The new millennium is a pressure cooker of false “okayness”.
The pressure to be okay, especially in the religious and successful culture of secular and religious humanism, is inspiring inauthentic images of life at best, and at worst, causing people to give up on life altogether. From doubting one’s faith, and abandoning families and church fellowships to checking out of family and work responsibility in every way, and even suicide, people are giving up.
By painting a false picture of what a true relationship with Christ looks like in light of modern culture, we set up sincere strivers to conclude that it’s all a lie, or just not for them.
Social media influencers are committing suicide it seems weekly, while their followers dream of achieving their image of success. Pastors promise prosperity as a transactional “get rich/healthy/successful quick” opportunity with a material return on spiritual investment. More conservative religious leaders often pretend to lift the veil on “God’s recipe” for success in marriage or business or finances or parenting or “closeness” with God with a seemingly good agenda of growing a religious organization or hoping that if they do enough of what they preach and preach enough of what they do it might work out for themselves. It doesn’t.
All this and more just work more authentic believers out of the religiously humanistic Churchianity they see, like seeing behind the curtain in the Wizard of Oz.
The promise of temporal and worldly self-promotion by meeting God’s requirements or by following His divine self-help manual is the modern legalism of feel-good faux phariseeism that ultimately condemns everyone because it only works for the guys selling the formulas until they swindle all they want at the expense of anything authentic. We see big church pastors flailing and celebrities blowing up their lives out of greater neediness than any of their more impoverished followers. Whether selling social, cultural, religious, or entrepreneurial success, all the posers are faking “okayness” at the expense of all who follow.
Material success and worldly accolades, it turns out, are the quickest path to total hopelessness today.
Not only does financial gain fail to offer security, the wealthy often are the most insecure people on earth.
Not only do fame and success fail to add any value or true affirmation through their temporal and insignificant applause, but it creates greater neediness and desperation. Entire industries are devoted to making the famously beautiful more beautiful, more powerful, and in greater demand, only causing more need for what they promise to supply in an infinite loop of growing, narcissistic neediness.
Maybe the answers to fulfillment in this life are never really found in self-focused formulas – from God’s Word or success gurus or social influencers all painting a limited and revealing self-portrait of quasi-success in the hopes that a little more they gain from the world through you might make them feel as good as the image they sell.
Maybe Father’s Word is more a love letter than a self-help manual. Maybe the business gurus are selling their plans because they actually didn’t prove that successful for them or they wouldn’t need to sell them; they could just use them.
Maybe what we are doing here isn’t about getting more of what’s here, but truly living from and for something else – from somewhere else – altogether.
God wants more for you than you do. But the “more” He wants is often not just better, but different in kind and better in scope. Jesus is not the source of any life other than Himself. And, my friend, regardless of anything you’ve been told or sold, that’s a really good thing. It’s good news. Jesus is the source of the life God wants for you because Jesus IS the Life God wants for you.
When a very wealthy and young leader came to Jesus, the greatest religious guru of the day currently on a healing and teaching tour around Galilee, he wanted to be affirmed in his religious success. Surely God saw this young success story as the type-A, positive attitude, megastar in his religious practice just as he was in leadership and wealth.
Yeah, well, not so much.
In fact, it was Jesus’ authentic care for the young man that ultimately caused his greatest failure. Sometimes love hurts…
17 As He was setting out on a journey, a man ran up to Him and knelt before Him, and asked Him, “Good Teacher, what shall I do so that I may inherit eternal life?” 18 But Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone. 19 You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not give false testimony, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’” 20 And he said to Him, “Teacher, I have kept all these things from my youth.” 21 Looking at him, Jesus showed love to him and said to him, “One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” 22 But he was deeply dismayed by these words, and he went away grieving; for he was one who owned much property. (Mark 10:17-27, NASB)
Jesus cared for the man too much to let him remain in the lying beliefs of self-sufficiency and false hope.
What might Jesus have meant by saying, “Now one is good except God alone?” Where might be striving to gain from our goodness instead of reaping grace from the goodness of God?
How did Jesus love the man by telling him his need to give up all he had? Where might we be hoping more in what we have or what we earn than depending on the grace of God?
How do all we hope for (have it or not) in the world keep us from thriving in the fullness of Christ?
Today might not be a day you feel very okay. The enemy could be wielding the worldliness of modern culture, religiosity, success gurus, and social celebrities to lead you into the false hope of circumstantial okayness instead of Christ wielding His grace for all the fulness of God within you already by His Spirit.
The world lies about what will make you okay. The enemy lies about what to live for and from. The flesh lies about how you meet your own needs. Even our feelings can lie based on what we believe instead of the truth – and where those differ, we fall into the trap of living to fix how we feel instead of fixing our eyes on Christ, our true hope.
Today, let’s shift from hustle culture and self-help religion to the deep and true fulfillment of a relational walk with Jesus which Christ has already empowered by grace. Let’s give up as Jesus as the means to a better life and explore living for and from Him AS Life.
One finally “Maybe”: Maybe today can be the day free of the faux pressures of transactionally getting the right things done to get what you need. Instead, you might give up the false hope without giving up real hope: Christ Himself.
He really does make the happy heart sing as we are freed from the pressure cooker of modern culture to rest easy in the sufficient grace of His already-perfect loving embrace.
Is there anything you’ve been thinking would cause God’s favor that Christ hasn’t already given? What would trusting His finished work for you by grace mean for worldly pursuits? Share your thoughts or questions in the comments or enjoy perusing other encouragement free for you around the site at MikeQDaniel.com