April 2012

Confession is good. So here goes. I am struggling with an issue. Not a practical or theological issue (although there are a load of those always lurking around), but an internal, personal issue. An issue that presses and pulls inside of me, it gets tugged and tangled by God’s Word and also the world we live in. Each time I endeavour to settle the matter, make a definite decision, a little whisper seeps in or seeps out questioning, challenging, loosening the holds that I have attempted to put in place and the tug-of-war returns. Other people may have this thing all sorted – it certainly appears that way. Perhaps I appear that way. But it is not true. I keep wrestling with it, wanting to get it right, but then discovering I’ve gone off track again.

The issue is “significance”: am I making a difference, impacting the world I live in, doing a good job?

This summer athletes from around the world will compete in the Olympics – winners getting gold medals evidencing their excellence. But does that make them significant? Actors get Oscars, Footballers get trophies (and too much money), pop stars get platinum records – does that make them significant? A promotion at work, a better job, a bigger house, a bigger church, people’s applause, an invitation to be part of a big event – does that make you significant?

Bringing up a family, staying out of destructive debt, serving the forgotten, caring for the poor, helping a neighbour who no one else sees, investing in a young person, saying a kind word to an older person, giving up your seat on the bus, sharing Jesus with a friend – do these make us significant?

How do we measure significance?

The Bible tells us we are loved by God, valued by God, not because we are good but because God is good: while we were still sinners, separated from God, Jesus died for us (Romans 5:8). We are significant to God. Yes he calls us to confess our sins and put our faith in Jesus, but God made the first move – He says you and I are significant to Him, we matter.

There is also a verse in Philippians 2 calling Jesus followers to “shine like stars in the universe as we hold out the word of life”. As we do the things that Jesus calls us to do (Jesus is the word of life) we shine, we make a difference, we are significant in God’s plan. Perhaps not like the big bright hot star everyone notices and calls the sun, but our actions and lives become glimmers of light that can help guide people and bring hope in the darkness.

The tension in me tugs between what does it mean to be significant –the world often connects it to success, fame and fortune, the Bible says it is allowing Jesus to shine through me. I’ll be honest, I don’t wrestle with this issue to the degree that I lose loads of sleep over it – maybe I should - but it does regularly cause me to stop, reflect and make necessary adjustments to how I measure my significance.

It is so easy to find ourselves as individuals and as a church using the wrong measuring stick: job title, size of bank balance, how well our family is doing, fame, number of people attending, size of building, etc. and drawing significance and comfort from these things. The dangerous flipside of this view is that when these things do not go well we can find ourselves feeling worthless and want to withdraw from life.

It is clear from the Bible that God measures us differently: from the heart outwards. It is not about a building but our heart, it is not about our job but our heart, it is not about how significant others say we are but our heart. God isn’t measuring us by what the world presently calls significant, but rather are we shining like stars in the universe by holding out the word of life.

The tension is how do I want to shine – God’s way or the world’s way? Shining God’s way may lead to “success” as the world views things, or may not. However choosing to base my significance on God’s definition holds much more security, stability and great long term benefits!

So shine for Jesus folks – as individuals, small groups and as a church family, let people see Jesus in and through us, in our words and actions, in little ways and big ways, unseen ways and seen ways, quiet ways and loud ways: at work, at home, in our neighbourhood – everywhere, shine. The result: a world with lots and lots of glimmers of Jesus with you and I being part of God’s plan – that’s pretty significant!

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