True greatness is not about accomplishing great works, achieving great positions or “success,” or fulfilling one’s destiny or “calling.”
I challenge you to go back and read again the above sentence. Several times. Do you believe these words are true, or have you already begun to explain them away saying, “Yeah, except …” or, “I agree, but …”? Granted, on the surface it sounds counterintuitive. It may come across like the opening lines from a suspect motivational speech ending in, “That’s why I’m living in a van, down by the river!” So what then? Do I suggest shunning hard work and making a name for oneself?
Now, before you run off and vote socialist in upcoming elections and live off government largess (made available by China, Japan, and your hardworking neighbor), consider that the above statement is not a call to inaction. Rather, it is an invitation to shake off the malaise of discontent induced by a life lived off target. Being “driven,” “working hard,” “going the extra mile,” and “striving for excellence” can each be positive characteristics. The problem comes not from the degree of effort exerted, but the expected outcome. It is when we hold tightly to our vision, our calculated plan, that we set aside the purposes of God and relegate ourselves to lesser positions, though they might seem more desirable to human eyes.
Finding one’s strength in outcomes is alluring, precisely because it appeals to our sinful flesh. It does not require faith, which is what God desires, but relies on what can be seen, felt, experienced. Yet faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the men of old gained approval (Hebrews 11:1-2). God has a grand plan, conceived in perfect wisdom and born of perfect love. Jesus tells us not to work for food that perishes, nor gather treasures upon the earth (John 6:27; Matthew 6:19). He also warns us concerning seeking the approval of men rather than that of God (Matthew 6:1-2, 5).
So what of this “making a name for oneself”? The truth is, God already has a name for you: son, daughter, and fellow heir with Christ. The question is not whether to trade a life spent pursuing significance for one of insignificance. Rather, it is a question of determining who decides what is significant—you, or the Lord? Are you willing to submit to His plans and His purposes? Will you trust that He knows what He is doing and where He is leading you, though you know not the details? Are you willing to trust God in the routine, in the “small things?” Are you willing to let God organize the priorities of the life He wants to live through you? You are not your own; you were bought at a price (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
Rest assured, “significance” is exactly what God has planned for you, though it may not look as you imagined, and it certainly will not be within your control. Unwittingly, a musical ensemble by the name of Pink Floyd illustrates in their song, “Wish You Were Here,” a choice and a warning for us: “Did you exchange, a walk-on part in the war, for a lead role in a cage?”