Defining Your Identity
- Steve Brown Key Life Radio Host and Bible Teacher
- 2001 22 Jul
A few years ago I was asked to speak at a retreat. It was one of those occasions when I really wanted to make a good impression. I admired several people there, so I felt it was important to do well. I know. That doesn't sound very spiritual. If I really loved God, I wouldn't be hung up on impressing people. Nevertheless, that's how I felt -- and yes, I've already confessed it.
When I awoke the first day of the retreat, to my horror, I had lost my voice; I couldn't raise it above a whisper.
You've got to understand that God has given me a good speaking voice, and my voice is about the best ministry asset I have (aside, of course, from my wife, Anna). I have always felt that if I didn't have my voice, I wouldn't have much left with which to serve God.
So, I finally got serious with God, right there in my hotel room. I confessed all my sins, made all kinds of promises, pledged my firstborn, if God would only give me my voice back. I told Him I was sorry about wanting to please people so much and that I would never do it again if He would just restore my voice.
Well, God had a different idea, and it didn't fit with mine at all. My voice not only didn't get better, it got worse.
As I got up to teach, great fear still ruled my heart. I knew God had judged me for my sinful desire to please people and, further, I knew I deserved it. But I had forgotten about grace. I do that sometimes.
Then the most wonderful thing happened. As I whispered my teaching into a microphone turned up to high, I noticed that people were listening, really listening. Not only that, I noticed they were visibly moved by what I was saying. God was at work.
After it was over and I was back home -- my panic dissipated -- I could hear the Lord again, and I began to understand the lesson He was teaching me. In effect He told me,
"Steve, I have given you your voice, but whenever I use you, it isn't because of your voice. It is because I have decided to use you. Your problem is that you have learned to define yourself in terms of your voice rather that in terms of My love. You thought you were being judged when you were really being blessed--not because of your goodness but because of My grace. Try to remember that the next time."
I've learned a lot since. I have mostly learned to define myself not in terms of what I do, but in terms of who I am. Better than that, I'm learning to define myself in terms of whose I am. The Father is teaching me that my value lies in belonging to Him, trusting
His direction, and leaning on His grace. My value doesn't come from what He gives me to do but from who and whose I am when I do what He tells me. Put another way, I am valuable because I am loved by God, not because of what I do for Him. Jesus said, "I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much
fruit; apart from me you can do nothing...As the Father has loved me, so have I loved
you. Now remain in my love" (John 15:5,9).
The trouble with most of us is that we sometimes forget we are defined by God's love, acceptance, and grace. Once we understand that and regularly recall where our true identity lies, what happens to what we do -- whether we fail, succeed, change, resign, get fired, or are promoted -- doesn't matter. We are God's own, His children, members of His everlasting family, the objects of His unconditional love. And He bought us with the blood of His very own Son, Jesus Christ. What else really matters? Nothing. Everything else pales into insignificance when compared to that.