Written By Ebed Jacques.
“For what is a man? What has he got? If not himself then he has naught…” This is an excerpt from the song “My Way” performed and popularized by Frank Sinatra but written by Paul Anka in the late 1960’s. It’s a very popular song for funerals and celebration of life events.
The excerpt above asks a profound existential question “what is a man…?” Depending on the worldview that you subscribe to, this question may involve God, a pantheon of gods, evolution, etc. From a Christian perspective, a man is not the product of time and chance (accident) or cycles of rebirths. Instead, he is the image of God on earth reflecting the characteristics of God to all and fulfilling the purpose for which he was created. In other words, when you look at a man, it should really be as if looking at God through a mirror.
However, from a worldly perspective, origin is uncertain, identity is self-implied, and destiny is non-consequential. To say that plainly, without God, it’s difficult to establish with certainty where we come from. As a result of that, we are forced to define who we are based on how we feel or the popular opinion of what society thinks we should be. And, this leads to a sense that death is the end, meaning that there is no accountability beyond this life.
The fundamental question “who am I” sets the tone for defining everything else about me. That’s why the second question in the excerpt above “what has he got?” can only be quantified upon answering the first question “what is a man?”. From a worldly perspective, there is no God, no devil, only us with our conscience to make the best of what we have. In practical terms, you become your own moral compass and curator of your own destiny. While this may sound liberating in some ways, it can produce dire results. For example, an article on inc.com talks about finding your purpose using a three-question map:
1. What do I feel deeply inspired by?
2. What am I particularly talented at?
3. What meets a significant need in my world?
These are valid questions everyone should ask. However, within an atheistic moral framework, these questions can be frightening. What about the young man who walked into Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC and shot 9 people? I am sure his all-time inspiration has been the KKK. Obviously, he is talented at what he was doing and killing black people met a significant need to get rid of black people in his world. Besides the people who directly supported him, most people condemned his actions as evil; but what is it that fundamentally makes his actions evil, while the actions of a firefighter risking his life to save others are seen as good? By what (or whose) standard is this being measured? It’s impossible to establish morality objectively in an atheistic framework.
One day, Jesus told his disciples a parable about a rich man found in Luke 12:6. This man’s field had produced an abundant harvest that season such that he didn’t have any place to store up the surplus. So, he said to himself “let’s build bigger barns and make room for more.” He then continued and said “you did well and have food to eat for many years. So, take life easy, eat, drink, and be merry”. That same night, God said “you fool! Your life will be taken from you”. While it may seem that the rich man didn’t do anything wrong, his self-centered mindset and attitude didn’t reflect the image of God. The world perspective evicts God as creator, establishes the self as the measure of all things, and dismisses accountability toward the future.
I remember the days I used to think I was in control of my life and that I could set the outcome of every situation I was involved in. I really didn’t think I could fall into a state of lust and pornography. In a way, I said to myself “I got you” because I got the right tactics and had no taste for sinful behaviors. Besides, the first time my eyes inadvertently fell on porn, I almost threw up and the image repulsed me for days. All of a sudden, my pride got the best of me and the very thing I was helping others to overcome became my struggle. Everything began to work backward such that my message became my mess and I began to devise better ways to hide my sin because, I thought, many things depended on my testimony of continuous purity.
I strongly support and encourage purity and chastity but I also acknowledge that this end is impossible without the help of the Holy Spirit because your heart will deceive you every time into thinking you are on the right path and doing the right thing, until you realize that you are a slave to some craziness. My point is this: the moment you become self-sufficient you no longer need God. Even the Apostle Paul in Romans 6 struggled with fleshly desires but found freedom in Jesus.
Sincerely, I am convinced that the only control you have is to decide who’s got control of your life, whether God or the devil. Now, how is that applicable to the Christian man? Well, Solomon said to acknowledge God in everything you do and He will direct your path. So, I am puzzled at the level of confusion among men when it comes to decision-making. It’s either acknowledgement of God is not initiated at the right time or God is not directing people’s path. It cannot be that God is not directing, because we know that God is always true.
So, what would that look like? You may ask God a question and He may choose not to answer because he doesn’t think your question is relevant for the time being as well as for your focus. He may have already spoken to you many times but you’re still looking for another “word”. For example, God may say “I want to use you in Massachusetts” but you hear of some great things happening in Florida and you go pray to God asking if you should move to Florida. In such case, you’re tempting God because you already know what He said. Also, God may choose to remain silent because you’ve already made your decision and now you just want Him to bless it. Moreover, God may remain silent simply because He wants you to spend more time in His presence.
See, any of these situations can cause confusion because God is not the author of confusion (1 Cor 14:33). I usually tell my wife that confusion is always an inner battle between what God said (prophetically or in Scripture) vs what we really want to do—according to James 4:1. So, instead of crying out to God that you’re so confused, pause and remove yourself from all agents of the confusion and then the Holy Spirit will illuminate your eyes to see clearly. In fact, there is a popular saying of Albert Einstein that “you cannot solve problems using the same thinking you used to cause them in the first place”. So, if you really believe that you are an image or reflection of God, you will only move with God and do what He does. When you decide to go by what you think, feel or want, you are claiming independence from God saying like the song “I did it my way”.