“No matter what you strive for, what you accomplish, or what heights you reach in doing it, it is nothing compared to simply knowing Him.”

In 1997, I joined the Screen Actors Guild. Despite being very new to the business, I had booked a couple of commercials that allowed me entrance into the same professional union as all those famous TV and movie stars I had spent my childhood watching on television and on the big screen. I was 18 at the time, and needless to say, I was ecstatic.

Since then, I’ve had the opportunity to work with some of those stars as I’ve built a career as a working actor in the entertainment industry. It has been (and continues to be) a crazy career, filled with many ups and downs. The thrill of victory (the occasional landing of a big gig) and the agony of defeat (the far more frequent rejection after rejection). Riding that roller coaster of emotion can be brutal at times.

But when riding the ride, it’s easy to get seduced by the highs. One minute you’re at home, “pounding the pavement” going from audition to audition, the next you’re whisked away to Vancouver for work (where I am as I’m writing this blog post). You’re flown first class and get put up in a nice hotel, and several weeks or months later, your friends and family get to watch you on TV. Not bad! But with success comes a lot of dangers as well, and actors aren’t the only ones who can fall prey to this kind of snare.

There are many blessings to be had through one’s work, whatever you do to make a living or how you spend your time. Making partner and getting a corner office for the high-powered attorney. Getting a raise and an expense account for the industrious ad executive. Having a well-behaved child that gets good grades and is chosen to solo in the piano recital for the stay-at-home mom. These things and others like them are goals we all strive for in our work. And that striving can be a good thing. We are called to strive for excellence in what we set out to do (Colossians 3:23). The problem isn’t in striving for the goal, it’s in what we think the goal will give us.

Achieving a certain level of vocational success cannot be the ultimate goal to which we strive, because if it is, we're beholden to the results for our happiness and well-being. And that’s just not how life works most of the time. Sometimes (often) you don’t get the part. Or the corner office. Or the well-behaved kid. If we make such goals all-important, falling short of them becomes devastating. We find ourselves, in response, feeling like “this isn’t the way things are supposed to go.” We fall in love with our own ideal version of things. And that’s where we lose our way.

In Philippians 3, Paul lays out his resume of all of his achievements and works of righteousness, and his list is quite impressive by the worldly standards of the day. He’s got the right pedigree and the right connections, and he’s done all of the right things. But after this, Paul draws an astounding conclusion:

But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. (Philippians 3:7-8a)

He’s saying that no matter what you strive for, what you accomplish, or what heights you reach in doing it, it is nothing compared to simply knowing Him. This changes everything. This means that the greatest ideal is not what you accomplish, but who you know. Knowing Jesus is the highest goal. And when the pursuit of that knowledge is our highest aim (Matthew 6:33), it will change how we view everything else. Work blessings, instead of something to live for, become something we can simply enjoy as a gift from our loving Father.

So, as we strive in our work, let us do so in a way that is grounded in a knowledge of who He is. And may His surpassing worth inform all that we do, so that we may live full and abundant lives rooted in Christ alone.

Reggie Austin

Reggie is a member of Cornerstone and serves the church as Sunday Morning Director and as a non-vocational elder.

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