The recent passing of Steve Jobs, one of the brilliant pioneers of the Information Age, has brought many thoughts to my heart and mind over the past week.
I certainly share the global adulations of his amazing life and work. He changed the world through his numerous inventions including the MacIntosh computer, The iPhone, iPod, iPhone, iPad and the multi-million dollar industry that they spawned. He was one of the great pioneers of the high tech era—an eclectic icon to this generation.
But I wonder if Steve Jobs ever correctly answered life’s three most important questions. His ultimate fate and legacy will hinge on those answers.
So will yours.
Before looking at those questions, I agree with the outpouring of global sentiment that Steve Jobs made a significant contribution to the world as we now know it—especially in computing and digital entertainment. Ed Feulner, the president of the Heritage Foundation, and certainly one of opposite political persuasion from Jobs, had these kind words to say:
“Apple Computer, the company Jobs founded at the age of 21 was valued at the close of business yesterday at $350 billion. From computing to music to journalism, Jobs changed the way the world did its business and leisure. Very little of what we do today has not been impacted somehow by Jobs and his company. He certainly changed my life from my first Apple III with floppy discs almost 30 years ago, costing about $6000 and possessing a small fraction of the capabilities of my streamlined new iPad 2, all at less than 10 percent of the cost of that early dinosaur.”
“Macs transformed the way people came to see computers, from gizmos only nerds understood or liked to things almost as organic as the partly bitten apples of the ever-present logos. Creative designing and thinking flowed naturally from a Mac, powering the creativity and productivity that have become the hallmark of the American economy. In music, Jobs changed the industry by taking it digital.”
“As for journalism and reading in general, we have now gone back to where we started: the biblical tablet. The elegant slab we take with us wherever we go can do the same for us and take us, no matter where we are, anywhere in the universe our imagination wants to visit. All this was the result of the happy coincidence of genius in an individual and a system. Jobs was an individual with special DNA.”
I agree wholeheartedly.
I never met Steve Jobs, but I’m aware of his history. He was adopted as a child–a half-Arab boy from a Persian background. After living a fairly normal American middle class life, he went in his early twenties to India in pursuit of religious truth and enlightenment. What he learned there must have stuck. When he later married, the ceremony was conducted according to Zen Buddhist ritual.
In Steve’s interviews and speeches, there’s an absence of references to God. However, not long after he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2004, he gave a commencement speech at Stanford University that gave us a small window into his soul. Here are some excerpts:
“When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: “If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you’ll most certainly be right.” It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my
life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.”
“Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything ‹ all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”
“No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new.”
“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma–which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become.”
Facing his own mortality motivated Steve Jobs to think about priorities. To his collegiate audience he stressed the value of living as if it was his last day; He talked about the need to “follow your heart and intuitions;” He encouraged the graduates to reject the “dogma” of others, and think for themselves.
But I hear a deafening silence on life’s three most important questions. What are those questions, and how do they impact the true legacy of our lives?
Number One: Is there a God?
This is the most important question. Everything else hinges upon it. If there’s no God, then I can pretty much do what I want. Without God, each one of us is our own god and everything is unanswerable, without purpose, going nowhere, and in a word—meaningless. If there’s no God, then you don’t need to listen to others but simply follow your own heart desires.
However, that answer is not true.
Yes, there is a God.
Like many folks, including Steve Jobs, I encountered some problems in my youthful years that sent me searching for truth. I found it in the reality of God as vividly seen in his creation and wonderfully revealed in His Word—the Bible. Once I knew there was a God, that revelation changed everything in my life, world, and calling.
But God’s reality only prompted the second most important question:
Number Two: If there is a God, then how do I come into right relationship with Him?
It’s one thing to be aware that there’s a God, a moral universe, and a right and wrong way to live—i.e. good and evil. It’s another thing to meet God’s conditions for friendship with Him.
As I sought to get to know God, and studied His Word, it became plain that the problem on earth and in my own life was selfishness; That God was a Holy God who hated sin out of love and truth; That I was a sinner and couldn’t change myself; But that God had provided a way for my forgiveness and transformation through the death of Jesus Christ his Son because of His incredible love for me and all human beings.
I came to discover that I could have a right and eternal relationship with God by faith. I could be saved and changed through trusting Him. This faith would direct my life on earth and allow me share eternal life with God and all other redeemed human beings after this life was over.
That led me to the final critical question:
Number Three: Then what kind of faith saves me?
There are different types of faith. One type of faith is mental—you simply agree with certain facts in your mind. I’d practiced it as a child, but it didn’t change me. I know many people that have “facts” about God without relationship or power. It doesn’t work.
The Bible also said that “even the demons believe and shudder” (James 2:19). But their type of faith doesn’t save them either. They know God exists and they’re scared spitless. But this type of demonic faith doesn’t change their life or fate.
As I studied God’s Word, I came to understand what saving faith is. The New Testament makes it clear that saving faith is a heart-felt trust that invites Jesus to be the Lord of my life. I need to agree with God about my evil heart, confess my sins, turn away from a selfish lifestyle and put my trust in the Savior to change me. He is the new boss—and I am his follower.
Many years ago I embraced God’s grace with saving faith—and became a child and friend of God.
I don’t know if Steve Jobs ever asked or answered these pivotal questions. I pray that he did. I hope that in the latter days of his life—regardless of all the great stuff he had launched and invented—he bowed his heart before God, asked his forgiveness for his sins, and put his faith in Jesus Christ as the Lord of his life.
Because this is also true: “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world but lose his soul. What can a man give in exchange for his soul? (Matthew 16:26). And “one small life will soon be past. Only what’s done for Christ will last.”
Steve Jobs was right that we all face death. That also means we all will face God. I hope that he did so with saving faith in his Creator and Savior.
If he did, his life and legacy will endure forever. If he did not, then his contributions to our world will be helpful in this life, but not eternal.