Table of Contents

This is part 1 in our two-part series “The Path to an Inspiring Life.” You can read part 2 here.

You are the light that gives light to the world. A city that is built on a hill cannot be hidden. And people don’t hide a light under a bowl. They put it on a lampstand so the light shines for all the people in the house. In the same way, you should be a light for other people. Live so that they will see the good things you do and will praise your Father in heaven.”

Matthew 5:14-16 NCV 

Jesus wants us to live purposeful lives.

He wants us to know that as we follow him, we can make a difference. We don’t have to look far to see why the world needs light; just checking the news on any given day will show us the darkness, hostility, anger, and pain in the world around us. Jesus gives each of his followers light so that we can be a walking display of his power and patience and inspire other people to seek his light too.

This is what it means to live a purposeful life; we let God change us from the inside out, and we live the rest of our lives knowing we are here for a reason. We know that the light within us is bright enough to extinguish the darkness in the world. 

So the question we have to ask ourselves, especially if we are Christians, is how bright is our light? Do our lives inspire people to seek God?

Sometimes our light stops shining because we have started to crave the world more than we want to change it. This can happen to anyone, even those of us who are active churchgoers. We begin to pursue pleasure, attention, and money more than we strive after spiritual things like faith, love, and a close friendship with God. Worldly things promise us a lot, but ultimately leave us empty. God’s path leads to an inspiring, fulfilling, and purposeful life. 

In this devotional, we’ll reflect on whether we’re craving the world more than we’re changing it, and look at a few practical ways we can be the light the world around us needs. 

Craving the world is easier, but unsatisfying 

Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you. For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world. And this world is fading away, along with everything that people crave. But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever.

1 John 2:15-17 NLT  

Loving the world steals our ability to change it. When we love the world, we live a passive life full of cravings; we always want more and more, pursuing whatever makes us feel good. This doesn’t sound very inspiring, so why do we choose it? 

The truth is, this path is easier. There’s no way around that; the path of an inspiring life is, in many ways, the more difficult one (see Matthew 7:13-14). And sometimes we really want the easier path. I feel this very strongly, especially coming out of the pandemic when everything in life felt hard. The “easy way” is especially appealing to me now because I spent years thinking about all the things I couldn’t do—movies, travel, restaurants, and more—and I didn’t realize that my cravings for pleasure were growing. 

Pandemic aside, my desire for worldliness has increased with age. I became a Christian as a college student, and I was willing to make all kinds of sacrifices for God and his kingdom. I would spend a good chunk of time each week helping people who wanted to build a relationship with God even if it meant I would have less time to take care of my own studying for school or personal time.

As I’ve gotten older, my life responsibilities have increased, and I find myself craving a more comfortable life. I have thoughts like, “I’ve sacrificed enough. I’ve put in a lot of time, and now I should be able to coast.”

I’m not saying we should commit ourselves to miserable or exhausting lives, but I do think it’s important to reflect on whether our desire for comfort and pleasure (ie. “loving this world” as the above scripture calls it) has become stronger than our desire to live a meaningful life. 

Let’s dig a little deeper to identify some of the ways our cravings for the world might show themselves. 

Craving pleasure or craving God?

You should know this, Timothy, that in the last days there will be very difficult times. For people will love only themselves and their money. 

They will … love pleasure rather than God. They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly. Stay away from people like that!

2 Timothy 3:1-2,4-5 NLT

Living for pleasure is looking for immediate gratification rather than investing in our relationship with God. Pleasure by itself, of course, is not a bad thing; God wants to help us be happy and enjoy our lives (Ecclesiastes 2:24-25). The issue is what we crave the most and what we believe will fix our troubles. 

Pleasure can seem like a quick fix when we’re feeling something uncomfortable like guilt, loneliness, or stress, but the good feeling is often short-lived. The things we choose—like sensuality, drinking, and spending money— also tend to give us an “unspiritual hangover,” which feels like regret, shame, fear of exposure, or apathy. Sometimes they even cause more stress, like when we travel to escape the pressures of our lives and come back to more work, physical exhaustion, and a tighter budget. 

Living for pleasure tends to lead to a downward spiral of more pleasure-seeking. Each thing we choose leaves us feeling empty, so we look for more pleasure to fill the emptiness, and the cycle continues. 

God can fill that emptiness if we let him: 

Some wandered in the wilderness, lost and homeless. Hungry and thirsty, they nearly died. “LORD, help!” they cried in their trouble, and he rescued them from their distress. He led them straight to safety, to a city where they could live. Let them praise the LORD for his great love and for the wonderful things he has done for them. For he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things.

Psalm 107:4-9 NLT

Pleasure is often more appealing and tempting when we feel some level of distress in our lives. Instead of pursuing pleasure to escape or numb any difficulties in our lives, we can learn from this passage to cry out to God for help. He can help us out of our distresses, while pleasure offers only temporary relief at best. 

Craving attention from people instead of God

The second “craving” that 1 John 2:15-17 associates with worldliness is craving “everything we see.” This could mean possessions, and we’ll cover that later, but it also could mean attention, respect, approval, and admiration from people instead of God. 

