What Gives You Significance?
Are you significant? Do you matter?
If you think so, may I ask why? What makes you significant?
Is it your intelligence, your education, your money, your influence, your position, your ambition, your reputation, your accomplishments, your attractiveness, your posse? Or, is it something else?
Nobody truly wants to be irrelevant, unknown, unnoticed, unloved, unwanted, unneeded.
So, is everyone significant and everything equally significant?
In the disgruntled words of Dash from The Incredibles, "When everyone's special, then no-one is."
If you check out dictionary.com you'll find this: for something to be significant it must be "important and deserving of attention; of consequence."
Well now, by that definition we might tend to admit that sometimes we are significant, and sometimes we are not. Or it might be more accurate to say that occasionally we are signifiant, but usually we are not.
Now there is certainly a feeling of safety to be found in insignificance. If what we do is of no consequence whatsoever, then we can do as we please and nobody will suffer for it.
That possibility has a dark and sinister appeal to it.
Yesterday I watched a video recording of William Lane Craig describing and defining the meaning of the word "significance." He was speaking to lady who seemed to be a critic and a cynic. My layman's interpretation of his claim is that to the atheist and naturalist, (if they are to be intellectually honest and reasonably consistent) nothing matters. Without God in the equation, everything will end up in entropy. If there is no God and all things are just material, then ultimately chaos will prevail and all heat will be lost. This is observable reality. Eventually absolute zero will be the universal temperature and all events will cease. And logically, if there is nothing we can do to avoid that result, then everything we do is inconsequential. Nothing is significant. And if nothing is significant, then nobody is significant. Life is meaningless.
Obviously, I don't buy that. Neither did the lady Craig was addressing. She postulated that things can have significance even if they are transitory (temporary). That is, she took a completely subjective view. According to her line of thinking, based upon momentary experiences, a thing becomes significant because someone feels that it is significant.
She has a point. But when she dies her point will die with her; at which point her opinion will no longer be significant.
I'm being ironic and facetious on purpose, yet my observation also has merit. If significance is subjective (based on experience) rather than objective (based on fact), then it must also vary. And if the observer ceases to exist then so too does his (or in this case, her) observations.
But wait. Actually, she has a good point. She said that suffering matters subjectively. Of course someone else can just as easily claim that it doesn't. I doubt that the suffering of mosquitoes matters. You may disagree, but I bet (given the opportunity) I could change your mind.
Here's the rub and how she was onto something. For a thing to be significant, there has to be a purpose; an aim; a goal. And, that goal must be a lasting one. If the rim height, circumference, angle, and shape of the rim was constantly in flux in a basketball game, the skill the players learned while practicing on a standard 10' hoop would lose its relevance rather quickly. Add constant rule changes and exchange the basketball with a hockey puck and then a badminton shuttlecock and then a marble and everything descends rapidly into complete absurdity. The significance of the skill depends on the consistency of the purpose.
Naturally, the way someone feels about a thing has significance, but that is only true because God cares about it too. Since God is eternal and He has made us to be eternal like Himself, everything He does and everything we do is relevant; significant; important.
Jesus indicated that every person is significant and even that every thought, word, and action is significant. But why is that so?
He said that one soul is of more worth than all the wealth in the world. How?
Immutable longevity. When all the world has passed into nonexistence (and it will), the soul will still live on. And, everything that soul ever did will still have been done and will still retain its relevance and impact.
This is why Paul wrote that even our eating and drinking should be done to the glory of God. God is watching. He doesn't forget. Nothing can be undone. He has declared that all things will be evaluated and judged. He has declared that eternal punishment and eternal rewards henge on our present existence.
Suddenly the appeal of absurdity gains momentum for sure. Can you feel the suffocating weight of the realization that everything matters? If we are thinking clearly about this, we will spontaneously cry out for a solution. I can't bear imagining that nothing matters. Neither can I bear realizing that everything matters. I want some things to matter and other things to be irrelevant. If that's the paradigm then maybe I can bargain with my opportunities and invest periodically in significant things, right? The rest of the time will be downtime and I can just chillax.
But there's a problem. This is just wishful thinking. There is no authoritative and absolutely trustworthy source that declares this kind of convenient reality.
So what do we do?
The answer (not surprisingly) is: grace.
A system of merit is a reasonable system. Do all the right things and you will get all the right results. Of course, everybody else would also have to do all the right things too, because in the real world the actions of others have ramifications for me too. But a strictly meritorious system that works for our good is an unattainable fantasy. Under merit we all perish. And the demise we face under a fair arrangement is actually much worse than it would be in a meaningless and absurd naturalistic system. At least under THAT theory the pain would have an end. In reality we know that it doesn't. Hence, hell.
So we are back to the gospel once again aren't we? All legitimate roads lead back to Jesus. All others lead to damnation. But the gospel sets us free. Not just from sin, Satan, self, and suffering. The gospel sets us free from the burden of having to carry the load of the significance of every deed and every moment. Grace and only grace can do this. Jesus did for us what we could never do for ourselves. He not only died in our place, but He lived in our place. His perfect record of righteousness is credited to your account and mine (if you are a believer). And all of His significance cancels out all of our pitiful lack.
Now we serve Him out of a sense of love and gratitude, not under the burden and fear of eternal consequences.
Maybe you got lost in some of the meanderings of this blog entry. Let me simplify it for us both.
What gives you significance? Jesus.
Not your efforts, not your track record, not your intentions, not your sacrifices. Jesus shed His blood and gave His life for your redemption. He payed for you. You are His. And He has promised to keep you FOREVER. This is enough to both prove the actuality of your significance and also to assure you of your sense of significance.
Jesus loves me. There and only there can I find my significance. It is only because He says so that I have any value, importance, and consequence. I am a trophy of His grace. And so are you!
Pay attention to me, because in so doing you will see Him at work.