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LAUNCH YOUR LIFE
A GUIDE to GROWING UP for the ALMOST GROWN UP
By KENNY SILVA
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2013 Thomas nelson
All rights reserved.
WHO YOU ARE AND WHY THAT MATTERS
When I was twenty-three years old, I was convinced I was going to be a famous guitar player. I had just graduated from Berklee College of Music, and I was primed to be the next guitar hotshot on the country music scene. Armed with a shiny new bachelor's degree in professional music, I decided to take a giant leap of faith and make the move from Boston to Nashville to chase my dream of being a rock star.
When I got to Nashville, I hit the ground running. I started spending every night in and out of every music venue on Broadway, getting to know the local musicians and looking for work. Unfortunately for me, I was a rookie guitar slinger in a town full of seasoned pros. Weeks turned into months and I found my savings rapidly running dry. I had to bite the bullet and start looking for a real job.
What followed were a couple of dark months for me. In my mind, the entire purpose of my existence was placed squarely in my ability to play music professionally, and when I couldn't find a gig right away, my self-worth took a severe beating. My entire sense of identity was rocked to the core. At the end of the day, I was left standing in front of the mirror asking myself this question: If I'm not a professional guitar player, then who am I?
WHO AM I?
If I had to take one topic from this book and expand it into its own separate work, it would be this concept of identity. Everything we do flows from it. From the way you approach new opportunities to the way you interact with family and friends, your life will be lived in light of the person you believe yourself to be. If you don't embrace this fundamental truth, you will inevitably find yourself feeling stuck.
I don't think I have to tell you that life will take you down some unexpected roads. Circumstances and situations will challenge the way you experience the world around you. When this happens, you can either fold or you can stand. The individual who knows his intrinsic worth and identity in Christ, as revealed in God's Word, will be able to withstand the storms of life. The one who doesn't understand her unshakable identity in Christ will end up walking down a road similar to the one I described. My journey was difficult, but it has given me a healthy perspective on the subject. I'm praying you will be able to learn from my mistakes.
I'm not the only one.
It's incredibly easy to spend your college years chasing a particular specialty or vocation and to allow it to creep in and become your identity. I studied guitar. Therefore, I was a guitarist, as if the word guitarist could ever be an all-encompassing definition of the entirety of a human being. The problem is that when we're in school, we don't spend too much time questioning who we are. At any given moment, our context provides us with a ready-made answer. Think about the last time you described yourself at a get-together. Did any of your statements sound something like this?
* "I'm a journalism major."
* "I'm the quarterback on the football team."
* "I'm a Phi Beta Kappa."
* "I have a 4.0 GPA."
* "I'm a Buckeye."
THESE DEFINITIONS AREN'T ENOUGH
Before we go too far, let's clear up a few things. None of these statements are wrong. It's a really good idea to declare a major. It's great to be part of a team or a fraternity. A high GPA is a wonderful goal to pursue, and there is nothing wrong with having school spirit. These are all wonderful things, but they're simply not enough for you to build an identity upon.
If your entire sense of self rests in your opportunity to write for a newspaper, what happens when the newspaper where you land a job lays you off after five years?
If the fullness of your existence is wrapped up in your ability to throw a football, what happens when you take a hard hit and break your arm?
If your value is derived from scoring good grades and sporting a high GPA, what kind of a mental hit do you take when the teacher hands back a paper with a B on it?
None of these goals—a good job, high grades, and so on—are bad in and of themselves. They simply make a promise they can't possibly deliver on. We want to believe we can find our identity in created things, but our Creator has expressly told us we can't (Isa. 41:29). We've believed a lie that will hold us down and rob us of our everlasting joy and rest in God and His promises. Until we learn the truth, we will continue to suffer under that lie. The rest of this chapter is devoted to identifying the lie, embracing the truth, and discovering how this fundamental truth will allow you to endure the many obstacles ahead of you.
When God created Adam, He gave him one rule. He told Adam not to eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil (Gen. 2:16, 17). God didn't give Adam this rule to put him under His proverbial thumb. He gave the rule so Adam could know God is God and he could trust Him as faithful Protector, bountiful Provider, and just Ruler.
And then Satan came along and ruined everything ...
