Does God want us to be successful and prominent in this life? There is teaching in the church today that would state that he does. The thinking goes like this: Because we are children of God, we have the prerogative to claim God’s favor for material gain and promotion. Without a definition of what it means for God to be “for” us and not against us, this teaching often implies that the amount of hardships we face is a reflection of our faith. By this reasoning, a Christian is not to live a “lowly” life. Living “our destiny” and “our purpose”, is often linked with “rising above” the ordinary in terms of personal significance. After all, doesn’t God love us? Surely, then, God would affirm that which would promote our goals and increase our self-esteem.
Yet how does the Bible address the topic of how we should view ourselves, our lives, and how we fit into his plan?
Of course, God can bless a believer with wealth and influence, but the concern arises when the scriptures that reference favor and prosperity are emphasized as an expectation in the here-and-now. We seem to have lost sight of the pure message of the gospel when we adopt a “me” centered theology. Sometimes I grow disheartened and wonder if there are any pulpits that focus on Christ and Christ alone anymore (1 Corin. 2:2). What is the heart of the gospel? It is to reach the lost and bring conviction of sin. It is to share the good news of Christ’s redemption. It is direction to examine the heart and grow in faith and obedience, no matter what is given to us in this life.
Wouldn’t our salvation alone invoke nothing less than humility? After all, it was the sin of pride that initiated the Fall of Man. Thinking they could be “like God”, Adam and Eve lost sight of their blessed, yet subordinate position to God. Thus, it is odd that the teaching of status and entitlement in this life is somehow so prominent in today’s pulpits.
So what is our true purpose? The Bible is full of answers to this timeless question. First, our purpose is to glorify God. (Isaiah 43:7, Matthew 28:18-19). We are created to share God’s Word, to point others to Christ. Each person’s circumstances may be different, but we all have unique gifts and opportunities to do so. To those who have been given much, much is expected, but that holds no bearing on the effect of one’s witness. Consider the disciples. They were lowly fishermen, common men who had little to their name. However, they turned the world upside-down for Christ. Look at the Apostle Paul, who lived much of his life in chains with no regard to a “lowly” existence.
Our purpose is also to walk in obedience to Christ. Ecclesiastes 12:13 states simply to “Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man”. Do we want to live a life of significance? Obey God. Whoever can be trusted with little can also be trusted with much. (Luke 16:10).
When this is the focus of our lives, it will manifest in anything we say and do. The beauty of the Christian life is that the concept of “self-esteem” becomes irrelevant as we seek to live so that Christ may increase, while we may decrease. (John 3:30)
Most importantly, Christ himself is our example:
Who, being in very nature of God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross! (Philippians 2:6-8)
We are called to live as He lived. Jesus never once spoke of self-esteem, status, or blessing as an entitlement to live the Christian life. As a matter of fact, he warned that in this life, we will see trouble. As I write, there are Christians who are being persecuted for their faith in many parts of the world. At best, they are being treated as second class citizens. I pray they are given strength and an unexplainable joy that far surpasses anything this world has to offer. I know their victory, as with us, will ultimately not come in this world, but the next.
Our significance is tied to who we are in Christ. Our greatest fulfillment lies in our home in heaven. Ephesians 1:11 tells us we have obtained an inheritance, which is eternal life. We have done nothing to gain this incredible mercy. Even our faith is given to us by God (Romans 12:3)
Our way to walk is thus: “Be completely humble and gentle, be patient, bearing with one another in love. (Ephesians 4:2).
“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” (Philippians 2:3)
May God give us wisdom and peace as we seek Christ and Christ alone. May we confess our sins when we fall short. May we look to the day when we will cast our crowns at his feet.