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Destined to Win
How To Embrace Your God-Given Identity And Realize Your Kingdom Purpose
By Kris Vallotton
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2017 Kris Vallotton
All rights reserved.
Henry was my best friend in high school. He was a short, stocky kid who sort of walked like a duck. His parents forced him to go to church, so he spent most of his growing-up years trying to escape the religious stigma that plagued him. I was a tall, skinny kid (five feet eleven, 137 pounds) who practiced my "cool walk" at home, strutting as if I had a stick up my butt! We were such a pair.
We both longed to be accepted by the popular crowd, and we did everything we could to fit in. We cussed and acted mean. I even wore skinny jeans and white T-shirts, but Henry's wardrobe was a medley of thrift-shop finds. His mom did her best to dress him "nice," but Henry's mismatched and outdated clothes only added to the kid's misfortune. The truth is that his parents really loved and cared for him, but they were Flintstones ... out of touch with the real world.
Henry grew up on the poor side of town, just down the street from a wrecking yard. This became his hangout, an escape from a world of brokenness. He quickly became somewhat of a junkyard dog and gofer all wrapped up in one dirty, greasy kid. When Henry was finally old enough to have a driver's license, the yard boss let him rescue a tired, rusted-out '57 Ford Fairlane from the crusher before they smashed the thing. This diamond in the rough was originally painted a two-tone white and salmon color, but it had faded to a kind of ugly pink, which came off on your clothes whenever you rubbed up against it.
The first week after Henry rescued the car from the yard it was obvious to both of us that it needed some serious upgrades! First things first, we took it to our auto shop class and sprayed the entire outside with about ten cans of gray primer. Then, in flat black, we stenciled the words Captain America in huge letters on both sides of the car. After that, we put the junker up on the lift and drilled holes in the mufflers so it would sound like a race car.
The seats were so ripped up that the stuffing was falling out onto the floorboards, so we bought about three rolls of duct tape and reupholstered the seats with it. The only down side was that you had to be careful when sliding into the car, because the duct tape would stick your butt to the seat, not to mention the fact that getting the glue off your jeans was almost impossible.
The aesthetics definitely needed some work, but the ride was also in need of serious help. One of the many unique qualities of Captain America was its ability to burn almost as much oil as it did gasoline. Whenever we would stop at a red light and rev the engine, blueish smoke would completely cover the car. Henry called it the "glory cloud."
The truth is, we thought that heap was really cool, but looking back now I can see we were the laughingstocks of our school. Let's just say that none of the ladies wanted a ride home.
What Henry and I didn't understand back then was that stenciling Captain America on the side of the car didn't make us superheroes any more than drilling holes in the mufflers made that piece of junk a race car. Duct tape may be fine to seal HVAC connection points, but it certainly wasn't designed to upholster seats. We were just two young boys desperately trying to fit in ... to be loved ... to be known. We thought the world was laughing with us; we had no idea the world was laughing at us.
The reality was that Henry and I were never going to fit in; we weren't good at anything the cool crowd valued. More important, we didn't like ourselves. I understand now that Captain America was more than an automobile; it was an outward manifestation of our inward brokenness. Our lives were duct-t aped together because our dysfunctional families had beaten the stuffing out of us. It was all we could do to keep our intense pain from leaking out of our ears. We painted over the faded glory of our boyhoods, but we couldn't cover the discolored, rusted-out, painful years of rejection. We stenciled Captain America on our T-shirts, but there were still two scared little boys under the hood. We roared like race cars coming down the street, talking tough and cussing like sailors; yet it was all smoke and mirrors: a low-budget film with poor actors and no plot. Our self-hatred bonded us together; we fed one another's brokenness and provided a generic intimacy for our starving souls. We were just two blind boys stumbling through the darkness, grasping for acceptance, and longing for love.
The world is filled with people like Henry and Kris who survive in the painful existence of symptomatic cures, reactionary lifestyles, and loveless cultures. They flock together, validating one another's dysfunction, measuring their level of achievement (or lack of it) by comparing themselves to one another. An ancient Israelite prophet named Isaiah put it this way: "All of us like sheep have gone astray" (Isaiah 53:6).
But, as most of you know, we are not powerless victims! In fact, we were born to win. We don't have eyes in the backs of our heads because we weren't designed to back up, retreat, or lose ground. Furthermore, our arms were created to only work in front of us, building what's before us. Our feet point forward and are incapable of swiveling rearward, making retreat a slow, difficult process. It's all a sign of our Creator's desire for us to gain ground and to live successful, productive lives. God is our rear guard, and we are to face forward.
