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Shelf Theology

“Jesus came to announce to us that an identity based on success, popularity and power is a false identity-an illusion! Loudly and clearly He says: ‘You are not what the world makes you; but you are children of God.'”

Henri Nouwen

Few things bring out the worst in me than feeling forgotten. When God has placed me high up on a shelf, my insecurity, low self esteem and identity issues float to the top of my heart. I’d rather be active in ministry than passively sitting at home. But the more opportunities spent on the shelf, the greater my character develops, intimacy with God deepens and my identity is embedded in Christ.

It is harder to do nothing than it is to minister. Being alone with the Lord is more difficult than giving your life away for His Kingdom. If we’re not performing, our hearts scream, “I am nothing!” That’s a lie. You are something; you’re God’s son, you’re His daughter.

Identity is not about what you do or the great acts you perform on God’s behalf. Rather it’s about whose you are and belonging to God’s family. God gently positions us up on a shelf for us to learn the foundational truth regarding our identity in Christ – that we have great value even when we can’t minister.

Pastor Bill Johnson says, “If it’s true that the value of something is measured by what someone will pay for it, then we need to rethink our worth.” God paid His one and only Son, Jesus, to ransom us from the enemy and eternal damnation. Seems to me our worth is great based on what God spent to have a relationship with us.

“And the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: ‘You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.'” (Luke 3:22) Why was Jesus loved by Father God? Why was God pleased with Jesus before he began his ministry? Because Jesus was God’s Son. God’s love and acceptance for Jesus wasn’t based on his performance, rather it was built on his sonship, his relationship with the Father.

Being hidden by God is not a punishment, nor is it a waste of time. It’s God’s way of taking care of us as our intimacy with God deepens and our identity is rooted in Christ.

A disaster is waiting to happen if our calling is greater than our character. While we’re seemingly forgotten as we sit high up on a shelf our character is developed. We need Christ like character sufficient to carry us in our call.

Surrender, accept and embrace your God ordained shelf time. The sooner we stop wrestling with God the sooner we will get on with our God-given destiny. Shelf times are crucial for advancement and promotion in ministry.

“Spiritual identity means we are not what we do or what people say about us. And we are not what we have. We are the beloved daughters and sons of God.”

Henri Nouwen

Relevant Reflections:

1. Describe a time you felt forgotten when God placed you up on a shelf.

2. What negative traits rose up within you while being hidden with God?

3. How did your character change, identity be secured in Christ and intimacy with God deepen?

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