Living the Good Life

“But if you just use my words in Bible studies and don’t work them into your life, you are like a stupid carpenter who built his house on the sandy beach. When a storm rolled in and the waves came up, it collapsed like a house of cards.”

—Matthew 7:26–27 msg

From the gold rush to tech start-ups, people have flocked to the Bay Area looking to make their fortunes and a name for themselves, quite often risking everything to do so. It is a place where businesses can emerge from a single idea and industries can crumble overnight because of a new technological breakthrough. For every Instagram-like unicorn, there are a dozen MySpace cautionary tales. . . 

Because of this, from time to time, Rusty and I have a very similar conversation with people at different extremes. It tends to go something like this: Someone becomes part of a start-up, and in the whirlwind, roller-coaster world of Silicon Valley, discovers their company has latched onto an idea that customers love. Their business will soon be launching them beyond their wildest dreams. They are making ridiculous amounts of money, gaining notoriety, and at the same time, supporting the livelihoods and well-being of hundreds of employees and their families.

The realization gives them pause.

They come to one of us, looking for perspective. They ask something along the lines of, “What am I supposed to do? How is this going to change me? How will it affect my family? What will it do to my reputation? To my relationship with God?”

On the other hand, we’ve encountered some who started a company that did well for a time, but they are now realizing it’s going to crash. It might just be bad timing, the wrong economy, a competitor beat them to market, an innovation has already made them obsolete, or they are facing insurmountable problems with execution. Articles are being written about their imminent demise, and not only are they facing financial ruin, but they’re about to take a cadre of good people, people who have been faithful and loyal since the beginning, down with them.

When they come looking for answers, they ask, “What am I supposed to do? How is this going to change me? How will it affect my family? What will it do to my reputation? To my relationship with God?”

Yes, at both ends of the spectrum, if they are mindful, people are confronted with similar questions. What are they supposed to do in the face of immense pressure, be it from success or from failure? What will keep them grounded, keep their egos in check (or afloat), and how will they hold tight to what is truly important in the midst of one of life’s major storms? How do they hang onto the best they can be and not let circumstances define or completely derail them?

One way to look at it might be to put it in the context of a quote from the Greek mathematician and inventor, Archimedes, who is credited with saying, “Give me a lever and a place to stand, and I will move the earth.” What these people are asking when they come to Rusty or me is something along the lines of “I have my lever, and I’m about to move my world, but where do I stand to keep this great enterprise from rolling back over the top of me and crushing the very reason God put me on the earth?”

Just what is the “place to stand” from which we are supposed to “move the earth”—or “make our dent in the universe” as Steve Jobs so famously said? What is the firm ground—the most stable and secure foundation—upon which we can build a life of flourishing, fulfillment, justice, significance, and love? What is the right framework for living an authentic life of meaning and impact?

DEFINING THE PARAMETERS FOR ‘THE GOOD LIFE’

In three quick chapters early in the book of Matthew, Jesus discusses the parameters for creating this kind of life. He discusses the importance of certain attitudes, the power of our influence, anger, lust, divorce, dealing with enemies, judging others, anxiety, our relationship with wealth and possessions, our innate desires for recognition and fame, hypocrisy, and what is and isn’t trustworthy in the world, as well as other challenges that plague the human soul. The passage has come to be commonly referred to as the Sermon on the Mount … 

Jesus doesn’t mince words as he changes the conversation from living according to moral laws and beliefs to doing everything from the context of God’s love—from a place of deep relationship with him. In the conclusion of this sermon, Jesus tells us:

Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock.

And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it. (Matthew 7:24–26 esv)

What Jesus is saying here is that the foundation of “the good life”—the kind of life God created us for and that he invites us into—is built on the rock-solid platform of two activities: (1) hearing his words and (2) then doing what they inspire us to do …

It can’t be said enough that who we want to become in life can only be determined from what we have established that life upon. Where we stand determines how much leverage we have to “move the earth,” as Archimedes so aptly put it. As people consciously choosing to be a force for good, that begins with continuously hearing God’s Word and living it out with others into the world around us.

WE NEED A PROPER FRAMEWORK.

As Terry (switching to Rusty, here) just laid out so well, we need to build our lives on something solid and resilient if we are going to survive the ups and downs of life. Life is heavy. We know that. Life is ever-changing. We know that too. If only for these reasons, we can’t build the life we desire without establishing it with something solid. And we will never realize our full potential if we don’t work hard on keeping our foundation strong and always ready to support what will be new or necessary. We need a time-tested and always-true framework to make life fully come together.

So, how are you doing on that?

Since ancient times, philosophers and theologians have tried to figure out questions to help unpack that very process of becoming a person of quality and influence capable of living a significant and fulfilling life—a life where we build something noteworthy, but do not lose ourselves in the process. They are the basic questions of existence: Who am I? Why am I here? What is meaningful? What is “the good life”? And given these things, how then should I live? . . .

In Silicon Valley, entire worlds are built from software code. As products develop, we recognize that there is good code and bad code—code that makes things work and code that makes things break or crash. For computers, smartphones, tablets, and so on there is operating code (Windows, Linux, AppleOS, iOS, Android, etc.) and there are applications (apps) that run on that foundational code. The better the foundational code is, the better the apps run, and generally the less energy they need to function.

The most important code, though, is even deeper— what is often referred to as “source code.” Source code is structural code upon which everything else is built. It creates the framework—a skeleton—upon which devices function and applications run. It tends to be seen as the very lifeblood of a technology company. It is guarded as a trade secret. It is fought over in intellectual property courts. It is the goose that lays golden eggs. . . .

This got us to thinking. What if we approached Jesus’s words to us as “the ultimate source code” for building our lives on the rock he talks about in the Sermon on the Mount? What if the Bible and what it says about who we are and how we are to live became the code for “writing” our individual lives on the earth? What if we lived with constant subroutines of God’s Word running beneath the surface of our every action and interaction as we went about our days? . . 

We need to tap into what powers the faith code—what makes Jesus’s words more than just words, but light and sustenance. We need to plug into the very thing that powers the creation of an abundant life. 

Excerpt from The Faith Code: A Future-Proof Framework for a Life of Meaning and Impact (Morehouse Publishing) by Terry Brisbane and Rusty Rueff. Copyright 2023. Used by permission.