I have a friend who likes to say that everyone has faith … in something. He means that everyone is putting their trust in something — or many things — to bring happiness in security. It may be money, a career, a relationship, beauty, popularity or God — or a combination of these things. It makes sense. We spend our days in pursuit of the things that we think will help us. Of course, this makes me ask the question of myself: How much of my time is spent pursuing God, who can help me most of all?In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus tells us exactly what we should be most concerned about. “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me,” he says. “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life?”Jesus suggests that if we place our faith in things that do not give us life, we are cheating ourselves. If we really want to be happy and fulfilled, we must follow him into his journey of sacrifice, but it is not sacrifice as an end in itself. It is sacrifice for something rich and wonderful — life — in the fullest sense of the word. We know from experience that when we are close to God and in touch with the spiritual reality that surrounds us, we are far happier than we are with fine homes and flush bank accounts.Now, much of what we chase and worry about is related to our physical lives. We need to provide food, shelter, education and entertainment for ourselves and others. But if that is our only goal, to live well and to acquire material comfort, we are doing ourselves a disservice. We are losing the better life that Jesus promises. You could gain the whole world — imagine such a thing — and still be poorer for it, Jesus says. The life that he offers is that much better.I think most of us know this. We know from experience that when we are close to God and in touch with the spiritual reality that surrounds us, we are far happier than we are with fine homes and flush bank accounts. In fact, it is in times of want that we are often most aware of the grace and love of God that is available to us. But, if you’re like me, you often fall back into a pattern of ignoring that reality in favor of the pressing demands of social and economic comfort. I need to remind myself that it really doesn’t “profit” me anything at all to be so concerned and preoccupied with that life. I need to be better at staying at when I am in touch with God, and reconnecting when I lose that contact. The life that Jesus calls us to is always there, available to us. Today, Jesus appeals to our self-interest. Do you want to have a great life? Take up your cross and follow him. There is simply nothing better you could do.Bill Peatman writes from Napa. He may be reached at [email protected].