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Women World Leaders' Podcast

Jan 15, 2024

Join host Julie Harwick on today's episode of the Women World Leaders' Podcast. As humans, we have a tendency to view our identity through the lens of what we do.  But God is far more concerned with who we are.  Could it be that we’ve been focusing on what is entirely the wrong thing?


Welcome to Women World Leaders podcast. I’m your host, Julie Harwick. Thank you for joining me today as we celebrate God’s grace in our lives, in this ministry and around the world.

The beginning of another year always forces us to do some serious thinking.  We think about the year that has passed: what went wrong and what went well.  We evaluate our own performance so we can decide what we want to stick with and what might need to change.  For many, this comes in the form of New Years’ resolutions. A 2022 poll by Yougov revealed that 37% of Americans had a goal or resolution they intended to pursue in 2023.  While everyone begins with the best of intentions, few follow through.  A Forbes Health survey showed that the average resolution lasts just over three months.  65% of the respondents had abandoned their goals after four months and only 1% stuck with it through the entire year. Those statistics aren’t surprising and some sources even refer to January 17th as “Ditch New Year’s Resolutions Day” and others have named the second Friday in January  “Quitters Day.”

What these statistics really show is that many of us want to change…want to be better in some way, but we just can’t seem to do it.  We talk a lot about willpower, determination and setting ourselves up for success and yet, we fail, again and again. I’ve never been a resolution-making person, but I do want very much to change and not stay the way I am. Of course I want to lose weight and be healthier and handle my money better, but what I really want is to be more like Jesus.  And if I could do that, I think everything else would probably fall into place.

I know that’s what God wants for me as well.  In Romans I read that He wants me to be “conformed to His image,” and the Apostle Paul instructed us to be imitators of him as he was of Christ.  So if I want this and God wants this, why doesn’t it just happen?  God has been revealing some answers as I’ve been thinking about this lately, and particularly through some books I’ve been reading.  I’ve come to believe the problem has been that my focus is all wrong.

Have you ever noticed how much we focus on what we do in determining our identity?  For instance, what do you talk about when you meet someone for the first time at a party, church or work? We give our names and somewhere in the first few exchanges, someone asks, “What do you do for a living?” When we sit down at the dinner table, whether it’s with the family, friends or a significant other, the conversation often begins with, “so what did you do today?”  How many teachers have welcomed their class back after a weekend or a holiday or especially summer break with an invitation to share with the class, what they did over the time away from school?  And don’t we feel maybe a little bit judged in answering these questions? As a stay-at-home mom for many years, I knew my work was very important, but a part of me would always wonder if the person I was talking with would see it that way. And many of us might feel the need to describe what we do for a living in a way that makes it seem better than it really is. I wasn’t particularly eager to describe my summer break when the only activity I could remember was helping to clean out the basement.  It seems our actions rarely live up to expectations and yet, we’re fixated on them.

We’ve carried this kind of thinking into our spiritual lives as well.  If we venture into a spiritual conversation with a co-worker, we are likely to begin with, “where do you go to church?”  When we meet new people at church, we’re apt to tell them where or how we serve in the local body and may even invite them to attend our small group or bible study.  All things we do.  It doesn’t necessarily tell them anything about who we are, but we are eager for them to know what we do.

In his book, “Emotionally Healthy Discipleship,” author Peter Scazzero points out that God created us to be “human beings,” not “human doings.”  “Being” is not something we give much thought to, but we do think often of “doing.”  Doing is easily understood and quantifiable.  It’s easy for me to recall and describe all the things I’ve done.  But if you ask me to describe who I’ve been and who I am now…how do I answer that? In the last 30 or 40 years it’s almost become cliché for celebrities to travel to some remote location to “find themselves.” What does that even mean?  It’s clear to me that we prefer to focus on doing rather than being because it keeps us safely in a world we understand, can easily articulate and doesn’t ask too much of us.

But will doing help us become more like Jesus?  It could.  Certainly Jesus did things.  He traveled around, preaching and healing. He participated in worship at the synagogue, he visited friends, he ate and drank and attended a wedding. But how did He describe Himself?  He never made reference to being a carpenter or a teacher.  But He did say things like, “I am the way, the truth and the life,” and “I and the Father are One.”  In the gospel of John, Jesus made six other “I am” statements. “I am the bread of life.” “I am the light of the world.” “I am the door.” “I am the good shepherd.” “I am the true vine,” and “I am the resurrection and the life.” Jesus continually showed that He knew exactly Who He was and His terminology points back to the Old Testament statement given to Moses at the burning bush when God said, “I am Who I am.  Tell them the ‘I am’ sent you.” In all of these “I am” statements, Jesus was making it clear that He was God. And throughout the Old Testament God often describes Himself that way too, saying things like, “I am the Lord and there is no other.” The book of Revelation describes a future when all of heaven will offer praise to Him Who was and is and is to come.” All of these scriptures point to a God Who is worthy of our worship because of Who He is, not what He has done.  Another book I recently read and recommend is “Audience of One,” by R.T. Kendall. I was convicted by what I read, that most of my worship of God is concentrated on what He has done for me, rather than Who He is. Being grateful and acknowledging His blessings is important and necessary, but if He never again lifted a finger on my behalf, He would still deserve my worship simply because He is God. That’s not the way I’ve typically approached worship, because again, it’s easier and more comfortable to just recount all that God has done for me.  Taking the time and intellectual effort to really contemplate Who He is doesn’t come quite as naturally to me, but it’s an effort I know I need to make.

