We all have role models. People we look up to and want to emulate every thing they have done. When we think about our future, we think about what steps they took and try to figure out how we can do the same. Many guys like myself who feel God calling them into ministry look up to men like Matt Chandler, David Platt, and Francis Chan. The tendency is to listen to the way these men communicate and tell ourselves that’s what successful preaching has to be. And then every sermon we prep is based upon a template of one of their sermons. But when it comes time for us to preach from the stage, we sound nothing like them. In fact, we sound nothing like our self. We have no clue what or how we are trying to communicate, and when this finally happens, we have to ask our self what are we doing? Why are we trying to be the next version of someone else instead of being the best version of ourself?
This is not something that only happens to young men with a desire to preach God’s word. It’s prevalent in every area of occupation. If you desire to be a journalist, a teacher, a politician, a doctor, or any of the other million jobs out there, you have someone in your mind you desire to be just like. Which in itself is actually a good thing. It gives us a target to aim for, a goal. We see the way they go about their work, and we want to learn from them. But the moment we step past just wanting to learn from them towards wanting to actually be them, we have lost sight of the fact that we are unique in God’s sight.
God works creatively through our lives, and perfectly forms us into the person he designed us to be. As Psalm 139:13 says, “You formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.” God is the creator of all things including each and every one of us. He is the artist, and we are the canvas that he is painting. And his painting started before we were even born. God already knew what his finished piece of art would look like, but as with every great artist, he knew the details of the process are what makes the work beautiful. And we are not just some offhand sketch. We are God’s magnum opus. In Ephesians 2:10, Paul says, “We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” This word workmanship translates to mean: “a work of art or a masterpiece.” Paul does not say here that a select number of people were created and labeled his masterpiece. But it says we all were created and pronounced to be God’s greatest work of art.
Not only are we God’s masterpiece, but we are unique and known by God. We have a story that only we have lived out. No one else knows what we have been through, except God. As Jeremiah 1:5 says, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you.” God has been preparing us to and molding us into the beautiful image he wants to make out of us. He did not create us to live just like some other successful person, but he created us to live in way only we ourselves could. Our past experiences do not define us, but they have brought us to where we are today. Our past mistakes do not disqualify us, but they are lessons that only we have learned. Our past successes do not carry us to victory today, but they have taught us how to handle God’s favor. Our past experiences are God’s brush strokes forming the outline of his calling on our life. They give us the worldview by which we live out the rest of our life in a specific way only we can.
So instead of mimicking someone else, notice how God has uniquely gifted you and pursue that gifting. We all “have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them” (Romans 12:6), and the sooner we realize this, the better. Just because we have different giftings than others does not mean we can’t look to them as role models anymore. Actually this frees us up to see both their successes and their failures. When we see both, we don’t just look to be like them, but we look to learn from them. We can draw from the good things they do and incorporate them into what we do, and we can look at what they have done poorly and make sure we don’t fall into the same mistakes. For me I used to look at the guys like Chan, Platt, and Chandler and wish I could be them, especially with their sphere of influence and fame. You probably look up to someone who has a popular following as well. One thing for us to remember is this: success is not a number. It is faithful labor. So let us not tell the artist how we think the painting should look. But instead, let us get to know the artist so deeply that we understand the intention of his masterpiece.