The Need for Fulfillment
[C]hoice and precious in the sight of God, you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood . . . .
~ 1 Peter 2:4-5
Last week we were talking about the needs for love and acceptance, and the need for significance and identity. A third personal worth need is competence and fulfillment. We need to feel that we are competent to accomplish something worthwhile, and we need the fulfillment of knowing that our lives will make a genuine difference.
Like the first two needs, this one is also thwarted by our life experiences. Parents often impose an artificial performance standard upon their children and reject them if they do not measure up. A perfectionistic attitude can be devastating to a child's self-image: “Four A's and one B--what did you get the B for?” Even if the child attains the required level, it still won't be good enough if the parents decide to raise the measure another notch.
Performance rejection also comes in more indirect forms, and one of these is a low level of expectation, whether at home or later at school or work. “Well, I guess all we can hope is that you'll do your best . . . .” For many people, the resulting sense of inadequacy is difficult to live with. So they compensate by formulating their own plan (whether they are aware of it or not) to earn fulfillment by means of specific accomplishments. Some become intensively competitive in sports and develop a reputation of being poor losers. For others it takes the form of sacrificing everything to earn a 4.0 average in school.
The variations are virtually limitless, but none of them really work. Few are capable of distinguishing themselves by rising head and shoulders above the competition. And those who do in their moments of honesty would have to agree with the author of Ecclesiastes: “Thus I considered all my activities which my hands had done and the labor which I had exerted, and behold all was vanity and striving after wind and there was no profit under the sun” (Eccles. 2:11).
Once again, we reach the same conclusion: this need, like the first two, can only be satisfied in the One who implanted it within us. We are not only in a spiritual family (love and acceptance) and in a spiritual body (significance and identity), but we are also living stones in a spiritual temple (competence and fulfillment). The Holy Spirit has gifted us and empowers us to be competent in accomplishing His purposes in our lives as we walk in dependence upon Him. “And coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected by men, but choice and precious in the sight of God, you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 2:4-5).
God has gifted us to achieve whatever He asks of us, and He has given us enough time to do it. Moreover, success in His sight is not the same as success in the sight of men because it does not depend on results. Our work is faithfulness; His is results. “God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Sam. 16:7). The Christian who grasps the implications of these truths becomes free from the competitive need to win, free from dominating and resenting others, and free from pursuing achievements in order to validate self-worth.
~ Ken Boa
Dr. Boa is devoted to a ministry of relational evangelism and discipleship, teaching, writing, and speaking. He holds a B.S. in astronomy from Case Institute of Technology, a Th.M. from Dallas Theological Seminary, a Ph.D. from New York University, and a D.Phil. from the University of Oxford in England. Visit his website at KenBoa.org.