I have a friend named Tom who has been in ministry longer than I have been alive. This is a man who might as well have Psalm 115:1 tattooed on his forehead. He walks around saying it all the time. It permeates his life in prayer and practice.
Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness!
Tom is a man consumed with God getting the glory. His passion for God to be in the spotlight is always on his mind. He is an incredibly gifted leader, who radiates with Christ and has had the opportunity to mentor some of the most influential people God has used to shape our generation. All the while, most people have never ever heard Tom’s name, and he is perfectly okay with that. He is humble and meek, and he knows his ministry is not about him. He doesn’t seek the attention or the applause: “Not to Tom, O Lord, but to your name give glory.”
I think deep down most of us would look at Tom and think, “I want to be like that.” There is something undeniably appealing about someone who sees God’s hand on someone else’s life and ministry and wholeheartedly champions their efforts and rejoices in their successes — someone who is constantly on the lookout for the evidences of God’s grace at work in people’s gifting and accomplishments, and then generously gives out encouragement as if it was burning a hole in his pocket.
“We all want to be someone who champions others’ efforts and rejoices in others’ successes.”
But for many of us serving in ministry, this isn’t the reality. When someone else gets that leadership opportunity we wanted so badly, or the recognition our hearts were longing for, rather than rejoicing that God chose to use someone else, we begin to question our own value and worth. We ask ourselves, “Why them? Why not me?”
Sometimes this leads us to make a mental laundry list of the reasons we deserved it more or were more qualified. Sometimes it takes us down the dreadful path of criticism and character assassination. And then there’s the depression that can set in as the joy-thief of comparison fills our minds and our hearts with the enemy’s toxic lies about who God is and who we are.
In the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14–30), Jesus never says God loved the five-talent man more than the two-talent man. He gives as he sees fit, and all of it is grace. Can you imagine if we got what we actually deserve? We don’t deserve opportunities, influence, or accolades. Far from it! We deserve death and hell.
God Displays God
Yet God, in his grace, chooses to use us, not as a statement of how much he loves us, or how valuable we are, but as a display of his power in and through broken sinners like us.
Your ministry is not the measure of your worth — the cross is. Nothing screams it louder than the stripes of your Savior. God uses you, not because you’re so great, but because he is. He doesn’t need you, but he wants you. He has fearfully and wonderfully created you uniquely in his image, and then recreated you by the power of the resurrection. He has purchased you with Jesus’s perfect blood and called you his own.
“Your ministry is not the measure of your worth — the cross is.”
Let’s stop comparing ourselves with others and rest in the sovereignty, kindness, and wisdom of God, who loved us and gave himself up for us. He called us out of darkness into his marvelous light, and set us apart from before the foundation of the world to serve and lead in undeserved ways that bring glory to him. When he shows off in other people’s lives, giftings, and accomplishments, far be it from us to try and rob him of the glory he alone is due by questioning why we didn’t get it. It was never ours to begin with.
It’s hard to have joy when you’re consumed with what you don’t have.
I don’t know about you, but I’m choosing joy.
Not to us, O Lord, but to your name give glory!