Everyone has a desire to do something meaningful with their life, to make a difference, to have a sense of worth and value, to be someone significant. God has placed that desire in each one of our hearts. The good news is that God has created each one of us for a specific purpose. True joy and fulfilment is found in discovering that purpose then pursuing it passionately.
You may have never heard of a woman called Dorcas but she was very well known in her city. We learn about her in Acts 9, as part of Luke’s account of the ministry of the Apostle Peter (see Acts 9:32-43). It is an amazing story. Rather than focus on Peter and the miracles God did through him, let’s focus today on Dorcas. She was having a significant impact on her world. Let’s glean some lessons from her life:How to Live a Life of Significance
- Start Following Jesus. Acts 9:36 tells us that in Joppa there was a ‘disciple’ named Dorcas. ‘Dorcas’ was her Greek name while ‘Tabitha’ was the same name translated into Aramaic. Dorcas was a believer and a follower of Jesus Christ. Most likely, she became a disciple as a result of other believers coming to her town and sharing the good news about Jesus Christ (see Acts 8:4).
True significance comes first of all from having a relationship with the living God - being his child. We live in a world that seeks significance in various ways - through prominence (prestige), possessions or pleasure. These things, though not necessarily wrong in themselves, don’t have eternal value. They don’t last. What matters most is ‘knowing God’ and living to love and please him. That’s what counts for eternity. Jesus himself said a number of times that many people who seem ‘first’ in this life will be ‘last’ in eternity while many people who seem ‘last’ in this life will be ‘first’ (truly significant) in eternity (Mt.19:30; 20:16). We must live our live from an eternal perspective.
It’s also important to realise that it is not doing ‘good works’ that saves us or is the foundation of our significance. It is making a decision to accept the forgiveness of our sins from Jesus our Saviour and make him the leader (or ‘Lord’) of our life. As we will see, ‘good works’ are to be the result of our salvation but they are not the basis or the cause of it. Are you a follower of Jesus Christ? If not, why not start today. He’s calling out to you today - “Come, follow me!” Respond to his call.
- Engage in ‘Good Works’. Acts 9:36 tells us that Dorcas “was always doing good and helping the poor.” Once you start following Jesus, something happens on the inside of you. You become a different person. A change of heart occurs. You no longer live for yourself but you begin to have a heart of compassion to help others. You begin to follow in the steps of Jesus who “went about dong good …” (Acts 10:38). We are not saved by our works but we are saved to do some good works for the benefit of others. God has a unique contribution for each one of us to make and part of our significance comes from the difference we make in the lives of others (see Eph.2:8-10).
The Christian life is not just about ‘knowing’ certain things (theology or doctrine), or ‘being’ a certain kind of person (character). It is about actively going around and ‘doing’ good every day of our life (see Mt.5:14-16. Tit.2:7, 13-14; 3:8, 14. 1 Tim.6:18. Heb.10:24. 1 Pet.2:12.). The world should be a better place because of us. God is interested in our daily work. It is sacred and part of our worship. Service is a vital part of our witness because it reflects who God is.
We have no record of any of the words that Dorcas said (not one), though she obviously said many good things. It was her deeds – her good works that she is remembered for. We have no record of her writing a book or preaching a sermon. It was her life that was significant. She simply devoted herself to doing good and to acts of charity that benefited the needy and the less fortunate. Saint Francis of Assisi once said, “Preach the Gospel always and if necessary use words.” You are the ‘living word’ - the only Bible some people will ever read. Whose life is better off because of yours? What good thing, kind word or helpful deed have you done this week?
Dorcas made clothes for widows who lived in her city - some of the neediest people in society. They had no one to represent them or protect them. They couldn’t get much of a job to buy food let alone buy other things they needed. Dorcas stepped in to become their advocate. She was a disciple who was strategically placed in the right place at the right time to minister to needs that she had been gifted to handle. You, too, have been strategically placed here at this time in history to in very practical ways carry the good news to needy people in both word and deed. Show compassion just as Dorcas did ((Mt.25:31-46. Jas.1:27; 2:14-17. 1 Jn.3:17-20).
- Rise above your Limitations. We don’t know a lot about this woman Dorcas. What we do know is that she rose above any limitations she had to make a difference on the lives of others. She was a woman - it was a man’s world back in the first century, yet Jesus valued women and released them into ministry and so did the church. Dorcas didn’t say, “Well, I’m just a woman, what can I do?” She might have been single - we have no mention of a husband or even a family. Maybe she was a widow herself. It was a married couple’s world back in the first century; yet single people like Jesus and Paul demonstrated that you don’t need marriage to be complete or to be significant. Dorcas didn’t say, “Well, I need a husband before I can do anything with my life.” She might have been overwhelmed by all the needs around her. Sometimes there are so many needs, that we can become paralysed and not know what to do. We can be tempted to feel that our efforts really wouldn’t make a difference anyway. There may have been lots of things that Dorcas couldn’t do - as mentioned, we have no record of her writing a book, preaching in public or singing a song. But she didn’t focus on what she couldn’t do. She looked at what was in her hand.
Remember, when God called Moses to help him rescue Israel out of Egypt. Moses was full of excuses and he had a whole list of reasons why he wasn’t qualified and why he shouldn’t go. In the end, God said to Moses, “What is in your hand?” Moses said, “A rod”. As a shepherd, he had a rod or staff that he carried around. God told him to lay it down and it became the rod of God. God used what was in his hand. Maybe God asked Dorcas what was in her hand. She would have said, “A needle!” I can sow. I can make clothes (cloth, needles and thread). That’s what I love to do and that’s what I’m good at.
Dorcas didn’t allow limitations to hold her back. She didn’t belittle the little she had. There were many things she could not do but she did what she could do. She took what was in her hand and she used it to meet the needs of those around about her. “What’s in your hand?” Move beyond excuses. Rise above your own limitations.
- Value faithfulness. Dorcas did not just help one person one time. She made it a lifestyle. She was ‘always’ doing good and helping the poor (Acts 9:36). As we serve and help others, we need to make this a lifestyle. It’s something we do for the long haul. Yes, our roles and ministry involvement may change from time to time or from season to season, but we faithfully live a life of service for others. Keep on keeping on!
- Endeavour to Leave a Legacy. When Dorcas died, she had left a legacy or lives she had touched with God’s love. Dorcas was truly a significant woman. She was a woman so great in her community that her they could not bear to lose her to death (Acts 9:39). When she became sick and died, her good works ceased. Joppa City Church was devastated. They were willing to go to any length to get her back. She was too wonderful to lose! What a heritage she left. Her godly works were put on display. What will you be remembered for? That’s an interesting question. In fact, it’s a scary question. Like Dorcas, may your ‘good works’ follow you into eternity (Rev.14:13).
- How do you live a life of significance? It’s about choosing to SERVE each day.
Sample Discussion Questions
- Start by following Jesus.
- Engage in good works wherever you are.
- Rise above your limitations.
- Value faithfulness. Be a servant for the long haul.
- Endeavour to leave a legacy.
- Don’t just live your life - make a difference!
- What comes to mind when you hear the word ‘significance’?
- Read the Bible verses on ‘good works’. Discuss what ‘good works’ could mean today.
- What are some of the limitations that cause people to hold back today?
- Imagine your own funeral. Four people are going to give a tribute about you – a family member, a friend, a church member and a work (or school) associate. What would you want them to say?
- Discuss some of the benefits of serving in one of the ministries of the church (explain MOB brochure).