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You might be reading this blog for this very reason. If deep within your heart, you are longing for more out of life, let me ask, “What are you doing about it?” The truth of the matter is that if we would lead fulfilling lives, we cannot continue to doggedly pursue our own goals and agendas.
But perhaps you’re where I once was, ensnared by the web of deception that the enemy spins over our minds. Satan’s ancient scheme is to blind us to truth and seduce us to exalt ourselves over God, our Creator. As a result, we then think we can take our eyes off God, live for ourselves, and all will turn out okay in the end. This deception is a tactic of the enemy that creates a literal blinder and sets a spiritually unhealthy process in motion. That is, the more nonchalant we are towards the things of God, the more blinded we become; and the more blinded we are, the more complacent we become about our true spiritual condition. Regretfully, this spiritual complacency is also the root cause of the huge hole of dissatisfaction many of us carry in our hearts―a hole that only God can fill.
All the while, the world continues to beckon and entice us to find significance in things that ultimately don’t matter. In pursuing these fleeting vanities of life, a large percentage of us have literally lost our way.
So how can we begin to reclaim what truly matters in life? First, we must take inventory of our busy lives and ask the hard questions. Do the things in which I’m investing so much of my time and energy matter to God? Are my goals and activities advancing God’s kingdom, or am I really seeking to build my own? In the final analysis, how much of what I’m busy doing and pursuing will actually endure after I’ve exited life’s stage?
Second, we must recognize that many of us have “come to Christ” with wrong or impure motives. We have erroneously bought into a man-centered gospel in which our practice of Christianity is more about us getting what we want from God than it is about loving and serving Him. However, there’s a world of difference between worshiping God and seeking Him for self-serving reasons. We must therefore ask, “Are we pursuing God or seeking His gifts?” If God is barely getting the leftovers of our day or we keep Him at the periphery of our lives until we perceive our need for Him, then we must admit that ours is not the vibrant, intimate relationship that God desires us to enjoy with Him.
Finally, we must recognize that the pursuit of what the world deems important will leave us continually seeking happiness on our own terms but never finding it. And because God alone can satisfy the deepest longings of our souls, our attempts to find meaning or significance in life outside of Him will eventually leave us emptier, more miserable and more dissatisfied. Hence like shadows, true joy and satisfaction will always elude us. And the huge hole in our hearts just won’t go away.
Therefore, a great many of us need to acknowledge our desperate need for a radical change, not only in the desires of our hearts but also in the current direction our lives. Then in response to God’s loving beckoning, we must repent or turn away from the taproot sin of living to seek our own pleasures, goals and ambitions. Just as He offered the Israelites of long ago, God has extended the same gracious invitation to us: “Stand at the crossroads and look. Ask for the ancient paths. Ask what the good way is and walk in it and you will find rest for your [weary, over-extended, burned-out] souls” (Jeremiah 6:16).
Yet, we can heed this text only after we’ve acknowledged the truth that in the final analysis, the road or path traveled without God leads to nowhere. You see contrary to the world’s system or priorities, true success is neither found in the transitory things of this life nor dictated by the standards of man. It’s not determined by occupation, title, socioeconomic standing, substantial bank account, popularity, public opinions and the like. It also isn’t predicated on status symbols such as luxury vehicles and homes, the prestige of the schools our children attend, timeshare destinations, fashion accessories, etc. that we often use to define ourselves or enhance our self-worth. Ultimately all of these things are emphatically insignificant when it comes to giving our lives true meaning.
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So to accept God’s invitation is to break away from the patterns of this world. It means making God front and center in every area of our lives (Mark 6:12) and asking Him to change our entire outlook. In short, it is to realign our goals, priorities and values with His. Otherwise we will ultimately end up with an empty, fruitless and bankrupt life, a far cry from a life of significance.
But please don’t misunderstand me. Our greatest sense of significance is derived from the awesome reality that the God and Creator of the universe affirms that our lives are significant and that we matter to Him. The offshoot of this precept is that our fundamental identity as Christians is found in our fellowship or union with Christ. So in speaking of living a fulfilled life, I’m referring to the outworking of God’s sovereign purpose for our redeemed, yet, flawed lives. According to the Bible, the true measure of a successful life will ultimately be defined by who we have become. God will be the Judge of this when each of us is someday called to give an account of our lives. Make no mistake, enduring significance is something only God ascribes and His sole criteria will be how much we have grown in the character or likeness of Christ.
