By Bill Naron
We have been talking a lot about identity lately, and it has gotten me to thinking about my own identity and where I am finding it. I think about when you have conversations with people and they will ask, “What do you do for a living?” Now normally one would just say, I am a mechanic, or a salesman, etc. I find it interesting because what we do for a living oftentimes can shape our own picture of who we are, and it can become our identity. But what allows us to move to a more stable identity, not centered in doing, but centered on being? I think that it is coming into a deeper understanding of who God is and His character, as stated in Matthew 6:26-33 below:
Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature? And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: And yet I say unto you, that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? Therefore take no thought, saying, what shall we eat? or, what shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. (KJV)
We as a society love to associate titles to so many things and to people. People will say that they identify as this or that, but they are never full — they are always looking for the next thing to make them feel valued or important. What if our identity were rooted in the God of the universe, in the God who reigns over the whole earth? The Bible says, “the earth is the Lord’s and the fulness thereof” (Psalm 24:1). This means that He created everything, and since He created everything, He is not constrained in the same ways we are. This is what Jesus was talking about in the verse above not worrying but seeking the kingdom of God, finding your identity in relationship with the One who made you — not finding it in some societal title you are given or in the work you are doing, because our work is first and foremost the living out of the gospel and shining the light of Christ and bringing glory to God.
I would have been a person whose identity and value was rooted in position at work. But the reality is that in Matthew, Jesus says to seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. All the things that will be added are the things that our Heavenly Father knows that we need. You may be wondering what all this has to do with identity. God’s Word says that the enemy comes to steal, kill, and destroy. I would argue that amongst the things that the enemy wants to steal is our identity. The ways in which it gets stolen is when we buy into how the world says we should acquire identity by pursuing whatever fad or trend the world says should define us. Or maybe we dive into what we do for a career and place our careers above all other things and soon our identity is derived out of who we are at work and how successful we are.
When our identity is rooted in the things that we do and the things we can accomplish, we are not leaving any room for our lives to be pictures of God’s glory and of His grace and mercy. We begin to shape our lives through the gospel, we begin to look at things differently. For myself for example, I now see differently my role at work. My role is not to work hard so that I can make more money and gather more successes; my role is to do my best work and to perform the tasks I am asked to with joy and a cheerful heart because that is what God expects of me as a passionate follower of Him. I perform my tasks diligently so that glory is brought to the name of Jesus, because He is the reason that I am able to do my work in the first place. We are in this place and in our jobs for a reason, and it is not so that we can be more successful and serve ourselves — it is so that we can help accomplish the work that God is doing in that place.
Even though I have grown up in the church, even though I have heard these things before, it spoke to me, and as I reflect upon it, I think it is because I myself struggled with my identity being wrapped up in my job and in the things I was doing. It was tied to the successes I was having and that was driving me to want to devote more and more of myself to my job. Everything would filter through how it would affect my job. Then, as I read and reflected on the verses in Matthew 6, it became clearer to me that if I am to be a disciple and my identity is to flow out of that, then the physical places that God has me are my mission field, and they are the places that God has put me to fulfill His purpose and to be a light and a voice that draws in and calls back the lost sons and daughters that He wants to redeem. And I do not need to worry about anything, because God will provide, just as He does for the grass and the lilies and the birds of the air. He will provide the things I need, and I do not need to worry about where they will come from.