In Excess

There’s something deep within all of us that desires to be good at what we do, so much so that we will often put valuable relationships on hold to toil at becoming the best.  Some call these people overachievers; others call them workaholics.  In our culture, there is an overwhelming drive to “be” somebody.  Often, we will market our names and brand our work in an effort to be recognized for our talent and skill.  This is not all bad; developing a solid work ethic is important, but the potential to lose focus is around every corner.  As a follower of Christ, living a balanced life is wrapped up in keeping the right focus while living, working, and pursuing the glory of God.  Sometimes, there’s a small margin of difference between working for the glory of God and working for our own glory.  And even though the difference may seem subtle, it has a big impact.   

We all have strengths. You may be good with people, or maybe you’re an incredible artist or gifted with numbers; we all have different strong points, things we do naturally and effortlessly with great results.  God’s desire is to take these incredible God-given abilities and use them for redemptive purposes. However, there’s also another plan.  Satan desires to take those strengths and distort them—to have you use them in excess and create something destructive.  Basically, Satan wants to turn your strengths into addictions.  Dangerous addictions.  When your strengths turn into an excessive labor that points back to you instead of a labor of love that is poured out for Christ, the trap is set.

When we revel in our own beauty, we take our worship, turn it inward, and become idolaters.  Just like our penchant for worshipping our worship music, worshipping our churches, or worshipping our technology—we become enamored with the creation, and we begin to see God for less than who He is.  When this happens–we become idolaters.

The ability to shift our focus from ourselves to Christ is a daily habit; here are some practical tips for keeping your strengths in check.

Stop pleasing people.  The reality is that we spend way too much time thinking about what others think of us.  This keeps us from doing genuine work for the glory of God.  It’s not bad to do your best and affirmation is great, but if that’s the end goal, we’ve missed the point.  Stop pleasing others, and start thinking more about pleasing God.  This is one of those this-changes-everything principles.  Work hard but in a different way and in a different direction.  The way we handle our strengths will help determine what kind of people we are.

Take regular breaks from your work.  Make it a regular practice to stop and refocus on God and give your strengths to Him.  Distance yourself from your work for a short time to get your head cleared of all the stuff that competes for your heart.  Of course, taking a Sabbath day to kick back is a great pattern that’s given to us from God.  When God finished His majestic work of creation, He just stopped. He didn’t obsess over His work or continue to tweak it.  You need a time when you stop what you’re doing and say, “This is good.” Thank God for the work and engage in the most humble activity there is—sleep. 

Keep it simple.  If you’ve fallen into the trap and over-committed your life, try to find out what things you can stop doing.  Do your best to keep your focus simple and keep what’s important to you close.  It’s an amazing discovery, but the world will continue without us.  One of the best distractions to life is the complexity that comes with stress.  The more you can keep it simple the less you will stress out about.  This is easier-said-than-done, but simplicity often paves the way for grace to enter. 

Remember that relationships count.  When you are knee-deep in a project and you are tempted to retreat from every relationship you have and become a cave-dwelling hermit, remember that at the end of your life what counts will be people, not your ability to get the job done with style.  The last eulogy anyone wants to hear is, “We’ll always remember so-and-so for their commitment to the job above the ones they loved.” Make time for relationships even when there is none.  

Embracing God’s glory always begins with true humility in the ways of Christ—nothing short of a drop-dead brokenness. 

Satan used his God-given beauty for self-gratification, and it destroyed him.  The dangerous potential to fill our hearts with self-thoughts over God-thoughts is always looming.  This life is so short and every minute and every relationship matters.  God calls us to live simple, balanced lives that are consumed with His glory, not ours.  If we take our strengths and use them for an excessive labor of self-love instead of a constant sacrifice to the glory of God, then we will miss out on life in the kingdom the way it was intended.  God gives us talents to use for the progress of the redemptive story, for beauty, for goodness, and for His glory—anything short of that is fallen. 

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Brian is a writer and editor from Ohio. He works with creative and innovative people to discover the top stories, resources and trends to equip and inspire the Church.