There is a lot said about the two concepts we are going to look at. One is significance in general, and spiritual significance in particular. As people, in general we strive to find significance in life, and also significance with God. In addition, people are always striving to find the meaning of success - the key to success. How are these related? How are they different? Let's take a look at them from a gospel perspective.
OUR HUMANNESS CRAVES RECOGNITION
The Bible might say that it's our flesh that craves recognition. In John 5:44, Jesus tells us this when he talks about us wanting to receive honor from each other, and not the honor that comes only from God: "How can you believe who receive honor one from another, and do not seek the honor that comes from God only?"
Here we see two types of recognition, honor or esteem and praise. One comes from other people in the world, and one comes from God.
THE DEFINITION OF SUCCESS AND SIGNIFICANCE
Paul tells us recognition from the world requires work. It requires success in doing something. It requires achievement. It takes performance. It requires living by some set of laws or rules. It takes application and advancement in some occupation, vocation, business or ministry.
This is a temptation that is common to all of us. Robert McGee of Rapha Counseling Center wrote a book about 20 years ago: The Search For Significance. As a counselor, I have taken their program and have adapted parts of it. He says we wrongly receive our significance through recognition of others.
McGee says this is due to four false beliefs we all carry around with us. He says we fall into (1) the performance trap, (2) which leads to being approval addicts, (3) which leads to blaming ourselves and others by not measuring up, (4) which results in shame.
We measure ourselves and others by means of our possessions, how many toys we have. Our financial achievement also enters in (how much money we earn or have accumulated). Then there is our status, power and influence, -- our image or physical appearance, -- and many other things.
So, success in this world is dependent on us.
SPIRITUAL SIGNIFICANCE V. SUCCESS IN LIFE
As Christians, too often we assess our value and significance to God by means of 'the barometer of sin.' This was the gauge for many centuries. Even John the Baptist preached a message of repentance from sin (Mark 1:4). It was a message of living by law to assess behavior -- which brings significance and approval from God and others.
Our minds link significance with success in life. This is trying to live by the world's ways while trying to please God and relate to him. It doesn't work.
In Galatians 2:19 Paul says that we must divorce ourselves from living by law (any outward evaluation of performance and success) if we are going to live unto God. His implication is clear: if we live by law we are not living in God.
Spiritual significance to God comes from us being joined to Jesus. This is the end of the matter. If we are one with Jesus then we are spiritually significant to God. It doesn't depend on our accomplishments, our performance, or how much money we have.
Jesus says, "Seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you" (Matt 6:33). This is seeking the honor that comes from God only, as Jesus says in John.
This is living in the gospel truth of his kingdom. This is knowing that our imparted righteousness in Christ has nothing to do with US, and everything to do with HIM (II Cor 5:21). It is knowing that we reign as overcomers when we simply RECEIVE God's grace, righteousness, and everything else in his Kingdom (Rom 5:17, Luke 12:32).
BELIEF IS CONTROLLED BY OUR WORLD VIEW
If we adopt the world's ideas of success, then our belief goes off in one direction, but if we adopt God's view of significance, belief goes off in a totally different direction.
So many struggle with belief, trust and faith. In the gospel, these come easily because you're separated and sold out to God's reality, not our worldly reality.
In the verse we looked at in John 5:44, Jesus links our seeking honor from each other (through behavior) as having a negative affect on our belief.
Jesus asks, "How can you believe, who receive honor one of another…?" Our focus should be gospel belief. Jesus says, "Repent and believe the gospel" (Mark 1:15). Thus, I see a direct correlation between our seeking recognition, esteem and praise from others by means of a worldly definition of success vs. gospel UN-belief.
If we're going off down the trail of worldly thinking and ways (our worldview), then the gospel will always be distant and remote to us. McGee says we think recognition and success is all about performing and achieving. But in reality it is all about receiving from God.
THE DEFINITION OF BELIEF
The world's way is all about behavior. God's way is all about belief. The world looks at what we do, and how well we perform. God looks at what we believe. Remember the very first words of Jesus: "Repent and believe the gospel."
Correct gospel belief will eventually produce good behavior -- but good behavior will never produce correct belief.
We receive honor and significance from God by means of our belief, not our behavior. Belief determines spiritual significance to God. He knows if he can get us to trust him and believe his gospel, our behavior will change for the better and we will become more successful in the world's eyes.
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