Last week we explored how we build ourselves up by the things we do. This week is more about the “triggers” that lure us into that kind of thinking. Our circumstances are one set of triggers. Our own passions, and personal ambitions, are another.
Before we dig into further, let’s make one thing clear: It’s not as if God hasn’t given us hopes and dreams and ambitions to pursue. Not all of the “good things” we do are bad. Not by a long shot. The struggle is in who gets the credit, and in who’s really being served by what we do. Again, and for probably not the last time: Laying it down is about taking our-selves out of the equation and focusing on what God wants, rather than how we benefit from what we do. What we get out of it is the blessing, not the goal.
More often than not, we make even good things about our work and our accomplishments, as if we’re somehow made superior by them. We may give God lip service, and maybe even some sincere acknowledgement, but we know who really stepped up to the plate and got it done.
In his book The Spiritual Man, Watchman Nee points out, “The enemy well knows how we need our mind to attend the spirit so that we may walk by the spirit. Thus he frequently induces us to overuse it that it may be rendered unfit to function normally and hence be powerless to reinforce the spirit in time of weakness.” One well-used way of putting that today is, “If Satan can’t make you bad, he’ll make you busy.” But Nee points to an even more significant truth: Satan will use our busyness and our ambition to help us slowly become bad. As we drift from the leading of the Spirit, we leave ourselves increasingly open to things that aren’t of God.
We’ve seen this far too many times in recent church history, but it’s far from being a new problem. People may start off sincerely at first, and experience success, but then it become more and more about the success and less and less about serving God. And eventually success becomes “the spirit” of the thing, rather than something that’s measured by our obedience to The Spirit. Spiritual leadership that isn’t leading others closer to Jesus isn’t spiritual leadership at all.
Jesus, however, calls us to a different work: “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24, ESV). It is a challenge so difficult that only one man has ever done it entirely successfully. And He is the one who calls us to it. And He is the one who will make success happen, in His way and in His time. So lay down your ambition, and begin following Jesus into something far bigger than yourself.
Lay It Down Today
This idea starts off a little light, but roll with it: What gets you excited, makes you want to get up in the morning—or at least has you looking forward to getting back home? Let’s keep relationships off the table, as we already touched on that last week. For now, think of something that isn’t necessarily life-giving in itself but is life-giving to you—a hobby or activity, or something that benefits others? It might even be your work. Got that in your mind? Good.
Now: How can you invite Jesus (or invite Him further) into that activity? It might be as simple as adding prayer throughout your activity—notice I said “throughout,” not just before or after. Maybe it’s tweaking that activity so your actions are more directly giving God glory rather than just “taking a break.” Whatever you come up with, begin making it a regular part of that activity—then see how God begins changes things up as you do.
Also—and here’s the deeper part—consider how this attitude can be brought into the more “serious” parts of your life. Where are you striving to accomplish something, and how much of that is you? How can you begin taking your hands off and letting Jesus guide those things—and when success comes, give Him the glory instead taking the credit? This part obviously will take longer to develop, but begin today.