Bible Verse: “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:9)
We all have a desire to achieve, whether in academics, music, sports, ministry, or our careers. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with that. In fact these desires can often be noble, even inspired by God as part of His calling on your life. But that desire to achieve must never become the primary focus of your life. That focus should always be Christ, because when He is at the center of our lives, our primary ambition becomes incomparably greater. When He is at the center of our lives, we strive to know Christ more deeply, and honour his call to help transform our broken world so that it reflects the justice and beauty of God’s kingdom.
As our desire to achieve things for and through Chris grows, we are freed from the need to succeed in a worldly sense, and are empowered by Him to live with integrity and a depth of character not possible without Him. So even if we do achieve success by the world’s standards, we won’t be driven by an insatiable and compulsive need.
If we allow ourselves to be driven to accomplish great things in order to be loved, we become slaves to success. We will climb the ladder of success out of a sense of deprivation, and even if we do reach the top, we will still feel unsatisfied and empty. But Jesus showed us that is there is another way. If we seek to make significant contributions to the world because we are loved by our great Father in heaven, we will live as children of grace. We will see that everything we have or have achieved is a gift. We will be motivated to do our best work out of a deep sense of gratitude, because we have been accepted by our heavenly Father through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
It is true that God is with us all the time. He reaches out to us every day through the people in our lives, through the beauty of creation, and through Scripture. He speaks to us in moments of beauty and in sadness, through our memories and desires. Yet, sadly, most people will remain distracted and unaware of His presence, and will struggle their entire lives to achieve more and more, and never find satisfaction.
In my own life, I’ve found that an awareness of grace – of a love that I can’t earn and most certainly don’t deserve – has deepened as I have intentionally made space for God in my life. These life-giving habits leave me feeling less restless, and more comfortable in my own skin. I’m stirred to contribute out of a sense of gratitude for the grace I have been given, rather than out of a need to validate myself. As the Holy Spirit works in me through these habits, I am freed to live my life in approval instead of for approval.
Intentionally creating space for God in our lives through deliberate spiritual practices is essential to our soul’s survival. These practices awaken us to God’s presence, enabling us to live freely out of our new identity as beloved children of God. And as we become more attentive to God’s abiding presence in our lives, labels such as stupid, mistake, fraud, not enough, worthless, ugly, and loser fall away. They are replaced by other words. Words of truth, spoken by the One who created us. Words like, beloved, beautiful, and blessed.
Praise be to our great Father in heaven!
In 2023, each week's blog is a follow-up reflection written by the preceding Sunday’s preacher to dig deeper into the sermon topic and explore engaging discussion questions.