Aside from working a few side jobs here-and-there, I’ve been out of work for nearly four months now. As the weeks continue to pass, the doubts continue to arise:
What am I doing with my life? Am I really called to be a pastor or a leader? Is this really what God wants me to pursue? Or am I wasting my time? Should I just give up?
More and more, I’ve begun to question myself, my calling and my worth as a man of God. As I’ve been realizing and thinking through these insecurities that have recently become apparent, the issue has become clear. This is not a job issue; this is an identity issue.
I Am Not What I Do
For as long as I’ve been a follower of Jesus, I’ve also been a leader in the local church. To me, following Jesus and leading people are synonymous. It’s all I’ve ever known.
In some ways, there can be a tremendous benefit to this mindset. In other ways, it can be dangerous and misleading. Personally, it’s come to be the latter.
Our identity is who we are. Over the years, I’ve come to associate my calling as a pastor with my identity as a Christian. But the two were never meant to be married. Pastor and Author Paul David Tripp wrote about a season in ministry where he felt similarly:
My faith had become a professional calling. It had become my job. My role as a pastor was the way I understood myself. It shaped the way I related to God. It formed my relationships with the people in my life. My calling had become my identity.
Since my faith in Jesus and my work for Jesus had always been married, I mistakenly had been viewing my relationship with God based on both my faith in Jesus and work for Jesus.
My identity as being a Christian was not simply based on what Jesus had already accomplished on our behalf. Instead, I was living as though my identity was also based on my own works. Timothy Keller comments on this issue, “When work is your identity, success goes to your head and failure goes to your heart.” I’ve believed in salvation by faith alone through grace alone and yet have lived as though His grace was not enough.
I’ve been in the middle of an identity crisis.
I Am What He Has Done
When we become saved, God changes who we are. He no longer looks at us based on our own works and failures. Instead, He chooses to look at us and see the perfect Jesus in our place. Paul puts it this way in a letter he wrote to the church in Galatia:
My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
We are not what we do. Instead, we are what God has already done through Jesus. As followers of Jesus, our relationship with God and identity of who we are is defined solely based on what Jesus accomplished through His humbling incarnation, His sinless life, His sin-atoning death, and His sin-conquering resurrection and ascension.
You are not defined by what you do but by what Jesus has done.
Who Are You?
What about you? Who or what have you been allowing to influence and define your identity aside from Jesus? Everyone has an identity and everyone allows outside voices to contribute their opinion. Paul David Tripp summarizes this reality:
Either you will be getting your identity vertically, from who you are in Christ, or you will be shopping for it horizontally in the situations, experiences, and relationships of your daily life.
If you’re like me and you’ve been allowing things other than Jesus to define your who you are, here are some great resources to check out:
- Dangerous Calling: Confronting the Unique Challenges of Pastoral Ministry by Paul David Tripp
- Identity: Who You are in Christ by Eric Geiger
- Who I Am in Christ: A Devotional by Neil T. Anderson
- Who Am I? Identity in Christ by Jerry Bridges