I recently had the pleasure of having dinner with a friend of mine, pastor Peter Haas of Substance Church in Minneapolis, MN. We ended up talking for hours, as we normally do, and were reminded of how much time had passed only when the restaurant staff began to flip chairs and wash floors. We were being gently kicked out.
We talked of many things! We geeked out about music, dreamt big dreams, and had a chance to let our spouses get acquainted for the first time! It was a good evening, to say the least. Out of all the things we talked about, the stories we shared and laughs we enjoyed, one thing stuck out at me above all else. It hit me like a dagger to the heart, and has been forever engraved in my mind.
As we shared our stories of failure and success, Peter randomly exclaimed this: “Success is stressful. The more you succeed, the more you stress. Stress takes you to your default, and that default needs to be Jesus.” I pondered this, over and over. They were deep, life-giving words that were born out of a casual conversation between bites of noodles. What else could my default be other than Jesus?
It struck me. Hard. That default is our not only our comfort, like a baby’s blanket, but it is our mechanism to de-stress. Most commonly it becomes our addictions. Be they past, current, or future addictions, they are our default if Jesus is not. Alcohol, drugs, pornography, gambling, or even things like video games, TV shows, or shopping, or whatever it may be that consumes our waking mind, is our defaults. It is what we fill ourselves with, and are thereby full of. It is an escape. Literally. A way to put distance between the self and our stresses.
The problem is that stress causes adrenaline and our body needs to counter it with chemicals called serotonin and endorphins to settle the adrenaline back down, and we seek the release of those brain chemicals in various things, many times subconsciously. I know I do both consciously and subconsciously! Be it a nature walk, holding hands with my wife, exercising, eating good food, laughing, or seeking various forms of pleasure or escape.
As I am fighting to succeed in my career, hoping, no, desperately attempting to gain some level of fame and fortune, what is my default? As more eyes turn to me, more opportunities come my way, bigger clients, bigger artists, bigger TV shows, bigger movies come my way, what will I become? What will my default be? I know that it NEEDS to be Jesus because He is a constant, unwavering mountain beneath my feet. He loves me. He wants only what is best for me. He wants to use my talents and abilities for His Kingdom even now, here on earth. But is my default Jesus? I say He is, but is He? In my heart, is He?
If I pursue God as the center of my all: my family, my career, yes, my whole life, then He will guide me to things beyond my capacity, beyond my ability, and mostly, beyond what I deserve. He will use who I am, and what I can do, to make a difference for His Kingdom. That is what it is to belong to Jesus. It’s not about money, fame, recognition, achievements, material gain, or even pride. It’s about something greater than me, beyond me, that I get to humbly be a part of. This is what I want, but am I on that path?
As I have dwelled further on this, deeply, I have begun to question my motives. What is my agenda? What purpose does my life serve? If I “make it big” what then? I have struggled with money for the last decade having only had barely enough, many times less. But having lots of money brings a whole new level of struggle. I’ve already seen this on a very small scale. It’s an added stress. Yes I will never have to worry about if I can or cannot buy the groceries I need, but now I “need a bigger barn.” I have to manage the money so that Uncle Sam doesn’t take it. Am I ready for that?
It’s hard enough to be there for family and friends when you work 60-80 hours a week, have a wife and three wonderful kids, a yard to mow, errands to run, and somehow manage to keep up those serotonin levels and endorphins. How am I to handle even more work, more clients, and tighter deadlines with higher demand for quality? What will that do to me? It will bring me to my default.
Do you see the wisdom in this concept? Through the years that default has been many things for me, some of them not so good. I am certainly no saint, and will likely never be one. But my heart belongs to Jesus and when I focus on building His Kingdom rather than my own empire, my desires and motives are no longer my own. It’s really quite miraculous how much your desires change the more you pursue God. It’s one of the easiest concepts of all time, yet one of the most difficult to put into practice.
As I face the future head on, unable to turn around or walk away, there is only one thing to do. I must choose to live in daily surrender to Jesus. I surrender my career. And to be clear, my career isn’t just some 8-5 job for me that helps me pay bills. It is my whole life. It is my entire existence. I have many times been dubbed a workaholic and I have never once denied it. So what does this mean? It’s radical, it’s maybe even foolish to many of you, but I give it all away. I’m done trying to serve myself. The potential fortune, the possibility of recognition and fame... Take it. All I need is this one thing: Jesus, be my default.
I pray this. When times get hard, let me turn to you and not another default. When times get busy, let me look to you, Jesus, and not the desires of my flesh. When I feel down, lost, empty, used, and I hide in a dark corner and cry, you will be my light. For only you, Jesus, can be my true default. Any other alternative will leave me in the void. Be my all, Jesus, I surrender to you. Let me build your Kingdom and not my own. Let the starving children be fed. Let the naked homeless be clothed. Let the soul in darkness see your light, through my life, if possible. Jesus, have my all.
“I can do all things in Christ who strengthens me.” So can you, my dear friends. So can you. I love you all!