May 22, 2024
man with fireworks

I once desired to be extraordinary

By Erick Muriithi

The first time I saw someone wearing spectacles, I was in Class 3. From that point on, I wanted to wear spectacles — for the mere reason that they would bring me attention. And so I did. But not because I asked for them. My eyes got damaged because as a curious child, I loved to observe what the welder was doing, and the UV light was bad for my eyes. Long story short, I have worn spectacles for the last 18 years of my life.

The spectacles, however, did not secure what I was seeking. Attention came, but only in the short term. I was recognized, and even appointed class monitor for wearing spectacles! But the appointment was short lived and I was demoted the next day for not doing my homework.

Generally, my desire to stand out has proven to be my undoing. I have never desired an ordinary life — I have always wanted to be the talk of the town; big achievements — to excel at the things people fail at — has always been my kind of stuff. I have desired the extraordinary story.

Naturally when I moved to boarding school, I wanted to be the talk of the school. Whatever was cool had to be me. If someone talked about their big brother, I wondered why I didn’t have a big brother, to the extent that my aunt and my uncle who were in campus at the time had to be my big brother and big sister.

By the time I was in campus, I had put down my Bible altogether. Parties, alcohol and women were more appealing. I wanted to be the “bad boy”. I would often make up stories about myself that were simply lies, and I would tell them with such enthusiasm that they left my audience bewildered, or in disbelief, or simply in stitches.

What I didn’t know at the time is how much living for approval and denying my “ordinary life” veiled God’s providence. Desiring to be great kept me from living obediently to God. By being the god in my life, I missed the chance of walking with the true and living God.

But our good LORD saved me and today Jesus Christ is my only hiding place. The devil often comes to tempt me by telling me, “You are just an evil man hiding behind the Cross. You are not really saved.” He aims to appeal to my pride and get me to start trusting in myself to prove him wrong. But I prove him right. And he flees. I am an evil man hiding behind the Cross of Jesus Christ. That cross is my hiding place, and so should it be for all of us.

Veiling God’s grace

When we desire to to be pre-eminent before men, to have extraordinary testimonies, confessing sins that we are not guilty of to elicit sympathy and attention, we simply despise the lives that God has given us and regard his providence to be too ordinary. We think about the salvation of the Samaritan woman at the well as so grand that we covet her kind of story. And so we wish we had such an extra ordinary testimony — saved from a great sin! But her sin and your ordinary sin are no different. When you have desired an extraordinary life, it has been for yourself. To glorify yourself. To make yourself feel good about yourself. You have made yourself the chief end of man. Think about how great a sin that is. You want a story of conversion from atheism? You have been worse than an atheist. By telling small lies, you have declared the truth as evil and bad for you.

To think of your sin as ordinary is to show how low a view of God you have. By the smallest sin, you have declared God who is all holy to be unjust, evil, perverted. You have declared God’s law to be evil in your sight.

What then is the answer?

One of the best ways to confront a false-faced lifestyle is the way Paul confronts it in Philippians 3 — consider that you are not your own. I am not my own.

“Not that I have already obtained this or I am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:12-14

Consider who owns us; it is Christ Jesus! It is the one who made the heavens and the earth. That is the one who owns us. The exact representation of God’s glory. The radiance of God. True God of God. Very God of Very God. Think of the manner in which he owned us. He owned us by living for our righteousness. Jesus defeated temptation and sin in his life for us. And then he died for us. He bore our sins in his body on the cross. He shed his blood for us. For that very ordinary life we think little of. Christ Jesus came to the market and shed his blood for the worst quality. He bought a crucified thief, a whoring Samaritan, a deplorable tax collector, a murderer and a blasphemer. Look at such love. What joy we would have if we realized that we are owned by the very King of kings! We are not working to get Him to notice us; we already belong to Him. We, the vilest offenders, are owned by the very purest, holiest, most excellent savior. What a motivation to give up our self-focus!

Secondly, considering that we are owned by Christ Jesus should lead us to leave the past behind. Our sins, great or small, have been been paid for in full. God’s justice is satisfied. Our sin is truly forgiven. If we are to look back, we should look back to see the blood of the lamb shed for us.

Third, we are to fix your eyes upon Jesus Christ. To die to self. To not to seek to justify ourselves, but to deny ourselves and to fix your eyes on Jesus Christ and the crown of life. Jesus died that we might no longer live for ourselves but for him who for our sake was crucified. Look back then to see the price paid for you, and see how much humility the cross brings to your life. And then the question will no longer be, “How do I get on with my ordinary life?”. It will be, “How can I live daily to glorify the one who died for me?”

When we live for ourselves, we will do anything to stand out and be noticed, including harming ourselves, telling lies and trying to coin false testimonies. But when we live for Christ Jesus, we will do everything to exalt him. Humility is cultivated at the Cross.

Do not worry about your reputation. Do not let your past sin hold you back. Strain for what lies ahead. Have you ever seen an athlete running a past race? It is impossible. Imagine saying “I am training for last weeks game!” It is ridiculous. But that is exactly what we do. In our fight against sin, we are often fighting past sin. We are often seeking sanctification from past sin. Indeed sin has made us mad men, that we fight for what is past. No wonder we are so concerned for a reputation or legacy. Let’s strive for what lies ahead — the crown of life. Not what people will say of our past. Not for what is temporal, what makes light of our high calling in Christ. Did Jesus Christ die to make people speak well of you? So then, do not strive for what will soon be past, but for that bright and glorious future for which Christ Jesus has purchased you.

Jesus Christ was before our achievements, failures and our very existence. And Jesus has promised us the crown of life — to live forever more with God. Not a legacy, for a legacy is the past, and the past will be forgotten, but a crown of life; that is future. So then let us strive for what lies ahead — the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Christ has already secured it, but we strive for what is ours in him. The world behind me, the cross before me, no turning back, no turning back.

Eric Muriithi is a writer and Bible student who loves to engage in polemic and apologetic discussions. He is involved in campus ministry at Egerton University, Kenya.

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