“I just want to do something, be involved with something that has eternal value.”
I would hope that would be the desire of every believer in Jesus Christ; that we could somehow really comprehend that we are just “strangers and foreigners” in this world; that we have been set apart by God (made holy); and that our efforts should be to “lay up treasure in heaven.”
However, that was not totally what the person sharing with me meant by their statement. The follow-on discussion revealed a belief that “things of eternal value” are very specific in their nature: they must impact many people (for example, preaching or leading Vacation Bible School); they require special leadership or spiritual gifts to accomplish (for example, dynamic teaching or organizational skills, or musical talents); they demand a lot of effort and energy; and they occur in the public domain, where others can see what you are doing for the Lord.
I invited the person to share further: why was this such a specific burden to them? The response came down to this: “I am not doing anything of eternal value. I lack the abilities to impact lives. I am merely a parent and a spouse, and not necessarily successful at either of those.”
This is not the first time I have heard this expressed. Perhaps as you read this message you really connect with this person. So allow me to share an insight from a dead guy, Francis de Sales, a Catholic bishop who lived in some 400 years ago. He wrote: “The state of marriage is one which requires more virtue and constancy than any other; it is a perpetual exercise of mortification.” That is dead people talk for:
“The most difficult ministry on earth is marriage.”
Let there be no doubt, marriage is a ministry. While we may sense God’s “leading” or “calling” to a certain task, nowhere in the Bible does it tell us to lead a youth camp or organize VBS or preach three sermons a week or even go a specific mission trip. However, there are direct commands from God related to marriage; and to great degree that is because the state of our Christian marriages is a picture to a watching world of the relationship between Christ and His church. If my marriage dies because I am spending so much time and energy doing “God’s work,” then a watching world is free to wonder about the transforming work of Christ in a person’s life. “If Jesus loves me like that preacher loves his (ex)wife, then I want nothing to do with Him.”
And marriage, more than any other relationship (and this is likely the way God designed it), can be a refining tool in the hands of the Lord. Confronting my own sin and sinful ways, which are glaringly exposed in marriage, by choosing to die to myself (mortification) can do more to make me holy in the way I live than most any other situation or circumstance. Every biblical principle that we might teach from a pulpit or in a Bible study play out in marriage: love, forgiveness, patience, long suffering, sacrifice and on and on.
“Pastor, I just want to do something of eternal value.” Then next only to your personal relationship with God, pour everything you have into creating and sustaining a marriage that glorifies God. Doing that will impact those around you and generations to follow – which is of eternal value.