Last January, after a trip “back home” to the east coast my mind was wrestling with a lot of “what ifs”. The trip had taken me back to the area where, at one time, I had envisioned spending most of my life and my career. The trip had reminded me of the friends I have who are doing what I thought I was going to do with my life. Eventually the spider webs cleared, the pity party was called off and I was reminded that the Lord has a specific plan for me–even if it is not what at one time I thought it would be. I would love to say I have conquered that particular weakness, but I have not. The reality is, in my heart I wanted something bigger, better, more impressive, more meaningful that what I am doing now. That sentence in and of itself should reveal that I sometimes feel like I am not doing much where I am–something I hate to admit. I suspect, though, that you may have similar thoughts at times–wishing for more. I do not know what your more might be–it could be money, influence, possessions, recognition or any number of other things–but I know I am not the only one who sometimes wants more.
Recently similar thoughts have crept into my mind again. As the start of a new school year rolled around and the enrollment was not what I wanted it to be, it did not take long for the “I could be at a bigger school” thoughts to pop up. Again, I was really asking myself if I am doing something that matters, or at least something that matters as much as I want it to matter.
Thankfully, I recognized pretty quickly this time that my mind was going in the wrong direction and I began to think, pray and read things that would hopefully get me back on track. In some cases it was not even intentional!
The truth is that what matters in God’s eyes is often the same thing that seems to matter in the world’s eyes, and what matters is God’s eyes is often not glamorous. There is a great line in the not-so-great movie Pearl Harbor. In it, we see the story of two friends, Rafe and Danny, who survive Pearl Harbor and enter WWII as fighter pilots. Rafe is one of the top fighter pilots in America, and when America holds back on joining in the fight against the Germans, he volunteers to go help the British. When he arrives in Britain, he is being shown around the airfield by the British commander when he sees airmen shot up in the previous day’s battle. While they are walking, a messenger informs the commander that two more British planes have been shot down.
The commander turns to Rafe and asks, “Are all Yanks as anxious as you to get themselves killed?” Rafe quickly responds, “I’m not anxious to die, sir. I’m anxious to matter.”
Stephen Cole, a pastor, wrote in Leadership Journal about reading a biography of Charles Spurgeon and praying that God would bless his ministry to become like Spurgeon’s. Which, being translated, can also mean fame and accolades. One day, during the time period he was reading the book, he was jogging when he had the thought, “What about John Spurgeon?” He was Charles Spurgeon’s father. He was a pastor, and the son of a pastor, but if it were not for the world-famous ministry of his son,we never would have heard of him. Cole wrote, “As I jogged, I thought, ‘Would I be willing to serve God faithfully and raise up my children to serve him, even if I never achieved any recognition? Even if no one but my own small congregation knew my name?’”
Then I was driving down the road listening to a CD by Christian artist Rebecca Friedlander. She has a song entitled “Driving” which talks about the desire for more prominence and greater influence. It is written as someone speaking to the Lord, and the chorus is the Lord answering. After telling the Lord of her desire for a more prominent ministry, and how she might even do it “better” than those whose ministries she cites as an example, the Lord answers her and He says, “What is that to you? You’re doing what I told you to / and as long as you are pleasing me, you just leave the driving up to Me.”
Jon Bloom, in May, wrote an article that appeared on the Desiring God web site, an article entitled “You Are God’s Workmanship”. In it, he writes, “No, there is nothing boring about you and there is nothing boring about what God has given you to do today. If you are bored, remember what Chesterton said: “We are perishing for want of wonder, not want of wonders.” Wonder at this: God has prepared just for you what he’s given you to do (Ephesians 2:10). Nothing you do today is unimportant. God is keenly interested in the smallest detail. You don’t need a more wonderful calling; you may just need more strength to comprehend the wonder of his loving ways toward you (Ephesians 3:17–19).”
Just last Friday, a Stephen Altrogge article appeared on Desiring God entitled, “When God Messes With Your Life Plan”. That title got my attention, because frankly, that is exactly what I sometimes feel! In this article, Altrogge wrote this: “Are you in a place you never expected to be? Has God taken you on a path you never would have willfully chosen? Take heart. God hasn’t deserted you. He hasn’t forgotten you. He hasn’t made a mistake. He knows exactly what he’s doing. He knows exactly what you need and where you need to be.”
A couple of Sundays ago I was listening to RC Sproul lecture on Ecclesiastes. The emphasis of Sproul’s lectures was on the meaning of life, the only way in which we can find significance, and the importance of what we do and how we live right now. Sproul referenced his column in Tabletalk, the one that is entitled “Right Now Counts Forever”, and he explained that there are two historical, secular views of the importance of our actions: right now counts not at all, or right now counts only for right now. Ultimately, he said, those are really the same thing—-because if right now only counts right now, it doesn’t really count. However, we know that our actions, our behaviors, our influences will have lasting meaning.
“We are all concerned with the lasting significance of life,” Sproul said. “Any hope of finding significance in your life that is limited to this world is an exercise in vanity (futility).” But, “We live in time and for eternity.”
What we do-—regardless of what position we may hold—-what each of us does this year, and every year, will count forever. One way or the other, it will make an impact. A lasting impact. My prayer is that I will continue to surrender my own selfish goals and schemes and be content allowing the Lord to use me where I am, or wherever He would have me be. May that be your prayer, as well.