* But the serpent said to the woman, "You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil."
Gen. 3:4, 5 ESV
Satan told eve the fruit would give her everything she wanted. He promised her it would make her like God. What more could you want? Adam stood idly by (punting his responsibility as the covenant head of the family), and watched Eve eat the fruit. She passed it to him, he took a bite, and the rest is history. In that moment, they were ejected from the garden. As Paul would go on to say in his letter to the Romans, "They exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator" (Rom. 1:25 ESV). Paul was talking about idol worship and how we have all inherited the tendency to do the exact same thing our first parents did in the garden.
When I say "idol worship" I don't mean I'm under the impression you've built a wooden statue of a little man in operating room scrubs and you worship it every night before you hit your pre-med books. If you have, then we've got a few other things to talk about. No, I'm saying it is in our nature to take a good thing like a job, a girlfriend, or a hobby and turn it into an idol. We then go to that idol and expect it to give us everything God promises to give us.
In his book Counterfeit Gods, Timothy Keller defines an idol this way:
* [An idol] is anything more important to you than God, anything that absorbs your heart and imagination more than God, anything you seek to give you what only God can give.... An idol is whatever you look at and say, in your heart of hearts, "If I have that, then I'll feel my life has meaning, then I'll know I have value, then I'll feel significant and secure."
And these are the lies we've all bought into:
* If I get my dream job, my life will have meaning.
* If I find the perfect spouse, my life will have value.
* If I buy a nice house, I will feel significant.
* If I make a ton of money, I will feel secure.
I'm sorry to say neither our culture nor our schools do anything to prepare us for the cold, hard reality that these promises are nothing but lies. We spend years in school chasing after a future ideal that promises to fulfill us when it surely can't. When we find our way out into the real world, we're forced to learn that tough lesson for ourselves through years of broken promises, shattered dreams, and painful memories. We've been sold as slaves under this lie and the only way to break its chains is to discover and abide in the truth.
The same enemy who lied to eve in the garden is the enemy who tempts us today. He's the liar who says that your job is more important than God and that it will give you every bit of joy and fulfillment God promises. He's the accuser who says your identity is completely defined by what you do. He's the bad influence who will whisper lies in your ear to get you to ignore God and chase anything but Him.
WHERE CAN WE FIND OUR IDENTITY?
Whether you just graduated from college or you left your job of ten years, everything is going to change. The temporary things that once gave you a sense of identity and comfort will disappear and your confidence will wane. The classes that may have guided your personal growth will become a distant memory. The office work you spent the majority of your waking hours on for so long will no longer be the basis for your contribution to society. The friends you've been going to for all of your comfort and assurance will move up, move away, and move on.
Life will inevitably ambush you with these types of trials. They will shake you to the core and leave you asking this question over and over again: "Who am I?"
When faced with this question, you can choose to pursue your identity in the things of this world. You can take your eyes off of God and instead chase His creation in hopes that it will give you the life you so desperately want. Many of us know what it's like to pursue this type of empty fulfillment. Some of us even turn to sex, alcohol, and drugs to fill the deepest void in our hearts. We tirelessly chase after money, using it to buy new clothes and flashy electronics in an attempt to distract ourselves from a less than pleasant, yet altogether temporary, reality. We even seek our highest comfort in a tub of Ben & Jerry's on the couch in front of the TV after a hard day of fruitless job hunting. As someone who has made all of these mistakes and more, I can promise you there is a better way.
God wants us to find our identity in Him alone. He promises to give us a new heart, a new identity.
* And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you.
Ezek. 36:26 ESV
We see God do this over and over in the Bible. Jacob wrestled with an angel and became Israel (Gen. 32:28). Abram met God and became Abraham (Gen. 17:5). Saul was converted by Christ Himself and became Paul (Acts 9:4). a greedy tax collector named Levi met Jesus and left everything to become a selfless disciple (Luke 5:27, 28). Each of these people had lived life in pursuit of something other than God. They bought into the lie and pursued their peace, happiness, and fulfillment in created things instead of Creator God. When He showed up, He enlightened their hearts and minds, showed them the truth about who He was, and gave them the opportunity to leave the old behind in pursuit of the new creation only He could provide. He gave them the incredible gift of telling them who they were in Him.
