Last week I read an alarming passage in Hebrews: “See to it … that no one is sexually immoral or unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal.” I thought: Who would ever condemn in the same sentence both adultery and poor, hungry Esau?
Then I remembered a blogger I read. Last fall he urged followers to sign up for a goal-setting course called 5 Days to Your Best Year Ever. He shared his own goals for 2015, and I quote:
- Publish a bestselling book and sell at least 50,000 copies in the first year.
- Get a six-figure advance for my next book contract by the end of the year.
- Make a million dollars in revenue from my business.
If these were the goals of a secular entrepreneur, I’d merely pity him. But he’s a Christian writer. His perverted goals didn’t stop at numbers. He dug his grave deeper when he said,
Now, please hear my heart on this. All of the above is not about money. Money has never made me any happier. What has changed my happiness … is my belief in myself.
I suppose I still feel sorry for him. He’s a young man, unsure of how to handle success. He’s hungry for something—money or fame or self-esteem—but I pity him the way I pity Esau.
He’s selling his soul for a bowl full of gruel. Which God equates with adultery.
Tilling Soil or Digging Graves?
It’s great to evaluate goals. We examine our lives and intentionally focus on areas for which we sense God’s call. We shed distracting activities to nurture God-inspired pursuits. But whenever our goals focus on the results instead of the call, we’ve begun to walk a path toward adultery.
It’s obvious when our goals are worldly: to write a “bestseller” or become a millionaire by the age of twenty-five. But what about the seemingly innocent goals of growing our church to five hundred people, or helping our thirteen-year-old cellist become the next Yo-Yo Ma?
God invites us into comradeship with him, not to measurable fruit. God calls Ezekiel with these cheery words:
The house of Israel will not listen to you, for they are not willing to listen to me … Go to your people, and speak to them saying, “Thus says the Lord God,” whether they listen to you or refuse to hear. (Ez. 3:7 and 11)
Are we devoted to a cause or devoted to God himself? God calls us to act as he leads, and to leave the results up to him. He invites us up into partnership with him. He even calls Ezekiel (and us) into friendship with him through the shared suffering of God’s rejected Word.
Whenever we try to force the results, our devotion is to our cause not to our King. God calls us to till the soil and spread the seed, but to leave the growth up to him.
Visible and Invisible
Sometimes God shows his love for us by limiting our visible fruit. Our hearts can’t handle it and remain pure. My blogger friend accomplished all three of his 2015 goals, and then he found his resulting happiness in “my belief in myself.” Yikes!
Of the two tests of God—seeming success or seeming failure—any intense concentration on visible fruit will form an impregnable prison from which we can’t escape.
God invites us into such a deep devotion to him—a personal, intimate connection with the Almighty—that sunshine or storms, safe-harbors or shipwrecks, all pale in an inexplicable joy of knowing him. Lasting happiness is found through a belief in him, not a belief in ourselves.
Ezekiel never got a million shekels from his ministry, nor a six-figure advance for his next scroll; he probably didn’t make the bestseller’s list while he lived, nor sell 50,000 copies the first year.
Though a few people have heard of him.
God himself longs for us to grow in intimacy with him; and the greatest way to know God is to learn to hear his voice. Buy Now