“Everything they do is done for people to see…”

Matthew 23:5-7 NIV

“Watch out! Don’t do your good deeds publicly, to be admired by others, for you will lose the reward from your Father in heaven. When you give to someone in need, don’t do as the hypocrites do—blowing trumpets in the synagogues and streets to call attention to their acts of charity! I tell you the truth, they have received all the reward they will ever get.

Matthew 6:1-2 NLT

One of the most common cravings of people, especially religious people, in the Bible was the attention and approval of others. Jesus warned against it many times. He told his followers that other people’s attention would be an unsatisfying and short-lived goal. Those of us who have lived for a “Good job!” know this to be true; it feels good for a second, and then it’s gone. 

God wants to give us a bigger and more lasting reward in heaven. When we believe that, we’ll do things for the right reasons and find satisfaction in helping others instead of the attention we might get for doing good deeds. 

When we live a life craving attention and approval, we end up performing a lot and being uncomfortable being ourselves. This adds a lot of stress and anxiety into our lives. We take ourselves too seriously and can’t handle constructive feedback because we are living for people’s approval. We can’t let God and his Word change our hearts, which stops us from helping other people experience change in their lives. 

Recently, my wife and I were trying to train and correct our 10-year-old son on some things we saw in his life. He didn’t like it, as most kids don’t, and I felt strongly that he really needed to learn to take correction better. I wanted him to believe that I would never stop liking him or loving him, and that I love him enough to train him and help him grow. I wanted him to trust that I was correcting him because I cared about him, not because I was angry or down on him. 

When we live a life craving attention and approval, we end up performing a lot and being uncomfortable being ourselves

Later, a friend was giving me some feedback on things I could do differently, and I didn’t take it well. I got angry and tried to flip things around on my friend by questioning why he was bringing it up. At some point in my anger, I had to admit the truth to myself that I couldn’t take correction any better than my son could. 

For me, this defensiveness is a sign that I care more about what people think of me than about what God thinks and who he is training me to become. If I believe I am here for a reason, and that God never stops liking me or loving me, and that loves me enough to help me grow, I will be able to take discipline and correction in my life. 

If I just want to impress people and get them to like me, I’ll be angry and frustrated because pleasing people is an elusive goal. We can never get the approval of every person around us, and living for that will leave us empty and unsatisfied.

Craving money instead of craving purpose 

“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.

Matthew 6:24 NIV

When I first got married, I didn’t have much money. I did have a lot of debt from opening up credit cards I shouldn’t have opened as a college student, and I felt pretty embarrassed that I was bringing that into my marriage. 

I didn’t really think money was a god in my life because I didn’t have a lot of it. I spent my energy stressing over unexpected expenses and how we would pay them, not trying to gain wealth.

Over time, though, we gradually paid off my debt and then we started being able to put money in savings. I can still remember how good it felt to start seeing the numbers in our account go up. Saving money was a good thing, but it started to feel a little too good. I wanted more and more in that account because I felt like the more I had, the less I would need to worry about unexpected expenses that came up. 

My desire for money made me hold back from opportunities to serve others when we had the means to do so. My wife and I really enjoyed hosting dinners for college students in our area so they could have a free meal and time with friends, but when my focus was on money, I would not want to do things like that. Craving more and more money for security made me passive instead of active and purposeful. 

Eventually, I realized that my craving for money was not only holding me back from my purpose and leaving me empty, but also leaving me without the faith I needed for problems in life that money can’t solve. We hit obstacles in our physical and emotional health as well as in building our family that no amount of money could take away—only God could change them and help us handle them. 

We all need money to survive, and we should definitely have integrity in how we handle the money we have (Luke 16:11), but we should also make sure we don’t live our lives craving money more than God and his purpose. 

Pause and reflect

  • Where do you turn when you want to feel good?
  • Are you more focused on what people think of you or what God thinks of you?
  • How would you describe your relationship with money? What are some ways it can take the place of God in your life?

Now let’s look at how we can live a purposeful life. 

Striving for our special purpose

Those who make themselves clean from all those evil things, will be used for special purposes, because they are dedicated and useful to their Master, ready to be used for every good deed. Avoid the passions of youth, and strive for righteousness, faith, love, and peace, together with those who with a pure heart call out to the Lord for help.

2 Timothy 2:21-22 GNT 

When we understand our special purpose, we strive for different things. Instead of sitting back and craving more money or pleasure, we become energized and ready to do whatever it takes to live that purpose out. We become willing to say no to anything that would stand in the way of our goal. 

My wife ran track in high school, and her coach was serious about helping the team reach their full potential. He wanted the team to focus on competing and strive to be excellent on the track, so he gave them some guidelines to eliminate distractions: no soda, no fast food, and no boyfriends. The sacrifices were worth it—eventually she was offered a scholarship to run track at UC Berkeley and eventually became the track team captain and MVP of the team.

What I take away from this is when we have our eyes set on something great, we will be willing to change the way we live and get rid of distractions. Even though it might be the more difficult path, it will be worth it, and our vision will give us the desire to keep going. 

