Chapter 5

Chapter 5 – How the 3-criteria can actually be met

How can God help to meet each of the 3-Criteria in our lives? Let’s answer this question, one criterion at a time.

Criterion 1 – That you would count

You would be able to feel about yourself high significance, value, worth, and purpose. That your existence would matter greatly.

When I look at “high significance, value, worth, and purpose” and “your existence would matter greatly”, value seems to stand out to me as the root on which so many other things depend. For instance, if we can feel like we are greatly valued, then worth and significance both seem to tag along more easily. So, first let’s start with a look at how God can help to put our value on the map.

If we remove God from the picture, then where do we derive our value from? We might derive it from any of the following sources.

      • Our contribution to society. (Such as raising kids, helping others in small ways, helping others in big ways, etc.)

      • Our accomplishments. (Such as trophies, grade point averages, degrees, etc.)

      • What we have earned. (Such as finances, belongings, etc.)

      • What we have merited. (Such as reputation, positions, etc.)

      • What we know. (Such as knowledge gained, expertise, etc.)

      • Who we associate with, have come in contact with, or are in our family lineage. (Such as famous people, etc.)

      • How we make others feel. (If we make them feel good, then they may tend to show us more value.)

      • Etc.

But what if we do not have many of these things? What if we are just normal people who have not made what we view as great contributions to society, and do not have any extraordinary accomplishments? Can we feel like we have great value then? Or maybe we feel like we’ve made a number of mistakes, hurt a number of people, and really don’t feel all that good about what we’ve done in life so far. Can we feel like we have great value then? Lastly, what if we do have many of the things listed above and yet still feel a lack of our own value and worth, wonder if we are only a little dot on this spinning planet earth, and in the big scheme of things wonder if we count at all? Can we feel like we have great value then?

One thing that brings this into focus is for us to think about a newborn baby. If value is derived from those things listed above, then what value does a baby have? A baby has no great accomplishments, no degrees, etc. Maybe we could say there is value potential and that a baby makes some parents and grandparents feel good. But the big question is, “Does a baby have any value apart from the list above?” If we look at our society, we see some people putting newborn babies into garbage dumpsters. Those people definitely have not been able to place high value upon those babies. So, is there any value from the start? If so, then how much value?

But if we instead have God in the picture, then a wonderful thing occurs! It is what I call “inherent value”. This is value that is from the start, before any contribution to society, accomplishments, etc. It is a complete valuing, not based upon performance or merit. So where does it come from and how does it work?

It first starts with God’s love. To be clear, this is not “a boy has a crush on a girl” definition of love, but a selfless love. An example of this type of love occurred in a family I knew growing up where the boy did not have a dad. The reason he did not have a dad was because of a tragedy that occurred when they were on vacation in San Francisco, California. The little boy ran out into the street and wound up in the path of a trolley car. The father ran out and threw the boy aside, but lost his life in the process when the trolley car ran over him. This example is a relatively small sample of the kind of selfless love that God has for each of us – a love that highly values the object of that love (i.e. an incredibly rich and affectionate valuing).

Here’s the big question… Why does God love us? Is it because we have merited it? Do we somehow deserve it? Is it because of who we are? Here is what I think is so great – the reason God loves us is because of who God is. It is part of His/Her very being. This is great for us, since it does not depend upon our performance, etc. Instead it means according to God’s love, each of us is loved and valued right from the start – before we do anything! Since God has a perfection quality of infinite love, a newborn baby is infinitely loved and valued from day one, because of God’s love for the baby.

Now it’s one thing to know about God loving us, but it’s a whole other thing to actually realize it in our lives. As with the other things in this Criterion 1 section, activation occurs as we enter into a close relationship with God (which we’ll look at how to do in the next chapter). In the case of value, as we grow in the knowledge of God’s love for us, this in turn will build a foundation of value in our lives. In my own life prior to entering into a relationship with God, God’s love was foreign to me. And when I first entered into relationship with God, it was still foreign to me. But fortunately, my personally knowing God’s love for me has begun to build over time.

