What Dictates Your Identity?
It is so easy to look around us and get bogged down by our circumstances. Life in a sinful world can be a cruel place sometimes, and perhaps it even causes us to question what God is doing. Maybe we also feel like there’s no hope. None of us are immune to feeling this way.
For me, anxiety is typically the cause of this feeling. As a result, worst-case scenarios often run laps around my brain. If I’m honest, the thing I’m most afraid of in life is seeing friendships and close relationships crumble. I’ve seen this happen to myself or others enough to jump to this worst-case scenario in my head when I begin feeling insecure. I’ve been so anxious that I’ve voiced this concern to a couple of my best friends before because I was fearful they would leave our friendship. Both of them lovingly reminded me how crazy I sounded.
It can be easy to allow our circumstances to dictate our identities. Yet from the parable in Luke 16:19–31, it’s our faith that determines our identities.
Status doesn’t determine standing with God. I love that Lazarus is the only one named here. He’s the poor man in this parable. Let’s be real, no one wants the life of Lazarus. Aside from being poor, his body is full of sores, and he’s begging the rich man for food. He’s asking for mercy, yet the rich man denies him. These circumstances are not ones our culture likes to envy.
On the other hand, the choice is the life of the rich man. His circumstances are so much better than those of Lazarus. He has a beautiful house, all the food he could want, and lots of wealth. Now, that sounds more like the American Dream.
However, before desiring the life of the rich man, let’s consider what happens next. After they both die, Lazarus is at to Abraham’s side, and the rich man found himself in a place of eternal torment and separation from God. In his life, the rich man failed to extend Lazarus grace, which was an indicator of where his heart was before God. While Lazarus desired mercy from the rich man, it’s clear he favored God’s mercy as he doesn’t suffer the same fate. It’s the faith of Lazarus that dictates his identity. The fact that he’s the only one named in the parable shows God knows him. He has repented of his sin and pleaded with God for mercy. While he’s denied human compassion, heavenly mercy is extended to him.
Once the rich man realizes his state of eternal torment is permanent, he pleads with Abraham to send Lazarus to his family to help them repent. Abraham replies that God’s Word is enough, but the rich man denies this, which continues to show his lack of faith. Finally, Abraham tells the rich man if God’s Word isn’t enough then someone coming back from the dead won’t be either. While the rich man had earthly status, he ignored the Word of the God who created him. He chose the wealth of this world over the riches of faith.
Jesus sympathizes with the hardships we experience in life because He experienced these things Himself.
Hopefully, it’s clear identity comes through faith. The sad life of the rich man gained him nothing, yet the same mercy extended to Lazarus was available to him if he’d paid attention to God’s revealed Word. The same is true for us today. God’s Word reveals to us our need for Jesus. Jesus sympathizes with the hardships we experience in life because He experienced these things Himself. He is the Man of Sorrows who is acquainted with grief. He understands rejection better than anyone. It’s His rejection that sent Him to the cross to die in our place. He’s ready to extend grace and mercy to sinners who recognize their need for a Savior and repent. When sinners come to Him, He knows them completely. So, what will you do with what God has revealed?
Real faith obeys God’s Word. When we look to God’s Word, we see that circumstances might affect what happens in our lives, but they don’t change the gospel identity we’ve have through faith. We have hope even when things are hard.
Lately, I’ve been challenged by Psalm 16:8 when I feel hampered by the circumstances of my life. It says, “I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.”
For God to always be set before us, we must be in God’s Word. We also have to trust what He says even when our circumstances suggest that it isn’t possible. When our faith is in the Lord, we will look to His Word and trust Him no matter the case. God’s Word brings peace to the situations the world says should leave us shaken.
God’s Word brings peace to the situations the world says should leave us shaken.
The worst-case scenario running through my head of losing friendships and close relationships is undoubtedly hard, but my faith determines my identity rather than circumstances. Even if this scenario comes true at some point, nothing can change my gospel identity! This truth is the same for anyone whose faith is in Christ! When the world comes crashing in all around us, Jesus will not abandon us! Our identities and eternal destinations are secure! Circumstances don’t dictate identity — faith does.