Jesus knew exactly who He was, so He had the freedom of living with nothing to prove.
When tempted in the wilderness, the enemy’s first two attacks had to do with Jesus proving He was the Son of God. If Jesus had taken the bait, His sin would have disqualified Him from the work He was about to accomplish. He would not have been free to serve.
When hanging on the cross, people passing by and the religious leaders mocked Him by saying, “Let him come down from the cross and we will believe in him.” Again, the temptation was to prove Himself. He could have done it. But because He had nothing to prove, He was free to serve you and me.
Philippians 2:6-8 reveals Jesus’ secret of living with nothing to prove:
“Who being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death — even death on a cross!”
Because He knew who He was, He didn’t have to prove who He was. And that knowledge set Him free to serve.
Do you know who you are? If you don’t, then it is likely you are living with something to prove. And the point of today’s Faith Conversation is this: if you are driven to prove yourself to other people, then you are living in bondage. And because that bondage is subtle and insidious, you may not even realize it.
It’s not easy to prove our worth to other people. That’s mainly because we tend to compare ourselves upward rather than downward. Listen, no matter how much power, money or success you have been given, there will always be someone who has been given more. If you’re determined to prove that you are as successful and sophisticated as them, then you are in bondage to the rat race of keeping up with the Joneses. The reason we call it the rat race is because no one ever wins.
Why do we do it? Well, nobody ever says this out loud, but we do it so we can prove our worth to others—and to ourselves. That desire causes us to live beyond the means of our money, time and energy. It imprisons us in debt, stress and anxiety. And no matter what we do, the Joneses always stay out front.
Let me clarify something: there isn’t anything inherently wrong with wanting to succeed. Ambition can be very valuable. In fact, holy ambition is required of the followers of Jesus Christ. God wants us to do our best and to reach our full and holy potential. In I Corinthians 3:23-24 we read, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” God wants us to give it all we’ve got, not so we can impress the Joneses, but so that we can be free to serve Him — and each other. So this conversation isn’t against ambition and hard work and success. Quite to the contrary, this conversation is about knowing enough about yourself to be set free from the rat race.
Back to Philippians chapter two. Verse 8 reveals that God is the exalter, “Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name…” The reason we are free to serve is because God is the exalter. My friend, you do not need to exalt yourself. There is only one exalter — and when He does the exalting, it is beautiful and powerful!
If you are always running behind the Joneses in the rat race, then I have good news for you: You don’t have to prove your worth to anyone, not even yourself. God has already defined your worth! He has chosen you for eternity, and right now Jesus is preparing a place for you! God has fully adopted you into His family—an adoption so complete that He calls you “a co-heir with Jesus Christ” and invites you to call Him, “Abba, Father”! Read Romans 8:15-17. He has filled you with His Holy Spirit! He has ordained you to be a member of the royal priesthood and has granted you gifts and power to accomplish the holy kingdom work He has specifically prepared for you to do. That’s who you are! And when you know who you are, you are free to serve! No more rat race!
Here are some things you can do to be set free:
First, give thanks in everything. I Thessalonians 5:18. Stop fretting over what you don’t have. Instead, be abundantly grateful for what you do have. Make a list—a long list. Look for blessings to be thankful for in every situation. If you can’t think of blessings to be thankful for, then you have been blinded by greed, jealousy and covetousness. Your journey toward freedom will need to begin with confession and repentance.
Second, genuinely rejoice with others. Read I Corinthians 12:12-30. Does it irritate you when someone gets a big promotion and builds a new house and buys a new car? If so, then you are jealous — and that reveals the sin of selfishness. Selfishness and servanthood are incompatible because it’s hard to serve others when you’re stuck on yourself. Write the phrase, “it’s not about me” on post-it notes and stick them everywhere. Remember, you have nothing to prove — so you are free to rejoice with others when they are blessed!
Third, choose the lowly task and the humble place. Read Luke 14:7-11 and John 13:1-17. Be grateful when you are given a chance to serve in a way that seems to be beneath your position in life. Accomplish the task with excellence and gusto as you do it as unto the Lord. Then God will exalt you!
Fourth, Serve quietly. See how much servanthood you can get away with! Remember, your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you openly! Matthew 6:1-6. Again, He is the Exalter — so you can live with nothing to prove!