The things you think about are the things you care about. And the things you care about are the things that define you. Whether good or bad, this is a fact of human nature. Allow me a moment of transparency to illustrate this idea.
While in high school, I had this strong desire to be a pilot in the military. Good goal to have actually. But that isn’t really what I was thinking about. When I thought about being a pilot I thought about how cool that would make me. Wearing my flight suit off base, people would know, that guy can fly a plane (here’s where I admit to you that the movie “Top Gun” greatly influenced what I thought cool looked like). So I thought incessantly about this perception people would have of me.
Turns out, the reason why I had these thoughts of finally gaining everyone’s approval and receiving the coveted title of cool guy, is because that is what I cared about the most. The plane and the flight suit were just the tools to get me there. How people thought of me is what captivated my heart.
And so through all of this, I took on the persona of the “future military pilot guy” at school. I know this whole thing sounds ridiculous, but ridiculous perfectly describes anyone who is out to make much of themselves and not much of Jesus. The point is, what I thought about (the approving thoughts of others) pointed toward what I cared about, and this is what gave definition to my life. I centered my life around being a military pilot because that is what would carry me to my goal of being approved of… of finally being made much of.
I’d love to tell you that since becoming a pastor all of that has changed. But the truth is, it’s still something I struggle with from time to time. Now it manifests itself in fishing for a compliment from my wife after I get done preaching. Or in trying to overhear what others are saying right after I get done teaching a Bible lesson. This is definitely not something I’m proud of
If I’m not careful, ministry can turn from being something I pursue because I desire to shepherd Christ’s flock, to the vehicle through which I receive the approval from man I sometimes desire. So what am I to do?
I must continually go to the Lord in repentance and I must regain my focus on the finished work of Christ. Tim Keller provides a helpful word here…
“The gospel is this: We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope.”
This is how I overcome my need to receive man’s approval. I remind myself that because of Christ I have received God’s approval. Therefore, man’s approval is relegated to its appropriate place in my life (I’m not going to say it’s never okay to seek man’s approval; sometimes we can use this as a cover-up to act like jerks… that’s a blog for another time).
I say all this realizing that what you think about and care about probably isn’t the same as what mine was/is. But this week, why don’t you think through what it is that consumes most of your thoughts. Whatever it is, this is what you really care about. And sooner or later, what you care about is what will define you, whether good or bad.
From an eternal perspective, will what defines you now be seen as wise or foolish? I can go ahead and tell you, a pilot’s license and a flight suit won’t hold much water when I have to give an account for my life…