Much of the misery in the world is caused by the overemphasis we place on achievement. Winning, success, climbing the ladder, celebrity worship, accumulation of money and things, attainment of rank and power, making a mark, etc. ad infinitum. Trophies. Diplomas. Awards. Letters after a person’s name or titles that precede it. Honors and recognitions. We even laud a person just for being a “billionaire.”
To take all this seriously leads to self-comparison and depression. Kids raised in middle class America are raised to believe in achievement. And, unfortunately, they are often overwhelmed by the ideology of achievement. Make the team, make the grade, win the championship, get the scholarship. Be the star, the valedictorian, number one. But sadly, only one can be the number one, no one else can. And it is bad for both the number one and for everyone else as well. No one will always be number one.
When there comes a day that being number one will not avail, when you get cancer, when you have everything taken away in the pandemic, when your children die, what good is it to be number one? Or, when you are finally caught by age and decrepitude, and all you can do is sit in a bar with your friends and swap stories of “glory days,” what do you really have? Only to wash away your sadness with alcohol.
And those who are not number one will always think they are second-best, or that no matter how hard they try, they never seem to be good enough or they never seem to “get anywhere.”
Isn’t it sad? And people become bitter and cynical and disappointed. They don’t understand what is wrong with them. Why can’t they be number one? And if they used to be number one, they are depressed because now someone else is number one.
All of these of course lead to depression, self-destructive behavior, dependency on alcohol or drugs, prescribed or not prescribed, or just malaise, a state of lack of motivation and disengagement. And all are based on incorrect thinking and the idolatry of achievement and success. Also, the false premise that “I”—the worldly self—is what is important. Or, that other people and their ideas are important. How they evaluate “me;” or how I think they might evaluate me.
And all of these thoughts, taken to extremes, lead to negative outcomes, such as depression, addiction, suicide, loss of motivation, mental illness, obesity, and death of the spirit, to name a few.
And people spend tons of money and precious time trying to fix themselves, trying to improve their game, trying to compensate for whatever they think they lack, trying to get out of the feeling that life is passing them by, that they have wasted it, that they aren’t good enough for the expectations of others. There are self-help books, online courses, motivational speakers, yoga classes, weight loss, cosmetic surgery; the list is endless. All for people who feel they are not good enough as they are.
The cost of all this is tremendous, because in spending their whole life trying to fix these non-existent problems, or even on creating new ones like alcoholism, people miss the chance to fully live today. ”Today, if you hear his voice do not harden your heart!” Hebrews 4:7.
So there remains a Sabbath rest for those who come to Him, and we have a Great High Priest who intercedes for us, and He already knows your heart, there is nothing that can stop you. Today if you hear the call (if you are reading this, you ARE hearing the call.) do not harden your heart.
The issue is that you have no need to be number one or any other number. Nor is life about success, or achievement. It is well to learn a trade, or a profession and to do well in it, to try hard. To serve the people of this world the best you can. And to save something so that you do not become a burden to others in your old age. There is nothing wrong with any of that.
What is wrong is to focus one’s life on achievement or accumulation, or the lack of them. What is more important is to serve, to sacrifice, to speak the truth, to be humble, and to love others. What enables this is to believe Jesus and recognize who He is and what He died for. And there is a life, a better life, available now. Living with eyes open, breathing fresh air. A chance to get out of the box. The problem with many people is that they don’t want to consider anything outside the box. They are comfortable inside the box, so why would they want to think about outside the box? And this is true of Christians too a lot of times.
In the Bible, in John 3, Nicodemus, a Pharisee came to see Jesus at night, and was informed that he could see the kingdom of God, but first he must
be born again. Unfortunately, this was hard to understand for Nicodemus, who was a man of learning, but stuck inside the box.
The box is like the Matrix. Once we are plugged in, we cant see out. This is what happened to Eve and she and Adam were transformed from spiritual people to worldly people. So, viewed from the worldly perspective, life is absurd according to the worldly existentialists. We are born, we grow up, we toil, we reproduce, we die. No God, meaningless suffering, final death. The fate of man without God.
And in this state people worry about the future, and devote energy to regrets about the past. We cannot change the past, nor can we predict the future. These also just rob us of today. But to know God and his son, Jesus, opens the eyes so that we can stop worrying about the past, for we are forgiven. We can stop worrying about the future; we are not condemned. John 5:24. We can stop thinking about not getting anywhere, since we are where God has put us. We can stop worrying about achievement and focus on doing God’s work. And the rewards of that are plentiful, many times what we give.
Jesus heard that they had thrown [the man born blind] out and when he had found him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”
“Who is he, sir?” the man asked. “Tell me so that I may believe in him.”
Jesus said, “you have now seen him; in fact, he is the one speaking with you.”
Then the man said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshipped him. John 9:30-38.
So, Today if you hear His voice do not harden your heart! This is the trophy, the prize, the cornerstone the worldly men rejected. And remember, the kingdom of God is about righteousness, joy, and peace in the Holy Spirit! So be happy!