What Do You Live For?
Living in the world of leadership and personal development for the past 25 years, I’ve encountered enough trends and ideas to fill a filing cabinet. I’ve often wondered if these tricks of the trade were more branding than substance. For years, much of the focus of these strategies has been on what the leader does: Good leaders and effective people do certain things and have at least seven habits.
One of the latest trends has focused more on who the leader is. A range of tools, from measuring emotional intelligence to leveraging your uniqueness to viewing your own life as something of value to the world, flood the marketplace in every form of media available. The big question seems to have shifted from “What will you do?” to “What do you live for?”
Despite this movement toward what is perhaps the most profound question a human being can attempt to answer, I have to wonder if we still have missed something.
Regardless of how noble this journey toward other-centeredness is, the subject of the question remains me. The key to success is self-discovery: my personality type, my passions, my growth. Many of our conversations with others are dominated by talk about ourselves: what I’m doing, how I’m growing, and what my issues are. Our human nature still leads us to the question, “What do I get out of it?” Living Christianly is made so much more difficult by these attitudes.
Many approach faith as if God is another tool to help them be better and more successful. That is what God wants, right?
A humorous take on this comes from the Will Ferrell movie Talladega Nights. In one scene, Ferrell’s character, Ricky Bobby, sits down to dinner with his family and insists on praying to baby Jesus because he likes that version of Jesus best. It gives him what he needs.
In their book Jesus Manifesto, Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola suggest that our lives are not to be lived from within, based on who we are, but from beyond, based on who God is. We don’t need to look beyond the life of Jesus to see that Jesus was more interested in God-discovery than self-discovery. Consider the following words of Jesus.
“The Father and I are one” (John 10:30, NLT). “As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you” (John 20:21, NLT). “I have loved you even as the Father has loved me” (John 15:9, NLT). “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself. He does only what he sees the Father doing. Whatever the Father does, the Son also does” (John 5:19, NLT).
Sweet and Viola observe that the subject of these quotations is the Father. In these statements, Jesus revealed less about himself than he did about who God is. Jesus lived not to find his niche, leverage his personality traits, or find the right fit in order to thrive and succeed. Rather, Jesus lived to reveal a God who passionately loves his people.
Though none of us is Jesus, we are called to follow after him, and that includes doing the things he did. When the disciples followed Christ, they stopped living for their professions and started living to reveal Jesus Christ to the world. The lesson to us is this: The Christian life begins when we leave a life of self-discovery to live one of God-discovery. May you choose this life.
Jack Radcliffe is a husband, father of four, coach (www.redwoodcoach.com), ministry trainer and speaker, dean of the Youth Ministry Institute of the Tennessee Conference UMC, and adjunct professor at Martin Methodist College. He has an MDiv from Ashland Theological Seminary in Ohio and a DMin in Practical Theology, Adolescent Development and Culture from Fuller Theological Seminary.