When You Feel Useless, Unimportant, or Ineffective

Ephesians 3 is the perfect chapter for someone who at times feels useless or unimportant or ineffective in this world.

This chapter underscores that if you’re going to serve Christ in an effective way you need to see yourself in the right way.

Paul saw himself as a prisoner of Christ (3:1). Of course at this time he literally was in prison but it’s a vital part of being a servant. No matter where he was, Paul was still on mission. He knew he could serve Jesus in every situation.

When I feel useless, unimportant or ineffective I begin to wonder what I could do in that moment, that environment, that situation that would bless someone else. What can I say to encourage? What can I say to challenge? What can I do to demonstrate the love of God in my life? That motivation comes from knowing how I am in Christ.

When I do that I quickly discover that I’m no longer useless, unimportant or ineffective.

“Is it OK to drive this car or live in this house in light of world poverty?”

If we make hard and fast rules they will be man-made and legalistic. This is where the Spirit must lead the individual Christian. “Live in it and drive it as long as you feel no unease in your spirit” while at the same time educating yourself about world poverty and what things you can do to help it. The Kingdom of God is not about rules, but about the goodness and confidence and laughter we discover when we let the Holy Spirit lead us.

We want black and white answers, but often that is just because we are lazy and unwilling to do the challenging work of discernment.

Sin Didn’t Start With People Hating Each Other

Companionship is a primary human need. Just look at the Garden of Eden!  Adam was lonely in the most beautiful, perfect environment. So God cloned Adam. NOT! He created his opposite, his complement and united the two, male and female, in perfect harmony.

The harmony was shattered not by their fighting against each other, but by their agreeing together against God. That shows how important and dependent they were (we are) on God’s unseen participation. Without Him, love would henceforth be imperfect, and marriage would gravitate towards selfishness and words like “desire” and “rule” become predominant.

God created the woman for partnership, but she became subordinate and became a means to an end for most men. That’s what sin does…it mars God’s original plan and turns people against each other. But it doesn’t start there; it starts in the human heart.

Three Pictures of a Unified Church

As a pastor of course I love the Church. But I don’t love the Church because I’m a pastor; I’m a pastor because I love the Church. I love the Church because when I read the Bible I see Jesus’ love for the Church.

Ephesians 2:18-22 gives three pictures of the church that show our unity.

 For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.

19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.

  1. One Nation. We are fellow citizens with God’s people, no longer foreigners. We have a common king, common goals, and common blessings.
  2. One Family. We are members of God’s household.
  3. One Building built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets with Christ as the cornerstone.

Blessed Are Those Who Mourn

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

While no one wants to mourn for any loss, there is a blessing even amidst mourning.  People recognize mourning as a time to latch together and hold on to each other in comfort.

But a greater blessing for me in times of grief have been when I felt the total presence of the Holy Spirit reassuring me that everything is going to be OK and that God’s promises endure forever. They are sure and true.

It feels emotionally like the times as a child when I was sick and my mother or grandmother cared for me, patted my back when I vomited, put the washcloth on my forehead during a fever. I always knew they were there for me and it would get better.

Why Didn’t God Offer Salvation By Good Works?

Ephesians 2:8-10,

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. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

William Barclay wrote,

Our good works do not put God in our debt. His love puts us in His.

John Calvin said,

It is faith alone that justifies, but faith that justifies can never be alone.

Works have a place in our faith, but its not our starting place.


  1. It wouldn’t have worked because none of us could be good enough to reach God on our own effort.
  2. Salvation by our own good works would appeal to our pride and not our humility. We would think, “Look at what I did!”

There is not boasting in faith because faith is a gift.

God’s grace is the gift and our works are the effect.

So our prayer should be every day, “God, what good work have You prepared me to do today?”

The 20/60/20 Principle

I am told by reliable people that the 20/60/20 principle as it relates to church life is true.

  • 20% of people will readily adapt to change.
  • 60% will eventually adapt with support and encouragement.
  • 20% NEVER WILL.

So let the 20% that won’t adapt go gracefully as possible.  They aren’t “bad” people but don’t expect them to “come around.”  Don’t spend all your energy trying to win them over.  Build on islands of health and strength.  Go with the people who want to go with you.