We Want to Matter
You and I have this craving in our heart that compels us to have some sort of significance in our lives. We want our lives to matter! In the movie Gladiator Maximus inspires the men following him: "What we do in life echoes in eternity." That is the sentiment echoes in our hearts as well.
In the Gospels we meet a man who had been blessed by God, who was a leader in his community, and who had dedicated himself to moral living; yet deep in his heart he craved for something more. The young man came to Jesus with the question: "What must I do for eternal life." He wanted his life to matter.
Jesus told this young man that the path of eternal significance was to follow him: "If you want to be perfect, go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me" (Matthew 19:21, NLT).
What does following Jesus look like?
1. First it requires giving attention to other people. Jesus asked the young man, who previously said he kept the commandments, to trust God and give all he had to the poor. The problem is that the young man didn't really trust God or love his neighbor. In essence he wasn't really keeping the commandments.
What matters in a life of significance is not about our money or accomplishments, but how we serve each other. Is it not true that the things we are most proud of are those things we have done for other people? We see it in the joy of raising children as well as the joy found in giving twenty dollars to a friend in need. When we help people significance seems to be added to our life.
The reason for this is because only people have eternal value. When we invest our time and energy into another person we are making an eternal investment, one that will last. The Apostle Paul reminds of this truth in Romans 13:8-10:
Owe nothing to anyone—except for your obligation to love one another. If you love your neighbor, you will fulfill the requirements of God's law. For the commandments say, "You must not commit adultery. You must not murder. You must not steal. You must not covet." These—and other such commandments—are summed up in this one commandment: "Love your neighbor as yourself." Love does no wrong to others, so love fulfills the requirements of God's law (NLT).Loving, serving, and helping other people begins to give eternal significance to our lives.
2. It also requires adjusting our priorities. Remember the Jews saw wealth and respect as indications of God’s blessings. Even Jesus’ disciples were amazed that wealth didn’t equate with eternal life (Matthew 19:23-30).
As long as money has existed people have believed it to be the source of security and happiness. Jesus came along and said that money can actually be an obstacle in our search for significance. If we make having money, success, or fame our goal then we will miss out on the life God intends for us to have. We can have all that stuff and still crave a life of significance. Such a life does not echo in eternity because it has not valued what is eternally valuable.
This is what the apostle Paul came to realize:
Whatever happens, my dear brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord. I never get tired of telling you these things, and I do it to safeguard your faith.
Watch out for those dogs, those people who do evil, those mutilators who say you must be circumcised to be saved. For we who worship by the Spirit of God are the ones who are truly circumcised. We rely on what Christ Jesus has done for us. We put no confidence in human effort, though I could have confidence in my own effort if anyone could. Indeed, if others have reason for confidence in their own efforts, I have even more!
I was circumcised when I was eight days old. I am a pure-blooded citizen of Israel and a member of the tribe of Benjamin—a real Hebrew if there ever was one! I was a member of the Pharisees, who demand the strictest obedience to the Jewish law. I was so zealous that I harshly persecuted the church. And as for righteousness, I obeyed the law without fault.
I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ and become one with him. I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ. For God's way of making us right with himself depends on faith.10 I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead! (Philippians 3:1-11; NLT)
The Apostle Paul had ever right to feel like his life was significant when it came to Judaism, yet once he met Jesus he realized all that stuff, all the prestige he had attained, meant nothing when it compared to the eternal significance he had found in Jesus.
We all want our lives to matter by making a difference in this world. Whether we desire fame or just to be a positive influence in the life of another person our souls are craving significance. Jesus tells us that none of this will satisfy this soul craving. Our soul craving of significance can only be met in Jesus.
This is what I want you to remember: We have significance when we follow the call of Jesus. As we follow Jesus he will lead us to give our lives away to those things that have eternal value.
Nobody says, “I want to waste my life when I grow up,” but many people end up doing just that because they don’t know where true significance is found. Following Jesus gives our lives meaning that will never fade away.