These earthly things

As a student speaker of my graduating class, I was asked to share some information about myself and future plans for my introduction, including my favorite quote. Initially, I considered choosing a motivational quote about striving towards success, a message that I was sure my audience would appreciate. However, I found myself drawn to a Bible verse instead:

Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things 
—Colossians 3:2 NIV

I wasn’t sure that this would resonate with my classmates, but I knew it resonated with me. Throughout high school, perfectionism plagued me. My emotional stability was heavily dependent on what I saw in the gradebook. I often neglected to seek out God’s will for my aspirations. Ultimately, self-glorification was more important to me than sanctification—God had to get behind my plans.

As I matured, I realized that this mindset was flawed and unsustainable. My biggest mistake was not prioritizing God. While I would never say it aloud, I often lived the lie that spending time with Him didn’t deserve as much attention as my dreams. 

Reading Colossians 3:2 during those times was deeply refreshing. God was gently reminding me to yield my ambitions to Him, which would require a total shift in my perspective. When I finally reached the goals that I had been working and praying for, I realized that God was with me, even when I doubted Him and my capabilities. I would’ve avoided so much anxiety if I had just trusted Him. 

Achieving those goals must have been part of His plan. It gave me the platform to share a piece of that journey with my fellow graduates. After my school principal read the verse, much to my surprise, the audience reacted in applause. I could’ve chosen something more mainstream, something about our own power and endurance and how far it could take us. But that wasn’t what I needed to hear, and maybe my audience was tired of that story too. I didn’t want to make that moment all about me or my ambition. I’m still glad that I didn’t. 

A year later, Colossians 3:2 is still a favorite verse despite the new challenges and pressures of college life. In an environment full of high expectations and ambitious peers, I regularly face temptations to compete and compare. They really have it all together. My resume isn’t good enough. She’s already made her four-year plan; what am I even doing with my life? However, this verse is a firm reminder that I don’t have to join the rat race. 

I acknowledge that being hard-working and ambitious are positive and admirable qualities. However, mindset is key. Using myself as an example, my fixation on academic achievement became unhealthy because I craved control. This stunted my spiritual growth because it rendered me unwilling to submit to God’s sovereignty. It’s worth asking yourself if your goals and desires are leading you to fulfill God’s will or man-made standards. 

Matthew 6:19-20 further reinforces the futility of worldly striving: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal” (NIV). There is no questioning the fact that the world has a lot to offer; there are prizes to be won, like a dream vacation, a dream job, a dream house. Popular culture celebrates those who play the game. However, we can’t beat death. Not on our own. These earthly things won’t last.

For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.
—1 John 2:16-17

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