When I was in junior high, I became obsessed with cars. I found a Whitney auto parts catalog, and I was amazed with its size. Page after page was filled with replacement parts for nearly any car on the road.
Just like that catalog, our fallen world offers an endless catalog of identity replacements. None of us are free from their seduction. Each of us will turn a page in life and find one that's attractive to us.
I've found in my years of counseling that these identity replacements tend to fall into four major clusters. We'll look at the first one this week.
1. Identity in Achievement
God calls us to be fruitful and productive. We should be concerned about our harvest and the return on our investments. But the minute we take on our achievements as an identity, we become slaves to a never-ending stream of potential success.
This is the profile of a workaholic. He (or she) gets purpose from the next notch on his belt, so he's unable to say no and unable to slow down. Take away his ability to build toward the next success, and he'll be irritated and discouraged.
This replacement identity will also distort your decisions. You'll tend to go after the things where you think you can succeed, rather than going after them because they're in line with biblical priorities. You'll also be more excited about what these opportunities do for you than how they fit inside the plot of God's story.
If you find identity in achievement, you're at risk in two areas. First, maybe you're beginning to be sidelined. If you're a parent and your kids have left the house, you can't claim achievement in that area anymore. Perhaps at work responsibilities are being shifted to others, sometimes younger and less experienced. Whatever the case, if achievement has become your identity, when it gets taken out of your hands, you'll feel depressed and discouraged because the thing that has defined you is gone.
Here's the second area, and it's the opposite of the first. Maybe you're being given more opportunities to achieve than you've ever had in your life. You're finally becoming a decision maker at work, or you've finally reached a placed in ministry where you're so respected that people hang on your every word. You feel alive, and you find it hard to say no. You're at risk of becoming enslaved to achievement, making bad choices, and staying too busy, because success is where you find meaning and purpose.
Does personal achievement mean more to you than it should? Could it be that you've looked to it to provide identity, meaning, and purpose? Now remember what I said at the beginning: God calls us to be fruitful and productive, and achievement alone is not an evil thing. But once that false identity begins to define who you are, you're in danger of compromising who God has called you to be.
1. How can you be fruitful and productive for the Kingdom of God this week?
2. What achievements have been taken from your hands? Have you become depressed and discouraged?
3. Where are you at risk of being enslaved to achievement?
4. How does identity in Christ allow you to combat the temptation of finding identity in your achievement?
Paul David Tripp