Several years ago I listened to a lecture by author Donald Miller to a large group of Harvard students. In the presentation he said:
Human beings are wired so that they need some great authority outside themselves to tell him or her who they really are. But for many people that voice is not there, because their lives are not oriented towards God. When that is the case, the very first thing that will happen in their lives will be to question their worth and their value. Does my life really matter? And this is what causes us to begin to hide ourselves from others.
We no longer look to God to give us our worth and our identity
Miller goes on to say that he recognizes this to be true in the lives of all people, including important people and famous celebrities. Once he saw how we no longer look to God to give us our worth and our identity, he understood why we are so addicted to the approval of others and being seen as successful in their eyes.
So, when all is said and done, what does it really mean to be successful, to lead a successful life? Or, to ask the question from an altogether different perspective, what if a highly competent, talented person loses their job, or their business folds due to circumstances beyond their control? Are they a failure?
Does lack of progress in your job or closing a business make you a failure?
What if we never climb as high up the corporate ladder as we once aspired, nor accumulate the type of wealth we always expected? What happens to a person when they begin to realize that this life will never turn out the way they had always hoped, never to be included in the circles of the social elite or the well-connected?
What does all this really mean and what does it do to a person once they are confronted with this reality? C.S. Lewis has given us wonderful insight into these questions in a renowned speech he delivered to the students of Kings College at the University of London. He titled his speech ‘The Inner Ring‘. As he addressed the students, he warned them of the natural human desire to always want to be a part of the correct inner circles. He explained that these inner circles, these cliques, will inevitably form and reform, in constant change throughout the seasons of a person’s life. They provide no real stability.
He cautioned these students about the consuming ambition to be an insider, cozying up to those who are important and well-to-do in order to be part of an imagined elite. In doing so, Lewis says, we become like the weary traveler in the desert that chases a mirage. Ultimately, our quest to be in the inner circle of the powerful will one day break our hearts.
…one day the world will invariably break our hearts
This is the choice we all face. We can continue to allow this mortal world to define who we are and what our lives are worth, with the knowledge that one day the world will invariably break our hearts. Or alternatively, we can break the world’s hold on our lives by relinquishing ourselves and our identities to become absolutely grounded in Christ’s love and His commitment to our well-being. Make no mistake; irrespective of our station in life, it is a choice we all have to make that will make or break us as men and women.
As you read and study both the Old and New Testaments, you will notice that God is always confronting His people with a choice. I am reminded of Joshua in a pivotal moment in Israel’s history when he asked the people to choose the god that they would serve. I believe that if he stood before us today, in the midst of this modern world, he would confront us with a similar choice.
Choose for yourselves today the god whom you will serve: the god of wealth, the god of prestige and power, the god of pleasure, the god of achievement. But as for me and my family, we will serve the Lord. (Joshua 24:15, author paraphrase)
Each of us must choose the god we are going to serve, and then we will have to live with all the consequences that flow from that choice.