“But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions-it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God- not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:4-10)
I’m a football fan. For the last few weeks there has been a frenzied build up and now a frenzied follow up to the 2015 NFL draft. Part of that build up is the relentless, sometimes ruthless evaluation of players. NFL prospects are subject to scrutiny from nearly every angle; not just as athletes, but every aspect of their character, past, and personal life is thrown on the table to be examined by perspective teams and those team’s insatiable media-fueled fan bases. Standing up to that kind of scrutiny can’t be easy.
One such prospect was the number 2 overall pick, quarter back Marcus Mariota, from the University of Oregon. Mariota is famously unflappable. He is known for being cool under pressure, always competitive, but rarely fiery, rarely emotional, consistent and hardworking, but quiet and poised. By contrast, the famously irate former NFL coach Jon Gruden is known for being locked in perpetual anger. The two met in an ESPN pre-draft special called “Gruden’s QB camp.” In the show Gruden evaluated the top quarterbacks from the upcoming NFL draft. Gruden uses both a classroom type interview setting and on the field drills that are meant to both challenge QB’s weaknesses and showcase their skill and character.
The line on Mariota was that he was a near perfect candidate to be a pro QB. He is the right size, the right kind of athlete, a great leader, with good character, and he can really throw the ball. The one knock on Mariota (and it was a big knock) was that he played in an offensive system at Oregon that makes QB’s look good and doesn’t translate well to the NFL. Pundits say that it will take a couple years for Mariota to really learn how to play QB at the NFL level.
At one point during the show, Gruden really presses into Mariota about this. He goes at him again and again, in the end admitting that he is trying to deliberately see if he can get a rise out of Mariota. Here’s an excerpt from the show: Gruden: (almost yelling) “Does that bother you?” Mariota: (smiling) “Not even a little.” Gruden: (still almost yelling) “What does bother you? Does anything bother you?” Mariota: (gets a little serious, but still composed) “Losing bothers me.”
It occurred to me watching that show that Marcus Mariota is was not fazed by Gruden’s assault because he knows exactly who he is and what he means to do with his life. He doesn’t care about what the pundits say, or if Gruden tries to rile him up. Marcus knows what kind of football player he is, and he knows what kind of football player he intends to be in the future. He intends to be the kind that wins, and you get the sense from the interview that he is going to do everything in his power to make sure that that’s exactly what is going to focus on, and nothing else.
Do you know who you are? Do you know what you intend to do with yourself? What are you going to focus on? Do you break under pressure? Do you melt under intense scrutiny? Does it feel like the world is falling all around you, like you are losing control, like people are out to get you? Do you feel depressed and hopeless, or maybe just lost and wandering, without focus?
Ephesians is one of the most focused and powerful books in the Bible. It aims to ask and answer the questions “who are you?” and “whose are you?” Ephesians is about identity.
Did you know that you are God’s “handiwork” (translated elsewhere as “workmanship” or even “poem”)? You are God’s prized creation! You were created to have your identity rooted deeply in Christ Jesus. Out of that identity you were intended to take part in incredible work. Even in your brokenness, even in the midst of this broken world (when we were “dead in our transgressions” says Ephesians) you were given the gift of an identity that is planted in something that no one or thing can take away from you.
If Marcus Mariota can be so sure about his identity as a football player, why shouldn’t I be just as sure about my identity in Christ? If I was, there would be no scrutiny that could move me from my goal, no question that could break down my confidence, no attack that could penetrate to the inner reaches of who I am and whose I am.
I am alive in Christ, I am His workmanship. Whatever test you’ve got … bring it on.
Noah can be reached via email here.