Dreams, plans, aspirations, hard work... they all sound good, don't they? Not only do they sound good but they sound logical. In fact, they sound like the kind of thing your Mom and Dad would have applauded and encouraged. In school these were the principles that students were to aspire to. It has been engrained in young minds that these are the actions of the successful. Just think of the quotes you find printed on mugs, t-shirts, and banners in the school cafeteria: "Dream big"..."Reach for the stars"..."If you can dream it, you can do it"..... These are the sayings our society loves to quote and live by. No wonder it is common place for adults to ask students what they are planning for the future. It is assumed that everyone should be focusing on what is coming next.
Would you like to know what I think of all those sayings and that entire mindset? I have come to see that it is pure silliness. We can try to plan and plot for the future, striving to reach a goal and become a success at something or be successful in some relationship. Our lives can become defined by what we are attempting to accomplish but in the end all of it will amount to trying to grasp the wind: we will come up empty. Sure, maybe by the world's standards we will look like we have it all together but don't be fooled. Looking good to the world is often deceiving. The world has expectations and standards that are far from Biblical and often in stark contrast to the things of God. What is a slam dunk in this world's eyes is often a major fail in God's.
This leaves us with two options. One, we can work to gain the things that our society tells us we should want: money, friends, success, fulfilled dreams, fun experiences, security... These, among many others, are what our culture and our human nature puts value on. Our aspirations become molded around what is comfortable and most enjoyable. We become caught up in attaining that which will make us successful from a worldly perspective. That usually involves money and a title - a degree, a job with a fancy description and bold letters with big words that no one fully comprehends. These are the things that tell the world: I'VE MADE IT!
But what does God think of that? If we've hit all the milestones to be a success here, on this earth, does that translate to success in God's eyes, on the OTHER side of this earth?
Romans 12:2 tells us, "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be
transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test
and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will." Clearly, God isn't caught up in the successes of the world. He doesn't seem to put much stock in the things that our human flesh falls prey to. He is calling us to something bigger, higher, greater - he is calling us to his way of thinking.
I've been challenged and convicted to change my own thought process. This morning I woke up with a word from God: Until you pursue me with your whole heart, you will never have full health. In a nut shell God was telling me to stop running after the things of this world. Stop getting caught up on earthly aspirations. Stop looking at all the meaningless, trivial distractions that are so plentiful in this world. Pursue HIM. Look to HIM in all things and all ways.
Is success sinful? I don't think so. Are relationships inherently sinful? God created them so I would assume they are not. Is hard work against God's will? Of course not. But all of these things can become road blocks between us and an intimate relationship with God if they become our pursuit in life. Our pursuit should be after the heart, character and mind of God. Getting into his word, fostering a deeper relationship through prayer, soaking in the presence of his spirit, learning through study and reading - all of these practices grow our most important relationship: the one with our Savior.
To put our focus on any earthly thing or any earthly goal is only a lousy replacement for a deep, lasting relationship with our father God.
He wants our undivided attention. If we give it to him, he will take care of the rest. We do not need to stress ourselves out trying to map out our future or plot out our five year plan. If we are rightly focused on God he will guide our steps and gradually reveal to us HIS plan. He will open doors and direct our steps. He will show us where to put in the hard work and what opportunities to pursue. But there is only one way to receive this kind of guidance and instruction: pursue him first. It is only when we are pursuing God first that every thing else in life will fall into its proper place.