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Doing work that matters

Karen and I are off to Cambodia this morning. It’s an hour to the airport, 14 hours to Seoul, Korea, a two hour layover, and 6 hours to Siem Reap, Cambodia. We arrive at 10:30 pm and will probably go right to bed if we’re lucky. We wake up the next morning and immediately start debriefing our Wor…
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes
Karen and I are off to Cambodia this morning. It’s an hour to the airport, 14 hours to Seoul, Korea, a two hour layover, and 6 hours to Siem Reap, Cambodia. We arrive at 10:30 pm and will probably go right to bed if we’re lucky. We wake up the next morning and immediately start debriefing our World Race squad.
One of the things I worry about on travel days is this blog. It’s all I can do to put my clothes in the suitcase, make sure I’ve got a passport, and get to the airport on time. But then, I also want to try and say something to you blog readers before leaving.
And here’s the thought that goes through my head that I think goes through most of our heads about what we do:
“I wonder if any of this work really matters?”
I’m a pretty confident person, but I have my moments where I wonder if I’m any good. What if I’m fooling myself?
Take this blog for example. I wrote yesterday’s post about having poetry in life. I read it to Emily and she said, “Wow, Dad – that’s the best thing you’ve written.”
But then I looked at yesterday’s number of page views and it was substantially down from the average number.
“What’s going on?” I thought. And then, “So what if people don’t notice – what matters is if it’s good and if I’m doing what I’m called to do.” It’s a stupid internal dialogue that we’ve all got. You don’t want to care, but you do. The self-talk can turn into self-chatter if left unchecked. People get neurotic this way.
When we do work that seems to be poorly received, it’s normal to ask the question. Calcutta is a hard place to do ministry. Mother Teresa’s journals were released after her death. Many years she received little encouragement. And the angst she felt poured out into her journals. “Am I making a difference? Does any of this matter?”
To ask these questions is normal. Life is too short to do work that doesn’t matter. God gives us experiences that break our hearts and something inside us says, “That’s not right – maybe I need to change that.”
And maybe you do. And maybe because of that decision, someone’s life changes. Your work needs to matter to someone. Maybe you get paid for it, maybe not, but it needs to make a difference. And we need to encourage one another if the world is a better place because of our work.
My coworkers in Cambodia are doing work that matters. Little girls are sold into sex slavery. They need to be rescued and they need to have a chance at a normal life. My coworkers pour out every day and often feel like they’ve got nothing left. They need encouragement and they need clarity about their plans. It’s worth a long flight to have those conversations.
Does your work matter? How do you know?

Comments (26)

  • When I was reading the first two paragraphs to your blog I was thinking, “Gosh what He does is really worthwhile and, Connie, you need to be doing this Kingdom stuff.” The I read your question, “Does it matter?” Heck yea! You’re mobilizing the next generation and you’re denying yourself and your own comforts to go on the other side of the world to see into and hear the hearts of young adults who’s hearts are breaking for the world. It’s glorious to behold God’s sons and daughters living the way Jesus did.

  • Emily is right…. that blog on poetry was really nice! You have greatly been an encouragement in my life! That is from me reading your blog… Thank you Pastor Seth! 🙂 I love it!!!

  • Seth, It is not the numbers we should look at but the seeds sown in obedience. Then, the God of the harvest will do what only He can do.

    I pray that the Lord will bless your trip, I pray for wisdom and revelation as you go and debrief and seek the Lord for next steps in the rescuing and restoration of the precious ones you serve.



  • Such a critical question, and one so many lifeless, listless souls don’t ask…that is death and hell…to be hopeless, purposeless and numb going through the motions of life, or worse, having given up entirely because love is absent in every way.

    But I believe when we ask that and are a conduit of God’s love, even to touch one (after all, God cares about the one who is lost and even the sparrow…)is something that matters when we are on this journey here and now and can touch others with the love of Christ…

    I want to encourage you to not focus on the numbers of readers; i am in recovery in that department! Do everything as if unto the LORD; and Satan found a way to sneak in and ripple your resolve:)

    God breathed passion into us, and Satan would love nothing better than to steal that and our joy along with it. Listen for the still small voice that whispers love in your ear and from that filling journey along through life sharing His love and being His hands and feet.

