Advent 3 2017 the fear of insignificance

Today on this 3rd Sunday of Advent that presented themselves to the people in the Christmas story. We have looked at Joseph and the fear of decision making; we have looked at Zechariah and the fear of inadequacy. Today we are going to talk about the fear of insignificance.

Significance is described as the quality of being worthy of attention; importance; and insignificance is the exact opposite.

People populate the Gospels and Acts, yet ‘most of the significant people in Jesus life were distinctly insignificant when evaluated by the traditional criteria for importance. They were not wealthy or famous, nor were they social, business, or government leaders. They were little people of the world with problems and needs similar to ours.’[1]

Think of the first person that Jesus directly revealed that he was indeed the Messiah. She was a woman who had had 4 husbands and was now living de facto with another man.

 

Think of the first person privileged enough to be the first one to see the risen Jesus. She was Mary Magdalene who had been a sex worker.

 

Think of the manual labourers – the fishermen – who became his followers.  Not scholars but people who worked with their hands.

 

Even when we think of the whole concept of God’s chosen people: the whole tribe of Israel was originally an insignificant family group of roaming Bedouin[2]

But we are going to focus on the first people to be told of the birth of Jesus the Messiah. They were shepherds:

 

Luke 2:8 In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: 11 to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying,

14   “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”

 

A flight of imagination: the angel tells them that he brought them great tiding of great joy. was their response along the lines of “Who? Us?”

 

15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger.

 

I wonder if Joseph in the stable with his wife Mary and the baby Jesus just after the birth when the shepherds turned up asked them “What do you want?” and after learning that the angels had appeared to them, he may have asked “Why you? Who are you anyway?” and their response may have been “We’re not important people, but the Lord has spoken to us. Don’t turn us away.”[3]

 

17 When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

Isn’t it fascinating that when God chose to announce the birth of the Messiah to the world, he didn’t inform the rich and powerful leaders of the day? Instead he chose to announce it to shepherds who were tending their flocks nearby.

 

 

The shepherds of Palestine were considered to be the lowest class of people. The nature of their calling prohibited them from frequent participation in the religious rituals of their day, and there were discriminating practices against them with respect to the law courts, for a shepherd was not permitted to give testimony. They were considered to be so unscrupulous and untrustworthy that their testimony was of little value. But although their contemporary society hated them, it seems that they held a special place in the heart of God.[4]

 

Their testimony, although worthless in the law courts of the day, was valued by God. He entrusted to them the first human proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ. They heard the gospel; they came to Christ; they saw, believed and proclaimed. ‘And all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.… The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told’ (2:18, 20).[5]

 

Just like the lowly shepherds, we are not insignificant to the Lord, regardless of how the world may categorise us.  Don’t believe the enemy who says that you are insignificant to God.

 

Let us for a moment consider how we determine our significance.

 

Males feel defined by what we do. Right or wrong, it is a symptom of a deeper problem that all men deal with: significance. We are told that our significance is derived from our occupation, our ability to provide, make money, score a basket, or succeed at what we consider important tasks. This is why men work out, buy big trucks, try to date the “hot” girl, and become workaholics —to feel significant, to prove ourselves. We do okay until something unravels and we have to face the core of who we are. We ask the question, Do I matter? —bringing us face-to-face with where we find our significance. [6]

For women, you women can tell me: is your significance determined by the world through your beauty, clothing, friendships?  Is that the stereotype? It seems from the women’s magazines that those criteria determine a woman’s worth.

Psychologists tell us that there are 3 basic needs inherent in all human nature: the need to belong; the need for significance and the need for reasonable security.  We must belong to something that gives a sense of belonging and a sense of significance and security for now and forever.[7]

 

The world offers a way to get that significance but so does God.

 

We get to choose where we get our significance. We can allow the world to determine our significance by the measures that the world judges – money, possessions, status, beauty, fitness, sporting or scholastic ability – or we can choose to believe our significance by the standard determined by God.

One writer commented: “We must transcend the illusion that money or power has any bearing on our worthiness as children of God.”[8]

The God way will lead to success; the world will lead to constantly seeking, pursuing, comparison and ultimately disenchantment, chasing the elusive dream, always just out of reach.

When we focus on God’s definition of significance, we realise that ‘our significance comes from God and whatever God assigns to us is valuable. You may not be as significant as you would like to be, but you are significant.[9]

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (ROM. 8:1)”

Corrie ten Boom, in her autobiography The Hiding Place:  “In the scripture I learn that God values us not for our strength or our brains, but simply because He has made us. Who knows, in His eyes, a half-wit may be worth more than a watchmaker.”

Jake Byrne in his book, First and Goal: What Football Taught Me About Never Giving Up

 “The NFL determines your worth as a player, but only God knows your true worth. Players work long and hard through pain and suffering, injuries, and pushing themselves further than they imagined going—then poof! A dream is gone. That kind of treatment can really mess with one’s self worth. Getting cut can be deemed a failure, the loss of a lifetime goal. Thankfully, as Christians our worth is not determined by mistakes we’ve made, either accidentally or by stupid stuff we’ve purposely done. Neither is it determined by what anyone else thinks. Our worth is determined by what Jesus Christ has already done.”

 

Our understanding of us being in the image of God is a foundational concept for understanding our significance and purpose. Understanding how we are made in God’s image helps us to see the basis for the dignity and purpose of our life and work.

And secondly, we did not choose God; God chose us.

God chose us in Christ before the creation of the world …he predestined us to be adopted as his children…Ephesians 1:4,5

God chose the shepherds; he chose Mary Magdalene; he chose the Samaritan women; he chose you.

God didn’t choose you based on your qualifications, or resume, or spirituality, or looks, or family. He chose you unconditionally…simply because he loves you.  God doesn’t love you because you were important. You’re important because God loves you.

You are not insignificant; you are significant in God’s eyes and he has revealed his presence to you and will use your significance to further the Kingdom of God.





[1] The word in life study Bible page 1715

 

[2] Powlison, D. A. (2000). “Peace, Be Still”: Learning Psalm 131 by Heart. The Journal of Biblical Counseling, Number 3, Spring 2000, 18, 6.

[3] Bob Mumford  “Hopes and Fears” in Rise Up (undated)

[5] Sproul, 32

[6] Dean, R., & Dean, M. (2013). Real men don’t text: a new approach to dating. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale.

[7] The Unshakable Kingdom and the Unchanging Person (E Stanley Jones) 17

 

[9] Sproul, R. C. The Gospel of God: An Exposition of Romans (pp. 198–199).