The desire to create and rule one’s own kingdom is an ancient struggle of the heart. All the way back to our friends, Adam & Eve in Genesis… The temptation to want to be in control… wise… all-knowing… god-like… This temptation hisses in the garden and eventually rings in the ear of man. The consequent fall of man due to this chase after man’s own glory is an effective tactic of the enemy. We are all susceptible.
May we pick up our swords of Truth and fight mightily in this battle… May we meditate upon God’s Truth and His Sovereignty. May I decrease… and may He increase.
When I examine my own heart, I need to be radically transformed as to humbly bow before the cross and bathe in His lavish love and greatness. Holy Spirit, rain down on us. Speak to us. Move in us. Expose our idols. Correct, rebuke, reprove. Teach us. Radically transform us. May we not chase after our own glory… May our lives and very breath make much of Jesus! For Your glory… For YOUR glory, Lord Jesus.
Ephesians 6: 10-13 10Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.
J.D. Greear eloquently describes this struggle in his blog, “Confession of a Pastor.”
Sometimes when I get the angriest at life (or, God) is when it appears God and I are pursuing 2 different agendas. You see, as a pastor, my flesh and God often appear to have the same agenda–many times what is “good” for the Kingdom of God is also good for me… For example, when God moves and people get saved at our church, that increases the size of my church, which increases the size of my stature, reputation, and even income. Or, when God anoints me with a powerful word to preach, that sermon gets downloaded, passed around, and talked about a lot… again, aggrandizing me personally.
For that reason, it’s often difficult for me to distinguish in my heart Jesus’ prayer of submission, “let thy kingdom come,” from Satan’s prayer of rebellion, “let my kingdom come.”
But then… God does something around me that is good for His Kingdom but not good for me personally… He moves powerfully in some way that has nothing to do with me. Someone else’s church grows; someone else grows popular… and I wonder, “Why, God, could that not have been me? Why didn’t you do that here? Why not me?” And I tend to get angry, disappointed, and even feel self-pity that God enlarged Himself in someone else besides me.
Rather than rejoice at God’s lavish goodness to His people, I bemoan that God did not do His work in a way more personally beneficial to me. Sheez. I am Jonah, bemoaning the death of a tree that gave me a little shade when God just saved millions of individuals. Even worse, I am Saul, quietly wishing the death of some “David” because the people sing, “Saul has killed his thousands, but David his tens of thousands.”
In my more sober moments, I thank God that He often chooses others besides me to do His most powerful work, because otherwise I don’t think I would ever see the self-centeredness of my own heart. I would never be able to separate “thy kingdom come” from “my kingdom come.” I would never cease to be Satan and start to be a son of God. God’s grace to me is revealing my own idolatrous heart by enlarging others instead of me so I can see how much of my own flesh is wrapped up in my ministry.
Let me therefore encourage you… especially you brother pastors…. not to get depressed when God chooses someone else, besides you, to do His work. It is, perhaps, one of His greatest graces to you… because probably the greatest prayer we can ever learn to pray is “He must increase, but I must decrease.” After all, the most powerful preachers (as Jesus said of John the Baptist), are those, like John the Baptist, who realize they are simply a dispensable messenger pointing to a glorious King.