    Yes, our lives make a difference when we seek out God and join Him in His work, where He is…You are doing that, and I pray that in my own world I am doing the same.


  • If God has asked you to do the work it matters even if noone else seems to value it!I dont always read your words daily and then catch up on those I have missed and I am sure I am not the only one who reads like that but if just one person is touched by one passage you have written then its worth it and certainly many things you have written have spoken to me.God bless.

  • I often feel that way and I think it is because we are taught that Big results matter. God’s way of measurement is nothing that our puny human brains could ever comprehend…. nothing we could ever imagine. I also feel that sometimes the best blogs I write are more of a ministry to me. They often touch one or two people too, and your blog yesterday touched me.

  • Yes. It does matter. AIM is a launching pad for dreams – because it is the dream God gave to you. Thanks for living it out.

  • Seth, any work when given to Him is good, it is transformed into a labor of love. Love of Him is worship of Him.

    Whatever your hand finds to do – Do that as unto the Lord.

    It doesn’t matter what “WE-Others” do with it – what matters is what your heart does with it.

    I just spent 10 days working/painting/cleaning at my daughter’s new home. It was 10 continuous days of worship for my heart and they got some things done too. God is pleased with anything that is given wholeheartedly to Him.

    Rejoice with your heart’s gifts of love. The battle is one you can easily win. Rejoice.

  • Thanks, again, for your vulnerability, Seth. It’s good to know someone like you goes through the same questions and doubts! And I’ll do my best to keep from going “neurotic.” 🙂

  • Torufinikeme Christopher

    Brother Seth,
    You’re only being human when those moments to seek assurance of what one is doing comes.
    Doing what matters should be seen from whose work are you doing. The work that will matter to me is the one your creator had wired you to do( His plan for you).
    Why you feel sometimes that way is because relative to the cope of work you are called to do,what you are doing seems insignficant. But all the same the work matters so long as it is impacting human lives.
    So disregard your feeling. Go on with the work . It matters

  • Hi Seth,

    I found your blog last week via a friend’s posting on Facebook. Your postings are so incredibly refreshing. I’ve been on quite a journey myself.

    These journeys we face in life are what we read about all throughout the Bible. Abraham, Joseph, Moses, David, Jesus…

    Thank you for sharing your raw feelings. It is encouraging to see another Kingdom believer on the journey.

    For His Kingdom,


  • It matters to the Mom’s and Dad’s of those young missionaries that you are going to serve!!!!!!!!!!!!!You are fresh air and clean water to them. You and Karen arrive and it is Christmas. Daniel and the team need your perspective and your encouragement. Knowing that Nov. 19th is the end of the race can draw their minds toward home too often. You can help them keep their minds on finishing the race well. Faithful to the end. It is so important and I am praising God that you are sacrificing your time and comfort for these fragile yet courageous racers. Thank you deeply.

    Peggy (Daniel Chantlos team WAKA’s mom)

  • “Does our work matter?” To that important question I would append another: “Who are we asking ?” Where do we look for confirmation, affirmation and sustenance as we work under God’s calling on our lives?
    We do the work we feel called to do, and usually that lifts our spirits and reinforces our passion and faith; but not all the time. Sometimes we can get to a place where we are wearied, where doubt creeps in and the urge to retake control over our own lives grows very strong. I suspect everyone who follows a calling must feel this way at least once in a while.
    What I find though is that weakness, frustration and the general sense of feeling depleted are often linked to a misdirection on my part – one that is easily corrected. I have observed a tendency to shift the object of my efforts from the Lord Jesus to the people I am trying to help. It is a subtle and gradual shift, but one that transfers my emotional and spiritual support system to an unsustainable place. I can no more look to the people I may serve for affirmation than I could look to the rest of this fallen world. If I depend on the people I serve for positive feedback, I will inevitably be disappointed by the same human limitations in them that I, too, share. Looking backward, it seems an obvious mistake, but it is one I know I will make again.
    I go back to what got me into this in the first place: a feeling of being loved by Jesus, so strong that what mattered most to me was acts of service to Him – a response from my heart to His love for me. Whatever it is that I think I do, I do it right when I do it for the Lord. He must be the object of my heart. It may sound callous, but the “widows and orphans” are only indirect beneficiaries of a labor of love directed at the Lord.
    The needs of the world and the call to service are powerful, and it is uplifting to see the Spirit working through servants and disciples in the world. But we can only be truly sustained by the conviction that our work matters to Jesus.
    Thanks for that timely reminder, Seth.