Regrettably, a substantial percentage of “Christians” have not apprehended this grave spiritual reality. Hence, many of us are neither pursuing nor cultivating Christ-like character. As alluded to earlier, many of us have bought into the prevailing lies of a corrupt culture that entice us to live only for immediate gratification, as if this temporal life is all there is. Consequently, we’ve “missed” the stunning truth that we can achieve something far greater than mere earthly significance with our lives―something immeasurably superior to the relative brass of what the world considers worthy and significant.
You see, what ultimately matters in this life is how godly or Christ-like a wife, son, father, businessman, teacher, athlete, pastor, etc., we become as we purpose to glorify God in each and every area of our lives, each and every day. By pursuing conformity to Christ — for the sake of God’s glory and pleasure — our character (or what we make of ourselves) can actually take on the enduring quality of gold and have value beyond this temporal life. Yes, eternal value! Think about this amazing reality: Who you and I choose to become in this brief life can endow us with eternal significance and eternal rewards beyond what we can even begin to imagine! Unequivocally, this is the life of enduring significance that followers of Christ should passionately desire and zealously pursue.
To joyfully embrace this pursuit denotes our solemn recognition and deep assurance that the joy and satisfaction that come from cultivating an intimate relationship with God is far superior to that which any earthly relationship, achievement, title, or possession could ever bestow. Living for the pleasure of God is therefore the secret to a fulfilling life. In other words, God’s eternal purpose for creating us must be the singular foundation upon which we build each and every aspect of our lives. Indeed, when the desire to live for God’s glory animates our lives and complexions everything that we do, all other pursuits find both their proper significance and godly value. (Oh! Did I mention God rewards our obedience too?!)
So here’s the sobering bottom line why our very brief lives must matter or count: someday each of us will stand alone before the omnipotent and awesome God of the universe. Absolutely no one else will be present to speak on our behalf. The Maker and Ruler of Heaven and earth will test the quality of our lives. Based upon Scripture, we can surmise that God will do the following: He will judge the extent to which we have pointed others to Christ and advanced His Kingdom in the earth; He will consider both the good fruit and the bad fruit that we have borne; He will assess how well we invested or squandered the time we had; He will appraise our use of the gifts and talents He entrusted to us; He will evaluate the extent to which we allowed Him to use pain, difficulties and trials to mold and shape us; and of course, He will give His ruling on the degree to which we have attained the character of Christ.
My friend, God absolutely will not care one iota about the frivolous, superficial stuff that the world regards as great and elevates as significant. “Important” stuff like the number of YouTube hits a self-centered person amassed in one day; the acclaim of the successful business person who climbed his way to the top of the corporate ladder via corrupt means; whether someone achieved the honor of “Employee Of The Month,” but did so by dishonest or disingenuous means; how many Emmy, Oscar or Golden Globe awards was conferred on someone whose work egregiously dishonored God; the number of consecutive weeks a musician’s hit single―replete with immoral and blasphemous lyrics―remained at the top of the music charts; how many MVP trophies a selfish and dishonest athlete garnered, or the number of records he/she broke; how many tens of millions the producer of an occult movie garnered on opening night; the number of leading but demeaning roles a Hollywood actor boasted on his resume, etc. This is quite a lengthy list, but I want to drive home the point that none of the above accolades (all of which to varying extents dishonor God) will fall under His criteria for true greatness and enduring significance. It bears repeating that at that fateful moment in eternity, only what God deems significant will matter.
Doesn’t it follow that what will matter to God then is what should matter to us now? Now is the time to stop living for ourselves; now is the time to make God-honoring decisions and passionately pursue what matters most in life.
Irrespective of age or season of life, each of us can pursue our core destiny to be more conformed to Christ. Someday it will be too late to recognize that the contentment we yearn for is found in God alone. Yet even now God wants us to experience this deep, satisfying joy in Him that is immeasurably better than the fleeting happiness we ultimately find in our shallow, misdirected quests for significance.
So are you running on the “treadmill of life,” chasing after happiness but finding misery instead? I encourage you to step off of and pursue true significance. Don’t cheat yourself with something as priceless as life itself! Starting today, live with the sobering reality that each and every choice you make has eternal ramifications. And make your life count! Truly, life is far too short and eternity way too long to nonchalantly settle for “treadmill remorse.”