On June 26 I retired after being pastor of Main Street Baptist Church in Doylestown for 35 years. I’ve taken some time to look back at the main lessons God has taught me during that time. Here’s one:
Another important truth I’ve learned is not to evaluate my worth or growth as a person just by my ability to use the gifts God has given me. My spiritual gifts are mainly teaching/preaching and counseling. As I’ve practiced them for five decades I can see that there has been growth and improvement in these areas. My wife says I’m at the top of my game now in ministry. I should be, since I’ve spent thousands of hours over the years honing these skills. It’s nice to look back and see the improvement made and efficiency attained in these areas.
I thank God for this, because it is His grace and His Spirit that has brought these about. However I’ve no illusion that I could have done this on my own. I know what these ‘skills’ would look like should He withdraw His Spirit and His help from me. On my own, I would be a real failure in these areas. He gets all the credit for them.
It’s important for me to realize this because if I don’t I start thinking that somehow I am pretty good as a person because of what I do. It’s easy for us, especially for men, to evaluate ourselves by what we do instead of who we are. Who I am as a person, though, is entirely different than what I’ve learned to do in using the gifts God has given me. I am not defined by what I produce but by who I am inside, separate from how I perform my ministry duties. Does that make sense? Are you following me here? I hope so for I believe this is very important for each one of us.
When God looks at me He isn’t impressed by my last sermon or counseling session. He looks at my heart, at the real me. Judas was skilled in ministry, so much so that he was trusted with the money bag. No one suspected Judas when Jesus said someone would betray Him. Judas was probably one of the most talented and personable disciples. He could function very well. But none of that mattered, did it?
I enjoy teaching, preaching and counseling. I have a great desire to do these things and do them well. I feel great when that happens. However, hardly a Sunday goes by when, standing at the door after the service listening to people complement the message, I don’t remember Howard Hendrick’s description of that event as the “glorification of the worm.” It helps me remember where the credit really belongs. I don’t want to take credit for what He does, that would be stealing His glory.
I don’t want to use God’s gifts to impress others, myself or God. I can enjoy what He has given me and does through me but I can’t take credit for it myself and I can’t evaluate myself as a human being just by how I can perform. And neither can you. So if you are getting more effective and skillful in using the gifts and talents God has given you – great! But don’t take credit for it. Don’t use that to evaluate your worth or your spiritual growth. Thank God for using you and doing those things through you, but don’t take credit for them. They are what you do (by God’s grace), not who you are! (August 1, 2016 Doylestown, PA)
1 Corinthians 15:10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them — yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.
Romans 15:17 Therefore I glory in Christ Jesus in my service to God.
How much emphasis do you put on the successful use of your spiritual gifts? Are you tempted to take pride in them?
If God removed His grace and power from your life, what would change?
How do you measure your spiritual growth? How does God measure it?
INDIA UPDATE: Moses in the Bible was given a name that means “to draw from the water.” Our Pastor Moses in India, named after the Bible Moses, has, in the last year, gotten very involved in finding places for water wells and overseeing their installation and maintenance. He is not drawing from the water, but drawing the life-giving water itself for the people. Living in this country we cannot imagine how much difference this makes to the people in India and how it opens the hearts of those who don’t know Jesus to the Living Water of His Word!
PRAY FOR Pastor Moses and his ministry in India. Pray for the new wells and that people coming to them would also come to Jesus and drink from the water of life found only in Him.