Alright friends . . . we’re about to get real personal here. It’s not something I am proud of, but it’s also something that I’m confident I’m not alone in. I’ve got a sneaking suspicion that most of you who have been serving God faithfully for a long time, regardless of platform and capacity, have also had to battle this on a regular basis. I lovingly, and a little embarrassingly, refer to it as “humble entitlement.” It’s that thought or feeling that rises up from time to time where we question an apparent lack of blessing despite the fact that we have given of ourselves willingly for years. Look me in the eye (you know what I mean) and tell me these thoughts, or something like them, haven’t crossed your mind.
“But God, I’ve sacrificed my life, my family’s life, everything to serve You, and yet I still can barely make ends meet.”
“How is it that I work so hard at living a holy life and am still in the same place I was 5 years ago, and yet this other person is getting to do amazing things even though I know that Godliness is the furthest thing from their mind?”
In our finite humanity, we get it into our minds that the “reward” for our service is somehow measurable and earthly. Then before we know it, the enemy has a foothold and bitterness begins to set in. I’m sure that every facet of ministry - be it pastoring, writing, student ministry, whatever - has their particular achievements to strive for or that unknowingly serve as their North Star. Maybe it’s the pastor of a mega-church that other pastors model their approaches after. Perhaps student ministers get a specific number in their minds that would mean they’ve “made it”. For us as worship leaders, it’s easy to fall into the trap of comparing our accomplishments to those of others (the skill level of our team members, how many streams our latest singles have gotten, how many “outside” events we’ve been invited to). Who knows what it is that sits tucked away in the recesses of our ministry brains that serves as our measuring stick for success? But we all have them, whether we want to admit it or not. I’m not so sure that it’s bad or wrong for us to have goals to strive for, so long as these goals don’t take precedence over the heart of ministry itself - to love God and His people.
Romans 11:33-36 says . . .
Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor? Who has ever given to God, that God should repay them? For from him and through him and for him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen.
In other words, He owes us nothing! Just recently I was in a co-write with a close friend and we wound up settling in on the idea that we as believers often try to stand on promises that the Lord never made. We put words in His mouth that He never spoke. We claim things that He never put forth for us. Sometimes it’s healthy to take a step back every now and then and remind ourselves of the promises that He has made . . . that He will never leave or forsake us, that He wants to give us a full life, that He will always provide a way out when tempted, etc . . . and prune out the ones we (or the enemy) have somehow convinced ourselves of . . . that if we strive hard enough we will reach that coveted platform, that the number of people in front of us somehow reflects our effectiveness, that our talents and skills determine our reach, etc . . .
Paul reminds us in Romans 9:15 of God’s words to Moses.
I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.
We have no say over who He chooses to use, in what capacities He places them, and to what level He raises them. It is not our job to worry about that. Our job is to fix our eyes on the task set before us, the ministries placed under our care, and the hearts entrusted to us. If we get the pouty lip every time someone else who may seem less qualified gets elevated, our attention is diverted at the expense of those we were called to serve. Imagine if the commander of a troop of soldiers found out that the leader of another troop got promoted ahead of him even though he’d been serving 10 years less than himself; and instead of staying focused on his assignment, he decided to take his toys and go home, leaving his entire troop leaderless and visionless.
We may never know the magnitude of our ministries this side of heaven, but one thing is for sure. The trajectory of the lives of the people we have been called to serve can and will be affected by our obedience or lack thereof. If we lead them out of an attitude of humble entitlement, we are leading out of a divided mind and heart. But if we can manage to keep our eyes focused on the race set before us, only God knows just how vast and limitless the reach of our ministries will stretch.
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