I have often joked about how sad it would be for an identity thief to steal my identity. It would be sad not because I would lose so much, but because, after all their effort, there wouldn’t be a whole lot to show for it. Stealing the identity of a husband/pastor/student with four small, ever-hungry, ever-growing children might actually evoke sympathy from a thief. But joking aside, I have come to realize that my identity is often targeted as a minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Believe it or not, it’s attacked weekly by a rather relentless Thief.
Jesus was familiar with this Thief. As a matter of fact, Jesus mentions him in John 10:10, saying, “A thief comes only to steal and to kill and destroy.” Later in the New Testament, Peter tells us that this destruction-bent thief is none other than the Devil, who “is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for anyone he can devour.” He is called our “adversary” and his destructive appetite is hellbent on robbing Christ’s ministers of their identity. I believe this is one of the many reasons for Paul’s insistence on union with Christ as the foundation of the Christian’s identity. In Colossians 3:3-4, we read, “For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.” You see, the threat of identity theft is nothing new. Our Enemy has been determined to steal and strip away the joy and security that we have in a safely hidden life in Christ. He knows he cannot ultimately take away our identity, because Christ has secured it. So instead of attacking the place where our identity is secure, our adversary redirects our focus and tempts us to find our identity somewhere else beside Christ.
Sadly, this diversion has led to the burnout or compromise of not a few ministers. Instead of looking to Christ, ministers have looked at their vocation as the source of their identity. Their joy has risen or fallen on the basis of the compliments or criticisms that they have received as they greeted their flock on their way out of the sanctuary. Their hope has waned as they passionately pled for souls, only to see no apparent response. They have questioned their calling during the dry times and idolized their own strength and strategy in times of plenty. They fear instead of having faith when the funds are low and slow. Why is this? Is it not because the Thief has effectively “stolen” from them what is certainly and surely their true source of joy, their lasting hope of glory, the authoritative voice of their calling, and their immovable object of faith?
Brothers, we fret in regards to our identity as ministers not because it has been stolen, but because we are looking for it in the wrong place. It is not nor will it ever be found in the fruit of our ministry. It is found in Christ, and Christ alone, who is our life! Take heart, your identity is safe!