong, despite the harsh reality and the absolute truth, that it will not last—and may come to a destructive and crashing end sooner than we had planned. But it will come to an end, as there will come a day when our life on this earth—with all its worldly and temporal temptations—will end. And all the stuff we thought to be important and to be the profit we should work toward—will vanish.

Knowing that, and our nature to be tempted by the worldly, Jesus reminds us in the words recorded in Matthew set out above that the real profit which we should seek is that profit we find in the eternal—that profit which safeguards our souls. That profit which begins in a relationship with Jesus Christ and thereafter grows as we align our hearts and priorities—and all those things of true, lasting and eternal value—within that relationship with Christ and the eternal values to which He calls us to live and follow.

The temporal or eternal.

Choose wisely—today and everyday—for the sake of your soul.

In His Name—Scott

Copyright 2011. Scott L. Whitaker. All rights reserved.