We all loves stories of mighty men who conquered cities and obtained great wealth. I especially love stories of the underdog, the man who started with nothing and fought his way to greatness. We love those stories, in part, because we want to be that person. We want to be great. We want to be the person who has it all. Ambition is not a bad thing, but ambition without discipline is dangerous.
Proverbs 16:32 (NLT) Better to be patient than powerful; better to have self-control than to conquer a city.
I love the way this is phrased because let’s face it, it’s not good to be powerful if you are not also patient. I think of the Hulk, he is powerful, but not patient and stuff gets all smashed up. He’s unpredictable and everyone has to walk on egg shells around him. That’s not positive.
In the same way what value is there in conquering a city if you can’t conquer yourself? No matter what you gain, a lack of self control will eventually cause you to lose it all. How many people reach place where they have obtained it all, yet they are completely empty and hollow?
Proverbs 17:1 (NLT) Better a dry crust eaten in peace than a house filled with feasting—and conflict.
The value of life is not in what we obtain or in physical accomplishment. Achievement mixed with conflict, rather it be outward conflict with others or inner conflict within yourself, the ultimate goal is to be at perfect peace! Many times our focus is on outward gain and outward achievement. Too often we are willing to sacrifice our inward peace for outward gain. That makes us unhealthy on the inside. Our souls are not at rest. (Recently I read the book, “How’s Your Soul” by Judah Smith. I definitely reccomend it.)
What good is it to gain all you’ve ever wanted, if you’re not happy? If theres conflict in you or around you? If you’re mind is not at peace?
Of course true peace comes from Jesus. In fact, our souls are never more content than when we are right with the Lord. Jesus himself illustrated that it is better to be right inward than outward.
Matthew 16:24-26 (ESV) Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?
I would rather have nothing and be right with the Lord than have everything and be spiritually bankrupt. So often as we get further in life, achievement, ambition and financial goals become more insistent in their demands. Our spiritual growth can sometimes be put on the back burner as more of our time is eaten up with pursuing educational, relational or career success.
Some people conquer the world, or at least they seem to succeed in all they do, but true greatness is achieved by conquering yourself. Work to be someone who is truly patient in all things, filled with self control and lives at peace, both within yourself and with others.
Most importantly make sure that you are right with the Lord. “Denying yourself” to take up your cross and follow Jesus is no easy feat. It is most unnatural, but the one who does finds true freedom and a peace beyond understanding.
Things in the spiritual Kingdom of God are often counter intuitive to our natural thinking. Just like Jesus said, if we try to hold on to our lives and all the things the world says are important such as power, money, and having the biggest house or the nicest cars then ultimately we lose our lives to them. However, if we are willing to lay all that down for the sake of Jesus then we will truly live. Then we will conquer ourselves. That is what it takes to truly be great.