The way you want to be defined, whether you realize it or not, will coerce your choices in ways you will often regret. Let’s take the NBC news anchor Brian Williams for instance: Why did he claim his helicopter was hit and forced down by RPG fire during the invasion of Iraq in 2003?
If we could drill down deep enough my guess is he wanted to be defined as a war correspondent. Sitting behind an anchor desk for the NBC Nightly News is a big deal, and pays millions, but how macho is that job? But a war correspondent? Actually in combat, hit by RPG fire?
Now that defines a real stud, a hero, a manly, rough and tumble … combat veteran. Who wouldn’t want to be defined this way? Or let’s take Tiger Woods: fifteen years ago how would you have defined Tiger? And now, give me your definition. What happened?
Both Williams and Tiger made choices, clear, obvious choices, motivated by how they wanted to define themselves. I doubt they thought this out in advance, and we can only imagine how much they regret their choices. “You can choose your sin, but you cannot choose your consequences.” (Source unknown)
But what about you? How do you want to be defined, and how is this coercing your choices? We express our desire to be defined in the way we dress, the style and length of our hair, the cars we drive, our houses, the schools to which we send our children, the amount of hours we work.
As a man you may want to be defined as the big deal money-maker, or the big deal golfer, or gambler, or lady’s man. You’ll make choices that will reflect this: where you spend your time versus where you invest it. As a woman you may want to be defined as the big deal money-maker as well, or the mother of the greatest, smartest, most wildly successful and advanced children ever!
Jesus comes along and says, “By their fruit you will know them.” (Matthew 7:20) God says, “If I am important to you, if you seek an ever-growing and ever-deepening relationship with me, those fruits will look like love, joy peace, patience ….” (Galatians 5:22 paraphrased)
Is that how you would be defined: as a man, a woman, with love, with joy, with peace, with patience flowing out from within? Do you know anyone like this? It can be a little disconcerting to be around them, because you know they have something you don’t. You may even resent them a bit for it, or think they’re sort of out there.
But by living with the power of the Holy Spirit, streams of living water can and will flow from within you. Cascades of joy and peace and positive Holy Spirit energy will wash over you, and those around you, as well.
Barnabas, Paul’s traveling companion and a friend to all the disciples, was nicknamed Barnabas because he was such an encourager. Encouraging is listed as a spiritual gift, but it’s a gift by which we could all be defined if we wanted.
Generosity is another spiritual gift, and yet another gift each one of us can flame into fire.
Imagine this: “You know (your name) was really unique. Jesus became so important to him, and he grew to become this wonderful, sweet, joyful man. He was generous; he was always encouraging those around him, affirming them and lifting up their spirits. He exuded a sense of peace and an infectious sense of joy. Just being around him would bring a smile to anyone’s face – and make them want to get to know Jesus, too.”
Or, “What happened to (your name)? She used to be such fun to be around, so positive and happy. But along the way she became grouchy and easily irritated. She complained about everything and everyone, and just never seemed to have any joy in her life. We all tried to avoid her when we could.”
These are real conversations I’ve had, and not just once or twice. Real, defining descriptions, if you will. How you live from this day on is defining you. Who you seek to follow is defining you. Seek Jesus as your best friend. Ask for his power through the Holy Spirit to flood you with his love, his joy, his peace and his patience.
By your fruits you will be defined.