Being vs. doing

Being vs. doing

Glen Robinson

One of the things I tell my students is, “Every good idea I ever had I stole from someone else.” What I really mean to say is that inspiration is based on awareness of the things that happen around you, and a synthesis of those ideas.

With that in mind, Pastor Mic Thurber’s sermon this past Sabbath stirred in me memories of my own experiences. What happened to me usually makes more sense when compared with the words of others. Inspiration welcomes collaboration.

Pastor Thurber’s sermon was on the Second Coming, a topic that one rarely hears from the pulpit in Adventist circles anymore. One point that he made struck home with me. It’s not about whether Jesus comes in 48 hours, or in 48 years. It’s all about being the people who want Him to come, and are ready for Him to come at any time.

Hearing that made me flash back to my own experience 15 years ago. I’d just spent two years planning and another year launching a national magazine. My team and I poured our hearts and souls into the endeavor. I knew beyond a doubt that editing the magazine was what I had spent my entire life preparing for; this was the work God had for me to do. A year after launch, however, we got the word that the publishing house was discontinuing the magazine.

I struggled with the news, wondering why God allowed it all to happened. I prayed and wept, and finally the answer came to me, in as close to an audible voice as one could expect. It’s not about what you do, God told me. It’s about who you are.

I didn’t quite understand the implications of that message at first, but I have had a decade and a half to think about it. And my experience has reinforced that for me. Time and time again I have had successes and failures in life, and more and more I realize that what we consider success doesn’t even register as success in God’s eyes. We look at numbers; he looks at individuals. We measure in the ways of the world; He measures through the eyes of eternity.

Take tithe, for example. God wants us to return to Him ten percent of our income. It’s easy to believe that the money is important because of all the Christian work that still needs to be done. Churches need to be built; pastors need to be paid. But then our selfishness kicks in and we think, God doesn’t need my money. He has the cattle on a thousand hills, doesn’t He?

And that’s the truth. It’s not about God needing OUR money. It’s about us recognizing that the money isn’t OURS to begin with. It’s about getting rid of our selfishness. When you think about it, sin is all about selfishness. God wants us, not our money. And to get us, He has to teach us to give up those things that are holding us back.

It’s not what you do. It’s who you are. Students who are fixated on going through the hurdles, writing the papers, memorizing the facts in order to get that piece of paper that says they have finished school need to remember that. I try to tell students that a diploma is worthless unless it represents the finished product: you. What will you know when you finish? What skills will you have? What kind of adult will you be? That’s what education is all about.

That’s not to say that what you do isn’t important. What you do helps you become who you are—and who you want to be. But we need to be careful not to think that the process is more important than the product.

They say that the only thing you’ll be able to take with you to heaven is your character. Who you are. It’s not about finishing tasks, unless that task is becoming more and more like Jesus every day.

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