The Paradox of Personal Fulfillment

What did Jesus mean when He told his followers “whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it” (Luke 9:24)?

There is a sense in which our lives cannot be fully ours until we give them away; a sense in which the world and all of its treasures cannot be rightly enjoyed by us until we place Christ, and no one and nothing else, on the throne in our hearts.

For the one who will indeed place Christ in the highest place, suddenly: “all things belong to you, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or things present or things to come; all things belong to you, and you belong to Christ; and Christ belongs to God” (1 Corinthians 3:21-23). What a peaceful place to be.

Why is that? Why can we not successfully take some aspect of this life, perhaps luxury cars, human sexuality, travel, or sports, and find within it the fulfillment of our deepest needs? Why must we give everything up before we can rightly enjoy any of it?

A.W. Tozer gives us a hint in his work, The Pursuit of God:
“Our woes began when God was forced out of His central shrine and ‘things’ were allowed to enter. Within the human heart ‘things’ have taken over. Men have now by nature no peace within their hearts, for God is crowned there no longer, but there in the moral dusk stubborn and aggressive usurpers fight among themselves for first place on the throne.”

James says it clearly in the scriptures: “What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members?” (James 4:1)

All gods but the Living God prove inadequate, and when they do, we find ourselves in trouble.

Perhaps we place the burden of our fulfillment on a spouse or a friend, and when they fail us we find ourselves angry at them for not coming through for us.

Perhaps we place that burden on our career, and we sink into self-pity when we lose our job.

Perhaps we place the burden on the excitement of sexual encounters or mood altering substances, and we find ourselves enslaved but never truly filled.

The bottom line is that no created thing can be properly enjoyed or appreciated when it is being overburdened with expectations that only God can fulfill. And when it breaks, we hurt.

Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness?” (Romans 6:16)

There is no life as beautiful and fulfilling as the one that lays everything at Christ’s feet. With Him at the center of our universe, all of the little planets that we call “people,” “places,” and “things” fall into place in their orbits around Him.

It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1)

When the heart belongs to anyone or anything less than God, it is continually disappointed, hurt, angered, and enslaved. When it belongs to Christ, and only then, “all things belong to you.

Upside Down House