Behold, You desire truth in the innermost being, And in the hidden part You will make me know wisdom. (Psalm 51:6, N.A.S.V.)
Tony Evans has a wonderful illustration involving Michael Jordan, Sylvester Stallone, and Diana Ross. Since all three of these celebrities are older now, and Jordan has long been retired from his sport, the illustration is a bit dated. Making allowances for that, however, it still conveys a powerful truth. Evans writes:
Who is Michael Jordan? Most would probably say the greatest basketball player that has ever played the game. Who is Sylvester Stallone? Most would probably say a great actor depending on the movie. Who is Diana Ross? Most would probably say one of the greatest singers of this generation.
If you would say Michael Jordan is a basketball player, Sylvester Stallone is an actor, and Diana Ross a singer, you would be absolutely wrong for I would not have just described to you who they were. I would have only told you what they do. The greatest mistake in the world is to use your performance to give you your identity. The greatest mistake in the world is to define yourself by what you do. And yet it is the primary way that people define themselves.
I’ve found that pastors seem to be especially prone to falling victim to this mistake that Evans describes. Someone asks me, “Who are you?” I answer, “I’m Russell Mckinney, the pastor of Roan Mountain Baptist Church.” No, that answer is incorrect in two ways. First, I’m Russell Mckinney no matter what I’m doing. Second, being the pastor of a church is what I do, not who I am.
Regardless of whether Russell Mckinney earns his living as a pastor, a dishwasher, a librarian, a surgeon, a bulldozer operator, or some other way, the same basic rules apply to his personage. He needs Jesus as His Savior. He needs to spend quality time in prayer each day. He needs to regularly read his Bible in a devotional way and study it in a discipleship way. He needs to be a part of a good local church. He needs to use his spiritual gifts and talents for the cause of Christ. He needs to give a right amount of his finances to support the Lord’s work. He needs to witness to others, telling them about Jesus. He needs to live a moral life. He needs to shun temptation. Etc., etc., etc.
All this holds true regardless of whether Russell Mckinney is married or single, has children or doesn’t, owns his home or rents it, and has the title to his car or is still making monthly car payments. You see, the core basic of who I am is never dependent upon outward circumstances. If Roan Mountain Baptist Church fires me today, I’m still Russell Mckinney. If my wife Tonya divorces me today, I’m still Russell Mckinney. If my two sons forsake me, I’m still Russell Mckinney. If the bank forecloses on my house and evicts me, I’m still Russell Mckinney. If I have to sell my car and start walking everywhere, I’m still Russell Mckinney.
Job was the wealthiest man of the East, his wealth being determined by means of livestock rather than stocks and bonds (Job 1:3). He was also the father of seven sons and three daughters (Job 1:2). But even when Job’s wealth was stolen from him and his children were all killed in a freak tragedy, he was still Job (Job 1:13-19). Somehow he instinctively understood this. That’s why he tore his robe in a symbolic act of mourning, shaved his head, and worshiped God by saying, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:20-21). Job was conveying the idea, “Lord, what has happened to me outwardly has not changed who I am inwardly.”
You can’t always control what is going on with you (either for the good or the bad) outwardly, but you can always control what is going on with you inwardly. I’m reminded of that little girl who was standing with her family in front of their house that had just been destroyed by fire. A firefighter said to her, “I’m sorry, honey, but you and your folks don’t have a home anymore.” She answered, “Yes, we do; we just don’t have a house to put it in.” That was her way of saying to that firefighter, “We are still who we are. The circumstances in which we currently find ourselves have changed, but we haven’t.”
Do you know why some people fail once they are given the opportunity to sit in one of life’s big chairs? It’s because inwardly they were too small to fill the chair. The truth is that no golden opportunity can bring out the best in a person if that best isn’t already inside that person. This is why I encourage you to work on your “real you,” that person our text verse calls your “innermost being.” Get that person mature, healthy, and holy before you try to conquer the world.
Of course, the most effective way to get this inward work done is to allow the indwelling Holy Spirit to help you with it. The problem with that, though, is that the Holy Spirit only indwells born-again Christians, and the vast majority of people in the world aren’t born-again Christians. If, however, you are a born-again Christian don’t hesitate to request the Holy Spirit’s help to make your “real you” the best “you” you can possibly be.
Remember that who you are as an individual has nothing to do with your family, your job, your financial status, your social standing, or your accomplishments. All of those things are simply the lens through which the world sees you. God, on the other hand, sees you for who you actually are way down there in your innermost being. As our text verse says, that is where He desires truth from you and that is where He will cause you to know His wisdom. That means that your “real you” is both the ultimate confessional and the ultimate classroom. It’s your job to bring the unfiltered truth about yourself to that confessional, and then it’s God’s job to turn that confessional into a classroom wherein He teaches you wisdom about not only yourself but all other types of subjects.