Three of my kids head back to school next week and the other two start back at college in a couple of weeks. As I mourn the end of summer, I’m gearing up for one of my least favorite parenting duties…the seemingly endless stacks of parent forms, class fees and tuition payments.
Don’t even get me started on the cost of college textbooks. I’m incredulous that one used biology textbook that my child will use for just a few months will cost several hundreds of dollars. Really?! These are students surviving on Cup of Noodles! (And with these payments, the parents may be too :).
You discover the value of something when you know the price that was paid for it. While college textbooks may be overpriced, I still pay for them because I see the value of the end product: a college education for my kids.
God paid a high price for you and me. He gave his only Son, Jesus, as a sacrifice to pay the price for our sins. The value of paying this high price is God providing a way for us to have a relationship with him.
You have incredible worth to God because of the great lengths He was willing to go and the high price He was willing to pay.
Sadly, we often don’t look to Jesus as our primary source of identity. We go searching…grasping for it in other places. Looking for that thing, that career, that relationship, that job to give us the worth our hearts are desperately longing for.
For years, I derived my worth from what I did. I lived as if my performance was what made me valuable. I would do, do, do…add, add, add wearing myself out to prove my worth and significance. When I did well, I felt good, but when I failed, I was devastated. It was like running on a treadmill – I was working hard and completely wearing myself out, but getting nowhere.
We’ve looked at how the One who created us is the One who has the right to name us. Similarly, the One who created us is the same One who should define our worth. If we’re not allowing the truth of God’s word to define us, something else will.
Three of the areas I find myself repeatedly but insufficiently looking to for affirmation and worth are:
Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead,… Philippians 3:13
Recounting past failures and disappointments with a liturgy of “if only’s” will wear you out. It is impossible to move forward if we are continually looking back. Instead, we should strain forward to what’s ahead. Your worth is not measured by your past failures, experiences, mistakes or even your past successes and achievements.
While the past makes us who we are today and teaches us valuable lessons, Paul says we are not to dwell on it. Like Paul, we need to “forget” our past and put it where it actually is – behind us if we’re to move forward into all God has for us.
We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise.2 Corinthians 10:12
When we constantly compare ourselves with others, we’ll never be satisfied. If we compare ourselves with people who appear to be more “put together” and successful than us, we’ll feel like we’re constantly failing and falling short. And if we compare ourselves to people who seem to be worse off than us, we’ll be tempted to give in to pride and criticalness. It’s a NO-win situation!
No matter how hard we study, how diligently we work for a promotion, how many hours we spend trying to be the best wife and mom, how many diets we try, or how long we strive to be accepted, somebody will come along sooner or later that will outdo, outperform and “outlook” you.
Resist the pull to conform to be like everyone else. Your worth is not measured by your appearance, performance or the approval that other people give you.
… When he [the devil] lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. John 8:44
You have an enemy that loves to whisper lies to you. And how easily we can be persuaded to believe them! It’s his native language to spew forth lies and lure us into his web of deception and confusion.
In Revelation 12:10, we see another name for the devil,
Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: “Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Messiah. For the accuser of our brothers and sisters, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down. Revelation 12:10
The Hebrew name for satan actually means accuser! One of his primary goals is to beat you down with accusations of fear, shame, insecurity, inadequacy and failure. Satan gains power over us as we begin to listen and believe the lies that are constantly spoken to us.
At times, I have found myself investing more time into reasoning with and embracing the lies in my mind instead of replacing them with the truth of God’s word.
Such. A. Waste. Of. Time.
Slowly, I’m learning.
The apostle Paul, in Philippians, instructs us to live with a different focus.
God asks us to make a concerted effort to shift our thoughts away from that which will distract and discourage us, to that which is true, pure, right and noble.
It can be so hard, can’t it? Our mind naturally drifts towards our past, other people and lies. Suddenly we find ourselves stuck and can’t even begin to find our way out.
Like a car spinning its wheels in the mud, we expend a lot of energy yet are unable to get any traction to move forward. Moving forward requires us to embrace and focus on things that are true and then discard our old ways of thinking.
The Bible provides us with the foundation of truth on which we can firmly ground our lives. God’s Word gives us the strength and traction to move forward when we feel stuck.
My friend, you are a child of God. Your identity and worth are determined by God not by the people and circumstances surrounding you. Don’t settle for anything less.
By looking to our past we can easily become defeated, by comparing ourselves to others we can be discouraged, and by listening to the devil’s accusations we can become confused, defeated and deceived. Only by looking to Jesus, can we truly become all that God created us to be.
And as a 19th-century philosopher, Soren Kierkegaard once said, “Now, with God’s help, I shall become myself.”*
Think about it…
Where are some places you go to find and measure your worth?
Which of the three pitfalls do you find yourself falling into most often? Why?
How can you begin to embed your identity in what God says about you and how He created you to live?
How can spending time in God Word increase your understanding of your identity as a child of God? How can this influence your relationships and the effect you have on those around you?
*Soren Kierkegaard, as quoted by John Ortberg, The Life You’ve Always Wanted (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1997, 2002) p. 11