So God’s perfection quality of infinite love and His/Her valuing of us according to that love can become the basis of our loving and valuing ourselves. This inherently gives us high significance, value, and worth. We therefore greatly matter before we do anything! Deep down, I think that one of our deepest needs is to be loved. Value systems outside of God’s love can give out “small change” in terms of value for us. But to always have an infinite flow of love coming from God to us, before we do anything, meets us at one of the deepest needs of our beings. Inherent value is beautiful! To just have a taste of God’s love can be like water in a desert!

Criterion 1 – Purpose

Even if we can have our value, significance, and worth put on the map according to God’s love and valuing of us, it still does not fully answer the question about purpose. In other words, if we look at the root reasons why we and others look for more purpose to our lives, we find that some of that desire stems from the desire to feel value, worth, and significance. But if our value gets established inherently by our accepting and growing in the knowledge of God’s love and valuing of us, then the following questions about purpose still remain.

      • What is the meaning of life?

      • Why do we exist?

      • Why are we here?

      • Is there a bigger purpose for us being here?

      • What is our overall purpose?

      • Is there no bigger, grander thing? No bigger plan?

This was a dilemma of mine as an atheist child. Even though there were fun things to do, and many things I enjoyed, I still had thoughts like, “Is this all there is? Is it all some accident that just ends in death? Isn’t there anything more?”

As I grew a little older, I read and heard answers that people claimed would give additional value and purpose to one’s life – answers that described the value of “smelling the roses”, “making each day count”, etc. But when I thought longer-term, these answers still did not satisfy me. When my aunt said to me, “All good things must come to an end”, I was saddened. I realized that if what my aunt said was true, then “smelling the roses” today, wouldn’t make much of a difference millions of years from now when I was long gone. Bottom line, I concluded that there were many nice feel-good answers, but no real answers for the long run that I was aware of. You can probably imagine my surprise when I actually began to find some real answers to these questions. We’ll look at some of these answers now in regards to purpose and then we’ll look at additional answers when we look at Criterion 3 (standing the test of time).

When I finally began to learn and understand things about God, I eventually realized that knowing who God is, is the place to begin in finding answers about purpose. Here are some of God’s perfection qualities that pertain to our purpose.

      • Always desires our best.

      • Always desires the maintaining and strengthening of our personhood.

      • Is always perfect in motives.

      • Infinitely values us.

      • Always has selfless love towards us.

      • Is infinitely knowledgeable and wise.

      • Knows us completely.

      • Never makes a mistake.

In light of these perfection qualities, God in His/Her great love for us and desire for our best, has mapped out unique purposes (i.e. plans, so to speak) for each of our lives – as a gift to us.

We are not random accidents running around on this globe. Instead, before the earth was here, God in His/Her infinite knowledge and wisdom designed unique plans for each of our lives. Even if you or I were the only person to ever live, God loves us infinitely and would still have mapped out and provided unique purposes just for us. Before we were even born, God knew completely who we would be, what our uniquenesses would be, the definitions of our personhood, and the circumstances of our lives. In light of all of this, God mapped out purposes for us to learn and grow into over time. These purposes are even bigger than our life spans. They are actually mapped out into eternity, with our time on earth as only a small part of the bigger picture. But we’ll look at this more when we explore Criterion 3 (standing the test of time).

Since God’s motives are always perfect, these purposes for us do not come from bad ulterior motives. God is unlike some people who have “plans” for us that are actually more for them than for us. A salesperson may have a plan for me to buy something from them, but is it predominantly for my best or for their best interest? If they are noble it may be for my best. But many times it seems their focus is more on what they would get out of it, instead of what I would get out of it. The wonderful thing about God’s selfless love for us and His/Her being perfect in motives is that God’s purposes for us are first for us, not for Her/Him. In this sense, if we were trains, then God’s purposes for us would be the gift of train tracks for us to ride on. As I once heard someone say, a train is much freer on the tracks than in the woods with no tracks.

