Ever pictured yourself heading into the rainforest to take the Gospel to an unreached people group? Imagined yourself as the writer of the up-and-coming Christian album? Sought to set up a new ministry that no-one has thought of before? All honourable aspirations, but if we’re honest, all tainted with a desire for self-glorification. Age 15, I wrote in my diary “I don’t want to be a Christian who sits around doing nothing for Jesus in mundane everyday life”.
There is something good in this – as children of the living God, we want to be actively seeking his glory, serving him wholeheartedly, prepared to sacrifice everything for the cause of the Gospel. We aspire to be the Pauls, the Josephs and the Moses’ of the Bible; the movers and shakers of our time. We fill our minds with the inspiring biographies of Whitfield and Moody, of Jim Elliot and Amy Carmichael and we long to be like them… why? Because we want God to be glorified? Or because we’re afraid that when we look back on our lives, we’ll think we’ve done nothing to change the world?
Kevin DeYoung, author of “Just do Something”, writes that; “for as long as we can remember, we have been destined for superstardom (…) We’ve been stuffed full of praise for mediocrity - we figure we should be able to be involved in the world’s troubles in a way that would make Bono proud. We want it all – all we need is for God to show us the way.”
As I’ve pondered this topic over the last few weeks, I have been made painfully aware of the selfish motivations that so often entangle my “godly ambitions”. I want to be recognised, admired and looked up to. I want my own glory… but that is not how the Gospel works. The mother who faithfully serves her husband and children - cooking their food, washing their clothes and nursing them through sickness, while modelling and teaching the servanthood of Christ, is just as godly a saint as the writer of the richest theology book. The businessman, who shows integrity in all his work, who refrains from office gossip, and earnestly prays for opportunities to show Jesus in all he does and says with his colleagues, is as much a missionary as the Amazon Gospel messenger. In essence, the question isn’t “what am I doing for Jesus?” but “who am I becoming for Jesus?”. If we are growing fruit, modelling christlikeness and seeking to honour him, the doing will follow.
My 15-year-old self was more concerned with what great achievement I would make for God than what great achievement he had made for me. I was (and often still am!) more concerned with the outward appearance of my service of Jesus that the inward workings of his Holy Spirit in me.
So let’s fill our prayers not with petitions to be achievers of great things, or even to do good things, but instead to be growing the fruit of the Spirit, to be transformed into the likeness of our Saviour, to be consumed by the Gospel of grace.
And if we do that, I have no doubt that the moving and shaking will follow anyway…