We have all most likely heard the saying: why try so hard to fit in, when you were born to stand out. Whoever first said these words most likely meant them to be encouraging to so many of us in the world that have yet to fully embrace our individuality. The world is full of countless people who spend their whole life seeking the approval of others, trying to be a part of the “IN” crowd. Wanting popularity or fame and fortune.
Yet I believe the truth is that the more we strive to fit in and be like others the more we block ourselves from developing true friendships, and the more we actually prevent ourselves from the real connections that fill us in deep and meaningful ways. In fact the more we embrace our own uniqueness and the more we strive to be authentic and transparent, the more we inspire others to do the same and the more we attract other genuine and like-minded people. However for anyone claiming to be a follower of Christ this topic requires some deeper discussion.
True followers of Jesus Christ know that being ‘transformed by the renewing of our mind‘ means the purpose of our life is to surrender to the process of becoming more and more like our Lord every day. We are called to be holy and we are called to be set apart from those in ‘the world. Just as a bride wears white as a symbol for purity, the Lord Jesus’s bride (the Church) is to be the same. 1 Peter 2:9 says: “…. for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.”
All throughout Scripture we are instructed not to love the world and what it has to offer, we are warned not to succumb to the temptations of the world that Satan uses to lead us to destruction.
“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world.” ~ 1 John 2:15-16
What this is saying is that any impulse or desire we follow that makes us as the individual the center of our ‘universe’ and/or any personal desires, strivings, dreams, goals or ambitions that we put above God would be considered ‘worldliness.’ Lust of the flesh and eyes deal with things like sexual lust, greed, sloth and gluttony. Also striving solely for success and prosperity, fame and fortune and constantly comparing ourselves and our economic or social status with others in an envious way are all ‘lusts’ that keep us in the darkness of the world.
The lust of the flesh and eyes is running rampant through many of the new “success training” circles teaching us the law of attraction and telling us to put our goals and desires above all. They even go to the extent to say that all desires are ‘God-given’ and therefore healthy. But this is simply a lie. The pride of life is at the forefront of the new age movement, teaching the same lie told by the serpent in the Garden of Eden; “you too can become like God.” Though personal responsibility is a good thing, this total self-reliance and self-sufficiency that does not keep us abiding in God is nothing but pride and keeps us from the love of the Father. We must acknowledge that He is the one that even has given us a chance at this thing called life and express gratitude for all He does; not brag and boast about our accomplishments as if we achieved them all on our own.
Instead we must rely on God’s promises and follow His instruction. We must “…cleanse ourselves from everything that can defile our body or spirit. And let us work toward complete holiness because we fear God.” – 2 Corinthians 7:1
Philippians 1:6 tells us that our God who began His work in us, will continue it until it is finished. So just as the good Lord gives us grace, mercy and forgiveness we must learn to bestow these things upon ourselves as we seek God’s kingdom and his righteousness. As we strive to become holy and pleasing to God, let us always measure our personal ambitions and desires against God’s word and make sure are motives are pure and our desires are to bring glory to God and not to ourselves. Ambition and desire in itself is not wrong, if it’s done for the right reasons.
And if we find ourselves in a season of live where the challenges, obstacles and sufferings we endure seem too much to bear we must realize that if everything in our lives was perfect and in our control we wouldn’t need God or have to seek and rely on him. As Charles Spurgeon so eloquently said “Whenever God means to make a man great, He always breaks him to pieces first.” God might be trying to show us that we are pursuing ‘worldliness’ instead of ‘Holiness.”
These verses all clearly speak of how God has a PURPOSE for our PAIN and how we can in fact gain SANCTIFICATION through SUFFERING:
“For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.” – 2 Corinthians 4:17-18
“We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation.” – Romans 5:3-4
“Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.” – James 1:2-4
How we respond to hardship and suffering clearly shows ourselves and anyone else watching if our faith is in God or in the world. Forgiveness, patience, kindness, unconditional love and compassion are all divine qualities of our creator and anytime we face obstacles, challenges and setbacks in life we have an opportunity to bring Glory to our God and praise Him for everything.
So the next time you find yourself down about circumstances in your life that seem less than favorable or challenges that you can’t seem to overcome on your own, here’s something to consider: What if God possibly allowed the situation to happen so you would rely on him fully to get you through it. Maybe if everything in your life was perfect you would fall away from God and be overcome with your lusts, pride and worldly desires. And maybe, just maybe He loves you way too much to allow that to happen.
Enjoy this song and keep in mind the beautiful line it contains: “Earth has no sorrow that heaven can’t heal.”
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