  • ” It’s a stupid internal dialogue that we’ve all got. You don’t want to care, but you do. The self-talk can turn into self-chatter if left unchecked. People get neurotic this way.”

    Thanks Seth for the quote above. You just gave flesh to the bones I’ve been chewing in a couple of days now.

    You know how much your work matters to someone like me and I believe to the general body of Christ. So many may never be opportune to tell. Mother Theresa is a good example.

    Safe trip to “Grandpa Seth and Grandma Karen from Ed and Othniel”

  • Love this. And, I love the comment from Teri…”AIM is a launching pad for dreams.”

    Exactly one year ago…I sat in your KINGDOM DREAMS talk at The Awakening. That night God woke me up at 3am to go pray with my squad…and that is where God gave me the vision of starting a grieving children’s ministry house. Well, today I can say…it is happening…and it does matter…BIG TIME. Glory to GOD!

  • Oh it matters Seth, and in oh so many ways. Big steps, baby steps, they all matter.

    Sheila Yoder went on the Race. While in Swaziland Sheila posted a blog with a photo of Vincent. Sheila’s mere image of Vincent grabbed our hearts, all the way back here in the US.

    You tossed hundreds and hundreds of pebbles (Racers) in the pond and they rippled all around the world. They continue to ripple, even the two who are back here with us.

    Keep tossing those stones Seth! God Bless,


  • Great blog yesterday. I read it to my wife Tara.. I see the Fathers’ heart and His kingdom advancing through you in power.. You bring others face to face with destiny. Keep telling the world what you see… Blaine

  • Dear Seth,

    I read your blogs but it’s rare that I comment because most times someone has stated perfectly what my thoughts are, just as Kathy Pride did this time. I want to thank you for sharing your heart and for the encourager I know you will be to the teams in Cambodia who share your love and passion for Cambodia. Yes the work really matters, I have NO DOUBT that a difference is being made.


  • Love this. Amen and hallelujah. My belief is that if you do work that matters, people will eventually notice. Until they do, you get to have a blast doing what you love.

    Conversely, if you do stuff just to get people to notice you, the attention eventually fizzles out (and so do you).

  • I, too, love Teri’s comment, and I normally don’t post because other readers have enunciated my thoughts so well. But I have to post to say “please keep going!” You never know why views are down… but please know that you are making a difference. Every Racer who finds her destiny makes a difference for the Kingdom. Every dreamer who sees his impossible dream happen changes the world and the course of history. The ripple effect is phenomenal.

    If it’s born in the heart of God or the heart of restlessness that God has given, our work matters, even when you /I/ we think it doesn’t. I dislike that “trust Me” part, but just when I’m hopeless and “done” the Lord finds people to remind me…. “it’s worth it. The impact is large and it’s worth it.” He used a visiting team to remind me again last Saturday, when I was ready to quit.

    And I still have to read the poetry post because we didn’t have power after hurricane Irene. Now, having water and electricity again, I’m catching up. I wonder how many other readers you have in the power-out Northeast??

  • I actually chuckled when I read this because it’s a conversation I have in my head frequently.

    Is what I am doing really making a difference, or am I just fooling myself?

    You know what? I still don’t really have an answer to that question. Rather than knowing, I’m just choosing to trust that it is.

    Every now and then I get a little note from an inmate that is getting released, and those little notes make my heart sing. They give me hope that what I do matters. Even if it doesn’t result in drastic life changes, at least I showed somebody that they are worth caring about. Right?

    I don’t know. I’m still always asking God what I could be or should be doing different that would have more impact. So far, I haven’t had any brilliant revelations. So I just continue doing the only thing I know how to do. I show up and I share whatever I can from my own experiences with God, and hope and pray that it will mean something to somebody.