The same is true in our spiritual lives. When we believe God is guiding us toward being a light and changing the world, we will say “no” to certain things that stand in the way and strive for other ones instead. Instead of living a passive life filled with craving for more, we’ll be able to actively strive for fulfilling and meaningful things. 

This passage in 2 Timothy 2 gives us a few key things we should live for, rather than living for pleasure, approval, or money. Striving for these things will prevent us from living an empty, purposeless life. 

1. Strive for right relationships

And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend.

James 2:23 NIV 

“Righteousness” is being in right relationship with God and people. It’s not about perfection but pursuing being God and others’ “friend.” 

Choosing to be righteous inspires people. A friend of mine inspired me recently when he decided to be honest with his family members after years of hiding a drinking problem. He had since changed, but didn’t have the courage to be honest about who he really was years before. He grew in his courage as he got closer to God and his relationships in his family completely changed around.

Righteousness is not something we attain once; it’s a way of life. Striving for it means it’s what we desire most, and we keep moving toward having a right relationship with God and others each day. It’s our North Star, guiding the decisions we make in life. Our desire is to be right with God and other people, not to impress them or use them or get things from them. 

Pause and reflect

  • Do you allow distance in your relationships when you can do something to make them better?

2. Strive for faith

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.

Hebrews 11:1 NIV 

Faith is confidence. It’s being confident that God moves in our lives even when we can’t see it. It’s believing in God beyond what we can see in our circumstances.

It takes faith to live a purposeful life. We have to keep believing that everything we do makes a difference. Another friend of mine inspires me because he strives to have faith even when things are hard. I can bring up a situation where I have a hard time believing and he turns the conversation into what God is doing through it.

Striving for faith means actively looking for ways to grow our faith. That could mean taking in more of the Bible each day (Romans 10:17) or exercising our faith by taking actions we might have been avoiding (James 2:17).

3. Strive for love

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

Philippians 2:3-4 NIV

This Scripture describes the way Jesus lived. He was humble, looking out for other people’s interests above his own. He gives us the gold standard when it comes to loving people, and we can constantly learn to become more like him. 

When I first became a Christian, I was very quiet and didn’t talk to people very much. I saw that I needed to think more about other people so I asked another person in the church to hang out. That was a good start, but once we got together I realized I had no idea how to make conversation. I gave a lot of one-word answers, and I know I wasn’t very fun to be around. At heart, I was still thinking about myself and not about my friend.

So I decided to learn from the Bible how to be unselfish. I read a lot of scriptures about how we should treat other people, and a lot of them said that we should say encouraging words. I started trying that; I practiced saying encouraging things to people I was around. I could see how happy people were when I just said something simple and nice to them. 

I remember that time as a big victory because it showed me that God’s Word could change me. It inspires me that I can change in the areas I need to change today.

We can always grow to be more loving, and as we do, we’ll see the positive impact of our choices. 

4. Strive for peace

Striving for peace can mean a lot of things, but for now I want to focus on the emotional and spiritual peace that comes from knowing we are forgiven for all of our sin.

Before I confessed my sins, I kept it all inside; my dishonesty devastated my inner life, causing my life to be filled with frustration, irrepressible anguish, and misery.

Psalm 32:3 TPT 

This passage tells me that a lot of our emotional unrest comes from our insides—dishonesty, guilt, irrepressible anguish and misery. All of these things come from sins we keep inside. 

It probably goes without saying that we’re not very inspiring when we walk around filled with frustration, irrepressible anguish, and misery. At the beginning of this study, we talked about how God calls each of us to be a light. But it’s hard to be a light when we are hiding sins in our hearts. 

Jesus died to make us at peace with God (Romans 5:1). We don’t have to live in anxiety, guilt, or shame—if we feel this way, we need to talk to God and friends to find freedom. 

The encouraging news is that we don’t have to be perfect to inspire people; seeing us receive God’s mercy and forgiveness will inspire people that they can find forgiveness too. Being “inspiring” doesn’t mean we do everything perfectly. The honor and glory from our lives should go to God, not ourselves for how good we are. The apostle Paul believed this deeply; when we see how sinful we are, we can give hope to others who need forgiveness too:

This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”—and I am the worst of them all. [16] But God had mercy on me so that Christ Jesus could use me as a prime example of his great patience with even the worst sinners. Then others will realize that they, too, can believe in him and receive eternal life. All honor and glory to God forever and ever! He is the eternal King, the unseen one who never dies; he alone is God. Amen.

1 Timothy 1:15-17 NLT

Pause and reflect

  • Which of the above four things (righteousness, faith, love, and peace) do you feel you need to strive for most right now?
  • What is one practical way you could strive after these things?

Final thoughts

Jesus wants us to live lives that inspire others. While it may be tempting to take the easy road of living by our desires, that path will ultimately leave us unsatisfied. When we set our sights on the special purpose God has for us, we’ll start actively seeking righteousness, faith, love, and peace, instead of settling for the next thing we crave. 

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Sean Kiluk

In addition to being a contributor to Deep Spirituality, Sean is our webmaster and general tech guru.

Sean Kiluk

In addition to being a contributor to Deep Spirituality, Sean is our webmaster and general tech guru.

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Are You Craving the World, or Changing the World? 6