Acts 20:24 I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.
If I am honest, I must admit that my greatest defect over the first four decades of my life was not my drug addiction. My greatest defect was that I desired my own preferences above all. My greatest sin then, was simply that I followed me. This was not always obviously destructive.
Pursuing the American dream of house, cars and money does not necessarily look evil. It is of course, not wrong to own those things. When the pursuit of the good life consumes me though, I am off course. The worst sin is the one that appears so innocent that it steals my gaze from God while blinding me to its existence.
The first steps I took in following self were barely perceptible. I did not set out to become an addict. When I got to treatment however, I could clearly see the steps I took to get there. It started simply with following my desires. I thought my preferences were the route to happiness. I followed what I wanted because that was what I wanted.
Even in recovery, it is still easy to turn my path towards self. It is possible to give up my drug addiction while still following me. In recovery, I learned the term, Dry Drunk. It is used to describe the person who has stopped drinking but is still indulging in every other defect he or she ever had. Quitting a drink or a drug is necessary to recover, but one does not necessarily recover or find God just because he or she stops drinking.
Many have found out the hard way that their loved one’s addiction was not the worst thing about him or her. A man may stop drinking, only to reveal that he is a colossal jerk, even without alcohol. Likewise, I can still follow self to the distraction of God, while not using. I may become a dry drunk, sober, but pursuing me.
Paul, in today’s passage, revealed that his life’s goal was not the pursuit of self. He said his life was as nothing to him except that he could use it to pursue God and his will. His previous preferences and dreams were no longer his life’s purpose. Paul realized this profound truth: We were created to love God and do his will. Doing anything else, leads to destruction. It is only on his path that we discover our ultimate joy, purpose and meaning because that is how He made us.
Does following God then mean that I must abandon all my dreams? Some things may obviously have to go. If I desire to follow God, then I cannot continue drugs or the pursuit of me above all. I must abandon that which is destructive and distracting. I do it poorly, but when I abandon self and follow God, I find the joy that I was looking for in the pursuit of self.
It is only in following God above all that I am able to appropriately enjoy his world. It is only in losing myself in God that I find myself. It is only in knowing God that I know my true hopes and dreams. I may continue to pursue joy, purpose and meaning in me, but it will only lead me to misery and emptiness. If I long to know true joy, then, like Paul, I must follow God above all.