Identity in the big. Influence in the small.
This post is derived from a talk Lucy gave at Hills Road Sixth Form College Christian Union on Friday 3rd October 2014. We hope it will encourage you to root yourself firmly in your identity in Christ, to pursue humility and authenticity in relationships and to influence those around you as you aim to shine for Jesus day by day.
Before I wrote this piece, I thought a lot about my time at school, and the lessons that I learnt there. I adored school and learnt a lot - but the pressures of the school environment also made it a tough place.
Not only at school, but in most situations in life, there are pressures going on all around us. There is pressure to also be high-achieving, to be popular, to be successful, intelligent, liked – a pressure to appear sorted. But I've realised that my own desires to be all these things actually all stem from a desire for one thing: recognition.
In a school of 2000, you don’t get an awful lot of recognition. And in a world of 7 billion, surely it's almost impossible for us to gain any solid recognition for ourselves? What is our identity, our purpose, our place in this world?
“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” 1 Peter 2:9
Here is the recognition that we are all searching for - and incredibly, not only are we simply recognised, but we are affirmed, loved, valued and given identity by our Creator.
Identity in the big
How does 1 Peter 2:9 show us this identity?
- It tells us that God called us out of darkness into His wonderful light – so through Jesus dying for us to save us from our 'darkness' (sin), we are redeemed, restored and brought into relationship with God.
- It tells us that we are God’s special possession – not just another number, another student in the corridor, another person barely keeping their head above water - God loves us and sees us as precious and valued!
- It gives us purpose: that we might declare God’s praises. That we should tell the world of Jesus Christ and God’s saving grace. That we should tell our friends about how we have been brought from darkness to light.
So: we have our identity and our purpose in the big, in God's large-scale design for us. But how do we reconcile our big, life-affirming identity in Christ, with our seemingly mundane day-to-day habits? Sometimes I don't feel very influential at all!
Thinking more about this, I realise that there must be a difference between world-centred-influence and Christ-centred-influence. The world tells us to be self-focused, to value our own happiness above all else - to be the stars of our own show. But instead, I want to start pursuing a different kind of influence...
Influence in the small.
In my head, influence appears as big, strong, bossy, and powerful. Influence comes dressed in a suit, sure of itself, loud in its opinions. But who is the most influential person to have ever walked this earth?
Yet Jesus came to the world not in a suit, not raging on a chariot as the expected, powerful Messiah; but in a manger. And He died on a cross.
Jesus inverted expectations and dismantled the idea of power and influence as the world sees it. His influence travelled in many ways – yes, definitely in the large-scale and in the eternally significant: through his miracles, through his glorious resurrection; but actually also in the small.
But I can also think of two ways that Jesus 'influenced in the small', things that we can start modelling ourselves, as we seek to live lives that honour Jesus and present Him as glorious to our friends:
1. Christ-like humility
You will be different, distinctive and influential if you seek to develop the humility of Jesus. Humility will draw people to you, just as they were drawn to Him.
This means you can stand firmly on your security in Christ, and you won’t be distracted by wanting to push yourself forward, but you can instead be outwards-looking and can shine for Jesus.
Therefore, humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, so that at the right time he may lift you up. (1 Peter 5:6)
Once we look past ourselves – we can be influential in the small, rooted in our big identity.
I want to suggest one specific challenge for you as you read this post - something that you can start seeking to do in your own day-to-day lives. It's a challenge that I adore from Ty Gibson, taken from one of my old posts titled The Love Challenge:
“Go out of your way to connect with at least one new person this year in a consistent personal way, preferably somebody who seems alone or boring or obnoxious or marginalized or awkward or silent. Because people limp due to the fact that they’re wounded, and wounded people begin to heal and normalise and flower into their potential beauty through gracious human contact.”
Rooted in our big identity, we can start to point others to Jesus. We won't simply be seeking the popular and the attractive – but we'll be freed to seek the lost and weak. We can be radically, counterculturally humble.
How glorifying! How influential! How large-scale – yet in the seemingly small!
2. Christ-centred relationships
The second way in which we can start to influence in the small is through doing relationships in a Christ-like way. John 11:35 is the shortest verse in the Bible. Two words:
Jesus wept after speaking with Lazarus’ grieving sisters, Martha and Mary. This sounds like a normal context for grief - but yet Jesus was there by the tombside, because he was about to raise Lazarus! Why then, was he crying?
John Piper says a lot more about this verse here. But I'm intrigued as to how could Jesus could do this? And it seems it is because He was SO firmly rooted in his identity. I think this is a display of the raw humanity of Jesus. He loved deeply, and did every bump, twist and turn of life with his friends.
Jesus was always his Father’s Son. He was found spending time with his Father, always found in His Father's house.
What do people say about us? Do they recognise us primarily as our Father's daughters?
I know that I fall very short of being identified primarily as my Father's daughter. However, I would love to start trying to influence in the small, by being so clearly rooted in my big identity, that I can laugh with my friends when they laugh, and cry when they cry. I would love to be recognised as firmly rooted in the identity my Father gives me.
I want to influence my friends by doing life with them, by constantly pointing them to Jesus in all the small, seemingly insignificant things that we experience together day to day. This is salt-and-light living!
“Be blameless and pure, children of God without a fault, in the midst of a warped and twisted generation. Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky, as you hold firmly to the Word of life.” (Philippians 2:15-16)
We can shine only by holding firmly to Jesus, rooted in our identity in Him. Amen!
Lucy founded More Precious in 2013 whilst studying at Durham University, and has had the humbling experience of overseeing its growth ever since. She is passionate about communicating what it means to be in relationship with God to girls and young women. Lucy now lives in London and goes to Holy Trinity Clapham church.