God keeps showing me that being vs. doing may go against my human nature, but it’s His preferred method for change and growth. If you ever feel the same kind of resistance to it that I do, consider Jesus’ conversation with Martha in Luke 10: 38-42.  Three siblings, Martha, Mary and Lazarus had a special relationship with Jesus.   John 11:12 tells us specifically that “Jesus loved Martha and her sister, Mary and Lazarus.” On one occasion,  Martha had invited Jesus into their home to enjoy a meal and teach all who were gathered there. Throughout the gospels, we see many people following Jesus everywhere He went so they could listen to His teaching.  We don’t know how many were present at Martha’s house, but even if it was just Jesus and His 12 disciples, that would be about 16 people. It wouldn’t be surprising if Martha and her siblings invited other family members or friends to hear the teacher that everyone was talking about. Imagine the biggest party you’ve ever hosted and you might have an idea of what Martha was dealing with. Personally, I love hosting a party, but it can also be very stressful. Though I’m hardly a perfectionist, when I’m hosting a gathering, I want my house to be spotless, with everything in its place.  I want the food to be ready on time, looking and tasting delicious.  No matter how early I begin preparations, it always comes down to the wire.  I’m frantically rushing around trying to complete a million details no one else may ever care about or even notice, but they seem critical to me.  That’s how I imagine it was for Martha. She couldn’t help but be thrilled to have someone like Jesus as her guest of honor and I’m sure she wanted everything to be absolutely perfect. Scripture says Martha was distracted with all her preparations and she was getting rather perturbed that her sister, Mary, oblivious to her concerns, offered no help at all.  I can so relate.  There’s nothing worse than rushing around in panic mode before a major event and seeing your loved ones who could be helping you doing something totally unnecessary or possibly nothing at all. From Martha’s perspective, that’s exactly what Mary was doing.  When she reached her limit of tolerance for this situation, she didn’t call Mary over and tell her she needed help, instead, she decided to go straight to the top.  She walked right up to Jesus and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me.” It almost seems like she might have been a little bit mad at Him too. She calls Him Lord, but there’s an awful lot of attitude to go with it. But Jesus doesn’t seem put off by her accusatory tone.  I’m not sure if He’s chuckling at her ruffled feathers or if there’s a sad compassion in His response, but He says her name twice, maybe to make sure she really hears Him.  “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about so many things, but only one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen what is best, and it will not be taken away from her.” It was a gentle rebuke, but obviously, it was not what Martha expected. We’re never told how she reacted in the moment, but I suspect His words replayed in her mind over and over. While it may have appeared that Martha was doing all the important work while Mary did nothing, Jesus saw the situation from a totally different perspective.  Martha was consumed with doing.  She was doing it for Jesus, as faithfully as she knew how, but it wasn’t really needed and it was causing her to miss what He really wanted for her. Mary wasn’t doing nothing.  She was doing the only thing that mattered – sitting at Jesus’ feet, just being with Him, listening to His teaching and simply enjoying His presence. Martha was doing.  Mary was being.

This had to be a major paradigm shift for Martha.  The way she took charge of the preparations and challenged Mary’s inactivity indicates that her identity was probably all wrapped up in successfully completing tasks.  She was focused on serving others, which was a great quality, but it also brought her bitterness and irritability and kept her from something so much better. No doubt Martha meditated on what Jesus had said to her because when we meet her again in John 11, she expresses a new maturity in her faith despite a devastating loss. She had sent word to Jesus that her brother, Lazarus, was deathly ill, but He had delayed in coming and her brother had died. When she hears that Jesus has finally arrived, she runs to meet Him while Mary continues weeping in the house.  “Lord, if You had been here my brother would not have died,” she begins, sounding a little like the former, accusatory Martha. But she immediately adds, “ but even now I know God will do anything You ask.” Jesus answers, “Everyone who has faith in Me will live, even if they die. And everyone who lives because of faith in Me will never really die.  Do you believe this?” Her answer to His question demonstrates that she’s no longer focused on just doing things for Jesus, she’s come to a new revelation of exactly Who He is. “Yes Lord!  I believe You are the Christ, the Son of God. You are the One we hoped would come into the world.”  Martha’s efforts to shift her focus from doing to being gave her a completely different perspective, grew her faith and led to the most incredible miracle she could’ve ever imagined.  Jesus raised her brother from the dead!

What miracles might we experience?  What growth and freedom and joy could we find if we could also shift our focus from doing to being? If Jesus says sitting at His feet and just being in His presence is the best thing we can do, then that’s what I want for 2024. It’s a new year and I want a new beginning with my heart set on worshipping Him for Who He is and by His grace, finding my identity in who He created me to be.

Thanks for listening to Women World Leaders podcast!  Join us each week as we explore together God’s extravagant love and your courageous purpose.  Visit our website at to submit a prayer request, register for an upcoming event, and support the ministry.  From His heart to yours, we are Women World Leaders .  All content is copyrighted by Women World Leaders and cannot be used without written consent.