Over a decade ago I was involved in a women’s group through which I got to speak in front of large groups. I have a few real fears, but speaking in front of people is not one of them. So I greatly enjoyed those times, believing that this was my God-given skill and talent to do so.
At the time, although I spoke of Christian life and the Bible and God and Jesus, I never really got beyond my pride to give God the glory for what He had so graciously given me. I saw it as MY talent, MY skill, MY ability, even as I spoke of Him in wise words and axioms which were all true and right and good.
Then three years ago, I was connected to an organization in which I served as host for a conference. My role was to kick it off, introduce a speaker or two, make announcements and stuff, all from the stage. Before it, I prayed hard to do what God wanted me to do, aware that my pride had been a previous stumbling block in my faith. I prayed that His will be done, that He would put words in my mouth.
But something interesting happened.
I was nervous, borderline scared, a new emotion for me as it related to speaking in front of a group. The result: I was horrible on stage. Horrible. My timing was off. I talked too fast. I was sweating profusely. This seeming failure totally disarmed me.
So I went to prayer, mad as a hornet at God for not coming through for me.
Here’s what I learned (and it took weeks to get here!): God didn’t want me to discount the abilities He had given me. HE didn’t want me to leave them at the door believing that He was going to do all the work. After all, He had already done some work by giving me the ability, right?
Instead, He wanted me to rejoice in how He could use them for His good. I had been rejoicing in how my abilities glorified ME.
I went on that stage asking – in my own pridefully prayerful way – for God to glorify me. To be noticed and honored and deified, to not fail, to be incredibly great. I can laugh now at this but I was actually praying that He would have His way in the way I wanted Him to have His way.
Sound like just a minor, confusing nuance? Maybe so, but it was a HUGE lesson for me.
In the Bible, Jesus tells of sending out 72 disciples to tell people about Him. He knew, when they returned brimming over with excitement at all they had accomplished in His name, that they needed to be reminded of the very thing that I struggled through.
He warned them what to do with their excitement, to keep it in perspective of something that was greater.
Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven. ~Luke 10:20
It was fine for them – and for us – to be joyful about all that God had done through them, but to keep in mind the only real thing worth super-rejoicing over: Jesus’ resurrection that gave us heaven.
He knew that our hearts, like Satan’s before us, would be easily consumed with the pride of life, easily overpowered by our joy in what the world sees rather than in what God does. We slip into easy acceptance of the applause that should be directed to God.
We are reminded by Jesus in this story of the returning 72, that there is one thing so much more important, so much more impactful, so much more worthy of praise than any one big or small ministry, than any one great speaking engagement or sermon, than any one individual effort.
That one thing is Jesus; the one thing all believers can universally rejoice in!
Dear Lord, continue to teach us how to keep our priorities in check, to have joy in our lives with you here on earth, but to rejoice in abundance about what you did for us on the Cross. Let us never forget how much more worthy of our rejoicing that is than even the incredible ministries that you direct through us. ~Amen