Category

Devotions

Category

“This letter is from Paul, an apostle. I was not appointed by any group of people or any human authority, but by Jesus Christ himself and by God the Father, who raised Jesus from the dead” (Galatians 1:1, New Living Translation).

A friend has an unusual spelling of a common name. Even after knowing her for many years, some still spell her name “the correct way.” In fact, someone once questioned, “Why do you spell your name like that?” She smiled as she informed the curious person it was actually her mother who chose how to spell her name. She wasn’t involved in the decision. I have the opposite problem. My name is very common, and when it is called in a room of people, it’s not unusual for more than one person to look up or respond.

Defining Identity

Our names are important to us, and we appreciate it when people know our names. Yet, a name does not really tell what makes me “me.” My identity is much more complex. Merriam-Webster defines identity as the distinguishing character or personality of an individual : individuality.” My identity is a combination of my talents, my passions, and the things I love and devote myself to in life.

As I opened my Bible to Galatians chapter 1 this morning, my eyes fell on the first few words: “Paul, an apostle.” His words do not indicate any confusion or uncertainty. He not only knew who he was (his abilities and passions) but also Whose he was (Jesus Christ himself). Most of Paul’s letters to the churches open with words describing his identity. He also made it clear his identity did not come from any titles bestowed by human authority but only through the Lord. In various epistles Paul describes himself as:

  • A servant and apostle (Romans, Titus)
  • An apostle (I and II Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Colossians, I and II Timothy)
  • A servant of Jesus Christ (Philippians)
  • A prisoner of Jesus Christ (Philemon)

Choosing Our Identity

Some words Paul used to identify himself could be viewed as negative or undesirable. Servant. Prisoner. Not exactly what we post about ourselves on social media or sign on a greeting card. But Paul felt no shame in identifying himself this way. He chose to be a servant. He knew his actions might result in imprisonment. Yet his passion for the gospel made all else insignificant. The most important things he wanted others to know about him were tied to his relationship with the Lord. That was his identity.

How do you see yourself? Is your complete identity wrapped up in the things of your daily life? Or do you—and those around you—recognize you are a follower of Jesus Christ?

Prayer: Lord, I want my total identity to be wrapped up in You. Accolades and titles others may bestow are meaningless. It is only as Your servant, Your prisoner, that my life holds significance. I want to know not just who I am, but Whose I am. I want to find my identity in You.

 

 

“I thought to myself, ‘Come now, I will try self-indulgent pleasure to see if it is worthwhile.’ But I found that it also is futile(Ecclesiastes 2:1, New English Translation).

Many people live with the belief that “things” make us happy. The more things we possess, the happier we become. They devote their lives to accumulating more and more, always chasing happiness through what they possess.

Solomon speaks of this in Ecclesiastes chapter 2. He built houses, planted vineyards, constructed pools, added livestock, and amassed money and valuable treasures. He brought in musicians to entertain, and he surrounded himself with beautiful women. Verse 10 says, “I did not restrain myself from getting whatever I wanted.” It would seem he had it all.

Chasing the Wind

Solomon reflected on all he had achieved, and came to this conclusion:

“Yet when I reflected on everything I had accomplished and on all the effort that I had expended to accomplish it, I concluded: ‘All these achievements and possessions are ultimately profitless—like chasing the wind! There is nothing gained from them on earth’” (verse 11).

I doubt anyone reading this devotion will ever amass wealth as great as Solomon’s, yet we often yearn for more— a bigger house, a newer car, nicer clothes, and exotic vacations. But in the end, will any of this bring us the happiness and satisfaction we seek?

Our problem is expecting the temporary things of this earth to fill that emptiness inside us which longs for the eternal. Luke 12:15 reminds us that life does not consist in the abundance of our possessions. When balanced against our eternal soul, worldly goods have zero value. Anything we accumulate here, stays here. We cannot take it with us. And why would we want to? When compared to the glories of heaven, earth’s riches look like garage sale leftovers.

“Now godliness combined with contentment brings great profit. For we have brought nothing into this world and so we cannot take a single thing out either” (I Timothy 6:6-7, NET).

Changing Our Focus

Instead of seeking an often-elusive happiness, we should instead strive to attain contentment. Rather than looking at all the things we don’t have, focus on the things we do possess. The apostle Paul got it right when he said:

“I have experienced times of need and times of abundance. In any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of contentment, whether I go satisfied or hungry, have plenty or nothing” (Philippians 4:12, NET).

What is the secret Paul learned?

“I am able to do all things through the one who strengthens me” (verse 13).

Paul’s abundance—and ours—is based on our relationship with God and our hope of an eternity spent with Him.

Prayer: Remind me, Lord, that this life is temporary, and its riches pass away. The only thing we can take with us when we leave here are those eternal treasures we’ve laid up with You. Help me to focus on finding contentment with the blessings You’ve given me. I trust You to supply everything I need. My life is in Your hands, and that is more than enough for me.

“Let each one examine his own work. Then he can take pride in himself and not compare himself with someone else” (Galatians 6:4, New English Translation).

We can take a deep breath and get back to a semblance of normal with the hurry and scurry of the holidays now behind us. I’m not one to make a lot of New Year’s resolutions (which many have already abandoned by Week Two of the year), but it is a good time to reflect on areas of my life that show growth or need improvement.

An Honest Self-examination

While employed, I faced the dreaded annual review. I felt I was a good employee, but I didn’t enjoy completing a self-evaluation before meeting with my supervisor. Self-evaluation requires honesty when viewing our actions and habits. We often see ourselves differently than others see us.

I also wonder if I see myself as God sees me. The Bible says the heart is deceitful (Jeremiah 17:9). Am I blinded to my own shortcomings?  Have I grown in my spiritual life? In what areas can I improve? Believe me—there’s always room for growth and improvement!

The Plumb Line

In the Old Testament book of Amos, the prophet and God hold a conversation (Amos 7:7-8). The Lord asks, “What do you see?” Amos sees He is holding a plumb line, a tool used since ancient times in construction to show if a wall is “plumb” or vertical. Our plumb line as a Christian is the character of the Lord. God does not judge us by comparing us to each other. He is our standard of comparison. The question is whether we are vertical or upright when measured against His holiness.

I jotted down some questions to help me focus on areas of my walk with God. Writing the questions was easier than answering them. I could make a longer list, but these create a good starting point in my evaluation.

  1. Have I experienced spiritual growth in the past year?
  2. Are there any areas in which I’ve become less diligent?
  3. Do I daily spend time in prayer and the Word?
  4. What fruit of the Spirit is evident in my life?
  5. Do I make excuses when I fail to obey God’s Word?
  6. Is my life a positive Christian witness to others?

(Note: You can also find more detailed spiritual formation evaluations online.)

While an annual spiritual evaluation is good, it’s even better to be constantly on guard that our lives reflect God’s character. What if we asked ourselves each day, “What can I do to better serve God today? This week? This month?” Frequent self-examination ensures we are living an overcoming life and are obedient to His Word.

Spiritual growth is a lifelong process. We grow or we die (John 15:2). We must never stop striving and growing.

Let’s all make Psalm 139:23-24 our daily prayer.

“Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (NKJV).