Saparmurat Niyazov was president of the former Soviet block nation, Turkmenistan, from 1990 until his death in 2006. While his title was “President”, he changed the title to “President for Life”, declaring it to be a lifelong position with no need for ongoing elections, also making him dictator. He was eccentric to say the least, and made sweeping senseless legal changes at every whim. Among other things, he banned keeping dogs in the capital city, along with opera, ballet, makeup, lip-syncing and gold teeth.
He was also the epitome of pride. He replaced the calendar months and days with names after himself, his mother and the rest of his family. He renamed towns, schools, airports and a meteorite after himself. Now ten years after his death, most of those senseless laws have been reversed, the calendar has been changed back to its traditional names, and his other namesakes have also been renamed. Few politicians and government officials will mention his memory in public for fear of being associated with him.
We all crave significance. It is a God-given drive to want our lives to matter. But Niyazov, like many others, went about this quest for significance in the completely wrong way. By building ourselves up, we limit our lasting influence and relegate our lives to near meaninglessness.
Jesus taught the opposite. He taught that the way to achieve significance is by putting others’ interests ahead of our own; that the way up is down; the way to be exalted is by being humble. We impact eternity by serving.
Jesus not only taught this principle, he lived it. Read what Paul said about his example: “Though he was God, … he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being… He humbled himself…and died a criminal’s death on a cross. Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow…and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord” (Philippians 2:5-11 NLT).
Which is why Paul told followers of Jesus, “Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too” (Philippians 2:3-4 NLT).
You want your life to matter. You want your life to mean something after you are gone. Of course you do! God created us with this drive. But our sin nature deceives us into thinking that significance is achieved through personal ambition. Biblical Christianity teaches that the opposite is true.
You want your life to matter. So find God’s special place where you can pour yourself into impacting eternity by serving others.
“If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me.” – Jesus (Matthew 16:24 NLT).