Recently, I came across a used copy of John Maxwell’s book The Difference Maker, a book about taking control and personal responsibility for our attitudes. I am very familiar with Maxwell’s works as they are particularly popular in management circles,  and I have read several of his bestsellers. After skimming through a few pages, I decided to bring the book home with me.

I have to say that I loved 99% of this book. Within its pages are numerous examples of the type of person that we all wish we were, the type of person that society elevates and the media promotes. The successful and always smiling, a.k.a. the beautiful people.

You know the type I’m sure: the person that chooses to be positive and sees good in practically every situation. The person that makes a conscious decision to not allow discouragement to defeat them. The person who takes charge of the situation. The upwardly mobile fighter that will not accept the status quo.

Yes…that person. The “I’ve got it all under control” person.

Which brings me to the 1% I did not like about this book. Reading it brought me face to face with the harsh reality that I am not always the type of person I just described. Truthfully, in some ways I seem to be very far removed from it.

And therein is the problem. None of us are perfect. All of us have flaws. We all fall short at times. In reality, there is not one person alive that is always happy, always successful, always positive, always in control of every situation.

Yet most if not all of us will inevitably compare ourselves to this impossible, unreachable standard. We can’t help ourselves because the pressure is on for all of us to conform. After all, who wants to be on the outside looking in?

Maybe I’ve been in denial, or perhaps I’ve been afflicted with the ‘ostrich syndrome’. In either case, I didn’t fully realize it until now. No, scratch that. Who am I kidding? I’ve known it for some time now. I am that person on the outside looking in!

Lately, I’ve been asking myself if any of this within my grasp. Can we reach the lofty status of the “I’ve got it all under control” person, or should we even care? Is it really possible to find that place of perfect contentment? Because if the Apostle Paul learned to be content in whatever state he found himself in, why can’t you and I? [1]

My brain says that I should give myself a pass. After all, I am now retired, and as my dear wife often reminds me, there’s nothing wrong with letting myself enjoy this next chapter. In fact, she refers to it as “having joy in the journey”. No deadlines, no stress, no performance reviews, no monthly reports, no business plans, and no budgets to worry about (except for my own).

So where is this seemingly mythical place called ‘contentment’? Having enjoyed it on an occasional basis (at best) , have I have given up the fight for it and chosen instead to simply walk away into the sunset? Have I gotten sidetracked? At times I truly wonder, and the very thought that this might be true scares the daylights out of me because this isn’t who I am!

I am NOT a “just going through the motions” kind of guy!

Now you may be asking yourself what all of this is about, so I guess I should explain. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what it means to be a real servant, or follower of God. In a sense, I’m trying to better understand where I am on this journey, where I think I should be, and how I fit into God’s plan. [2]

Of course, many will say that at my age what does any of that matter. Why be concerned about where I fit into God’s plans, let the younger people deal with that. After all, isn’t that what so many do when they reach the magical ‘senior adult’ age? Why bother comparing my life to the lives of other people? Isn’t that just setting yourself up for disappointment?

For example, when I read the life stories of incredibly passionate men of God such as David Brainerd, George Whitefield, D.L.Moody, and Leonard Ravenhill, I am struck by their lack of care and concern for the things of this present world.

While it is true enough that these men had their share of faults and shortcomings, meaning none of them ever reached perfection this side of heaven, their singleness of purpose and devotion to God alone is almost ‘other-worldly’.

So I wonder, is this what submission to God looks like? If it is, I am in serious trouble, because I don’t measure up to such lofty standards.

Like so many of you, I can be pretty hard on myself, believing that if God has some sort of celestial balance scale in which we are all weighed, my missed opportunities and times of outright disobedience far outweigh any positives that might be recorded somewhere to my ‘heavenly bank account’.

In truth, I simply want to finish well. I want to come to the end of my days content in the knowledge that my last years were my best years of service to our Lord. I do NOT wish to be just another person in the pew. The thought of just going to church, singing a few songs, listening to yet another sermon, and that being my Christian “experience” makes me want to run out the door screaming NOOOOOO!!!

I want my life to count. I want others to know that I cared enough to fight the good fight. I want to be an encouragement to others, especially to those who are desperately struggling for their spiritual survival. Mostly, what I want is for my life to be an example to others of what God can do when He takes a hopeless young man and completely turns his life around. I desperately want people to know about God’s plan of redemption.

Maybe that’s what submission to God looks like!

Ron

[1] Philippians 4:11

[2] Luke 9:3

Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice”! Philippians 4:4 NKJV