Monday, July 28, 2014

Pursuing God

I recently caught just a snippet of a radio program. The person being interviewed talked about the difference between success and mastery as objectives of endeavor.  She pointed out that the pursuit of mastery comes from a love of the process, while the pursuit of success comes from a desire for society's approval.

That is about all I heard, but I've been thinking about this.

Presumably, two people could engage in the same activity for completely different reasons. They might, for example, both take up target shooting with a pistol. They buy the equipment, they study the subject, they get training and they go to the range to practice or compete.

The one is pursuing success. For him, the ultimate objective is to win his matches and receive the prizes and recognition that come with winning. It is not that he will give up if he doesn't win every match, but unless he sees his progress and feels that he can ultimately begin winning matches, he will not be satisfied.

The other is pursuing mastery. In his case, he just likes the whole experience. He likes the equipment, the study of it, the people associated with it, and most importantly, he likes doing it. He might never actually enter any formal competition, but he will keep practicing. Winning a match is unimportant to him and his enjoyment of the sport. He works to master the skill for love of the process.

It is easy to see the application of this to Christian living and ministry. Some pursue Christianity and even ministry out of a pursuit of success. By being a Christian they might be praised by other Christians. By being in ministry they might get more praise and there are even celebrity Christian ministers. The big danger is that very few get much success out of the pursuit of Christianity. They may end up frustrated and discouraged.

Christians should pursue Christianity because of a love for Christ. We love to get to know Christ better through the study of his word. To spend time with God in prayer is our delight. To fellowship with other Christians is refreshing. To teach or preach is a tremendous privilege and a great joy. We strive to master the material out of a love of the practice of Christian disciplines.

Lola and I are going through some deep waters these days. A year ago, I was diagnosed with myelofibrosis - a kind of chronic leukemia. I was told my mean life expectancy was about seven years. This summer my dear wife, Lola, was diagnosed with uterine cancer. After her hysterectomy a few weeks ago, the pathology showed that she has stage III C 1 cancer, so she is preparing for a long series of radiation followed by several rounds of chemotherapy. The statistics give her a 47% chance of surviving five years.

These developments give me a sinking feeling. They definitely don't feel like "success" and it is very tempting to say, "Why did we spend all these years and all those dollars pursuing our educations, ordination, certification, etc.? What have we accomplished - and now we are hanging on by the skin of our teeth."

The answer is, "We pursued these things for the love of Christ and he is worth it all." Our delight in God and his word and his people has motivated us. Our respective cancers are another opportunity to learn to depend on God through difficulties and to demonstrate God's sufficiency in trials.

We aren't dead yet and it may be that God will give us both twenty more years of life... but we just don't know. What we do know is that he is worth living for, no matter what happens in this life.

(Philippians 1:20 ESV) as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

We are praying for you and Lola.

Daryl and Dottie