I like reading biographies of dead people. Actually, biographies of dead people are just about all I read for fun. Some of my friends consider me weird and wonder why I don’t have any good hobbies. But I love getting to know a person from a former era, someone history has chosen to remember for some victory or office, some heroic act or unique accomplishment. I especially enjoy reading biographies of leaders who abandoned themselves to the opportunities of their time, hoping to make a difference for good. Men like John Adams, Winston Churchill, Theodore Roosevelt, George Marshall, and Abraham Lincoln have taught me countless lessons about leadership, courage, vision, and endurance.
Temptations to Pride
However, reading biographies of leaders comes with one gigantic temptation, one enormous risk. The risk: In reading about the men history considers great, I’m enticed to be great in the eyes of history. On some future date, perhaps one hundred years from now, I hope that someone will read about me. Of course I don’t hope to be a great politician or military leader, like these men were. I am a pastor. Next year, Lord willing, I will plant a church. My course in history tends in a very ecclesiastical direction. But I hope, in my own little evangelical world, to make a big enough mark in history that someone will read of me, of my church, of my preaching, one hundred years from now. I’m envious of those men, my own age, who already seem on track to have a hundred-year-old name. And church planting comes filled with temptations to desire prominence–to make my church a platform for my reputation. Deep down I want a hundred-year-old name. A ridiculous desire, unrealistic, considering my gifting and capacity. But it’s present all the same.
Ambitious for God’s Glory
Why? Why this disgusting, pathetic desire? Not because I am ambitious, not because I am driven, no. Far from it. My heart is too easily satisfied with the glory that comes from men. Instead of wanting the truly valuable, the honor of living and giving and sacrificing for God, I want a worthless hundred year name. Instead of wanting the eternal honor of His reward, I am focused on the cheep blue ribbon of a hundred-year-old biography. I see this scrap of desire blowing around the back alley of my heart, almost every time I read or hear of a famous man. And, ironically, every time I meditate on this worthless scrap of desire, it turns into a great weight of anxiety, fear, and worry. But Jesus has created in me a greater longing, more powerful still. He has planted in me the desire that His name would be glorified in me, and me in Him, according to His grace. (2 Thess. 1:12) He has paid in full for every prideful desire and bestowed His own nature of humble service within me. Because I am in Him, I can have my eyes set on eternity and the glory of God, not on the acclaim of this earth. All that I need for life and godliness and endurance and motivation and pastoring is found in Him. I have all that I need in Him to kill my ambition for earthly fame and cultivate a hunger of His glory.
So, to my fellow church planters. To any who share this sad desire for a hundred year name, let me encourage all of us with the following reminders:
- The Lord has already written our biography, whether famous or forgotten in history
- The Lord’s approval is all we need, all we want
- Service in secret receives heavenly acclaim
- The Lord remembers what man often forgets, and honors what man often disdains
- The Lord’s sheep are more valuable than our reputation
The Lord has called us to live for his glory. Let us not trade loving His glory for craving a hundred year name on earth.
After all, a hundred years from now, we will be with Him.
*Originally Posted at www.sovereigngraceministries.org