The information age has brought almost unfettered access to global activities. We are only as ignorant as we choose to be. With the explosion of social media and ‘reality’ shows, it is now possible to follow other people’s lives in ways that past generations couldn’t imagine. With great access comes even greater temptation to constantly measure one’s life against contemporaries.
As you watch other young (sometimes younger) people accomplish remarkable feats, unconsciously, the pressure to catch up, to do better rises. Before long, fear and bouts of depression kick in as a thoughts of dissatisfaction and disappointment over how much (or little) progress you’ve made flood your mind.
How do you deal with all that pressure to ‘make it’ as a young person?
First, let’s get one thing clear. It is God’s idea that you succeed.
You know that push from within that’s driving you to be more and do more? God COMPLETELY understands it. He built that thing into you man! I know ‘ambition’ has grown a bad rep in church circles (we’d rather talk about its holy cousin, ‘vision’) but honestly, that desire, that hunger for a better experience is not a bad thing. God gets it. Infact, he often triggers it.
Examine the evidence:
- God was the one who reached out to a 75-year old ‘boy’ who was minding his business in his daddy’s house and sold him the idea of being great. You know that guy as Abraham.
- He re-engineered a scheming fugitive into the father of the twelve tribes of Israel. Jacob.
- A young man who was blown away at the thought of just being respected in his relatively obscure nuclear family was catapulted to the highest position of authority in civilization, second only to the Pharaoh himself. All hail Joseph.
- He caught up with a teenager whose life mission was to ensure none of his father’s cattle wandered off and turned that kid into a fearsome warrior and one of the most respected kings in Jewish history. Hello David.
- He inspired ordinary fishermen and regular professionals, took them out of their 9-5 and transformed them into apostles; the pioneers of the spread of the gospel.
- He took a young girl who could probably see no more for her life beyond being another housewife and channeled the entrance of the saviour through her virgin womb.
Need I say more? I dare you to think of any biblical character who met with God and didn’t end up with an assignment that was bigger than what they already had going on. See, just chill. God is and will always be in the business of big dreams.
Get this. Your ‘ambition’ does not scare, irritate or offend God. He’s been selling folks bigger dreams long before you showed up here. He designed humans with an inner push for more and the expression of that propelling force is responsible for every advancement in diverse fields of endeavor. That desire isn’t retrieved when you become born again.
So relax. That’s the first thing. Settle this in your heart – God gets your ambition for a better experience.
But there’s a catch.
The problem is not with your ambition. It’s with the reason behind it and how it is expressed. Why do you want to be/do/have what you’re gunning for? How are you expressing this drive? This is where that original God-planted yearning for greatness gets corrupted.
In the world’s system, people are driven by all kinds of things and for the most parts, it’s considered okay as long as it doesn’t (directly) hurt anyone or break any laws. Some even excuse any means as long as the end game is achieved.
But that’s not you. You play by higher rules.
As a believer, the ‘why’ is as important as the ‘what’. What’s driving your push for success? Ego? Revenge? Covetousness? The pursuit of acceptance/validation by others? A fantasy lifestyle? A competitive spirit? You need to check your heart- and regularly too. It’s easy to start from the right place and get distracted along the way.
After regaling us with tales of exploits done by those we know today as the heroes of faith, how they silenced lions and subdued nations (doesn’t that sound ambitious already?) the writer of Hebrews encourages us to get going on our own race that is set before us. I don’t know but that sounds like the precursor to today’s (all too rampant) motivational speaking. Run! Get going guys!, he barks.
Then immediately, he shows us how to channel that spark within
Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith…
Hebrews 12:2 [KJV]
That’s your focus. Not ego, covetousness, a competitive spirit or any of the other things earlier listed. Keep your eyes on him. Daily. Don’t get sucked into the humdrum and lose sight of what or who it’s all about. It’s not about you. It’s about Him.
And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again.
2nd Corinthians 5:15 [KJV]
And you know what? You can quickly gauge just how well you’re focusing on Jesus as you chase those dreams.
Do you still sense that joy and peace within? Do you still understand the essence of it all or you’ve become too engrossed in ‘paper chasing’? Do you find that you’re trying to ‘fit’ God into your dreams/activities instead of building your agenda around Him as the core?
Do you still have that paradoxical satisfaction of knowing there’s more to do while also enjoying the satisfaction of being on track today? Do you still feel the pleasure of his yoke, that sweet mix of compulsion and refreshment that satisfies the soul despite the grating demands?
Or have you become so self-absorbed you no longer care about anything or anyone so much you miss life’s little miracles, the ‘interruptions’, the random opportunities to show mercy and kindness to others God plants along the journey to your dreams. Are you still looking to him?
Only you can tell. The pressure will be regulated as you keep your focus on Jesus- first, front and center. But how do you do this in real, everyday life? In the second part of this post, I will share a few simple practices you can apply immediately to handle the pressure and channel it correctly.
So go ahead. Reach out. Stretch for big things. Hunt down the BHAGs (Big, Hairy, Audacious Goals). Desire more for and from your life. It’s okay. Understand it. The pressure, the drive for success is very okay and deeply spiritual- it came from the Father of spirits himself, right? But there’s a pathway He designed to there – and that’s by keeping your eyes glued to Jesus. In His face, everything else falls into their rightful place.
Live by Design.