Who am I? High School is a time in life where people attempt to create “self-defining” lists. High School is also kinda messed up. If this hasn’t been your experience… great; but I’m willing to bet that if I did a survey, the majority would agree that high school is a culmination of comparison, cliques, and craziness. Depending on how you see yourself in comparison to others, you will end up in a certain clique; and your clique often determines how you spend your time: sports, drugs, studying, partying, fellowship, etc. The most common struggles I see and experience among my peers are determined by a significant other, success in sports, success in school, or social success. It hurts to see incredible people trying to change their unique selves by conforming to the social structures around them in order to feel temporary gratification. As servants of the Jesus Christ, this begs the question, “How are we to respond to this pressure that will consistently plague us throughout every stage of our lives?”
The answer is found in TRUST. When we try to define ourselves by sports, popularity, money and the like, it is in response to a natural desire to be full or an insecurity about self. We trust that these physical things will fill the God-shaped hole in every one of us when in reality it heightens the feeling of emptiness. The rapper, Lecrae, says it well, “When people try to avoid suffering by sinning, they end up sinning their way into suffering.”
To me, this is profound! This is truth! As Jesus followers, we must view ourselves in light of who God is. In order to know what God thinks, his standards (Psalm 119:15), we must spend time with him. This is the only way to deal with this daily battle in our minds. I desire to be like Paul, the apostle, who had much to boast of, yet introduces himself as “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus (Ephesians 1:1, Colossians 1:1, and Philippians 1:1).”
Recognizing that I am defined in Christ Jesus and applying that concept to my life has been growing more prominent after reading through 1st and 2nd Corinthians for the first time. Three passages stood out to me.
“Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.”
1 Corinthians 1:20-25
As servants of Christ, we must constantly recognize the superiority of God’s plan over our own plans. Our plans, our failures, and our successes never leave us satisfied if we react to them the way the world does. I was given the opportunity to contribute to my Track and Field team this year. We won the state championship. By the world’s standards, that should be a filling and satisfying accomplishment. But after all the celebrations, I felt an emptiness. Why? After much contemplation, it became clear to me that I was pursuing definition in the accomplishment and not for my King. My experience with the state track meet has been an ongoing trend I’ve been dealing with all year. I have also observed my peers struggles with this concept. Failures and accomplishments both end in disappointment because I trust in my own strength rather than the one who gives me strength. My success and failure, no matter how great, can never even begin to compare to the vast gloriousness of Christ’s sacrifice.
“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:16-18
This verse is constantly flowing through my head as I interact with others, and observe their reactions to me. I want to be liked by all. I sometimes base my emotions on people’s reactions to me as an individual, instead of recognizing that their reactions are irrelevant in light of how God sees me. How people label us and define us does not concern us. How God defines us should concern us. We must choose to fix our eyes on Jesus, who is eternal, not on our successes, failures, or how others define us. These things are temporary.
“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:9-10
This is probably the hardest one to grasp. As Christians, we have to understand and accept that the Lord has made us exactly how he wanted us to be. Every one of us has baggage from our own failures or the failures of others. We can react to these seemingly unwanted parts one of two ways. We can attempt to block them out and fill the hole they create by filling/defining ourselves with the things of the world; or we can embrace them trusting the Lord to use them for our growth and His glory. We must trust Him to define us through these weaknesses.
By trusting Christ to define us, we make the daily and intentional choice to be different. According to Paul in Romans 12:2, we are not to be “conform[ed] to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of [our] mind. Then [we] will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing, and perfect will.” [emphasis added]
As followers of Jesus, we must see ourselves as He sees us. He sees us as a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17), reconciled in Him (2 Cor. 5:18-19), righteous and holy (Eph. 4:24), born again (John 3:3-6), and saved by His grace (Eph. 2:28). He delights in us (Psalm 37:23)! By renewing our minds, we recognized that we have royalty in our veins and we can lead with integrity (1 Peter 2:9) and we are created for His handiwork (Eph. 2:10). Our heritage, circumstances, or surroundings must not determine who we are. I am a 17-year-old Jamaican-American male track and field athlete. None of these things define me. What defines me is who I belong to. Like Paul, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live, I live by faith in Him who died for me and gave himself for me (Galatians 5:20).”
I am defined by Jesus. That makes me different. It makes me set apart for Him and His glory. How about you?
Will is a student at Boyle County High School and is a track & field state champion. He is a radical follower of Jesus determined to bring the light of Christ to people in Boyle County.