FROM THE HEART OF DR. REXELLA VAN IMPE
The myth of prestige
The myth of prestige
The pursuit of prestige often ends up on a dead-end street. But you see the chase going on almost everywhere-in social groups, in politics, on the job, and even in the church.
Don’t get me wrong-I’m not implying that it’s wrong to want to be successful. What needs emphasizing is the futility of success just for the sake of making a name for one’s self and achieving a degree of status and prestige.
I read of Dean Jones, a successful film and TV actor with many prestigious credits to his name. Yet, while his beautiful California canyon home was burning, he was able to sit on the front lawn and sing "Amazing Grace," much to the amazement of the firemen and arson investigators. I imagine even Dean was surprised at himself at the time. Later he was able to say, "I understood, not just at an intellectual level, but in my muscles and bones, that through praise and trusting God we can be triumphant in any circumstance...I never lost the peace of God during the whole episode. It was beautiful."
Here was a man whose house was going up in smoke, but he knew how to hang loose from it all. His happiness wasn’t tied up in some timbers, brick and mortar-the things his success had purchased for him.
There are many beautiful accounts of those who have experienced that kind of peace. It’s a priceless treasure, and it isn’t dependent upon rave reviews in the morning paper after a performance the night before. It’s not established on the shaky foundation of someone else’s opinion regarding something you’ve said or done. Instead, God’s peace is like an inner ballast which keeps one from tipping over when the storms of life beat against you. My husband and I have experienced it many times. You can experience it, too. You can know what the prophet Isaiah meant when he wrote: Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee (Isaiah 26:3).
The roots of the success mentality
This myth of success and prestige is encouraged through what I call the "success mentality" that pervades our culture. We have instilled into us from early childhood that some day we will grow up and be somebody. Of course, we want our children to set high ideals and strive to attain their best, and we should be glad and thankful our parents encouraged us to see fulfillment in occupations and pursuits uniquely suited to our individual capabilities. This is entirely biblical. God has given each of us the ability to do certain things well (see Romans 12:6). Succeeding verses mention some of the many different vocations into which men and women are called. Previous verses urge the reader not to copy the behavior and customs of this world but to be a new and different person with a freshness about all we do and think. The promise is that then we can learn from our own experience how God’s ways will really satisfy.
But along with instilling into children the virtues of diligence and a willingness to work to achieve success must be the balance of teaching them that man’s final end is not just to become successful for success’s sake. God has given us whatever abilities we have, and our chief end in life is to bring honor to Him and to glorify Him.
This means, among other things, that we acknowledge that what we have been endowed with in the way of creativity-any special genius or skills-has come from Him. The apostle Paul in many places emphasized that our adequacy is from God (see 2 Corinthians 3:5, for instance). Paul warns about working and doing anything out of selfishness or empty conceit (see Philippians 2:3). Paul had attained status among his contemporaries, but after his encounter with the reality of Christ, he wrote that what had preceded him thus far in his life was as rubbish in order that [he might] gain Christ (Philippians 3:8, NAS).
The supreme goal of Paul’s life was to know Christ better.
This search to be "somebody" can be seen in some of the letters we receive in our office. Every time I join the staff in reading them, I come away with a fresh realization that mankind is on an unending quest-the underlying basis of them is almost always the same. Perhaps a writer has discovered that upon achieving the educational or occupational goals he established earlier in life, he has reached the desired plateau only to discover that the " certain satisfying something" he had anticipated is not there. Thus, despite success, prestige, and even material gain, he finds himself still empty and often devoid of the joy of living. Discouraged, even baffled, bewildered, and befuddled, these individuals are writing, asking, "Why? Why am I not satisfied?"
I found it sadly significant that the half-time headliners for Superbowl XL played in Detroit on Sunday, February 5, 2006, was the legendary rock band, The Rolling Stones. Of course, they performed their signature song, "I Can’t Get No Satisfaction!" (Their appearance provided eloquent confirmation to the truth of their testimony.) Unfortunately, their anguished anthem has also become the theme song of millions of people today.
I can assure you that if my husband and I were counting on the success we have achieved in our work to fill up the empty gaps in our lives, we would be miserable, unfulfilled individuals. The successes and prestige can be snatched away very quickly. Listen to what the Bible has to say about this-
Do not love the world, nor the things of the world. If anyone
loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all
that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust
of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from
the Father, but is from the world. And the world is
passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who
does the will of God abides forever
(1 John 2:15-17, NAS, emphasis added).
Love Song For A Savior - Jars of Clay