God gave them an identity.
The visible example of God's desire for His people is most beautifully portrayed in the gospel of Jesus Christ. God wrote Himself into history as the man Jesus Christ. He lived a perfect and sinless life and bore the penalty for our sins on the cross. In that moment, He once and for all crucified the old identity in those of us who would simply believe in Him by faith. He sealed this promise with His resurrection on the third day and secured our salvation forever. He purchased us with the highest price: His own blood.
Because of this free gift and God's sovereign grace, we are forever adopted into His family. Our identity is firmly established in Him—not in who we think we are but in who He says we are. This gift is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. It's got nothing to do with you and anything you may or may not have done in the past. Therefore, since you did not earn it, you cannot lose it. This identity is not contingent on the waves and currents of this life flowing in your favor, nor is it something that will change as your experiences fluctuate. It is unshakable.
Your identity in Him was declared before the foundation of the earth. No troublesome person, no job situation, no financial struggle, no medical condition, and no failure on your part can ever take it away. When God looks at you, he doesn't see a senior analyst at Wells Fargo or a struggling barista at Starbucks. He doesn't see a 4.0 GPA or a troubled twenty-two-year-old who partied too much in college. He doesn't see a worldly failure or a material success. What He sees is a justified and redeemed member of His family. He sees the righteousness of His Son. As a believer, this is your identity, and nothing under the sun will ever be able to take it away from you.
* For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Rom. 8:38, 39 ESV
WHAT IDENTITY DO YOU CLAIM?
This is where we hit the road. At the beginning of the chapter, I warned that this would be the most fundamental and essential piece of the journey to come. I stand by that statement. The rest of this book will be less theological and a bit more practical as we walk through one of the most exciting, terrifying, and invigorating seasons you're sure to have faced in your life up to this point.
But before we can move on, you've got to do something with this man named Jesus and the fullness of life He offers. Have you found your identity in Christ, or are you searching for someone or something to fulfill the needs only He can satisfy? Has a career path, a job opportunity, a social club, or a relationship taken over as the object of your ultimate pursuit? Has one of your professors disassembled your Sunday school faith, leaving you bewildered and confused? is this the first time you've ever heard of Christ and His totally free offer of grace, forgiveness, and identity? Whether you are a nonbeliever, a new believer, or a returning believer, the offer is made directly, repeatedly, and unconditionally toward you.
* Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
Matt. 11:28–30 ESV
All that's required of you is a speck of faith. God can, and will, take it from there.
DEALING WITH CHANGING RELATIONSHIPS
What do we call ongoing communication between one person and another? In its simplest form, we call that a relationship, right? If we boil it all the way down, the Christian faith is based upon the relationship between God and His people. Using the Scripture and His church to testify to Jesus' life, death, and resurrection, God reveals Himself to us. When the Holy Spirit speaks that sweet good news so softly to our hearts, we respond in faith to His truth revealed. The most beautiful part is that it is a relationship of unending sacrificial love. We see this at the cross where He had to pay dearly in order to secure this relationship with us.
We can draw some interesting parallels between the sacrificial aspect of God's relationship with us and the sacrificial aspect of our relationships with others. For example, if I were entering into a new relationship, there would be an element of sacrifice. It most likely wouldn't cost me my own physical life, but it would cost me something of myself emotionally. I would have to reveal myself. I might open up and share a bit of my own heart, leaving myself open to that person's acceptance or judgment. In other words, I'd be putting myself out on an emotional limb and hoping for some sort of positive reciprocation. Anyone who has extended himself to another and been rejected knows just how costly rejection can be. Still, we inherently know we've got to take that risk if we ever hope to experience the fullness of joy to be found in healthy interpersonal relationships.
GROWING WITH GOD
There's something else we need to pick up on when it comes to relationships. We need to key in on the design and goal of our ongoing walk with God, which is to grow into the image and likeness of Christ: "For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren" (Rom. 8:29). God has saved us and is continually working on us with the intent of making us more and more like Jesus.
Excerpted from LAUNCH YOUR LIFE by KENNY SILVA. Copyright © 2013 by Thomas nelson. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
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