By Don Enevoldsen
A couple recently shared with me some of their insights from a lifetime of ministry. The part that dramatically caught my attention and prompted thoughts about the grace of God and the course of my own life and ministry was when the wife recounted a recent conversation with God. God told her that she had put idols between herself and him.
She had faithfully served in ministry for many decades, and could not think of anything she had ever allowed to distract her from her service of him. Baffled, she asked God for clarification.
He responded that the success of her ministry was an idol.
As I listened, I thought, but did not say, “But for the grace of God, there go I.”
It’s one of my favorite responses when someone shares a personal failure or flaw with me. With this phrase I can strike a note of humility—“I’m sure I would be just as weak as you, given the circumstances.” At the same time, I can balance my humility with a reinforcement of my spiritual superiority—“I haven’t actually been weak like you.” Subtle arrogance is remarkably effective when you learn to express it just right.
What this woman shared, however, struck me a little too close to home. I knew immediately that I could only use part of my favorite phrase: “There go I.”
It’s always disconcerting to analyze what constitutes success in the minds of we preachers. Our conversations revolve around numbers of people to whom we have ministered, as though we run some kind of spiritual McDonald’s. “Come to the heavenly arches—10,000 served this week.” I’ve often made the statement that numbers do not define success in God’s eyes. But I still find myself counting up how many people I’ve touched in some way.
It’s sobering to realize that by that criteria, the prophet Jeremiah was an abject failure. So was Ezekiel. Nobody listened to either one of them. At least not during their lifetimes.
The truth is that God defines success by faithfulness to him and not by anything else. By the grace of God, I do get to see some of the success stories in which I’ve been involved, and that is immensely satisfying and encouraging. But it has nothing to do with defining my faithfulness. A key to success is to stop worrying about, “There go I,” and focus on, “Here am I.”
10 thoughts on “There Go I”
‘At the same time, I can balance my humility with a reinforcement of my spiritual superiority—“I haven’t actually been weak like you.” Subtle arrogance is remarkably effective when you learn to express it just right.’
“Luke 18:11(NET) The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.”
Love the way you describe the… inward… never openly expressed… pride that reveals how our hearts are still “desperately wicked.” Isn’t it great that God is greater than our heart, knows all things, and still loves us!
Tom, what I find remarkable (and have found remarkable for my entire life) is the degree to which we all seem to have the same struggles with pride, self-identity and self-worth. Yet God does still love us, it is true. It says a lot more about Him than it does about us.
Let’s all put childish things away. He isn’t impressed with our own recognition of our “humility” or our “arrogance”. Just be you, warts and all. I think He’s so cool with that! :), and spending energy on dissecting our soul only leads to more self righteousness.
Connie, your point is well taken, and thank you for sharing it, but I think there is some value in pointing out the inner struggles that we all go through, first of all to confirm that we aren’t alone in the conflict, and secondly as a means to constantly keep ourselves in check. Even Paul engaged in a certain amount of introspective examination. (Romans 7:21-25, for example) The constant buffeting of his body (1 Corinthians 9:27) is an example of the need for such examination.
Great one, Don! Well done…
Thank you, Ryan.
“Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”
If we ever really learned to think the way God does, the world would change dramatically for the good. So would the church.
Still learning patience i am. One may get what one prays for, this i\’m learning…ongoing. Several years ago i prayed for the \”understanding\” of wisdom, not for wisdom in itself. i am careful what to pray about. Patience is hard for me. Thanks Pastor Don Enevoldsen and the well placed timing of (all)your insight and counter thoughts.
Thanks, Andrew, for your candid sharing of your own journey.