I was talking with a friend recently who is unemployed and also single. He was really struggling with his sense of meaning and purpose. I talked with him and prayed with him. In light of the sermon I did yesterday morning about the Kingdom of God being like a mustard seed, and the man who sold everything he had to purchase a field which contained the Kingdom of God (Matthew 13:31-33, 44-46), this got me thinking.
There is a lot to take from these short passages, but one of the things that stood out to me is that even the smallest things we do (the seeds), can have huge eternal impacts. In my insecurity, I often feel like for me to have an impact for the Kingdom of God, I need to have a huge church or a huge following. This translates into anxiety and self-deprication pretty quickly when I don’t feel like my church is as big as it should be, or when people I’m sharing the Gospel with reject it or people I’m hoping will continue coming to my church, don’t. The essential feeling is that if I’m not doing anything big, I’m not doing anything of substance.
This same illusion manifests itself in our everyday lives as well, which is where my friend’s feelings of hopelessness were coming from. There is a sense that if we aren’t doing something large, we aren’t doing anything of substance. If we don’t have a career, and a certain salary, and at some point, a spouse and kids, it feels like we haven’t done anything of substance. While finding a career job can give a sense of purpose, it certainly doesn’t always, and the problem is, we are born and raised to believe it will. When someone is asked who they are, they will typically respond with, “a teacher”, “a secretary”, “a pastor”, “a baseball player”. But these things are not who we are, they are simply what we do. This confusion plagues the unemployed and employed alike. The unemployed think they have no meaning because they have no job and the employed think their only meaning is their job.
One of my favorite baseball players committed suicide over the weekend. Ryan Freel played for the Reds from 2003-2008. I and many Reds fans admired Freel for his hard-nosed style of play and all-out hustle. Freel was 36 and left behind his wife and three daughters. While there are many reasons a person may decide to commit suicide, I can’t help but wonder if Freel’s identity was so tied up in being a baseball player that after this title was taken away from him, he lost his sense of meaning and purpose along with it. This may or may not have been the case with Freel, but I do think it’s wise for us all to learn from those who have everything we are taught will give us meaning and purpose (a spouse, kids, a prolific and successful career), yet still find it lacking.
While I believe that ultimately a relationship with Jesus is what is needed for our ultimate sense of value and meaning, Christians still struggle with finding meaning and purpose. This is exactly where my unemployed friend finds himself. Heck, it’s where I find myself on many days.
We need to rediscover that our God is a God of smallness. God isn’t asking us to save the world, Jesus already did that. He’s simply asking us to plant mustard seeds.
This same friend recently volunteered to be a greeter at church every Sunday. Could being a greeter really be equivalent to a great sense of purpose in life? It’s not much to brag about. It’s not saving the world. But what about the people’s days that are brightened by a warm smile? What about the people who can now find the bathroom because of you? What about the people’s who eventually receive Jesus’ forgiveness for their sins and will spend eternity with him because they continued attending church because of the positive interactions they had with you?
We tend to want to find Christian celebrities and put them on a pedestal. As if Jesus were Superman and we need to aspire to be like him. Nope, he was just a regular dude, ask Isaiah. Whenever people begged for more miracles, Jesus wouldn’t do them. He wanted them to know he’s not a magician or a superhero; he’s their friend. Yes, he is God in the flesh, but he came as a small baby, to a poor family, from a small podunk town, without good looks, without political or military power. Small. Like a mustard seed.
But what happens when you plant a seed? GOD makes it grow. GOD does miraculous things with it. GOD makes it reproduce over and over again. GOD takes our small offering and changes the world with it. So GOD can get the glory, not me, or you, or your favorite superhero Christian.
So what is your meaning and purpose in life? To be a seed planter. Planting seeds of the Kingdom of God, so that God can grow them, and those around you will uncover these treasures, realizing they’ve found the most valuable thing in the universe.
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