Our need for Significance

Reflections on Belief: Part 2

Many Christians substitute an abstract doctrine for belief. It’s like we’ve read the menu and missed the meal. All the while, beliefs of the heart can be a feast.

One deep desire drives every human heart: we need to be significant. We need to know we matter.

Our need transcends doing something special; we long for being something special. Winning the third grade Spelling Bee didn’t satisfy, and neither will writing a Pulitzer Prize poem.

Irving Berlin wrote 1500 songs, including God Bless America and White Christmas (and 1498 other songs!). George Gershwin said he was the greatest composer America ever produced. Yet after Berlin’s death his daughter wrote,

The trouble was, no matter how much he achieved, somehow, as soon as he achieved it he immediately fell into a discouragement and despair. He would say “I’ll never be able to do that again, I’ll never write a song like that one.” *

Justification by Faith is God’s answer for our need to matter. It is a being not a doing. But we treat it like a winning lottery ticket that we keep un-cashed in a dresser drawer. We have it, but we don’t draw on it. We see it as a ticket into heaven for tomorrow when he wants us to cash it in for today.

Somehow we’ve learned to live lives divorced from deep beliefs. Like a legally separated couple, we are technically married but devoid of deep conversation, intimate embrace, and passion. God wants our Justification to arouse our passions. Of his Joy in us.

Jonathan Edwards said there are two ways to know the sweetness of honey. We can study it under a magnifying glass; or we can taste it. God says there are two ways to know Justification by Faith. We can study it on paper; or we can taste it.

So how do we taste Justification by Faith?

Colin Smith wrote:

God is not like the government, responding to unforeseen circumstances and making adjustments for unintended consequences … Redeeming sinners … was God’s plan from the beginning. … Christians find joy in knowing that God’s plan will lead to the greatest possible display of his glory and the greatest possible joy for his people. (The Gospel as Center, chapter 6)

God knew what he was doing when he placed the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the garden. He allowed us to taste evil so we could eventually taste his joy in us.

Tasting evil?

There are two ways to know the horror of the Ebola Virus. We can study it under a microscope; or we can contract it.

And we’ve all contracted it.

We really were infected. We say, “I didn’t deserve it,” or “I was never as bad as so-and-so;” but these protests are irrelevant: we were infected with the Ebola Virus.

Ebola Virus—a hemorrhagic fever—causes intense fever, internal and external bleeding, severe headaches, vomiting, and diarrhea. We tried to pretty ourselves up; we combed our hair and clipped our nails, but we failed to hide the revolting bleeding and the dissolution of our internal organs. Our self-cleaning was like dressing a corpse.

And there was no cure. Because doing—combing and clipping—is not being.

Until Jesus came to heal us.

When Jesus healed us, two things happened. He touched us and we were instantly clean. The internal and external hemorrhaging stopped; the unbearable pains vanished; and the vomiting and diarrhea ceased. Instantly. We were clean.

But to do this, he had to take our place. He contracted the virus himself. He felt the fever, the headache, the bleeding, the tissue necrosis of internal organs, and the putrification. He took the virus in our place. And then he died from it.

God did this because we are significant. We matter. To him.

Our deepest need is to sense his love in our hearts, a love that took this evil, horrific disease upon himself. We need this for a life that lives Justification by Faith. He took this horror to show his immeasurable love. For us. To him we are of utmost importance.

Remember. He knew before creation what we would cost. He made us to love us, and he made us to know it. He did it so we could know he did it, for the joy set before him.

To the degree we can capture this image in our hearts—that we are healed at the cost of his taking our infection, joyfully—to that degree we taste sweetness.

We no longer have to do anything for our joy. We merely have to be his joy.

This sense of being his significance—the significance which we ultimately crave—cannot be stolen by a spouse’s insensitivity, or by failing a Spelling Bee, or by losing a promotion. Christ took the ultimate horror for us, and because of us. In Joy (Heb. 12:2).

We do nothing so we can be something.

