Nobody knows me. Nobody cares about what I do. For too many people these are familiar feelings. Whether assisting customers, mowing lawns, teaching classes, preaching sermons, or distributing worship folders, people need to feel valued.
Ironically, one of the least known people of the Bible helps us deal with feelings of insignificance. The little-known prophet Haggai is tucked away in a spot where pages are seldom turned. One short Old Testament book. Two chapters. Thirty-eight verses. Easily missed.
Often passed over, Haggai knew about being unknown and unappreciated. He worked with people who felt this way. They lived in a distant corner of the powerful Persian Empire, a little cubicle in a giant office complex. Their accomplishments seemed meager compared to those in other portions of their world.
Haggai had one task: motivating people who felt invisible to attempt something great for God. He challenged them to build the temple in Jerusalem. His words were simple, but very challenging.
First, he said, reevaluate your motives. Ask yourself why you do what you do. Are you doing the tasks at hand for God or for yourself? Haggai invited his friends, "Give careful thought to your ways" (Haggai 1:5). Work for God satisfies. Work for self frustrates.
Second, dig a little deeper for God. Keep investing in God's kingdom regardless of the circumstances. This is a difficult word for those who feel they have given all their emotional and physical resources. Haggai's people sacrificed a lot to rebuild Judah. Then troubles came. The work stalled. Their efforts went unrewarded.
Nevertheless, Haggai said that God commanded them to "build the house" for Him (1:8). In spite of meager resources they must push on, give a little more.
Third, Haggai advised, let God supply significance. There is a bigger story than ours. It is God's story of redemption, and it has a happy ending.
The people of Haggai's time looked at their building project and hung their heads. It seemed so small compared to the temple Solomon had built. But God promised, "The glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house" (2:9).
How could that be? God himself would come to that temple in the flesh. In that place Jesus preached the good news of the Kingdom. The glory of God visited there as never before.
In God's work, the size of the project does not matter.
What matters is that it is God's work. When we work for God, He makes up the difference. God comes and erases insignificance and anonymity. He sees what we are doing and fills our work with His glory.
Haggai may be overlooked, but I do not think he minds. Despite a lack of resources, he attempted great tasks for God. For the Kingdom's sake, he gave a little more knowing that what was done for God was bigger than it looked. His efforts contributed to the larger story of life, God's great unfolding drama of salvation throughout the ages.
Think About It:
Nobody knows me. Nobody cares about what I do. Author Patrick Lencioni says these feelings are two sure signs that a person isn't doing tasks to the best of his or her abilities. In his book, Three Signs of a Miserable Job, Lencioni maintains that people struggle when they think their work has no value. If they believe no one really knows them, they end up just going through motions. This is true in the church as well as in the workplace.
Feeling as though you don't really matter? Most of us do from time to time. These three tips will serve you well in moving from insignificance to significance.
1. Reevaluate your motives. Ask yourself why you do what you do.
2. Dig a little deeper for God. Keep investing in God's kingdom regardless of the circumstances.
3. Let God supply significance. We are a part of a bigger story than the one we create in our own small world.
Jim Edlin is professor of biblical literature and languages at MidAmerica Nazarene University in Olathe, Kansas.
Holiness Today, Jan/Feb 2010