Knowing this, how are we to move ahead, to become prosperous in the Kingdom? We must discover our true identities, proactively develop noble virtues, and get to the root causes of our destructive and/or unproductive behaviors. We have to take off our masks and refuse to live a photoshopped life! It's imperative that we wake up to the stunning reality of God's superior kingdom, while learning how to navigate this journey we call life. We are called to greatness and destined for glory.
Greatness and fame are terms often confused or even used inter-changeably. Fame is usually the result of some popular act: a ball is caught, a song is sung, a book is written, or a character is played. But greatness cannot be reduced to an action or an event. Kingdom greatness is measured long after the crowds have dispersed, the applause has silenced, and the stage lights have cooled, because true greatness lies deep in the heart of every person. In fact, genuine greatness is most often exposed in the dark times, in the secret places, and in the alone hours of a believer's existence. It is in these desert seasons that the seedbeds of God's greatness, the attributes we need to cultivate, are conceived. It is later — often much later — that the results are revealed to the world.
The Scriptures describe men and women of God who cultivated these qualities and took hold of their positions of divine influence to shift the destinies of nations. Their prominence was not for their own benefit, but for the purpose of shaping society toward God's original intent. They created catalytic cultures that maximized the godly influence of their constituents on the rest of creation. Believers throughout the book of Acts are great examples of noble people who catalyzed culture. They had such deep impacts on their societies that when Paul and his friends arrived in Thessalonica, the people said, "These who have turned the world upside down have come here too" (Acts 17:6 NKJV).
The world is crying out for people like Paul — and Joseph — who will become fathers and mothers to the pharaohs of the world (see Genesis 45) and see whole nations fall into the hands of the Lord. God is summoning the Daniels of the earth who can stand as he did in the courts of four worldly kings and bring the most powerful nations into the Kingdom. God is gathering the Nehemiahs of our day to rebuild our ruined cities and restore hope to the planet. He is awakening the Davids of our generation and commissioning them to defeat the giants of racism, crime, immorality, and corruption that seem to roam the earth wreaking havoc on our children.
This is our moment, our time, our Jordan River crossing, our season for epic transition. We are God's X factor, His secret weapon, His ace in the hole, His divine strategy for global reformation. That's right. We are the "salt of the earth" (Matthew 5:13). We preserve the planet and are vital to life in the Kingdom.
We are the light rising in the darkness that is longing for a new day to dawn. It's you and me, and it's people like us all over the world who are taking hold of this mandate to stand firm in our stations at the height of every city and shine against the back-drop of doom. Together we are the "light of the world" (Matthew 5:14), illuminating breathtaking solutions to people in desperate, despairing, and destructive circumstances.
The teacher in Proverbs, as he encouraged his students to pursue wisdom instead of folly, told them,
The Lord by wisdom founded the earth,
By understanding He established the heavens.
By His knowledge the deeps were broken up
And the skies drip with dew.
It was wisdom that formed the earth, and it is wisdom that will reform it. When explaining to his readers that God's grace made him a preacher to the Gentiles so that His church would grow, the apostle Paul concluded that "the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places" (Ephesians 3:10). God used Paul to deliver His gospel to the Gentile church; now that church broadcasts His wisdom to the rest of creation. Each of us who follows Jesus is endowed with the wisdom of God. It is His wisdom in us that is about to be demonstrated through us to the rulers around us, to restore the earth beneath us, so that His city above us can be the habitation among us.
That's who you are, and that's who I am! We are sons and daughters of the King, filled with wisdom and living in His radiance. This is not a fantasy or some script from a superhero movie. It's the truth that frees the world to fulfill the Creator's original intentions, our divine design, our Master's mandate.CHAPTER 2
From the Inside Out
If you asked most people who Norma Jeane Mortenson was, they probably wouldn't know. Yet nearly everyone in America has heard of Marilyn Monroe. Marilyn's real name was Norma Jeane Mortenson. Her mother was a film cutter at RKO Studios who, abandoned by her husband, spent most of her life in and out of mental institutions. As a result, Marilyn spent a large portion of her childhood abused and alone, trapped inside the foster care system.
Battered but not broken, Marilyn quickly worked her way to superstardom. By the time she hit her early thirties, Marilyn had become one of the most desired women in all of Hollywood; however, this was short-lived.
Marilyn wrote, "Hollywood is a place where they'll pay you a thousand dollars for a kiss and fifty cents for your soul." Her words are sobering and reveal a dark side to our performance-driven society that creates its heroes from the outside in.