Do you count?

If the God of the universe has mapped out purposes for you as a unique individual before the earth was here, then what does this say about your existence?

Bottom line… You count!

Your parents may have told you that you were a mistake, or maybe you were an illegitimate child. But since God is infinitely knowledgeable and wise, and never makes a mistake, therefore you and I are not mistakes! People have plans for many things, but God’s plans are extraordinary and account for all human factors and variables. I guess you could say in one sense that S/He has an incredible “brain” that can account for an incredible number of variables – including those in the future. If we grow in a knowledge and appreciation of God’s purposes for our lives, then we can begin to have a deep need met in our lives. And that is to know that our existence is not random chance or futile, and that we are not an accident or mistake, but instead that we actually totally count!

The lower becomes the higher

There are additional benefits of the purposes God has for each of us. For one thing, we can gain a whole new meaning to the things of life. For instance, to know that we are here for a purpose increases the purposefulness of the things we do. Even mundane work can take on new significance as it finds its place in the larger purposes that God has for each of us. Rather than things being ends in themselves, they can instead take on a new higher value – as part of something greater. This is analogous to a radio that plays only white noise due to a broken antenna. Is playing white noise all it was designed to do? With a fixed antenna, which is analogous to entering into and growing in a friendship with God, it can begin to actually play music. Not just white noise, but sound taken to a whole new level.

The option to accept or reject

Since God desires the maintaining and strengthening of our personhood, S/He will not impose His/Her gift of purposes upon us. Instead God gives us the option to accept or reject His/Her purposes for us.

I often wondered why God doesn’t just show up to each person and say, “I’m here!” Why instead does God choose to stay invisible? Then one day it dawned on me that if God actually showed up in front of us, we would be overwhelmed at His/Her awesomeness. Instead, in God’s grander plan, S/He has set things up in a way that would allow us to search and find Her/Him over time. God does not rush this process, but allows us to grow into a knowledge of Her/Him and to decide whether or not we would like to accept the gift of His/Her purposes for us. The first step in accepting God’s purposes for us is to accept a relationship with God. (We’ll look at the details of how to do this in the next chapter.) But even then, God does not force relationship upon us, but allows us to either accept or reject it. All of this ties to God’s priority of loving us, and in that love desiring the preservation of our personhood. Even if we would for a time misperceive God’s intentions for us, S/He will not violate our personhood in order to “straighten out” our thinking. Instead God loves us infinitely and allows us time to make these decisions for ourselves.

Can I still catch the bus?

In some things in life, if we make a mistake, we can’t go back and fix it. For example, if we didn’t board the bus that just went by, then we missed our ride. No matter what we do, we can’t go back in time and modify things so that we could have actually gotten on that bus. But in the case of God’s purposes for us, it is an amazing gift in the sense that we can board the bus, so to speak, at any point in time – regardless of any events or mistakes of the past. I think this is great, since even if we feel like our life has been a failure for whatever reason, we can actually get a new start at a point in time. And I think that God is very gracious in that S/He can and will use even our mistakes from the past for our greater good.

A few additional points about personhood

As we looked at earlier, God’s purposes for us coincide with His/Her desire for the maintaining and strengthening of our personhood. And the amazing thing about God completely understanding us and having infinite wisdom is that S/He not only knows better than we do what defines our personhood, but also knows how our personhood can best be maintained and enhanced. So these are not imposed purposes that are foreign to who we really are, but instead purposes that respect our personhood and are designed according to God’s infinite wisdom and complete understanding of who we are as unique individuals. You may wonder how God can help to enhance our personhood without imposing on us something foreign to who we are. Here are two examples.

