As I was reading early this morning, the Lord slipped quietly up to me and gently nailed my heart to the wall.
I was reading a book by D. A. Carson entitled, “A Call to Spiritual Reformation.” Dr. Carson was talking about Paul’s prayers for the people he ministered to and he highlighted the fact that Paul was consumed with being a blessing to those people. (So far I am doing good. I agree that Paul sure wanted to be a blessing to people.)
Then Dr. Carson wrote: “As someone who has taught seminary students for more than fifteen years, I worry about the rising number of seminarians who, when asked where and how they think they might best serve, respond with something like this: ‘Well, I think I would like to teach somewhere. Every time I have taught, people have told me I have done a pretty good job. I get a tremendous sense of fulfillment out of teaching the Bible. I think I could be satisfied teaching Scripture.’ How pathetic.” “In any Christian view of life, self-fulfillment must never be permitted to become the controlling issue. The issue is service. The question is ‘How can I be most useful?,not ‘How can I feel most useful? The goal is, How can I most glorify God by serving the people?, not How can I feel most comfortable and appreciated while engaging in some acceptable form of Christian ministry?”
The thought was sudden but sharp. How often do I do ministry…visit…pray with folks…preach, (especially preach) because I get satisfaction out of it…because it makes me feel good? How much of my ministry is based on my love for God and those I minister too, and how much of it is based on how it makes me feel?
I will share with you what I wrote in my journal.
“How ashamed I feel as my heart is opened up and I see the seep of self-centeredness there. Oh, God forgive me and cleanse me.”
“So, what will I do, by the grace of God, to change? (I have learned that confession is worthless unless there is the intent and plan to change.)
1. I will put a reminder on my wall and in the fly leaf of my Bible to remind me that Christian ministry is for God’s glory and the help of His people and not for my self-gratification.
2. I will make this a matter of specific prayer and meditate upon men of God in the Bible and history who fulfilled their ministries to God’s glory.
3. As God opens doors for ministry I will think of the people I am to minister to as God’s possession, and remember that I am to be a helper of their faith. My feelings don’t really matter.
Just in case your are interested, here is what I placed on my wall and in the fly leaf of my Bible.
Why do I Preach and Teach?
1. For God’s glory. He called me to it. It is a way He has ordained for me to glorify Him.
2. For the help of people. God has given me the blessing of helping His people. I must cultivate the joy of helping God’s people experience Christ. I must cultivate a love for God’s people because God loves them.
3. He has NOT called me to the ministry to satisfy my need for acceptance or to gratify my fleshly need for self-worth. My true self-worth comes from Christ alone.
I am sure that I am not the only preacher who has fallen into this vanity trap and so I hope my confession to you has not been in vain.
May the Lord give us all a love for His people that is rooted in His love for them and not in our love for ourselves!