The Need for Significance
In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will, to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory.
~ Ephesians 1:10-12
There is a universal human need for significance and identity: we have a built-in need to identify with something or someone greater than ourselves so that we can have a purpose for living.
The problem is that most of us, in varying degrees, have experienced direct and indirect forms of personhood rejection. “Why can't you be like your brother?” “No daughter of mine would do what you just did.” When children hear these things, it's easy for them to conclude that they are not worthy of being members of their family. Or on a more subtle level, parents may make all the decisions for a child, even when he or she is a teenager. This overprotection can convince a person that he is incapable of making his own decisions.
Disheartening experiences with our parents and peers threaten our sense of identity and personal worth.
Before the foundation of the world, God planned to meet our needs, including that of significance and identity, in the redemptive work of Christ. We live in a society that deludes us into thinking that we can get our needs met in the pursuit of something other than God, and yet the God-shaped vacuum in our lives cannot be filled with earthly substitutes.
If we do not find our source of identity in Christ, we will inevitably turn to something or someone else to fulfill this basic need. Christians can easily succumb to the pressure of finding their significance and identity in possessions and status--the right neighborhood, the right house, the right car, the right clothes--rather than Christ.
When this happens, the believer places himself on the same treadmill as his non-Christian neighbors. But even in the rare case when he is able to make enough money to keep up with his desires and achieve significance in the eyes of others, he will still be plagued by a void in his life.
Sometimes we are tempted to think of God as carrying out His plans at our expense. But the biblical portrait of His character as revealed in His costly acts of redemptive love proves that this is a distorted view of God. It is His gracious intention to fulfill our needs and thus draw us to Himself. It is Satan's intention to deceive us into going anywhere--to ourselves, to other people, to things--anywhere but to God in our quest for significance and identity.
The Bible tells us that when we trust in Christ, we become members of a spiritual body that functions as an extension of His incarnation (Eph. 1:9-12,22-23). Here is the true source of our significance (living and ruling with Christ forever) and identity (“You in Me, and I in you”; John 14:20).
God tells us and demonstrates in Jesus that we have extraordinary worth and importance in His sight. Our task is to accept by faith the truths that we have been created in His image to know and enjoy Him forever, that we have been placed in the body of Christ to function as an extension of His incarnation, and that we have been chosen to rule the universe as vice-regents with Christ.
This gives us ultimate significance. Because of this, we can be free from trying to impress others, free from striving after the status gods of our society, free from needing constant praise and public affirmation, and free from comparing ourselves to others.
Heavenly Lord, Let me find my worth in you and not the things of this world. Amen.
~ Ken Boa
Dr. Boa is devoted to a ministry of relational evangelism and discipleship, teaching, writing, and speaking. He holds a B.S. in astronomy from Case Institute of Technology, a Th.M. from Dallas Theological Seminary, a Ph.D. from New York University, and a D.Phil. from the University of Oxford in England. Visit his website at KenBoa.org.