Building Your Empire
- January 04, 2018
- Esther Followwill-Johnson
Ambition is healthy. I think it reflects confidence, tenacity and strong vision. These are great qualities! Around the New Year, we focus more on personal growth and development, and while these reflections are beneficial, they can easily take us to some pretty well-masked, negative places. **Disclaimer: I am incredibly ambitious, and I genuinely love making New Year’s goals. But lately I see the pitfalls, and think these are important to identify.**
It easily becomes all about the self. Around the New Year we ask, “What do I want in my life? How can MY dreams come true? Where did I mess up last year? How can I become my best self?” These questions can be good, but they are undeniably all about ONE person: me. This approach attempts to tailor-make everything in life to be the best user-friend experience for MYSELF and my future. Don’t get me wrong, I am all about self-awareness, but this focus really diminishes the presence of two very important factors: OTHERS and GOD.
It makes “successes” quantifiable. Granted, something may objectively be defined as a failed endeavor or successful one. If I aim to drink the latte without spilling it, then getting a coffee stain on my shirt means that I was not successful in my goal. I get that. But when you start categorizing everything in life by “winning” or “losing”… hitting the mark or missing it, then you lose something of value.
We are bigger than our perceived success and failures. Thinking about our major life goals can quickly boil down to experiences, of what we achieve or do not achieve. That mentality distances us from the spiritual and eternally valuable aspects of existence. I mean the intangible things like attitude, perspective, and how we regard others. Those things are not easy for humans to quantify and measure. I don’t think we are supposed to.
It focuses on the wrong end-goal. I see a lot of posts that say “Build Your Empire” and have even shared similar ones myself! On some level I love the focus and intentionality behind that admonition. It urges us to keep going, warning us not give up and be faithful to what we set out to accomplish. But may I just humbly ask you (and I) to consider…. whose empire are you building? Yours?
I can tell you right now, that’s not going to satisfy, because you were created for more. This is a strong statement, but the reality is, if you are a follower of Jesus and the main focus in “building an empire” is for your success or you dreams alone, there is a major flaw. Worse, if deep down it’s really just about money… then it is an anti-gospel endeavor.
The bible is very clear: you cannot serve God and money. (Matt. 6:24) That sounds pretty cut and dry to me. Now, I run a business that has a major built-in financial impact with growth. As in, when I increase in business, I make a lot of money.
My heart is to be excellent at everything I do, and to serve people selflessly along the way. But with any job, it is easy to be overcome by the financial potential. When money in the picture, it obfuscates the truth about what matters.
Asking God for money is SO GOOD if the heart is to seek God and His vision in it.
The gospel says, “Seek first the kingdom and His righteousness, and then everything will be added to you.” (Matt.6:33) “Do not love money, for it is the root of all kinds of evil.” (1 Tim. 6:10)
You guys we KNOW this. But do we believe it? What lies are we telling ourselves about our goals? My husband challenges me about the premise of my goals all the time. The famous proverbial prayer of Agur in the wisdom literature is, “Give me neither poverty nor riches.” I admire that! But to be honest with you, of course I DO pray for success and financial blessing. But lately I have been on my knees asking God to get to my heart’s core motive. Only He knows truly if my goal is self-focused or greedy deep down. Only He ever knows that, because WE are masters at self-deception. Whose kingdom am I building? Whose glory do I ACTUALLY want, God’s or mine? We shouldn’t even THINK about setting goals this year, without first asking the Holy Spirit to align our dreams with HIS empire. His kingdom first.
“Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any wrongful way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” – Psalm 139:23-24