1. We may have a hard time feeling a high sense of love and value for ourselves, but God knows that we can better respect our personhood if we have a higher valuing of ourselves. So if we enter into a relationship with God, S/He will help us to grow in the understanding of His/Her love and valuing of us. This will in turn help to enhance our personhood.

2. Part of personhood is defined by our being unique individuals. But at different times in our lives, we may have encountered rejection as we tried to be ourselves. Others may have tried to label us and force us into their limited categories, but if we can have God’s approval, then what other opinion matters in contrast? Fortunately, God can help us to be less concerned with the approval of others, and in so doing make it easier for us to think for ourselves and to be more fully ourselves.


Did it make sense that God has mapped out and given purposes uniquely for each of us, as gifts to us? If so, then does it make sense that since God’s main motivation towards us is selfless love, that these purposes are first for us, not for Her/Him? And also that these purposes are according to who we are (in line with our personhood) and not imposed according to who we are not? I realize that if you have had a negative view of God, then the above thoughts may be hard to see without them being colored by those negative perceptions. If this is the case, then you may want to reread from Chapter 4 back to here, but with a special focus on the perfection qualities of God listed.

Criterion 2 – That others would count

You would be able to feel about others high significance, value, worth, and purpose. That their existence would matter greatly.

So how can God help to meet Criterion 2 so that we would be able to feel high significance, value, worth, and purpose about others, and that we would know that their existence greatly matters?

The answers actually wind up being the same answers that we looked at in the Criterion 1 (our counting) section. We can know that others count in the same way that we count – according to the inherent value placed upon them by God loving and valuing them. We can also know that their existence is not futile or by chance. Instead, in infinite knowledge and wisdom, God has designed unique plans for each of their lives as a gift for them. And their sense of purpose can be enhanced if they are willing to receive the gift of God’s purposes for them.

We could go into this in more detail, but it would simply be repeating what we looked at in the Criterion 1 section. So if you would like to contemplate this in greater detail, you could reread the Criterion 1 section again and think on the concepts in terms of how they apply to others. But for now, let’s take a look at how the meeting of Criterion 1 (our counting) and Criterion 2 (others counting) can actually have wider effects upon relationships.

Wouldn’t it be nice?

Wouldn’t the earth be such a nice place if all people fully loved and valued each other the way that God does? We would feel such a great sense of well-being in being part of such a society. And to have others accept us and be open to us all the time would naturally move us all towards deeper relationships. Unfortunately, the world is not like this, and I don’t think we will see this occur any time soon at a full societal level. Instead there are many people isolated from others due to any number of reasons – such as emotional wounds, fear of rejection, or wanting more personal space. You would think with all the people on this planet that loneliness wouldn’t have a chance. But many relational barriers exist. So, even when a person is surrounded by many others, they can still have a great deal of loneliness… not from physical isolation, but from barriers in relationships. And on top of all of this, the daily news reports many cruel and hurtful activities occurring in the world. When others are mistreated, harmed, or killed, I think it causes many of us to feel a bit discouraged, less valued, and a little less human.

Can anything be done?

Even though these problems most likely won’t get solved at a full societal level, fortunately there can be great improvement at an individual level, in individual relationships. If each of us can grow in knowing our inherent value according to God’s love and valuing of us, and if we can also grow in our valuing of others according to God’s love and valuing of them, then whole new dimensions can be added to our relationships. Relational barriers can begin to be removed and new depths of relationships realized. I’m not saying that you have bad relationships. Instead, what I am saying is that adding God’s love to any relationship can take it to new depths, especially as each person begins to highly love and value the other person. And when God’s love is present in a relationship, the relationship becomes safer. As the safety increases, so can the openness. As the openness increases, the sense of just “being” can become a very rich experience.

