Last week I introduced you to, or reminded you of, a concept called identity amnesia: Christians become ineffective and unfruitful when they forget who they are and what they've been given in Christ (2 Peter 1:8-9).
Because we're human beings with souls, we naturally need to find identity somewhere, in something, or in someone. So, when we forget that our identity is found "in Christ", we're going to default to a substitute identity.
Today I want to write about a very common replacement: identity in achievement.
God calls us to be effective and productive, so we ought to be concerned about our harvest and the return on our investments. Success is a biblical concept, and God wants us to do great things for his kingdom. But, the minute we take on our achievements as an identity, dangerous things happen.
In my experience pastoring and counseling, there are three types of people who fall victim to finding identity in their achievement:
1. Over Achiever
Do you get a deep sense of personal fulfillment when you get the next "notch" in your belt at work? Do you find it hard to slow down and say no to opportunities where you know you'll impress? Do you get irritated and angered when someone or something interferes with what you're trying to accomplish?
It's a God-honoring thing to work hard, but because of our wandering hearts, it's easy to lose sight of God and biblical priorities in the midst of our pursuit of personal achievement and success. Your identity in life is found in what Christ did for you on Calvary, not in what you can do for yourself or for God.
2. Under Achiever
Do feel as if you haven't accomplished what you want to accomplish in life? Are younger people taking on more responsibility at work? Are you aware of how much success your friends and peers are having while you seem to enjoy very little?
When we put our identity in achievement, and then fail to have success, we become discouraged, depressed, and bitter, not only towards others, but often towards God as well. Your identity in life is found in what Christ accomplished on the Cross, not in how much you can accomplish on earth.
3. Regretful Achiever
Do you look back on your life with great remorse, seeing how much achievement and success drove you? Do you see evidence of broken relationships as a result of your pursuit and wish you could rewind the clock and do it all over again?
Listen: your identity is found in the perfect life of Christ, not in the mistake-riddled life you look back on with grief. Christ, without regret, went to the Cross to cover all the regrets you would have in the future. And, God's timing is always perfect. Instead of dwelling on the past, allow God to redeem however much of your future you have left on this earth, for his glory and your good.
So, if I haven't said it enough, achievement is a very dangerous place to find identity. You will disappoint yourself, others will disappoint you, and your list of successes won't satisfy the craving of your soul. Only the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ will.
Paul David Tripp
- In what ways do you fall into the category of "overachiever"? What evidence of that is in your life?
- In what ways do you fall into the category of "underachiever"? What evidence of that is in your life?
- In what ways do you fall into the category of "regretful achiever"? What evidence of that is in your life?
- How does the person and work of Jesus Christ provide forgiveness and a better identity for each person?
- Who in your life is struggling with identity in achievement? How can you share the Gospel with them this week?