The Phantom of Ambition

I recently read through Psalm 39:4-7 and was struck by it.

LORD, make me to know my end
And what is the extent of my days;
Let me know how transient I am.
Behold, You have made my days as handbreadths,
And my lifetime as nothing in Your sight;
Surely every man at his best is a mere breath. Selah.
Surely every man walks about as a phantom;
Surely they make an uproar for nothing;
He amasses riches and does not know who will gather them.
And now, Lord, for what do I wait?
My hope is in You.

This passage has often stood out to me, and I find it doing it yet again. For a self-declared ambitious person, this causes me to look directly at the core of who I am and I find myself face to face with my Creator. I am loved because of what Christ did for me and I cannot impress Him with anything I do. I repeat this idea because I find it so hard to truly live by.

I can easily relate with Thomas Edison when he said, “Show me a thoroughly satisfied man and I’ll show you a failure.” I have a drive inside me that propels me out of bed each morning. But I also agree with Brennan Manning when he asks, “How long will it be before we discover we cannot dazzle God with our accomplishments?” Ouch. Apparently a little longer for me.

I’m always thinking of ways to leave an impact on this world, but as the above passage shows, even “man at his best is a mere breath.” The desire itself isn’t evil. But it easily takes our focus on the brevity of life and our value from God alone.

Maybe you can relate. If you are a fellow Type-A go getter, dwell on Psalm 39 and ask God to show you the bigger picture. Our hope is in God, not our amazing to-do list of achievements.

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Jeremy Jernigan

This is the personal blog of Jeremy Jernigan. Husband to Michelle and father to Gavin, Madsen, Adelyn, Aiden, and Abel. Author of Redeeming Pleasure and Lead Pastor at Abundant Life Church in Portland.

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