Here is an example of this from my own life. I’ve known my wife, Bonna, for many years. When we first met and started dating, I was an atheist, and neither of us was in a growing relationship with God. And our relationship with each other was relationally unhealthy in numerous ways. A little more than a year later, both of us learned the kind of things about God that are written in this book, and we decided to enter into growing relationships with God. This in turn caused our relationship with each other to have a much better foundation of value, worth, and purpose. A few years later we got married and have since gone through the normal strains of getting used to married life. But what is amazing to me is that after many years of marriage together, we actually like each other more than ever before, as we continue to grow in and enjoy our relationships with God and as we continue to grow in our relationship with each other – which is a great contrast to when we first met!

Overall, if God’s love and valuing increases in the relationships of our lives, it will in turn help us to understand God’s love for us in greater ways. If we can see God’s love in the eyes of others, then it will help us to better realize our own significance and value. And when God’s love is added to a relationship, it can bring much relational enjoyment and contentment.

A note about love

You may have noticed the concept of “God’s love” mentioned a number of times so far in this book. When I was first learning a few of the things discussed in this book, I became quite intrigued with the concept of “love”. I was amazed to see the effects of God’s love upon relationships – both with God and others. This in turn motivated me all the more to learn and grow in my relationship with God and to have even more of His/Her love in my relationships with Her/Him and others. And many years later, I am even more amazed at how awesome God’s love is! And I feel very fortunate to now know that God truly has the keys to love!

Criterion 3 – That Criterion 1 and Criterion 2 would stand the test of time

You would always want Criterion 1 (our counting) and Criterion 2 (others counting) to be true – even through eternity. In other words, if we found something to establish Criterion 1 and Criterion 2 for only the length of our lives and the lives of those we know, it still would not meet the deep desire for it to be lasting. We would still want ourselves and others to greatly count even after a trillion years.

If God helps us to have Criterion 1 (our counting) and Criterion 2 (others counting) growing and getting established in our lives, then is there any way that S/He can also help us to have this last longer than the length of our lives on this earth? At a very basic level, if our existence does not remain, then it is clear that Criterion 1 and Criterion 2 cannot remain as well. So let’s start this section with a look at how our existence can be maintained, and then look later in this section at how Criterion 1 and Criterion 2 can be fully maintained forever.

A desire for existence

In the news, they sometimes show people in flood emergencies who are trying to keep from being swept away by a raging river. They are hanging on for “dear life” to a tree or some other object so that they do not drown. Why do they hang on? Why do they want their existence to continue? Or if someone is starting to drown, why do they fight so hard to come up for air? To me, these responses show the very basic deep desire in all of us to not lose our existence. I realize that some people have so much pain in their lives that the pain becomes more powerful than their desire for existence. But excluding this exception, there is a desire in each of us to have our existence not end.

My dilemma as an atheist was the cruelty of the passing of time, since it would eventually terminate my existence. If I was hungry I could eat, if I was thirsty I could drink, and if I was tired I could sleep. But no matter what I did, I could not stop time and stop my existence from ending with death. As I thought through this, it made me sad. I could try to make a name for myself, but in a trillion years would anyone remember me? Would anyone care that I even existed in the first place? And if I looked further down the timeline, I realized that as time marched to infinity, even the memory of my existence would move to zero (i.e. nothing). So in many ways, I did not want to think about death. I even pretended that it wouldn’t happen to me, and instead tried to ignore it and act as if this life would last forever. At the same time, there were many reminders of my own mortality – such as natural disasters, wars, people dying, and even people my own age dying. These reminders kept bringing me back to the reality that someday I must die. But if I could have it all, I desired that not only would my existence count and have value now, but also that it would carry into the future and never fade away. I observed a number of people working hard to try to leave a mark for themselves to be remembered by, such as donating a library wing and having it named after them. But I didn’t want to just leave a mark that would only be a shadow of me and would still fade away over time. I instead desired that the me on the inside would remain – that my very existence would never end.

So is there a way for our existence to not end?


