What talent(s) do you have? What are you actually trying to accomplish with your life while on earth? Are you tempted now and then to value your abilities above your relationship with God?
I know the type and the temptation. Like you, I’ve had exciting plans for the future and was studying and preparing myself as best I knew how. I remember the old adage that success is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration…or hard work. Even while in school I dreamed about my ideas, aiming for the kind of promising career I thought would allow me success and achievement. I even believed I had the vision, character, and skills to be successful.
Meeting Jesus in college only seemed to sharpen my expectations that I was made for something special and unique to my background, training, and wiring.
A few Sunday school classes into my early years as a Jesus follower confirmed the idea that God made each of us to be able to handle specific tasks to make an impact while we are here. It reinforced a concept from athletics that each person on the team is a key contributor to our goals, progress, and ultimate success. It is a great feeling whether a starter or substitute that each of us can contribute.
Yet a danger needs to be recognized. If any of us allow our skills, knowledge, or abilities to become the focus of our lives, we tread on shaky ground. It is not a bad idea to train and prepare for that promising career you believe you are gifted for. You just need to realize that when we get too self-focused, we tend to concentrate too much on ourselves and often forget the Lord.
Read Philippians 3:1-14.
Paul, the writer of a first century letter to Christians who lived in Philippi, was prone to make that very mistake. In fact, he did so many times. The focus of his self-centeredness was due in part to his extensive religious training. Paul was highly educated, with a rich background in Judaism and its many ceremonies and protocols. He had many reasons to celebrate his Jewish heritage, his circumcision, his sense and conviction of his righteousness, and his zeal for the Hebrew religion. From his perspective, he had it all together.
But Paul came to discover something more critical to focus on. He realized (with God’s sovereign assistance) that real purpose emerged when he stopped thinking about his own greatness and became convicted that God alone was GREAT, and He had created Paul for one purpose: to know Jesus a lot better (verse 8).
The same insight applies to each of us. Regardless of your family history, talent, level of achievement, personal charisma, and even spiritual instincts and disciplines, each of us needs to realize that passionate (even selfish) pursuits only take us so far. Like Paul, we have been made to know Jesus as well. Consider the punch line capacity of Philippians 3:8.
It appears to me that whatever we do does not have ultimate value if it does not help us know Jesus. So take time to reflect on your life and circumstances. How can you know Jesus better? What two things can you do in the next week to start re-focusing your faith and life pathway? Walk wisely. Any ability can be a real liability until it is given over to Jesus.
Love is a verb,
©2016 by Mike Olejarz