Then, when we know we are significant, we can go do somethingsignificant. We become men and women of glory who act in glory, reflecting God’s glory. God’s glory is transmitted through us.

It’s only when we are that we can do. And once we are, what we do is glorious!

Do we want to live significant lives in the reality of Justification by Faith? Let’s reflect on his healing of our horror, and we’ll taste the sweetness of his honey.

(See also, Reflections on Belief: Part 1.)


* I heard this quote in a Tim Keller sermon, but I forget which one.

© Copyright 2012, Beliefs of the Heart, Ltd. All rights reserved.


5 Responses to Our need for Significance

  1. joseph villa says:

    I love that. The line ‘it’s only when we are that we can do‘ rings so true for me. Sam, thank you for sharing that.

    • Hi Joseph,

      That line has been ringing loudly in my heart recently, like the old church bells used to ring in the hours.

      We normally have it backwards; we try to do in order to be. But it hasn’t worked our entire lives! Christ is the only one who simply gives us the ability to be … To be his beloved.

      Thanks for your comment.

  2. Bruce says:

    Dearest Brother,

    I’ve been looking at this screen for a while, asking God for His words to give back to you in response to this OH SO important message!! I think He is saying to me that I am saved but that I still want the credit for what I DO for Him in the mistaken belief that it will give me confirmation that I’m a pretty good guy.

    The pats on the back feel good; for a while (ala Gershwin in your teaching below). I think that if I can just string enough pats on the back together that before the glow of the last one diminishes, I can earn another and just continue to live in the “highs” and not experience the “lows” too much. It’s all a counterfeit but I keep telling myself (or Satan whispers in my ear) that these more or less continuous “highs” are the real thing and that they are REAL significance.

    I think I fall for that lie because I can see, hear, smell and touch the source of the pats on the back and that numbs me from taking the “leap of faith” that Jesus and His salvation is more than I could ever conceive of in terms of my significance to Him. I know that’s no excuse but it’s what I think I’m hearing in truth from the Father.

    This reminds me of the joke (which I have probably already told you-forgive me or you may have already heard from somewhere else) that has the guy falling off a cliff and grasping the trunk of a small tree growing out of the cliff face. He is hanging there with no way up and no way down and yells up to the cliff top for help. A heavenly voice says to him to just let go and that He will catch the guy and bring him to safety. The guy (me) considers this for a few seconds and then yells up to the cliff top, “Is there anyone else up there?”.

    Not sure that matches but there it is.

    “Lord, help me to leap into your arms and taste the fullness of salvation so my doing will be coming from my “being””.
    Wonderful to receive your teachings; always challenged to live the fuller life with Him.

    Hope you are well. Love and Blessings,

    Bruce :~)

    • Hi Bruce,

      You touch on an excellent point: where do we find reality, in the physical world, in the spiritual world, or in our hearts? And the answer, I guess, is really in all three.

      Christ came into the physical world (really and truly, in history, even if it was before our time) to bring us a new spirit, and to touch our hearts. Somehow what we see with our eyes seems more real (like the car that just drove by) and yet that car means nothing compared to the love we receive; so somehow meaningful reality has to do with the heart as well.

      I tried to touch that reality with the Ebola Plague metaphor; but I need to review it on myself over and over. I have to understand that metaphor in my heart; I never really saw the sinful nature the same as Christ did. But I strongly believe that getting ourselves to reflect on it makes it come alive (that is, our deadness comes alive…alas for mixed metaphors!).

      Thanks for your comments, as always.


  3. Jim McFarland says:


    To Do is so much clearer because we know what our capacity and limitations are. We know enough to bring in others or resources to get the job done.

    When God asks us to Be, its personal & we are on our own. He asks us at times like Linus to let go of a familiar blanket. Other times we are asked to Be what we have never been. Either to change out of familiar garments to ones that are 2-3 times too big, or to something we are sure is ill suited for the climate or terrain we are asked to walk through.

    When we do though, we get to experience what the boy with fish and loaves did. Wonder and amazement what God can do when we offer what we have.

    Let the feast begin, each offering what we have and relying on God to bless.

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