One of the great and humbling realities that followers of Jesus experience is this: God uses you. In his sovereign and eternal plan, God decided to bring about divine good in the world through broken people.
As a pastor, I see many people (myself included) who drift in one of two wrong-headed directions related to their importance to God’s plan. I recently ran across this passage from J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, which powerfully captures this tension:
“Then the prophecies of the old songs have turned out to be true, after a fashion!” said Bilbo.
“Of course!” said Gandalf. “And why should not they prove true? Surely you don’t disbelieve the prophecies, because you had a hand in bringing them about yourself.”
“You don’t really suppose, do you, that all your adventures and escapes were managed by mere luck, just for your sole benefit? You are a very fine person, Mr. Baggins, and I am very fond of you; but you are only quite a little fellow in a wide world after all!”
– J. R. R. Tolkien, The Hobbit
(quoted in Dallas Willard’s The Divine Conspiracy)
DON’T UNDERESTIMATE YOUR IMPORTANCE
We, like Bilbo, may underestimate our importance. Bilbo was obviously aware of all that had happened on his journey, but he had a difficult time believing that he was the one being used to carry out ancient prophecies. Some of us need to comprehend the great honor we have to continue the noble fight of faith and further the long-promised mission of Jesus’ kingdom. You are a part of something greater than your life.
DON’T OVERESTIMATE YOUR IMPORTANCE
On the other hand, we may overestimate our importance. Bilbo had taken on each adventure and survived to tell his story, and he found it tempting to think that the story was his own. Gandalf’s reminder is good for all of us: in the grand adventure, you are very small and you had magical and mysterious help along the way.
The Gospel keeps us from either extreme. We cannot doubt our personal value: Jesus died for us and sent us on a mission. Neither can we depend upon our personal value: it is a generous grace that we get to play a part at all, and the story is certainly about someone of much greater worth.
Live courageously, serve humbly. And never under- or overestimate your importance.
What’s your story? Are you more tempted to overestimate your importance or underestimate it? What helps keep you balanced between the two?