When defining significance we discover it’s the quality of being worthy of attention or importance. We all have someone who is important in our lives. Those we look up to and admire. What do we find our worth and identity in or whom? For many it is our jobs, vocation or calling.
In the early 1990’s, my wife and I taught a class using the book Search for Significance. I told my wife I would like to have no more than 12 people in the class. The response was amazing. The class filled up, and over 80 people came. Teaching this class opened the door for God to work in my life regarding finding significance in Christ. It’s now 2018; I realized for many years I was trying to find my significance in what I did for God, and not who I am in God or knowing the God I belong to. What we do for God is important, but not for significance. Finding your identity and significance in Christ alone is the key to true acceptance and value in Christ. I taught on the love of God first from a head knowledge approach.
Then, I had a personal encounter with Christ. I was driving my car on the way to work. I heard Jesus say, “I love you.” I was overwhelmed. I drove the car off the side of the road. I wept in His presence. From that day on, I never doubted His love for me. I didn’t have to do a Greek and Hebrew word study to find the meaning of His love or to understand this encounter. I began to internally understand His love for me. I discovered a new depth of the understanding of God’s love for me. His love for me gave me significance. What was head knowledge had become a reality to my identity in and through Christ. Understanding significance experientially adds greater depth in how you live and share your understanding with others.
It is not easy to walk in a state of resting in God’s love for us while working in a setting of paid full time ministry. Paid full time ministry become a job. We revert back to a job providing significance. After I stopped ministering in the public setting and being on a church staff, I became more aware of His acceptance for who I am in Him instead of what I do for Him. My significance was not dependent on public ministry, but rather on my personal relationship with Christ.
In the “working for Jesus” mode while performing ministry, there would be times I would spend hours in prayer and reading the Bible to receive a sermon from the Lord. I shared the insights I gleaned from the study and prayer in the pulpit or to someone personally. I was trapped in the performance of getting and giving the “word.” I wanted others to recognize how wonderful my preaching was. I wanted them to feel inspired by what I found was fresh revelation from studying the Bible and prayer.
Then, there was also a very “prophetic” side that was valued in the religious circles where I ministered. God given revelation into scripture as well as personal lives was highly valued. People would come to me for a “prophetic word.” This too became part of my identity. I was special and valued because I could hear from God for others. Fortunately, God would honor this time. Many were encouraged, found comfort and received direction for their lives.
Now I am learning to seek Christ in a way that He can reveal Himself to me; not so I can prophesy, preach or teach. I allow Him to live inside me in a way that when He speaks to me through the word and prayer, He reveals more of who He is. I’m learning a walk with God consistent with His word and honoring His presence. It is exciting and rewarding. When I minister, it is not because I am paid. It is because the living Christ in me ministers through me to others. Sometimes it is just that they recognize His sweet peace. They are drawn to me. What they do not most of the time is that they are encountering the love of Christ in me.
Another issue I to deal with in understanding my significance and acceptance in Christ, was my fear of failure. I did not want to fail by having , what I considered, an unsuccessful ministry. I would not be successful if I didn’t have a large church or ministry. I would not be successful if I was not a minister who others look to for counsel and training. These were not Christ’s standards. If so, even Jesus’ earthly ministry was failure. However, we know that was not the case. Many left Him. Some betrayed Him. Most misunderstood Him. Will I fail? Perhaps. We all live in a fallen world, but my walk with Him is greater than any failure. It has taken over 10 years of what I would have called sitting on the sidelines to change in my attitude towards ministry, and how I seek my significance. Ministry for me has a fresher and deeper meaning. By developing and relying on my relationship with Christ, I’m better at ministering to others. When I spend time with Him, His love is extended to me in a way that His compassion becomes a part of me. That is what the people long for. The presence and love of God.
In my Monday night’s men’s’ group we viewed the video “Authentic Manhood 33, we studied about how men fall into the trap of finding significance in their work, vocation or calling. When the work is over, the vocation evaporates, and the calling wanes we become empty, alone, and sometimes without purpose. A sense of failure can set in. This can be a destructive place.
I remember one time focusing on this very issue at a Promise Keepers Conference for men. The speaker asked the men to turn and tell another man something about themselves without telling them what he did. We all found this difficult. We became very aware that we drew our significance by what we did. Years later, once again, I am brought back to this topic. Where do we find identity and significance?
Let me tell you the steps God allowed me to go through. First, came the removal of all ministry props. I retired from ministry. I moved to San Antonio to be a support to my family. I became a public school teacher to support my family. I attend a large church of 14,000. I serve, without pay, as a Bible teacher, counselor, leader, prayer minister and men’s group Bible study facilitator. Second, I no longer having the “title” of pastor to hide behind. Third, I am able to be around others with greater spiritual, emotional and social influence than I without being jealous. Fourth, taking classes like “Changes that Heal” not for the sake of teaching them to others, but rather letting the Holy Spirit change me with the Word and teachings, focused me on my personal accountability with Christ. Fifth, I have connected with others in a more authentic way. I have become more effective speaking into the lives of others.
Now my significance does not come from pay or title. My significance and worth is found in the love of Christ. I read it in the Bible. I experience it in my daily walk with Him and others.