I am not the first Christian to look at the careers and accomplishments of others and feel that my own life and accomplishments are miniscule, insignificant, or just plain deficient by comparison. This can come from researching the unbelievably complex world of information technology (IT) in my case, or from someone else I know who has an MBA comparing his career with Donald Trump's, or perhaps someone in the medical field comparing their career path with someone like neurosurgeon Benjamin Carson. The psalmist King David made it clear in multiple places that contemplating the accomplishments of God will be even more humbling. Yet the apostle Paul, also under inspiration by the Holy Spirit, wrote that those who compare themselves with other people are unwise. He wrote to the Corinthians that he left judgment of his life - both his sins on the negative side and his accomplishments on the positive side - to God, because we are incapable of viewing ourselves and our own lives from God's omniscient and sinless perspective. Any evaluation on our own part can only be provisional and temporary until that final review by God.
Salvation through faith in Jesus Christ is all about humility. It is all about an individual realizing and beginning to comprehend that as a sinner I have an inherited twofold tendency to fall short of God's perfect standard - in morals but also in everything - and to rebel against that standard and God's right to impose it upon me. Salvation is all about realizing that that "final review by God" is never going to be the equivalent of a successful "admission interview" for Heaven, that something needs to be done about all the times and ways that I have "missed the mark," which is a classic interpretation of "sin." However, putting too much emphasis on sin as "falling short" of God's expectations fails to address the Biblical association of sin with "transgression," which literally means "going across," going too far and crossing a limit or boundary God has set. That is why I refer to that "twofold tendency" of which rebellion is a big part.
When I contemplate the amazing advances in computer technology, both in hardware and in software, (not to omit that fuzzy area called "firmware" where they are fused together), it can make me feel awful about my lack of accomplishment in that area. Yet part of that may be due to a reaction I had when I first became a Christian in my mid-twenties and began to pay attention to things like end-times prophecy. Some Christian speakers and authors were beginning to question what role the IT industry would play in fulfilling various aspects of the prophesied Great Tribulation, especially the unforgiveable "mark of the beast" that everyone in the Antichrist's domain would have to take to be able to buy or sell anything - even food - and its implications of database-driven tyranny. This led me to be concerned about what degree of personal responsibility I would bear if I played any part in developing such technology, or even precursor technology that might be built upon in developing it.
The clarity of hindsight can sometimes be annoying. Looking back, I perceive that a lot of that anxiety came from an incomplete understanding of faith and its role in salvation from God's judgement, and by extension from that its role in career decisions and everyday life. It is too easy to say that paying more attention to Scripture or what I was being taught about it would have saved me a lot of trouble. It might also have meant not having the emotional or spiritual comprehension which I feel the Lord has been building in my life - even through the consequences He imposed for certain sins - of the nature of faith. It is central to understand that faith has to have an object and that object must be Jesus Christ and His finished work on the Cross to satisfy my unpayable sin debt to a perfectly holy God. Yet there's more to it than that - not more breadth but more depth.
While salvation through Jesus is simple enough for a child to reach out and receive as a loving gift from God, that is only the start. Whatever the physical age or the level of mental development at which we do that, Jesus referred to this in his conversation with Nicodemus, (John 3), as being "born again." After birth is supposed to come growth. Guided first of all by the Word of God, we need to grow and keep growing in our comprehension of God's perfect and trustworthy character. It is one thing to memorize His many promises but that must be backed up by a trust that those promises will be kept. (Not just those promises that we expect to enjoy having kept, either. When He said back in Genesis, "The soul that sinneth, it shall die," that was a promise, too.)
Would I have made different career decisions if I had had a better-developed faith in the trustworthiness and dependability and love of God, not only in the abstract but in how He would choose to apply it in my life? Very likely. Would I now have a bigger salary and more impressive responsibilities and a history of career achievements than I will ever have in my current path? Maybe. It's so easy for us to churn our mental processors and recompile projections of how things would have turned out - but those revised projections are still based on incomplete understanding. God does not show us what our future will be in advance, and He very often does not choose to show us what our future would have been if we did something different.
One reason for that is that we are not the "masters of our fate" or the "captains of our soul" that we like to think we are. Some of the "defining moments" of people's lives aren't direct results of their life's choices. By the grace of God I was never hit by a bus and killed crossing the street - but if I had been, it could have been while I was on the way to a job interview that I could have avoided by making a different choice, or it could have been in making a trip to the grocery store that I would have done that day whatever my career plans were. As the Oxford-educated theological writer C.S. Lewis says in his book, "The Problem of Pain," in order for God to guarantee a pain-free, problem-free existence to those who have accepted Christ, He would continually have to violate or suspend basic laws of physics. In turn, life would be unimaginable chaos for everyone else if God were to stop gravity from functioning every time someone carelessly leaned too far over a balcony railing, for example. Getting back to that bus, if I don't look where I am going there may be consequences; but salvation means that at least I have confidence of ending up in heaven with Jesus which puts the bus impact back in perspective.
Faith - true Biblical, saving, heartfelt faith in the character of God and His goodness and trustworthiness - will of course have a powerful role in our lives and in what decisions we make. While I still am not comfortable with such statements as Martin Luther made about "sin boldly" - but Luther was known for abrasively overstating the case to shake people up - it is true that Paul's New Testament admonition to replace anxiety with directing our concerns to God in prayer works together with Old Testament proverbs such as [Proverbs 3:5,6] to "trust in the Lord with all thy heart, and lean not on thine own understanding; in all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct thy paths."
We will all respond differently to this. We will all carry out the implementation in different ways. If my writing this helps someone to move more confidently ahead in their career without paralyzing anxiety about God's disapproval because they are confident that even mistakes by a child of Christ are forgivable, I hope that will have good results. If it leads to someone not pursuing a business or technical career path and not feeling "driven" to succeed because they believe God loves them anyway and temporal achievements are irrelevant, I am not trying to cause that but neither can I prevent it. God gives us our gifts and abilities, both those given by heredity and gifts of the Spirit at salvation, because He intends to do something with them. Some people have much more precise notions of what His purpose is in their life, and sometimes those notions prove true. (Such a usefully nebulous word, "sometimes." But this is a blog post, not "War and Peace.")
I don't have a brief, pithy admonition to give at the end, here, to wrap all this up. I am trying to open a subject up in your mind, not to close it. I want to encourage you to pursue your relationship with God, assuming you have one through salvation in Jesus Christ by faith alone, "not of works, lest any man should boast," (Ephesians 2:8,9). I want you to explore what role deeper faith, deeper confidence in God, can have in your life. Where that goes from there is up to both you and Him.
(See "About Me")