I have been privileged to be able to speak to several groups of graduates this year. As someone with a background in education, graduations are one of my favorite things. They are one of the few moments in life where we get to enjoy the fruits of our labor, celebrate, and cleanly enter into a new season of life full of hope and expectation. These events are also reminders about the pressures of the adult world that our teenagers are thrust into so quickly. One of the biggest things that I want to communicate to students when they are graduating (especially when they are believers) is of the danger of the stories that our world will them about what a successful life looks like. Graduates are not the only ones who can be lead astray by this story, those of us who have been living in the “real world” for years can still be pulled in by the siren song of what this world considers to be “success”.
You see this world is full of stories. There is a story that this world wants to tell you about what success looks like. The story goes like this- if you graduate from High school, work really hard, go to college, get a job, join the military, make money, buy a house, get a nice truck, maybe get married and have kids you will be happy. That’s the story. Success equals happiness. Those things are good, but they can never make you fully happy or satisfied in and of themselves. They are not where we find the source of our life and our happiness. If you seek after those things for the sake of those things in 10 to 20 years you might look happy and like you have it all together but on the inside you are going to be hurting. You are going to be angry. But the world never tells you that part of the story.
Each of us has a story going through our heads all the time. It’s the story we tell ourselves about who we are and what we are worth. For some of us that story sound like a constant reminder of our failures, that we are never good enough. For others that story says you are #1 take what’s yours and forget what happens to everyone else. We tell ourselves stories about ourselves that are often untrue and lead us into dark places. These stories can become so loud that they grow louder than the voice of God in our hearts if we don’t know Him well enough.
Finally, there is a story that God is telling and has been telling for thousands of years. It is a story that He wants you to be a part of and play an active role in it. It is a story about humanity and how we are desperately lost and how He had a rescue plan all along in Jesus. It’s about how if we live like Jesus if we follow him and follow his example in this world than it is going to look a lot more like a kingdom of God instead of a kingdom of broken dreams. God’s story is drastically different from the story this world tells. God’s Kingdom is different than the kingdoms that this world builds.
God’s story says the first will be last and the last shall be first
God’s story says the weak will be made strong
God’s story says love the people who hate your guts, and pray for them
God’s story says that he opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble
God’s story says deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow me
Put God first in your life. If God is your priority, if God is your source of happiness, if God is what makes your heart beat everything else is going to fall into place. That doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy, that doesn’t mean the path is always going to be 100% clear, but it means that God will be with you, that Holy Spirit will be empowering you, and that you will be making a difference in this world in all of the ways that actually matter. To summarize, if you want a successful life, you can’t play around with God. You can’t dabble in being a Christian. Because life get’s hard and the waters get very very deep. You need to start cultivating your relationship with God now. Don’t wait until later.
Pursue God, because it is in Him that we find abundant life.
Let the goal of your life, the desire of your heart, the thing that you seek first be not success, or money, or family, or even a good reputation. Let the goal of your life be to hear God say to you one day “Well done my good and faithful servant” and you will know that you lived a successful life.