I get a daily e-mail devotional from the writings of Elisabeth Elliot. I have read probably most of her books, and they often minister to my heart. One devotional I received earlier in the week hit me right between the eyes, not only because of what it said, but also because of its timeliness:
Jesus gave responsibility and power to those who were willing to take the path He took. They were to represent the kingdom wherever they went–their peace to rest on those who received them. Those who rejected them were actually rejecting Christ. His followers would have power over snakes and scorpions.
There are principles here for us today, I believe. Surely every believer represents Christ and his kingdom. We are promised power from the Holy Spirit. But as soon as his power is manifest, another spirit is there instantly to tempt us to take credit to ourselves. If we are thanked for something we were merely the instrument for, it can become a heady business. Wow! we say, imagining that we deserve the credit.
Jesus warned the disciples not to be impressed when spirits submitted to them. It was not by their might or power that the enemy was subdued. They were nothing more than bearers of the kingdom. He told them to rejoice, not that they had performed a miraculous feat, but that their names were written in heaven.
Open my eyes, Lord, to recognize that the power is always yours. What is mine is the privilege, given from above, for your glory.
It was timely because just the very night before receiving it, I had been sorely tempted to get all “puffed up” because of some tiny, silly, insignificant thing. The flesh’s constant craving for attention, approval, praise, and glory is one of my most discouraging continual battles. Reading these words from Elisabeth Elliot encouraged me not only because it it helped me get my focus and perspective back in the right place, but also because it reminded me I am not alone in this struggle, that it’s a common one.
In one of my all-time favorite books, Climbing by Rosalind Goforth, she tells of struggling with this also:
[After receiving word that she was asked to take a meeting that afternoon], What could I do? There was the baby to nurse, and some message must be thought out. Hastily taking up the baby, I opened the Bible and placed it on a chair near enough to see, but at a safe distance from little, grasping hands. (Every mother knows a baby fights against divided attention!) Just then my husband opened the door. He exclaimed, “Well, Rose! It puzzles me how you can address a meeting with so little preparation.”
I replied, “Jonathan, if I had time like you, I could not expect to get a message in so short a time, but the fact is the Lord suits His help to me as a mother!” And oh, so often He did. (That afternoon the Lord gave a blessed message.)
I remember how when home in 1910 I addressed, during that furlough, over two hundred and fifty meetings. I had five children to care for then, and many times it was not till I was dressing to go to the meeting that, as I cast myself down on my knees for a moment, there came to me a clear-cut outline of the message I was to give. It was wonderful! It was D. L. Moody who once said, “The Christian on his knees sees more than the philosopher on tiptoe.”
Sadly and humbly, I must confess that many, many times when I had cried to the Lord for power in speaking and evident power was given, I had not left the platform before the thought would come, “I” have done well today. Then would come the cry for forgiveness.
That’s all too often been my experience — crying out to the Lord for help in some area, then feeling so proud of myself when someone shares with me how the Lord has used me in some way.
My dear mother-in-law once said that she had such a struggle with spiritual pride that she eventually began to stop doing any kind of ministry that could be seen by others. I understand that sentiment….yet, I don’t think that’s quite how the Lord would have us deal with this temptation.
It helps to remind myself that I’m just a conduit through which He can work. The glory doesn’t go to the pipe that brings water into the house!
It also helps to remind myself that since the glory for anything accomplished for the Lord is His, then I am stealing what isn’t rightfully mine when I want glory for myself. I also remind myself that that was Satan’s initial downfall.
I’ve been meaning for some time to put together a list of verses that will help keep the right perspective in this area, so I am going to do that here:
And seekest thou great things for thyself? seek them not. Jeremiah 45:5b.
And Samuel said, When thou wast little in thine own sight, wast thou not made the head of the tribes of Israel, and the LORD anointed thee king over Israel? I Samuel 15:17.
For who maketh thee to differ from another? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive? now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it? I Corinthians 4:7.
Not unto us, O LORD, not unto us, but unto thy name give glory, for thy mercy, and for thy truth’s sake. Psalm 115:1.
He must increase, but I must decrease. John 3:30.
God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up. James 4: 6b, 10.
…Be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you. Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world. I Peter 5:5b-9.
10 As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.
11 If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen. I Peter 4:10-11.