“The reason why people fail to endure long enough to experience success in their endeavors is their perspective does not facilitate success. We often start with “Do,” but before you “Do” you have to “Be.” Be, Do, Get, that’s the key to success!”
These words of counsel are from Christian financial coach Myron Golden. As the podcast interview continued, he further unpacked his argument: “Many people try doing things without being fully engaged and therefore when difficulty comes they change course because the activity was something they were doing but wasn’t an outpouring of who they are.”
Doesn’t that sound familiar? Do you remember when Moses asked God whom he should tell Pharaoh was responsible for the directive to release the people of Israel? God didn’t reply with his title but rather his identity: I AM. Do you recall 1 John 4:8, in the discourse on why we should love one another? John does not merely insinuate that God loves us, but declares with no equivocations that God IS love! Surely you have not forgotten John 1:1, one of my favorite verses: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Again, identity.
I believe we truly live as Christians when we are Christians, we follow the leading of the Holy Spirit when we are filled with the Holy Spirit, and we carry out the commands of God when we accept our identity as children of God. The difficulties around us might concern us but they don’t stop us, because it’s who we are that propels us forward. It becomes difficult, if not impossible, for us to not do what we’re supposed to do. Our understanding of our identity impacts our engagement, not because it is expected of us, but because in embracing our identity we expect it of ourselves.
Some may say this sounds great in theory. Yet I have seen it first hand—over and over again— through the service of some amazing people. People like Laura Morgan, Elder Lusajo Kasyupa, Donnita Burnett and Patricia Pierre, to name a few.
By now we all know the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic: job layoffs, rising food costs, organizational closures, a decline in church attendance, heightened safety concerns, deaths and so much more. COVID-19 became more than a temporary phenomenon; it became a universally accepted reason to not do or stop doing what you used to do, but not for the four people mentioned above.
Laura Morgan and her team began to see an increase in the number of families coming through the Northside Seventh-day Adventist Church food pantry in St. Louis, Missouri. So they adjusted. They increased the amount of food they distributed, welcoming any and all in need of quality food at no cost. All the while, Laura endured pain in her shoulders that would often make it tough for her to even lift her arms. When I asked her how she finds the strength to keep going she responded, “When Jesus left, He told us that we are expected to finish the work. This is what I was created to do; He gives me the strength to do it, so I must do it.”
Elder Lusajo Kasyupa was amongst the millions of people to lose their jobs during the pandemic. As a loving husband and father who prides himself on providing for his family, he could have complained. During this season of adjustment, he could have reduced his involvement in ministry at the Lighthouse (St. Louis) and Grand Avenue (Charleston, Missouri) Adventist Churches. He could have refused to keep doing ministry, but instead he increased his involvement. His pastor, Byron Wright, routinely shares how Elder Kasyupa has been a blessing not just to the church family but to him personally. “It’s clear that Elder Kasyupa does what he does not because of the title but because it’s who he is, and I am so thankful to have him on my team,” said Pastor Wright.
Donnita Burnett and Patricia Pierre also serve on a team of food pantry leaders for the Agape Adventist Church in St. Louis. When the pandemic hit, they needed to strongly consider how they were going to continue to distribute food while maintaining the health and safety of the recipients, as well as their team of volunteers. The population they serve are largely seniors and the team of volunteers, though consistent, are few. Closing down would have been understandable given space limitations, but that was not an option for these two service-oriented leaders. Instead of closing, they implemented a plan where the 60+ families that drive to visit the pantry on each distribution day would no longer have to exit their cars. Recipients now just pull up, pop their trunk, and the team loads the bags—all from the curb. This keeps everyone safe, and the recipients have rejoiced about the ease of receiving the food they need. After the car is loaded they are able to drive off after receiving kinds words and affirmations that have become synonymous with the Agape pantry experience.
What makes this team even more amazing is that they’ve experienced physical ailments, endured bereavement, seen the number of volunteers ebb and flow, prayed for God to hold back the rain, held on to tents to prevent them from flying away on windy days, and so much more. And they’ve done it all with a smile. They are proud to report that through this pandemic they’ve never missed a distribution day. Their identity (committed servants) clearly impacts their consistent engagement.
I’ve seen clearly through these servants of God how there are things we do not because we have to but because of who we are. I’ve seen that there are things we do because of our desire to fulfill the mission that God has set for us. We do these things not out of convenience but out of obedience and appreciation to our God who desires to be with us for eternity.
This desire to allow identity to impact engagement was present in the early Christian church as well. Ellen White wrote, “Those who at Pentecost were endued with power from on high, were not thereby freed from further temptation and trial. As they witnessed for truth and righteousness they were repeatedly assailed by the enemy of all truth, who sought to rob them of their Christian experience. They were compelled to strive with all their God-given powers to reach the measure of the stature of men and women in Christ Jesus. Daily they prayed for fresh supplies of grace, that they might reach higher and still higher toward perfection. Under the Holy Spirit’s working even the weakest, by exercising faith in God, learned to improve their entrusted powers and to become sanctified, refined, and ennobled. As in humility they submitted to the molding influence of the Holy Spirit, they received of the fullness of the Godhead and were fashioned in the likeness of the divine.” Acts of the Apostles, 50-51
We are children of God. That is our identity. Let us ever endeavor to do our Father’s bidding no matter what comes our way.