My wife and I just hung up our accomplishments and credentials up on our wall in our little apartment, and I have to admit for a second, it felt good. There is a certain pride and sense of accomplishment in seeing hard-earned, hard work, sweat, tears, and countless anxiety attacks framed in shiny glass and gold seal-stamped credential frames up on your wall. It’s like a badge of honour. It shows your time wasn’t wasted –that you accomplished something worthwhile.
Reflecting back, I’ve accomplished a lot. I’ve got a Diploma in General Studies, multiple fitness certifications, studied massage therapy for a bit and upgraded a fair amount of classes. I also survived high school (barely), received honours in college two semesters in a row and have numerous awards and medals from various sports-team accomplishments. On top of that my friend and I, as amateurs, led our second soccer team to gold in the summer games. I’ve stood on stages and shared stories of failure and success in my life, and I’ve worked for recognizable names in the area I studied such as: Gold’s Gym and the YMCA.
In reality, and if we are honest, all of the above sounds pretty cool. To be able to put on a resume or to be able to tell people all that you’ve accomplished or to brag to your buddies, that’s a sign of success, right? That’s because titles, success and accomplishments, they instil a certain sense of superiority or pride within us. They make us feel like we’ve accomplished or done the impossible, like we’ve done something great –something only a few are able to do.
For me, I could easily get caught up in that poisonous thinking above –that I am a self-made man of success and accomplishment. Why? Because I’ve got the credentials to prove it and every day I wanted to quit: I didn’t. I stuck it out. I prevailed despite incredibly challenging circumstances. In fact, in my pre-teen-25 years old stage, I really dropped the ball. I tasted what its like to slip to the bottom. I tasted what it’s like to be defeated. Metaphorically, I was a well-trained boxer destined to become a champion, but I slipped up and took an upper-cut straight to the face and my bad decisions and curiosity, they cost me. They hurt a lot of people around me.
You see, I’ve felt what it’s like to box every demon in my life to the ground, but I’ve also felt what it’s like to wrestle an army full of demons and become kidnapped by their darkness. I’ve been raised in poor environments to prestige environments. I’ve travelled to nice places, lived in dumps, driven around in nice cars and driven around in not so nice cars. I’ve had a lot and had little. I’ve been blessed with great education and the perfect upbringing but curiosity, sin and the devil romanced me into dancing destructively with temptations and the glamour of the “good” life.
In short, I’ve felt what it’s like to be on the bottom and I’ve felt what it’s like to get up on top of stages and tell people my success story and how I got there. Still four things I learned from the mess and restoration of it all linger amidst the aftermath: you can’t out smart God, you can’t do anything without His divine leading, there should have been a limit to how much grace I received, but God’s grace is endless, and lastly if you’re living for credentials and the success of the limelight guaranteed, you will be miserable.
You see that was my problem. I was living for success, titles, money and power. When I was on top, I was living on top of the world. I felt bulletproof. Nothing could stop me, no one could end the dream I was living. Then the unexpected nightmare came, because just like Peter, I took my eyes off Jesus and I sunk and I drowned. When I was down and out, the only One I could run to was God to clean up my mess. Now, that I am becoming “successful” again, by worldly standards and as a human, it’s hard not to default to thinking: “Surely, I must be a self-made man.” Yet, those thoughts would bleed the cross of it’s saving power.
God made me everything I am today. He picked up an undeserving broken and prideful sinner in his most darkest season of self-pity, pride and wandering. When it felt like the devil had cleverly played all the right cards left in his hand to destroy me, God gave me a royal flush and by His grace only, I crushed the devil. I sent him back to his rightful place, as the defeated one, and God in all His power, glory and work on the cross lifted me up, forgot all my wrongs and gave me a clean slate. He gave me the second chance I didn’t deserve.
Where are you at today? Are you the one on top of the world or are you the one who has slipped to the bottom? If you’re at the top do you realize fancy credential-frames on the wall, all the worldly treasure, success and fame, can’t save you? Only God can. Only He can sustain you. If you are on the bottom, have you caught a glimpse of God’s redeeming grace shining through like a lighthouse in the darkness to a sinking ship. Do you believe He can get you out? Do you believe He can overcome your darkness?
Maybe, you are neither of the above. Maybe you’re in the middle, living life in the in-between: You aren’t that successful, you aren’t up-high-in-the-sky happy, and you aren’t on the bottom –you’re just mediocre. You’re not really sure what the point is, why you need Christ or why you should give your only life to Him at all. Wherever you are at, friend, you need to understand that God is more focused on our spiritual resume rather than our earthly ones. No earthly scale system of gauging success can gauge in God’s eyes who is worthy and who isn’t of eternal life. No treasure or credential hanging on a wall can admit anymore into the gates of heaven after they die. Only God’s grace can save you.
Where are you at today? Are you more focused on credential-living and success or do you understand that only God lifts up the weak, poor, broken and spiritually bankrupt to do great things for His name, His sake and His Kingdom. Is He the reason you are doing everything that you are doing or are you living miserable for yourself wondering what will satisfy next?