My richest gain I would count but loss and poor contempt on all my pride
Isaac Watts, from “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross”
How do you see your accomplishments? Do you have (gasp) pride in them? Do you think that you really haven’t done much with your life? Is it a joy or a sorrow to look back on your life?
I think most people would say that life contains both joy and sorrow. We look with joy in some instances and we look with sense of loss at other memories. There is also a middle ground – between joy and sorrow – which would answer for most situations. Another part of this is, do you look back on it, your life, with regret?
(Though beyond the scope of this post, regret is a reality for most people. But what a joy to examine the past without the tinge of regret. In my life, I characterize regret as sin so I have learned not to dwell on it. Through Christ, I realize that every event in my life, no matter how dark or idiotic, has made me who I am. I am satisfied with that.)
The real subject? It’s not really about pride in accomplishment, it’s about place. You could also call it hierarchy. Where do you place your accomplishments, your failures?
Do you look with pride on accomplishments other people acknowledge so you have something to talk about with friends at dinner parties? As in “You should have seen the marlin I brought in. He was bigger than Manny and as feisty as Reyes.” (If you have no idea what that means, you’re not a baseball fan.)
What about failures? Do you keep them buried in a box? A box you only dig up when it’s time for the pity party to begin? Unfortunately, most people have boxes hidden all over the yard. Then like a dog after a specific bone, we dig a few holes until we find the right box. How sad.
How does God view our lives? He sees what we take pride in, what we dismiss as common, what we see as failures. Let’s take all three and shine the light of the Bible on them.
Every decision we make, every action we take, every thought we have is known to God. Not only are they known to God, they are directed by God. That doesn’t mean we always choose the way God would have us to go (I submit that even the most adherent Christian rarely walks on the path God has for them). It does mean we always have a choice; in even the smallest decision we have a choice.
What did you have for breakfast this morning? Don’t think God was in that choice? Maybe He had a plan that did not include indigestion, bloating or a racing heart. Maybe He is thinking of your quality of life; degree of wellness or sickness makes you more available to Him as a tool. He is in every decision.
So why would any of us have pride in accomplishment? “My richest gain I would count but loss.” We have little to do with our greatest accomplishments. James 1:17 says: “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with Whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.” God is in every good thing we receive. It doesn’t matter whether that “we” is a Christian or a non-Christian. So, any pride of accomplishment should be directed to the proper place. Pride in Christ is acceptable; pride in self is not.
What we count as failure may truly be wanton acts of sin followed by a reaping of consequences. But supposed failures can also be elements in a testing which leads to perseverance, godly character, hope, and, eventually, perfection (James 1:2-4; Romans 5:3,4). Failures, what we would term the low points in our lives, may be the high points to God. It is then that He can purify us by removing the dross (Proverbs 25:4; Isaiah 1:22). Our failures need to be seen for what they are; a chance for further purification and not what might have been.
Ninety percent of life is common. Work or school, sleeping and waking, eating, doing homework, interacting with the same people day after day. Does God consider our lives common? Does He view life as boring, building complacency? NO!
We either live for Christ or choose not to every moment. Is it common to complete your homework? Common to eat a healthy meal? Common to interact with family and build a bond that can never be shaken? Veg in front of the TV? (Okay. That last one should be put in the failure column.)
A lot of what we see as common is truly a failure, a watering down of life. We could be doing so much better. Instead of vegging in front of the TV, what could you be doing?
To wrap this up (it’s getting a little long), time is like money. We spend it in many ways that aren’t profitable and see its expenditure very differently from God. Time that seems a failure is actually a strengthening, a perfecting. Time that seems a blessing may be a failure because we take the glory rather than giving it. Time that seems common could be used as preparation, but is too often wasted.
One more thing and the I’m done. All that time vegging in front of the TV, or mindlessly surveying the clouds, reading a book or playing video games is wasted. We all need rest; God placed that need in us. But we should probably censor the types of shows we watch, the video games we play and the books we read. Every moment should be glorifying to God…even those common times when we rest from the exhaustion of the day…or a lifetime.