It’s that time of year again: recruitment time! For quarter-system kids, anyway. Applications to review, interviews to conduct, informational sessions to hold, and hundreds of emails to check all scream that it’s time to pitch your cause, wear your shirts, change your profile pictures, and fail your first round of midterms.
Some of you know what I’m talking about because you’re in multiple organizations and hold positions of power (coordinator, executive board member, captain, etc.) in many of them. You feel like you run your corner of the school. Add jobs, research, volunteering, and internships, and you’ve got yourself a Google Calendar that packs 30 hours of commitments into each day.
I don’t mean to brag. In fact, this post is about how we are often tempted to boast about these kinds of things and how it’s incredibly dangerous. I want to talk to you for a few minutes, because as time goes on, I see more and more that there’s a lot of risk in this neck of the woods.
The more prestigious and the more numerous the items on your curriculum vitae, the more people tend to laud you with praise. Some people will do it because they want in, and you’re the one reviewing the applications. Some people will do it because they are genuinely impressed and respectful. Some people will do it because they are your friends and want to encourage you.
It doesn’t really matter why they do it, because I am mostly talking about us and not about them. When it comes to us and our hearts, our treatment of all the recognition can be suicidal if we’re not careful. And you don’t have to be a coordinator in five organizations for this to be the case. We’re stupidly prideful. We can take pride in everything from GPA to the number of Facebook likes on our statuses to how many people ask us (and not others) for counsel and comfort.
I don’t know how you have chosen to deal with all this in the past. “Oh, I’m not that great!” “Well, shoot, look at you! You’re in everything too!” “I just do what I love.” Whatever the case may be, it is always of paramount importance—always, but especially at this crucial juncture called recruitment season at which many of us now find ourselves—that we take a few good, long looks at the Bible and at our hearts.
1. If you think you stand firm, take heed lest you fall.
The context in which Paul writes 1 Corinthians 10:12 indicates that sexual immorality and the worship of idols are the two main things in mind, but the idolatry can be of anything (verse 14 is a thrust against all sin). Take heed, lest you fall. I am always more prideful than I think. Merely that we have not thought prideful thoughts in a while or avoided saying arrogant things in front of anybody does not prove our humility; the heart is deceitful, so as with any other sin, we must take the fight to our flesh.
2. Humility comes out of a right view of ourselves and a right view of God.
a. Humanism is popular because it makes much of mankind. We all want to think of ourselves as residents of Galt’s Gulch. To say that human virtue is like rags is usually pretty offensive. But that’s what the Bible says. Why? Because the Bible is about God and God is perfect. In his view—and his view is ultimately the only one of any importance whatsoever—we have fallen short, are depraved, and possess no hope of redemption. I can’t deny my lies and lust and laziness. I’m the foremost of sinners; a sinner with titles and accolades remains a sinner.
b. God has saved us by faith, and this is entirely his gift and his work. I did nothing to earn it. My greatest need has been met, not by my self-actualization, but on the basis of his charity and grace. It has been met because Christ paid the penalty in my place, and the righteousness I carry is not my own.
c. What do you have that you did not receive? If you have received it, why do you boast as if you did not? 1 Corinthians 4:7 gets me every time I read it because my attitude is, far too often, exactly the one condemned. Think about every single thing in your life, and remember that you received it.
d. The whole earth is filled with his glory. His glory, not Isaiah’s and certainly not mine. Sanctification is not to make us look good. Positions of power are not to make us look good. Gifts are not to make us look good. Skills and talents and opportunities and wealth are not to make us look good. We must decrease; he must increase.
God did everything; I bring nothing. It does not make me sorrowful to say that I am a sinner saved by grace. In fact, it means that I am never without joy as long as I remember it!
3. Remember what the criterion for “a job well done” and the means to “a soul satisfied” are.
You can get an A, set the curve, get published in a major journal, nail an interview, obtain a job, or reform a program and still not have done well. You can do all those things and it wouldn’t be enough. Trusting God’s promises in the Word and obedience to God’s commands in the Word are the measuring sticks when it comes to evaluating how well a job was done. They’re also the places in which happiness is found. Nothing else satisfies; if you don’t believe it, read Ecclesiastes.
Do we count all things as loss compared to the surpassing worth of knowing Christ?
4. Being busy is not necessarily a good thing.
This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be busy. And maybe it’s easier to say this because I’m coming out of the most obligation-free summer that opened up countless opportunities for evangelism, discipleship, learning, and fellowship. But it’s biblical. Being busy because of a lack of trust in the sovereignty of God is wrong. Being busy at the expense of communing with God is wrong.
5. Remember the Great Commission.
“Go and make disciples of all nations.” It doesn’t matter where you are or what hat you’re wearing; this applies, all the time. There are a couple of ways in which being where you are can naturally lead into opportunities for you to obey the Commission:
a. Your life is more public. You’re faced with decisions to make, and everyone’s watching you make them. You’re faced with frustrating circumstances and people. These are opportunities to live out what we sing: “Now, Lord, I would be Yours alone and live so all might see the strength to follow your commands could never come from me.”
b. You have more relationships. Usually, the more groups you’re in, the more friends you have. But that doesn’t matter unless you’re looking at your friendships the right way—through the lens of the Great Commission. If you’re in positions that provide you with a platform and public presence, you can use them for preaching the Gospel in word. If you’re in positions that provide you with opportunities to love and serve people, you can use them for preaching the Gospel in deed.
Being respected, carrying leadership, and having authority are huge blessings. They can potentially provide large fields of harvest. Sow and pray.
6. Remember that there is grace to cover all your failures.
I have failed, many times and in many ways. All five of the previous points apply to me, because a) they’re from the Bible and b) I am not nearly the perfect model of biblical living.
So when the Bible tells me that God has already prepared all the good works I’ll do in my lifetime, I’m comforted. When it says that he has already foreknown and paid for all the sins and failures in my life—past, present, and future—I’m comforted. When it teaches me of his sovereignty, I’m comforted.
Remember that his mercies are new each day. Repent and trust him to supply the strength you’ll need to kill your sin. Resolve to fight your flesh, and when you fail in the fight (as you inevitably will), take heart. Christ has already won!
Humbly and with concern,
P.S. I don’t want to be told that I’m talented or successful or accomplished. I think I’m overrated, but more importantly, I think I’m tempted to be prideful. So I’m actually pleading with you: for my sake, please don’t tell me those things. Or at least don’t tell me those things without giving credit where credit is due—and the credit does not, must not, cannot belong to me.