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Chasing Endurance, Issue #005 -- The Identity Edition
February 28, 2016
Have you ever asked yourself that most important of questions: “Who Am I?” Do you find that you define yourself based on your job, your relationships or the way you’re feeling at a particular moment in time? We’re calling this ‘The Identity Edition’ as we seek to answer that most important question based on what the Bible has to say.
In this edition we'll have:
Who Am I? Answers from God’s Word
Who am I? That seemingly innocent question can be answered in a myriad of ways. I am a woman. I am Jamaican. I am a mother, a wife, a friend, a daughter, an employee… The answers could go on and on.
Yourdictionary.com states that “The definition of identity is who you are, the way you think about yourself, the way you are viewed by the world and the characteristics that define you.” Examples include a person’s name or nationality.
The media attempts to answer the question of who we are by giving us conflicting and competing answers. Billions of dollars are spent each year as advertisers try to convince us that we can be better persons if only we had the latest gadget. We’re not going to be happy, they tell us, if we’re not drinking Brand X or eating at So-And-So Restaurant. If we don’t a certain body type and maintain a particular weight and dress in certain clothes, we won’t be accepted, they subtly imply.
Oh how easily we fall into the trap of defining ourselves by the dictates of society! Don't copy the behavior and customs of this world, we are told in Romans 12:2 (NLT), but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God's will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.
When we truly want to know who we are, we need to dig into God’s word to find out what it says about us. This month I want to share just three things that God says about us for those times when we get tempted to define ourselves by society’s standards:
1. We are remarkably and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14 HCSB) – An advertiser can tell us that we should weigh x amount on the scales but even today, scientists are still trying to figure out the complexity of metabolism. Jehovah made each one of us individuals. He wants us to be the person He created us to be.
Now, I’m not saying that we are supposed to eat whatever and whenever we want and not take care of our bodies (see point number 2). Of course not! What I am saying is that we need to be awed by the complexity of our bodies. We should spend some time learning about how the body works and give glory to God. Instead of focusing on the fact that it may not look the way we think it should, rejoice in the Creator who formed us.
2. Our bodies are the temples of the Holy Spirit (I Corinthians 6:19). The apostle Paul encourages us to flee immorality because we have been bought with a price and need to glorify God in all things (I Corinthians 6:18-20). We need to fill ourselves up with the things that edify and that are befitting of who we are in Christ.
To use an analogy, if someone bought us a brand new car and told us that all we had to do was to take care of it, I’m almost 100% certain that most of us would accept the offer. We would read the manual that came with the car, wash it often, clean the interior, fill it with the right type of petrol and ensure that it gets regular checks at the mechanic.
In the same way we need to read the manual that came with our bodies – the Bible. Doing so will tell us that we need to consume the right types of things to ensure that we’re growing in our relationship with God. All our choices need to be filtered through Colossians 3:17 and 1 Corinthians 10:31 - whatever we do, our speech and our actions - should be done in the name of the Lord Jesus. Even eating and drinking should be done to the glory of God.
3. We are the apple of God’s eye (Zechariah 2:8). We use the phrase “apple of my eye” when we want to highlight that thing or person that we cherish above all else. This is what God thinks of us – He cherishes us above all things. Can you think of any identity more important than that? Just take a few seconds to say – “I am the apple of God’s eye.”
Didn’t that make you feel good? Jehovah’s thoughts are focused on us. When we look in the mirror we should feel confident that the King of the Universe has His eyes on us (II Chronicles 16:9).
There are hundreds of other things that the Bible tells us about the identity that we have in Christ. I encourage you to thumb the pages of your Bible (or scroll the pages of one on the internet) to find other things that God says about us.
Naomi: The Woman Who Found Her Identity in Family
The book is entitled Ruth. But there is another female who is very visible in the story: Naomi. The chapter opens with Elimelech relocating his family to Moab because of a famine in Bethlehem. Imagine the bustle of the little family as they sought to pack up all their belongings for the journey that is estimated to be 30-60 miles depending on the route. Now, by today’s standard that’s not very far. Until we remember that they’re making this journey without the technology that we enjoy today. No cars. No buses. No trains. No aircrafts. Then it becomes a 7-10 days trip.
They must have found decent living conditions because we are told in Ruth 1:2 that they “remained there”. Then Elimelech dies. Naomi is left with her sons Mahlon and Chilion. They were old enough to work by this time and both of them married Moabite women.
For a time, Naomi was content. The house was filled with the sound of laughter and conversation and she had female companionship. Her boys had grown up into men and she was pleased and as proud as any mother could be. Then Mahlon and Chilion both die.
In 10 years her entire world has changed. She came to Moab as a young wife with a husband and a family. Now she had nothing. No home. No children. No grandchildren. Even the daughters that she had lovingly adopted will now be leaving her to return to their own families. She’s too old to remarry and urges the young women to return to their families.
She returns to her hometown with Ruth (who refused to leave Ruth 1:16-19) in tow. Naomi creates quite a stir as the whole city was excited at her return. “Don’t call me Naomi,” she says, “call me Mara for the Almighty has dealt bitterly with me.”
Naomi’s identity was so wrapped up in her family that without them she wanted a new name. No longer would she be Naomi which means “pleasant”, now she would be Mara meaning “bitter”.
Are we like Naomi? Do we base our identity, and maybe even our very behavior and attitudes, on what or who we have in our lives? From her story we learn the danger of basing our identities on anything other than Christ Jesus.
Situations change. People die or move away. If who we are is defined by those things we are basing them on shifting sand. Our identities would be changed as often as we changed our clothes. The only thing that never changes is the character of God. He is the same yesterday, today and forevermore (Hebrews 13:8).
Let’s take a lesson from Naomi – our identity should be found in Christ and nothing else.
Want to read more about Naomi? Check out this article.
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Thanks for reading this month's Chasing Endurance, I pray that you'll spend some time learning more about your identity in Christ. See you next month!
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