Let me make a confession to you. Nearly everyday as a pastor, I face a consistent temptation. The temptation is to build my name and my reputation.
In recent weeks, I’ve attended our SBC annual meeting, followed numerous social media conversations, and interacted with church members on a regular basis. We’ve discussed what’s going on in the convention. We’ve discussed the inordinate amount of time some pastors and denominational leaders spend on social media serving as critics of others. In many of these conversations, I’ve found myself tempted to think I have the answers. In evaluating these conversations, I’ve found myself tempted to seek more influence. In thinking about ministry in general, I’m tempted to perceive ministry responsibilities and opportunities as a means to build my own name and reputation.
In short, I’m tempted way too often to promote myself.
In light of these temptations, God reminded me what is primary. He reminded me that I serve his kingdom, not my own.
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.Matthew 5:3
Our Father in heaven,Matthew 5:9-10
hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come,
Your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.Matthew 6:33
My life is not about me. Ministry opportunities, influence, responsibilities, blessings, and privileges are not for me.
According to Jesus, I must remember that I am poverty-stricken, spiritually bankrupt, offering nothing to the Lord that he needs.
According to Jesus, I must remember that the Father’s kingdom and the Father’s will is what matters, not my own.
According to Jesus, I must remember to seek the Father’s kingdom and his righteousness in my own life, not the glory of my own name.
In thinking on my temptations and reflecting on these truths, here are a few reminders I’m trying to practice in order to focus on God’s kingdom and not my own.
- Remind myself everyday that I am spiritually impoverished on my own. I am not doing God a favor by serving him in ministry. He doesn’t need me. If I get to experience the kingdom of heaven and serve him, it is all by grace.
- Acknowledge the greatness and grace of the Lord in all my ways. Our Father is holy and great, merciful and majestic, full of glory and full of grace. Beginning our prayers and daily activities with the greatness, glory, and grace of God properly resets my perspective on whose kingdom matters.
- Seek the kingdom of God by evaluating actions and activities in light of God’s redemptive mission in the world. One way we are tempted to emphasize our own kingdoms over God’s kingdom is simply by determining our moments by what best suits us. As I think, pray, and discern over God’s mission, it is far easier for me to properly submit my plans to God’s plans.
- Confess regularly my self-absorption. Our age of social media influencers, followers, friends, likes, hearts, and connections tempts us to consider our interactions in light of ourselves. Instead of checking on my feeds, God is teaching me to confess and repent of my obsession with myself.
- Return praise and thanks to God for what he’s doing. When God uses you or me through our gifts, talents, abilities, and availability, we must remember that he is the One who is indispensable. He’s used fish, a plant and a worm (Jonah), donkeys (Balaam’s donkey), ants (Proverbs 6), birds (feeding Elijah), and nature (storms on the Sea of Galilee) to accomplish his purposes. He doesn’t need you or me. So, let’s thank God when he uses us and return the praise to him that he is due.
Whose kingdom are you trying to build? For me too often, I’m focused on my own. But my own kingdom is built on sand with straw. It is sure to fold and not last.
But the kingdom of Jesus? Well, that kingdom will last. Have a read in Daniel 2 and the Sermon on the Mount from Matthew 5-7. That’s the kingdom, the story, the mission, that will truly last. And in abundant grace, God invites us to participate in the building of his kingdom.