By Mallory Smyth
Catholic Speaker and Writer
Start with the Why
Why do some organizations inspire great and lasting change worldwide and others don’t? This is the question that Simon Sinek, a well-known business thought leader, posed at the beginning of his world-famous Ted Talk, “Start with the Why.” Why is it that a computer company like Apple can crush competition year after year and innovate at record-shattering speeds when they have access to the same talent as everyone else? Through his talk, now seen 57 million times, he answered this question.
Sinek explained that most organizations operate according to three questions: Why? How? What? Most organizations know what they do; some know how they do it. Very few organizations, however, know why they do what they do. Sinek defined the “why” saying, “By ‘why,’ I mean: What’s your purpose? What’s your cause? What’s your belief? Why does your organization exist?”1
This principle applies to individuals as well as organizations. When a person is deeply convicted of their “why,” they are more likely to perform their “what” and “how” with deeper joy and perseverance. As they accomplish their purpose, they almost always inspire others to join their cause.
With this in mind, I humbly ask you: Why are you Catholic? Why do you go to Mass, read the Bible, pray the rosary or try to raise your kids Catholic? What drives you? I am sure that you could give many answers to this question. Maybe you are Catholic because you have always been Catholic. You probably see value in raising your children in religion. You may be drawn to tradition or love the reverence of the Mass.
There are as many reasons for being Catholic as there are Catholic people, but all of those reasons should boil down to one. What is the reason? The gospel is true. It has power, and the best way to live it out is through the teachings and practices of the Catholic Church.
Catholicism exists because the gospel exists. It should be our “why” and drive everything about how we live. If it isn’t, we run the risk of burning out, heartlessly going through the motions, or being ineffective in bringing the Good News to a world that so desperately needs to hear it.
A Gospel Refresher
So, if this news is so amazing, what exactly is it? Most of us think of the gospel readings at Mass when we hear the word “gospel.” We know the Good News, but in my experience, many Catholics cannot easily articulate what that Good News is, so we do our Catholic thing, unaware of the power that the gospel has in our lives.
The gospel message is simple. Romans 6:23 tells us, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
The bad news of the gospel comes first. “The wages of sin is death.” And who has earned these wages of death? All of us. All of us have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Rom 3:23). We have all chosen to worship things other than God, and as a result, we have earned hell. It’s true, none of us have made the cut, and there is no amount of good work that will help us to earn our way back into the perfection that God requires. This is bad news. If it were the end, there would be no hope.
But wait! The good news is that God did not leave us to wallow in these consequences. Knowing that we were hopeless, he stepped in to change the outcome. God sent us his son Jesus to live the life we could not. He lived a sinless life of total sacrifice. In doing so, he defeated death, our consequence, and made it possible for us to live in a relationship with him again.
INCREDIBLE. The gospel is the best news that has ever existed, and now King Jesus is alive in heaven, constantly offering us a life of abundance. He saw us wallowing in the consequences of our sin, stepped into the breach, and pulled us out. Now, he offers to shower us with his grace so that we can live in this valley of tears with the joy of his salvation. We get to walk through this side of heaven knowing the God of the Universe in loving intimacy even though we don’t deserve it.
This is the gospel, the foundation of the Christian life. Could there possibly be a better “why”? It is offered to every single person, no matter their past, no matter how far from God they think they are. And we are called to live every day with the conviction that it has the power to transform the life of every single person alive. ⊲
The Power of the Gospel
St. Paul says in Romans 1:16, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes.”
The gospel message has power because it is the underlying reality of our existence. When we see the universe as the Church sees it, with Jesus as the bridegroom and we as his beloved bride, we can live with deeper joy, better health and more freedom. We can also hold up other truth claims against the truth of the gospel, which enables us to recognize the lies that permeate our culture more easily.
The gospel also has power because it is the answer to all of our questions. Pope Saint Paul VI reminds us of this in his encyclical Evangelii Nuntiandi, “For it is only in the Christian message that modern man can find the answer to his questions and the energy for his commitment of human solidarity.”2 In the gospel message, we find our life’s purpose and call. We also find the strength to persevere through all the suffering that life throws our way.
So, back to our “why.” Catholics must be convicted to the power and primacy of the gospel if we want to endure in this life with unshakable faith. We must let the gospel drive us if we’re going to be able to offer anything to our friends and family who have yet to accept it. Why share it? Because all who miss it miss out on the life that God offers. We must believe this in the very marrow of our bones if we want to inspire others to believe it as well.
So How Do We Live It Out?
1 Corinthians 1:15 says, “Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand, by which you are being saved.”
St. Paul reminded the Corinthians that they had received the gospel and were being saved by it. He also reminded them to stand in it. As Catholics, we often receive the gospel’s good news and then move on with careers, home lives, social lives and everything else. However, we are called to live every aspect of our lives as an outflow from a gospel foundation. Here are three quick ways that you can start to do that.
First, become steeped in prayer.
Do you have your daily prayer time on your calendar? If you don’t, I invite you to make it part of your schedule for at least 20 minutes a day. The Lord wants to know you, and he wants you to know him. If the gospel is the “why” behind your faith, then time with God has to be the priority of your life.
Second, become rooted in scripture.
Do you know the Bible? All of us are constantly consuming the lies of the modern marketing machine. If the gospel is going to drive you, you have to know how to counter those lies and with the truth. Take time to find that truth in the scriptures. Learn a handful of Bible verses by heart that remind you of who you are and whose you are as you go through your day. If you are able to saturate your mind with God’s word, it will be easier to stand in the gospel as you go about your day.
Finally, set up your life according to what matters to God.
God’s will takes priority over ours. This means that you should spend your time and money, set up your marriage or dating life, raise your kids and interact with your co-workers all according to what God wants as opposed to what you want. When you do this, you give him control, and he further reveals the gospel’s saving power through your life.
Jesus told us in Matthew 7:24-25, “Every one then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house upon the rock; and the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat upon that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock.”
Build your life on the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is the firm foundation for which our society longs. It is the “why” behind every other why. It is the power of God that brings salvation to you and the world, and it is working right now in you.
- Simon Sinek. “Start with the Why.” YouTube video, 18:00.
September 28, 2009.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TDi4hzRIrgc&t=97s.
- Pope Paul VI, Evangelii Nuntiandi (Italy: The Vatican, 1975), 1.