Personal identity is important. Each of us identifies in many ways. If I ask you who you are, you may answer by saying:
- I am a Christian
- I am a spouse
- I am a parent
- I am a son/daughter
- I am a friend
- I am a lousy golfer
- I am a hockey fan
- I am a hiker, a swimmer, a traveler, a musician, a blogger – you name it…
As a person in ministry, let me ask, who are you – where do you find significance?
Every year thousands of pastors across the land think of quitting.
And part of the reason they want to quit, whether or not they actually quit, is because of how they see themselves, what defines them in their work.
Some of us see ourselves as a preacher, visionary, teacher, administrator, encourager… We see ourselves as persons with certain gifts and talents. We tend to measure our worth by the things we excel at, or do well with. We sometime compare ourselves with others and the talents they possess, especially those whose abilities seem greater than ours. We’re excited when our talents are affirmed, but when conflict, criticism or tough questions come our way we find ourselves diminished, we feel less than enough, unfulfilled, dissatisfied, confused, even devalued.
We’ve all been there. We have our moments of being both pumped and pummeled.
The parable of the talents in Matthew 25 is all about the value of WHO YOU ARE and how you invest what you have. Personality, talents, abilities and spiritual gifts are given to each of us as a stewardship. God’s unique calling combined with your unique personality and gifts make up the enterprise of YOU Inc. It is your contribution to the work of the Lord. I have come to believe that The best resource you possess, with which you may bless your world beyond measure, is to be the best YOU that God designed you to be.
(For the coming week, schedule 30 minutes or so to look at your story, your journey, and journal what God has given you, how He has blessed you with gifts and abilities, the things that work well for you and the things you need to allow others to do, and what God wants you to venture, risk and invest for Him)
Even our weakness can be a rich investment in ministry – being vulnerable about our dependence on God and our need of others. Jesus is our supreme example of servant ministry, giving and receiving support from one another. He called 12 disciples, that they might be with Him. Throughout His earthly ministry Jesus demonstrated the priority of deep relationships that would distinguish His body, the Church.
In verse 19 we are taught to trust the Master for the results of the ministry. We’ve been given much but we are only accountable for what’s in our hands. In this parable, the reward is the same for the 10 talent worker and the 2 talent worker – it’s the Master’s WELL DONE!
Jesus found His identity in doing the will of the Father, pleasing the Father, seeking the Father’s face. He consistently returned to the intimacy of Father time where He was reaffirmed as the beloved. By contrast, the secular world and the church world often define our success and significance in similar ways. Call them the BIG B4: the size of our buildings, boards, budgets, and bunch on Sunday. Or we could just as easily define success in terms of the preacher’s personality, popularity, power, or pedigree.
But the Father affirmed Jesus with – “this is my son, the beloved; with Him I am well pleased”.
The “I am” statements we choose for ourselves are important. Being anchored and assured in our true identity as God’s beloved provides us with the best perspective on life and ministry. When you take time during the next week to do some reflecting and journaling, make a list of “I am” statements that reflect the very heart of who you are and what you desire in life and ministry. The pivotal questions are, to whom are we listening, what are we hearing, and how do those voices shape our significance and destiny?
I have a friend named Julio who was born in Brazil to poverty with no promise for a bright future. But he was introduced to Jesus as a child and was discipled in the church. He was an avid learner. As a teenager and young adult he became active in various ministries. He developed a passion for sharing the gospel with others. When introduced to the idea of becoming a pastor, he made inquiries and eventually moved to the USA and attended bible college. Following graduation he continued theological and leadership studies while serving congregations. He was assigned to the staff of his alma mater where his enthusiasm for Jesus rubbed off on students and faculty alike. It became clear that his presence and story were his primary assets in ministry. He is now back in the local church making a substantial impact on the city where he serves. He does this by reaching out and building networks of friendship and service, shamelessly sharing the love of Jesus, bringing hope to suffering families, making new disciples, and expanding his church’s community ministries.
My friend’s story highlights the need for Christian servants to find our true identity in the Master of the Ministry rather than the Ministry of the Master. After all, we serve for His applause. Our identity and value rest in Him and His calling on our lives. From that firm foundation we passionately strive to reach our God-given potential in doing the work of the ministry. Why? Because it isn’t enough merely to be good; we must be good for something great.
A concert pianist gave a flawless performance that received unanimous, thundering applause from the audience. When asked to return to the stage to receive more applause from the adoring crowd, he refused, saying, “do you see that man in the balcony who is not clapping? – that’s my teacher.”
Let’s always remember, we play to an audience of One. When we have His applause, then the applause of others is the cream on the cake.