Sometimes when I get the angriest at life (or, God) is when it appears God and I are pursuing 2 different agendas. You see, as a pastor, my flesh and God often appear to have the same agenda–many times what is “good” for the Kingdom of God is also good for me… For example, when God moves and people get saved at our church, that increases the size of my church, which increases the size of my stature, reputation, and even income. Or, when God anoints me with a powerful word to preach, that sermon gets downloaded, passed around, and talked about a lot… again, aggrandizing me personally.
For that reason, it’s often difficult for me to distinguish in my heart Jesus’ prayer of submission, “let thy kingdom come,” from Satan’s prayer of rebellion, “let my kingdom come.”
But then… God does something around me that is good for His Kingdom but not good for me personally… He moves powerfully in some way that has nothing to do with me. Someone else’s church grows; someone else grows popular… and I wonder, “Why, God, could that not have been me? Why didn’t you do that here? Why not me?” And I tend to get angry, disappointed, and even feel self-pity that God enlarged Himself in someone else besides me.
Rather than rejoice at God’s lavish goodness to His people, I bemoan that God did not do His work in a way more personally beneficial to me. Sheez. I am Jonah, bemoaning the death of a tree that gave me a little shade when God just saved millions of individuals. Even worse, I am Saul, quietly wishing the death of some “David” because the people sing, “Saul has killed his thousands, but David his tens of thousands.”
In my more sober moments, I thank God that He often chooses others besides me to do His most powerful work, because otherwise I don’t think I would ever see the self-centeredness of my own heart. I would never be able to separate “thy kingdom come” from “my kingdom come.” I would never cease to be Satan and start to be a son of God. God’s grace to me is revealing my own idolatrous heart by enlarging others instead of me so I can see how much of my own flesh is wrapped up in my ministry.
Let me therefore encourage you… especially you brother pastors…. not to get depressed when God chooses someone else, besides you, to do His work. It is, perhaps, one of His greatest graces to you… because probably the greatest prayer we can ever learn to pray is “He must increase, but I must decrease.” After all, the most powerful preachers (as Jesus said of John the Baptist), are those, like John the Baptist, who realize they are simply a dispensable messenger pointing to a glorious King.