We have more resources at our fingertips than just about anyone else in human history. I’m only 24, but I remember (barely) a time before the internet; I certainly remember a time before smartphones. In about 20 years, there has been an explosion in our access to information! You don’t have to go to a library anymore to do research; you can do it all from your cell phone! News reaches us almost instantaneously; Twitter and news sites have become (for many of us) our primary source of news. The accessibility to information that the internet brings gives an opportunity to create and share that many people never would have had otherwise.
There are obviously some great benefits to this! For those in ministry, there are a plethora of resources, blogs, and books to help us be more effective. I personally love it; I devour information and input. I can easily find new games for youth ministry, sheet music for a special, new tips for managing my time…the internet is amazing!
This availability of these resources has certainly affected ministry. For one thing, it has led to a culture of self-improvement in ministry. The vast amount of information available to us challenges us to constantly find new resources, better ways to do things, and methods to be more effective. We are constantly encouraged to read good books, manage our time well, eat healthy, exercise, and try a new tool that will help us accomplish more. There are countless ideas for outreach, teaching, games…you name it! Overall, this is a great thing! We should all strive to be our best for the Lord; we should take care of bodies, enrich our minds, manage our time well, and learn to be more effective in our ministries.
However, I’ve noticed an error that we must watch out for. Well, let me clarify: I’ve noticed this error in myself. I’m assuming that I’m not the only one who is affected by it, but it’s a dangerous error; especially because it sneaks into our hearts by hiding under a good and genuine desire for self-improvement. The error is focusing on ourselves instead of God- seeking our glory instead of His.
Think of this: you wake up in the morning, eat a healthy breakfast, and go to the gym. After all, your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost, and you should take care of it! During your busy workday, you implement all the time management techniques you’ve learned to make yourself more effective in your ministry. That’s good! The Bible tells us to redeem the time. When you get home, you pick up the book you recently bought on preaching. Nice! The lessons in that book will help you preach the Word of God more faithfully.
All of those are excellent things! They are things we should all be doing, but if we are not careful, we may find ourselves improving ourselves for ourselves, and not for the Lord. It can be a subtle shift, to be sure. We go from implementing time management techniques to be better stewards of our ministry to doing it because we begin taking pride in our organizational ability. We go from budgeting and investing wisely because we want to follow biblical principles on money to doing it because we like feeling like a financial guru. We start reading- not because we want to be helped by the knowledge in the book, but because we want to be smarter than others. Our quest for self-improvement can easily become an avenue through which we glory in ourselves!
I find this to be a struggle in my life; I love taking tests to help me better understand my strengths and weaknesses; I love reading new techniques to be more effective and organized; I love learning something new! All those things are great, and have helped me become more effective, but the problem is that I can begin to glory in my own wisdom or discipline instead of glorying in the Lord! I can easily begin doing those things because it makes me a better me, not because it makes me a better Christian and servant of God.
What’s the solution? Stop expanding your mind by reading good books? Go back to eating Oreos and Mountain Dew for lunch? No! The solution is to change our hearts. To make a choice not to glory in ourselves, but in the Lord. Don’t stop seeking to be better; just stop doing it for yourself! Seek to be the best you can be for the Lord! Jeremiah says it well:
“Thus saith the Lord,
Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches: But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the Lord which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the Lord.”
We could rephrase this to match some of the things we might struggle with:
Let not the reader glory in his books,
Neither let the health nut glory in his health,
Let not the organizer glory in his time-management ability,
But let him that glorieth glory in this,
That he understandeth and knoweth God.
Is it possible you’ve fallen into the trap of glorying in yourself? Whatever your talents or abilities, don’t glory in the things you know, or what you can do; keep your focus on God! Keep trying to be the best you can be! Just be sure you’re doing it for God.