Warren Buffett is chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, which owns dozens of companies. He has been extremely benevolent over the years, donating hundreds of millions of dollars to charitable causes. Forbes estimates his net worth at $1141 billion dollars. My net worth is several zeroes less.
Who, then, am I to disagree with the famed “Oracle of Omaha” when he gives advice?
The ninety-two-year-old was asked at Berkshire’s recent annual shareholder meeting how to avoid mistakes in business and in life. His response: “You should write your obituary and then try to figure out how to live up to it. It’s not that complicated.”
With all due respect to Mr. Buffett, it is. Or at least, it should be.
We can “write our obituary” without God’s help and, depending on what we choose to write, “figure out how to live up to it.” Or we can seek God’s best for our lives, knowing that we must then have his power if we are to fulfill his purpose.
There is an eternally significant chasm between these two options.
Almost a third of high-school girls considered suicide in 2021
Western secularism has been trying for generations to follow the path of self-reliance. As American playwright Tennessee Williams observed, “Snatching the eternal out of the desperately fleeting is the great magic trick of human existence.”
How is our “magic trick” working for us?
A new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association reports that mental health-related visits to emergency rooms by children, teenagers, and young adults have risen sharply in recent years. The worst escalation was for suicide-related visits, which increased fivefold.
According to recent data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly a third of female high-school students said they considered suicide in 2021. Nearly 60 percent said they felt sad or hopeless—the highest number in a decade. Depression became more common among young people across the past decade; in 2015, the suicide rate among teenage girls hit a forty-year high.
New York Times opinion columnist David French reminds us that politics cannot fix our deepest problems, such as pervasive loneliness, the crises of suicide and drug overdoses, and our yearning to love and be loved. The WHO can end its emergency declaration for COVID-19, but as Wall Street Journal writers Betsy McKay and Brianna Abbott note, “The pandemic has shattered an illusion that humanity has control over its environment.”
Rather that writing our own obituary and trying to live up to it, what if we allowed God to define our life mission and then partnered with him in fulfilling it? How would we do this?
One: Admit your need for divine grace
Our first step into such a life of empowered purpose is to admit our need for what only God can do in our lives. Billy Graham wrote: “Why can’t we live together in peace? The reason is that our hearts are selfish and filled with anger and greed and a lust for power. Until our hearts are changed, we will never know lasting peace.
“Tragically, we are a planet in rebellion against God. That is why the world’s greatest need is to turn to Christ. Only he can change us from within by his Holy Spirit. But even when wars rage, we can have peace in our heart as we open our life to Christ. Ask God to give you that peace—and pray that others will know it, too.”
Take a moment now to ask God to guide your life and your day into his peace for you. Pray for his Spirit to control and empower you as you step into his best (Ephesians 5:18).
Two: Partner persistently with God
St. Augustine noted that before we became Christians, it was not possible for us not to sin. Now it is: “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions” (Romans 6:12). God’s Spirit will help us, but we must want the holiness he empowers us to experience.
Paul asked regarding sin, “What fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed?” (v. 21). Remember that because Satan hates us, temptation must always cost more than it pays. Charles Spurgeon’s advice is relevant here: “When thou sleepest, think that thou art resting on the battlefield; when thou walkest, suspect an ambush in every hedge.”
One of Satan’s subtle strategies is to suggest that the persistence of temptation means it cannot be defeated. This is not true. Paul testified, “I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand” (Romans 7:21), yet he also stated, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13). After Jesus’ victory, the devil “departed from him until an opportune time” (Luke 4:13), but he remained sinless (Hebrews 4:15). Persistence is vital to godliness.
Three: Live today for eternity
Today is the only day there is: “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring” (Proverbs 27:1). It is not “carpe diem” (“seize the day”) but “cedere diem” (“yield the day”) to God (cf. Matthew 11:29).
Live this day fully for the sake of eternity, remembering that every act of obedience on earth echoes in heaven (cf. Matthew 16:27).
“An endless day that knows no night”
St. Maximus of Turin (ca. 380–465) noted in a sermon: “The light of Christ is an endless day that knows no night.” As a result, “The coming of Christ’s light puts Satan’s darkness to flight, leaving no place for any shadow of sin. His everlasting radiance dispels the dark clouds of the past and checks the hidden growth of vice.”
St. Maximus then likened Christ’s glory in heaven to his power on earth: “The celestial day is perpetually bright and shining with brilliant light; clouds can never darken its skies. In the same way, the light of Christ is eternally glowing with luminous radiance and can never be extinguished by the darkness of sin.”
Will you walk in “the light of Christ” today?