Discipline, commitment, and persistence matter very little in the long run if you are committed to the wrong things. Passionately wrong is still wrong. Persistence in error is still error. Right or wrong, your life and behavior are defined by the things you value. Everyone consciously or unconsciously lives by a value system. The values you live by will largely determine the choices you make, and the way you respond to the events and happenings in your life in any given circumstance. This will always be reflected in where you spend your time, gifts, and resources. Your quality of life will be decided by the value system you set in motion. If you want to consistently make good choices (spiritual as well as natural) and experience growth and sustained success in your life, then you must make sure that you have embraced and are living sensibly by a system of values that are long-term. Your values need to be strong enough, courageous enough, and solid enough to take you where you want to go, and not just an outer-veneer and external trappings of having some sort of pseudo values and virtues—professing, but never internally possessing.
So, what values should you live by? Although there are many ways to answer that question, let me try to simplify it by breaking it down into three general categories: Faith, Family, and Fidelity. More specifically:
This means faith in God and in Christ as Savior and Lord. Faith is the starting point for any solid, strong system of values. It includes trust in the Bible as God’s infallible Word, which is a completely reliable guide to life in all its aspects. Faith means having the Word of God resident inside your spirit, believing it, and then acting on it. Christianity is more than symbolism; it is a living faith in what God has spoken to be absolute truth. Audacious faith is at the core of the Christian life, and holds together our relationship with Christ, our churches, our families, our communities, and what we believe. The virtue and value of faith play a vital role in all of your decision making and life choices. Faith is the bedrock virtue of the Christian witness. Faith is tantamount to the very thread that makes up the fabric of the Christian experience. Faith is the key that unlocks the door to overcome all of life’s challenges and hardships. Solid decision making is impossible without active faith.
A strong, faith-based value system encourages the development of healthy family relationships. The family unit is the most basic institution of society, that helps create and build strong communities. The nuclear family is the point of origin, where every individual’s character, attitudes, behavior patterns, morals, ethics, beliefs, human relational standards, and norms are developed and shaped. The uncompromising Word of God is the foundational textbook for teaching a strong system of virtues and values. These virtues and values don’t fluctuate, evolve, or eventually go out of style, nor become obsolete or outdated. Our methods for embracing them may change, but the virtues and values themselves are never volatile or visceral. If Judeo/Christian values and virtues are not rooted in the Word of God, then they are not Christian virtues or values at all.
Second only to your relationship with Christ, family should be your highest priority. Without a strong value system, relationships will often deteriorate and ultimately fail. The traditional nuclear family and traditional family values are under attack in America (and other parts of the world) as never before. Today, Christians are living under a constant barrage of secular values, and are far too often bombarded and challenged by images and messages of a radically opposing value system. Because of societal drift from biblical values, the abandonment of traditional marriage, rebellious children, drugs, teenage pregnancies, and suicides are on the rise. These pressing problems have been precipitated largely due to the absence and decay of strong family values and virtues. All of us who are followers of Christ need to be adamant, aggressive, and steadfast in standing for and modeling biblical family values and practices in everything we do. More expansively, family as a priority also includes our spiritual family, our fellow believers, and Christ-followers who we fellowship with in our churches on a regular basis. Even more broadly, we can also include our neighbors, who Jesus defined as anyone in need, and who we are in a position to help—people who are outside of our families (Luke 10:25–37).
In addition to a strong family, a strong value system facilitates the development of the essential character trait of fidelity. Fidelity means faithfulness, loyalty to obligations, duty, or vows—trustworthiness in word, deed, and life. Where faith is what you believe, fidelity is being true (faithful) to what you believe. Fidelity is being true to the Lord, living for Him, and serving Him alone. Fidelity is being true to your family—your spouse and your children. Fidelity is being true to your friends, your neighbors, your employers, your fellow workers, and your community. Just as importantly, fidelity is being true to yourself by being brutally honest with yourself, as well as allowing God to shape you into the person He wants you to be. Fidelity is an ongoing virtue that is an unbreakable devotion of steadiness and commitment, placing other’s self-interests and desires above your own. Fidelity promotes peace, healthy growth, and sanity in life.
Unfortunately, fidelity is fading fast in the minds of many today as a positive and essential value of life, and it is a test that, all too often, many simply don’t pass. Today’s postmodern social consciousness has been shaped by humanistic, new-age, psychological values and principles in the culture that encourage self-seeking, immoral, unethical, and even illegal behavior that disregards biblical virtues of any kind. This is not surprising, since postmodern thinking rejects the idea that morality, ethics, and personal behavior can be defined in any universal or absolute terms. Whatever is permitted by the culture is now regarded as morally acceptable. These immoral expressions in postmodern times are the primary systemic source of many social ills, such as suffering, pain, tragedy, and misfortune, which are intrinsically connected to an unhealthy and dysfunctional society that has shifting values.
All of these areas—faith, family, and fidelity—are characterized by the traits of honor, mercy, honesty, humility, integrity, purity, holiness, trustworthiness, fairness, tolerance, etc. These values are exemplified in what Jesus defined as the two greatest commandments, “Love God with your whole being, and love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt. 22:34–40). Paul was even more succinct in declaring, “The entire law is summed up in a single command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’” (Gal. 5:14 NIV).
TR Williams is a gifted lecturer, author, communicator, family counselor, and spiritual-life coach—30 years strong. He is the founder and president of Empower Life Inc.: a nonprofit whose aim and mission delivers a message of hope, empowerment, encouragement, and leadership to individuals who seek success and advancement in life. TR Williams holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Communications from North Central University in Minneapolis, Minnesota; a Master of Arts Degree in Organizational Leadership from Bethel University in St. Paul, Minnesota; and an Honorary Doctorate Degree in Humanities from St. Thomas College in Jacksonville, Florida. He has received numerous accolades and awards for his contributions on leadership development. TR Williams and his wife are the proud parents of three children.