(May 2, 1990)
A man once described how foolish it is to think of ourselves as indispensable. He filled a pail with water, stuck in his hand and said, “Notice carefully the hole left in the water after I pull my hand out...”
A few weeks ago, someone told me they doubted they could find a replacement for me regarding a certain responsibility. That felt good, yet at the same time, I remembered the hand in the bucket and the verse of Scripture that says: “...don’t value yourself more highly than you ought... (Romans 12:3). No one is totally indispensable.
However, all of us have a deep desire to be significant, to have value, or have one’s life count for something. Who wants to simply be born, work, eat, sleep, and then die? The challenge is determining what is significant...
Some try making the world’s largest hot dog, or eating the most pie in three minutes, or jumping the highest, or running the fastest. There are world records in just about every category, yet it seems sooner or later each record holder finds himself knocked off the top of the list by another who somehow finds a bigger or better way to do it. Along with the fall from fame comes some loss of that sense of significance.
Others consider significance by the size of their bank account or list of assets. Not ever having a million or two, I don’t know first hand how important mega-bucks make a person feel, but I do know money has a way of never quite being enough... no matter how much is there. If riches make a person feel significant, no doubt the significance never quite seems enough either.
Still others go for it by being available to needy people. A lady once told me her volunteer work made her feel important. Others look for significance in their jobs or their role in the home. Having significance is a legitimate desire -- what are some legitimate ways to fulfill it?
A short Old Testament book tells the story of a Jewish woman, Esther, married to a pagan king who had been duped into passing a law that would result in the slaughter of all the Jews in his kingdom. Anyone who came to him without being summoned was beheaded. The decision lay before Esther; would she risk her life to approach the king on behalf of her people?
Esther’s uncle, an influential Israelite, told her: “If you remain quiet at this time, then deliverance will arise to the Jews from another place; but you and your father’s house shall be destroyed: and who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”
What Esther did would change the course of history. Sure, God could easily preserve His people in other places outside the realm of that king, but the point is, she saw her moment for significance had come... and in the plan of God, her obedience to His law would seal her worth.
There are long-term results of obeying God, even in seemingly insignificant things. For instance, Daniel refused to eat food forbidden by God’s law and wound up being put in a position to tell the people who held him captive about the promise of God to send a Savior to the world. Generations later, a contingent from that same nation sent wise men to worship the Christ child; they knew he was coming because Daniel obeyed God.
The kind of significance that lasts is not in seeking fame, fortune or possessions for ourselves. When we do that, we find that money has wings, fame is fleeting, and possessions eventually find their way to the dump. Instead, significance is the blessing of God in using our obedience to shape history. It is a significance that may not even be seen in our lifetime but will be written down in His book and rewarded long after the applause of the world fades or moves on to the person who did us one better.