Last Sunday, Pastor Dustin spoke about taking hold of our God-given opportunities to lead. If you missed it, be sure to watch the service on the Facebook page, or listen to the podcast here on the church website.
In his message, Pastor Dustin spoke about how Saul appeared to be a good leader; he was tall, handsome, and intelligent, and the people thought this appearance was indicative of good leadership. But as we know, Saul proved to be a poor leader. So we have this relationship between what looks good, and what is actually good; we have a relationship between appearance and truth. And as we see with the example of Saul, these two things don’t always match up.
Two weeks ago, we discussed how we measure progress, and why our measurements might not grant us a proper understanding of our progress. We showed how the truth of our progress might differ from what is observable. And with our previous discussion of measuring progress in mind, this is a good place to continue.
There is a truth to our lives that we rarely observe or understand, and we regrettably neglect to take hold of in practice. This truth is our identity in God, and who He says we are. Throughout scripture, we see many examples of God’s names and callings for our lives. He gives us titles like son, daughter, friend, overcomer, conqueror, new creation, heir, workmanship, member, and many more. But how often do we actually feel like these titles belong to us? How often does the appearance of our lives match these titles?
I know I don’t walk around feeling and appearing like an overcomer or a child of God one-hundred percent of the time. Sometimes, I feel more in tune with those titles than others, but for the most part, I tend to have trouble accepting them. Other times, those titles are nowhere to be found because the appearance of my life is so different from the image those titles inspire. And when we don’t match up to the appearance we think we should have, we choose to accept alternative titles. The titles are either from ourselves, others, or the Enemy. They include: addict, failure, ugly, unqualified, sick, not good enough, missing something, damaged, broken, depressed, or some other lie that can be leveraged to distance us from our true identity in Christ.
This is why the Enemy focuses so heavily on appearances. If he can get us to accept a title other than the ones God has for us, the Enemy can rob us of the plans and callings God has given us. In his book, Crash the Chatterbox, Steven Furtick said to the effect of: “The Enemy tries to use our actions to contradict who we are in Christ.” If our actions or the appearance of our lives is in contention with who God says we are, that difference in appearance can inspire us to deviate from God’s path and identity into one that best matches the appearance. Tough financial times can lead us to think God is not watching out for us. Self-doubt or weakness can lead us to think we don’t have what it takes. Tragedy and evil can cause us to think God does not care about us or others. If it matches our circumstances, we are prone to believe it, even if it is not the truth.
At its core, this is the purpose of sin. Sin uses appearance to inspire action in contention with God’s standards, with the hope that we will continue to distance ourselves from those standards. We all know that sin is appealing. If it wasn’t, we wouldn’t. But we also learn sin is hollow, and does not live up to its appearance. We learn that whatever we thought sin was offering was not received. The same is true for appearance. Ultimately, appearance is nothing but a facade. It is a mirage used to influence our behavior toward compromise. It cannot hold any influence on God’s ability to act in our lives, nor does it impact who God says we are. The only power it has is the power we give it.
One of my favorite portions of scripture is Exodus 4:11. I love it because it undermines the authority claimed by appearances, and sets it back to its rightful owner, God. It looks like this:
Then the LORD asked Moses, "Who makes a person's mouth? Who decides whether people speak or do not speak, hear or do not hear, see or do not see? Is it not I, the LORD?
To put this verse in context, it is important to note that just before it, in verse ten, Moses pleaded with God that he could not lead the Israelites out of Egypt because he was not an effective public speaker. The way Moses interpreted his appearance or circumstances led him to decide that God would be better served sending someone else. But because God sees us the way we truly are, the way He made us, God knew that Moses was the right person for the job because He created him for the job. And even though Moses’s mouth typically had trouble speaking, God made his mouth and knew what it could or could not say. And because it is God who creates us, and tells us who we are, God knows our interpretations of appearances are irrelevant. God’s truth stands despite how it may appear to us.
If I focus on how much I fall short of the appearance I think I should have according to who God says I am, I will never get out of bed in the morning. So, with that being said, I have to find something else to focus on. For me, that is the truth of God’s Word. Even when my circumstances do not resemble who God says I am, I have to choose to trust that God is better at determining truth than I am. God tells us our title, and who we are in Christ; God equips us with the skills, talents, and desires to fulfill the purpose to which He has called us; and He says He will bridge the gap left by our inadequacies with His own power. So tell me, what can appearances offer us that is better than that?