In order to accomplish this, we have to first find something that has an unending existence itself, and secondly, has the ability to somehow maintain our existence forever. Fortunately, one thing about God is that S/He will never cease to exist. God also has a desire for us to enter into a close relationship with Her/Him (for our sake) and to have that relationship last forever – throughout eternity. So, if we enter into a relationship with God, then when our bodies die, God will cause who we are on the inside to continue on with Her/Him forever. This inside part of us is the real us – our personality, understanding, thinking, and personhood. If we lose a limb, this inside part still remains intact. So it is the whole us, minus the outer shell of our physical bodies, that will continue on. At the point we shed our bodies, we will actually get to see God in person. There are numerous documented cases of near-death experiences that explain this phenomenon in greater detail. In most of these cases, each person experiences the following events.

      • They clinically die.

      • They leave their body.

      • They can see their dead body as they “float” above it. They can also hear and see other people and activity around their physical body.

      • They continue on further and start going down a passageway.

      • At the end of the passageway there is a bright light.

      • When they get to the bright light, they see a being of light.

      • They feel incredibly loved by that being of light.

      • The being of light then gives them a life review. In this life review they get to see how their actions truly affected other people. They are often very surprised by clearly seeing the full negative effects that their actions had upon others.

      • They are given a chance to return to their body – which they then accept.

      • When they reenter their body, it feels cold and heavy in comparison to the state they were just in. This corresponds with their being revived from being clinically dead.

      • They often see life in a new perspective and have a better attitude about it.

      • They are often shy about sharing what they experienced for concern that others will write them off as being crazy.

      • When they do share their experience, they are able to describe the things they heard and saw from above their body. This can be a big surprise to those who were present and knew that the dead body should not have been able to hear those things, and that some of those things could not even have been seen from the dead body’s line of sight.

So if we enter into a relationship with God, and others whom we know also enter into a relationship with God, then when our bodies die and are not revived, each of us will have a similar experience to those who have had a near-death experience. We will get to see God face-to-face and then fully realize His/Her love and valuing of us. And all of us together will experience love and totally open relationships with God and each other. This will not only give us contentment at the deepest level, but will also fully meet both Criterion 1 (our counting) and Criterion 2 (others counting).

This all may seem like pie in the sky and too good to be true. But the basis for this is actually found in God’s infinite love for each of us. In that love, God desires our best. And the very best is for each of us to be in a full relationship of selfless love with God and others – forever! If God did not love us, then this would not be a part of His/Her bigger plan and gift of purposes for us. And in the same way that God can help us to know that S/He is actually there, God can also help us to realize the certainty of what happens after death.

Chapter summary and a note about happiness

We saw in this chapter how God can meet the 3-Criteria in our lives by putting our value on the map, giving us purposes as a gift, establishing value for others, giving others purposes as a gift, and all in a way that passes the test of time. It was also stated that these things are activated by entering into a relationship with God, and that they build gradually over time. So if we enter into a relationship with God, then some of the 3-Criteria may be met right away, other aspects may take a long time to meet, and the remainder will be fully met after the death of our bodies. One reason I state that some of these things build slowly over time is because a number of people have claimed that if someone enters into a relationship with God, then they will be happy all the time. I think this thinking is quite ludicrous. There may be a honeymoon period where certain things are wonderful. And where there has been great thirst, so to speak, a drink will taste very refreshing. But in the long run as we grow in a relationship with God, we will find that we still struggle from time to time and all of our problems will not just go away. But over time, things of value and love will grow… the important things of life. Some things we used to struggle with we may no longer struggle with, and at the same time there may be new things we struggle with. For example, in my own life, as I began to grow in a relationship with God, I found that I started to value honesty more highly. I started to see how honesty is one of the keys to healthy, trusting relationships. And as I became more honest, I found that it was easier in the sense that I was no longer getting caught in lies. At the same time, I have found it very difficult at times to be honest… times when I used to rely on lying to maneuver my way around. So to be very honest with you, growing in a close relationship with God is not easy, but it is definitely worth it. In the next chapter we’ll look at how we can actually enter into such a relationship.