We began this week's WNW with a quick activity where the students were on teams and had to try to find items that began with each letter of the alphabet from their pockets, purses, and wallets. Afterward I asked them how competitive they were in trying to finish this, or any competition they are involved in. After some discussion I gave them all a piece of paper and asked them to write out their greatest accomplishment in their lives so far and had a few to share. Then I had them take a few minutes and write out some things they want to accomplish in their lives or things they want to be successful at in their lives. Some of the students shared and then I told them to date the paper and put it in their Bible to keep for later on and to look at it often. We then had a worship set that included: You're Worthy of My Praise, God With Us, All Who Are Thirsty, and Starry Night. During our Prayer Time/Mission Moment we prayed for the Unreached People Group the Huayao Tai of China.
As the message for the night continued in the "Identity" series and focused on Accomplishments and Successes, I began the talking about how we all have a desire to achieve and succeed. We all want to be successful and good at whatever we do whether it be sports, school, jobs, hobbies, etc. I believe that this is a God-given desire in every human being. The problems exists when this desire for success becomes mixed with our flesh and sin and we look to make success fulfill us in a way that only God can. We end up with what I referred to throughout the message a success-based identity where we will do anything in our power to succeed in order to try to gain the approval of others and make ourselves feel better.
We looked at Ecclesiastes 2:9-11 and talked about the life of Solomon. Solomon had anything and everything he could ever wish for. When God told him he could ask for anything, Solomon chose to ask for wisdom because he realized that as king he needed wisdom and knowledge in order to rule over people and make correct decisions. Solomon not only inherited many great things, but he was successful as a king and achieved great things. In verse 11 though Solomon says that it is all vanity, futile, and pointless apart from God. He realized that all the accomplishments and success could not fulfill him the way God can.
So when we allow ourselves to have a success-based identity it leads us to do the following:
1) We try to achieve success regardless of what it does to the people around us. We do not care who we hurt in the process of accomplishing what we set out to do. When this occurs it also may be that we are more concerned with recognition than the actual accomplishment itself.
2) We confuse who we are with what we do. Our giftedness does not define who we are. Our giftedness does not change God's love for us.
3) We struggle when others succeed. This is a definite when you have a success-based identity. Instead of being able to celebrate when others are successful, you become jealous.
4) We lose our focus on God's will for our lives. Not only can we lose our focus, but we can misinterpret God's will for us. I shared a personal story of how after a couple of very successful baseball seasons, I was at my dad's office at work one day when a lady told me that she believe that God had a plan for me in baseball. I was extremely excited because what I mistranslated her to say was that she believed God would have a plan for me to play baseball at a professional level. I misinterpreted what she told me and instead had my own idea of God's will. I was so focused on the success in baseball, that I missed the true will of God. I do believe that God had a plan for me in baseball, but that it was in the present and that I missed it. I went on to play another 6 years of baseball, and kept my mouth shut most of the time when it came to my faith. I did not participate in much of the things that others were involved in, but I never spoke the truth about how Jesus had impacted my life. I wasted those years chasing a dream that was outside the will of God because I had developed a success-based identity and lost my focus on what God really wanted me to do.
I want to challenge you today as I challenged the students and I continue to challenge myself with everyday: do not become so focused on being successful and achieving something that it becomes your identity and you lose sight of God's will in your life. There is nothing wrong with having goals and dreams of things you want to achieve in your life. I told the students that I hope they all accomplish the things that they wrote down at the beginning of the night. However I do not want them or anyone to chase them and lose sight of God because just as Solomon came to realize, it is all pointless apart from God.