    I will affirm that what you do definitely makes a difference. My life completely changed when you introduced me to the God I know little about. God went from being a far away and vague being that sent prayers to, to the guy that I know is always available for a chat or just to sit and be still, any time and anywhere.

    How will they know if nobody tells them?

  • Seth, your work does matter, because it’s Kingdom work. Keep it up!

    I didn’t read the blog yesterday because it was Monday, and Mondays and poetry don’t mix well for me 🙂 I will read it, tho!

    Give Team “Let’s Go There” a bunch of hugs from TX….esp Ruth!!

    Much love & many prayers,

  • My friend,
    Your blogpost brought to mind this quote by Mother Teresa:
    “God has not called me to be successful; God has called me to be faithful.”

    By any human measure, Jesus was not successful.
    But…He was faithful, unto death.

    The faith chapter comes to mind, too.
    “And all these, having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised…” Hebrews 11:39.

    Hebrews 11 is a compendium of some of the greatest men and women of faith in history and yet, by human standards, many were “failures” with no “achievable” results.

    You are by definition a man of faith or you could never have started OR stuck with this ministry of connecting people across nations and borders. And…you demonstrate and live out your faith in front of us daily, with your inspirational and encouraging posts.

    Keep living by faith and resist looking at the “results.”
    I know of what I speak: 32 intense months of laying down my life to write, edit, and publish my spiritual memoir. Blood, sweat, and tears. An investment of thousands of dollars to self-publish it. Result: $186. Which means a handful of readers.

    You’d think I would be depressed. Questioning the effort. Wondering the point and purpose of it all. (Of course, those questions have momentarily surfaced here and there.)

    But, honestly, at this stage I can say:
    I was called.
    I was faithful.
    And, the results are not my concern.
    That’s His department.

    And I add, “Thank, goodness…:)”

    Love you,

  • If you’re being obedient to Him, then what you do matters whether one person comments, claps, reads, or responds. Your primary audience is Him. Of course, part of your calling is to ‘mobilize, inspire…’ so it is natural to want to check and ‘test the fruit.’ But ultimately, we have a skewed way of measuring impact and success in this world, so best just focus on loving Him and doing as instructed.

    I refuse to have those ‘counter’ things on my page, because they are dangers to my focus/purpose. If I start playing to the crowd rather than my Savior, I’ve lost the plot. If I play to both, I still can lose the plot, because He is clear, ‘Seek Him first’. Besides which, as one pointed out, you might have more traffic one day just because it was a slow news day and more people had time to read and comment. We can read into their reading as favor when it could have been boredom. (Honestly, that is probably not the case with your blogs, but my point is that left to our own devices and need for approval and feelings of insecurity, we can interpret numbers completely out of context.)

    Seek Him first, and He will grant you the impact, meaning and favor He destined, desired and designed when He first thought of you.

  • Me again. And without even trying, I just noticed that your page has been viewed about 60 more times since when I commented. The counter is there near where you make comments, so hard for me not to notice as I’m a journalist trained to ‘be alert and notice.’ Yup, that’s why for me I would have to move that away. For you, might be a totally different story though. However it works out though, purity in purpose is worth aiming for. Of course, I’m a bundle of contradictions and true purity of purpose is not likely something I will acquire on this side of heaven, but as Paul says in Philippians 3:13,14:

    “But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

    I came back to comment again because I was reading something by Rick Joyner later today and it reminded me of the topic of this blog. I thought you’d appreciate this excerpt:

    “… we need to settle in our hearts right away that we will live to please the Lord and not men. The Apostle Paul wrote in Galatians 1:10, “If I were still seeking to please men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ.” To the degree that we are driven by the fear of man, or the desire to please men, we have compromised our ability to be a spokesperson for the Lord.

    To be a messenger, we have to be satisfied to receive our approval from the Lord and trust Him with the consequences that concern us.

    We must keep focused on the fact that our job is obedience, and we will trust that on the Judgment Day all will be made right. I personally try to keep my motives as simple as that—to hear on that day, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (see Matthew 25:21 NIV). When I start thinking about how people are going to react to something, or even how it might affect my relationship with friends, it usually works out differently anyway, so why waste time or mindshare going there?”

    Praying you and Karen get some deep refreshing God-inspired sleep tonight.

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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.

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