Maybe this is the reason why most of us spend so long getting ready for each day. We shower, fix our hair, brush our teeth, and do the best we can to look beautiful on the outside, yet we rarely give any thought to enhancing the souls within us. The fixation we have with impressing one another has led to the adage, "Beauty is only skin deep, but ugly goes all the way to the bone." When external beauty is a manifestation of the healthy soul that lies within you, it feels authentic, real, and attractive. But when the soul within you is drowning, starving, ignored, and unkempt, everything you do on the outside is futile. Such was the case with Marilyn.
Marilyn never quite made it out of the hell into which she was born. Rich, and yet miserable, she overdosed on barbiturates at just thirty-six years old; this was the heartbreaking tragedy of living as Marilyn Monroe on the outside when all the while Norma Jeane remained within.
In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus warned crowds of listeners about this type of living. He used the word hypocrite, which comes from the Greek word hypokrite, meaning "stage actors" (Matthew 6:5, 16). He compared scribes and Pharisees to clean-looking cups filled with selfishness and to clean, beautiful tombs full of unclean, dead bones (Matthew 23:25-27); He compared false prophets to ravenous wolves dressed up as sheep (Matthew 7:15).
We see these words in the Bible and want to distance ourselves from scribes, Pharisees, and false prophets, but the worrisome truth is that this same problem infects our lives, too, in ways we may not clearly see. Many self-help books today are more like acting lessons that teach people how to behave in the big-screen movie of life; but if we're honest with ourselves, we'll see that the training they impart is just spray paint and stenciling for anyone hoping to become like Captain America. It rarely ends well.
It's incumbent upon us to ask the question, why do we pretend? I think it's because we are all born with an intense need to feel significant, loved, valued, and accepted; yet we fear that we are not worthy of these things. So we pretend to be the people we think society wants us to be in order to meet the desperate needs of our souls.
Let me be clear: these are not just wants or desires; these are God-given needs. What water, food, air, sleep, and sunlight are to your body; love, acceptance, attention, approval, and significance are to your soul.
Sadly, most believers don't even acknowledge, much less manage, these needs because they were actually taught by their pastors to ignore their souls! In fact, in many circles the soul is thought of as something inherently evil. In other words, some people teach that to be truly spiritual you must suppress or ignore the needs of your soul and instead focus only on spiritual things.
If a person is drowning in a pool, nobody stands by and says, "You need air, you airless person! If you would just read your Bible more often, you wouldn't need air!" We all know that no matter how spiritual somebody is, he or she still needs air. You can go to church every day, read your Bible consistently, and pray all the time, but none of these things will fulfill the need you have for oxygen.
John struck at the heart of this issue when he wrote to encourage his friend and follower Gaius, "Beloved, I pray that in all respects you may prosper and be in good health, just as your soul prospers" (3 John 2). Did you notice that prosperity and health are directly related to your soul and not your spirit? Sunday after Sunday, all around the world, people are taught how to become more spiritual, but we never teach them how to manage their souls. But if all prosperity and health are directly related to our souls, and only indirectly related to our spirits, it's imperative that we first acknowledge and then manage the needs of our souls. Otherwise, we will find ourselves drowning in the sea of humanity, starving for love, affection, acceptance, significance, attention, and approval.
Acts 3 tells the story of Peter and John going to the temple at 3:00 p.m. to pray. There was a man there who had been born lame, and he was begging for money. Peter basically said, "We don't have money because we are ministers, but what we do have we will gladly give to you. In the name of Jesus, walk!" Then Peter grabbed the guy by the hand and lifted him up.
Suddenly the guy jumped up and started walking, leaping, and praising God. In other words, he was healed physically (walking), he was healed emotionally (leaping: a physical manifestation of excitement or joy), and he was healed spiritually (praising God)! It's a beautiful demonstration of the tridimensional nature of God, because God heals the whole man (Acts 3:1-8).
The next verses, though, are quite disheartening. They read, "All the people saw him walking and praising God; ... and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him" (3:9-10, emphasis added). Did you catch that huge omission? The guy leaped, but the people only noticed his walking and praising! I mean, the man had a tridimensional encounter with Jesus, yet the cultural value system blinded these people to a massive portion of the guy's miracle. He was emotionally healed, and nobody caught it. The soul was lost in the shuffle as it so often is, even today.
What Went Wrong
One of the major reasons we devalue the soul is a misunderstanding of a single passage in the book of Hebrews. It reads, "For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart" (Hebrews 4:12).
At first glance the verse seems to be saying the Lord wants to separate the soul from the spirit, the spirit being good and the soul being evil.
Harold Eberle helped to clear this up for me. Harold is a Greek scholar who says that a more accurate rendering of the original text would read: "For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two edged sword, and piercing as far as the division between soul and soul, and spirit and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart."
Excerpted from Destined to Win by Kris Vallotton. Copyright © 2017 Kris Vallotton. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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