One thing we all have in common is the need for significance. We all want to be somebody special. Somebody significant. Someone that others look up to.
I was a large baby. And when I say large, I mean large. Eventually, I got smaller. The baby fat disappeared, and I took on the shape of a small, Dennis the Menace figure. Yes, I was mischievous, always into everything. But I was small. I didn’t grow taller until late in high school. Needless to say, I was not the strongest or fastest boy. So, I did what anyone wanting to insure their well-being in Junior High would do…I hired a bodyguard. One of my closest friends was also the strongest, biggest boy in Seventh Grade. I had worked out a plan with him for clearing the way for me through the hall and making sure that no one gave me any trouble. The plan? Our school lunch cost 90 cents per day. Naturally, I would have a dollar to pay for that lunch. Extra milk (chocolate) cost 10 cents. My friend, a.k.a. my bodyguard, would provide the protection and clear path to my locker for the grand price of an extra milk at lunch. And boy did I feel important.
We all want to be somebody special. We all want significance. We all want our lives to count. Think about Jesus and significance. In John 12, Jesus predicts his death. But what is he teaching? The Greeks who came to worship at the feast wanted to “see” Jesus. Jesus began speaking so the crowd would hear. They began to question what he was talking about. So, what’s the point? Jesus likens the kernel of wheat to his own life. Jesus is not seeking his own life. He seemingly hates his own life (v. 25). Jesus is seeking the life of others. He is letting go of himself for the sake of all others.
Life is challenging. We often feel as if we are sinking in our own difficulties. Jesus said, “Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name’” (John 12:27-28). Do we trust God enough to know that he is in control? Do we trust that he can bring about good in any circumstance? Jesus admits that even though his heart is troubled, he will still trust in God. Should we do any less? Part of the issue is that we struggle with patience. We are often impatient. We want results now. Paul said, “Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance…” (Romans 5:2-3). The hardships of the faithful follower of Christ will produce within us patience. Phillips Brooks once said, “The trouble is that I’m in a hurry, but God isn’t.” Margaret Thatcher said, “I am extraordinarily patient provided I get my way in the end.” Aren’t we all?
How do we let go of our goals and discover what God wants to do? We must become like a kernel of wheat that falls to the ground and dies. We must realize that our understanding is not complete. We must “see” that God’s way is always better than our own. True significance begins when we surrender our lives to God. This requires a great deal of trust in God. We must lose our life in order to find it.
Robert J. Morgan tells of a story of courage as seen in the life of Martin Niemoller. He shares,
In 1934, Adolf Hitler summoned German church leaders to his Berlin office to berate them for insufficiently supporting his programs. Martin Niemoller, a minister, explained that he was concerned only for the welfare of the church and of the German people. Hitler snapped, “You confine yourself to the church. I’ll take care of the German people.” Niemoller replied, “You said that ‘I will take care of the German people.’ But we too, as Christians and churchmen, have a responsibility toward the German people. That responsibility was entrusted to us by God, and neither you nor anyone in this world has the power to take it from us.”
Hitler listened in silence, but that evening his Gestapo raided Niemoller’s rectory, and a few days later a bomb exploded in his church. During the months and years following, he was closely watched by the secret police, and in June 1937, he preached these words to his church: “We have no more thought of using our own powers to escape the arm of the authorities than had the apostles of old. We must obey God rather than man.” He was soon arrested and placed in solitary confinement.
Dr. Niemoller’s trial began on February 7, 1938. That morning, a green-uniformed guard escorted the minister from his prison cell and through a series of underground passages toward the courtroom. Niemoller was overcome with terror and loneliness. What would become of him? Of his family? His church? What tortures awaited them all?
The guard’s face was impassive, and he was silent as stone. But as they exited a tunnel to ascend a final flight of stairs, Niemoller heard a whisper. At first, he didn’t know where it came from, for the voice was soft as a sigh. Then he realized that the officer was breathing into his ear the words of Proverbs 18:10, “The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.”
Niemoller’s fear fell away, and the power of that verse sustained him through his trial and his years in Nazi concentration camps.
Losing our life for the sake of God requires great courage. When we truly come to a deep understanding of who God really is, all our fears will disappear, revealing a strength that only God can provide. True significance begins when we surrender our lives to God.