I hate name-droppers. Perhaps hate is too strong a word, but I generally can’t stand to hear someone talking about who they know and how wonderful that person is and how important it is to know them. This was part of what had initially turned me off about Christians. All of this Jesus business was a bit too much for me when I first ventured into the fold. Looking back, it occurs to me that the only excuse I have for having felt that way was that I was ignorant. Ignorant to the glory that is in Christ and ignorant to the indescribable blessing that comes with accepting Jesus as your Savior and letting Him work in you. Thankfully, I’m no longer ignorant. I am, however; becoming more and more aware that I need to be very careful of the way I describe the blessings that have come to me through Christ. Let me explain.
The other day I was talking to my Dad on the phone and it occurred to me after several minutes of proclaiming God’s presence in my life that I probably sounded like a self-absorbed, self-exalting, moron who had no real idea why God wanted to be present in my life at all…either that or I just sounded like a raving nut. I was telling my father that God had woken me in the middle of the night and that He wouldn’t let me get back to sleep because of all of the ideas He was trying to give me. In the middle of what I was saying, I started to feel very uncomfortable. My side of the conversation suddenly sounded so pretentious that I almost had to hang up the phone before I started sounding any stupider. Ooh, I thought, you must be soooo important. God was talking to YOU. Aren’t you special?
You see, I haven’t yet learned how to temper my enthusiasm for how God is trying to work through me with what He is trying to do to me. I get so happy whenever I receive what I believe to be an insight from Him that I feel like rushing right out and sharing it with the first twenty people who will listen. The only problem with this is that I haven’t yet processed the entire lesson. And so, I’m like the big-mouth from my high school English classes who only read the Cliff’s Notes version of the big literature assignment but wants to show off and tell everyone the main ideas without understanding how the overall work fits together to make the point. Sure, you can pretty much understand the what, but without the why, does it really matter?
You might think, “Well, what’s the harm in that?” The harm is that when we go out there with horns blasting and full of vigorous enthusiasm for an idea, but with no strategy or basis for how that idea will improve something or someone, we are much more dangerous than if we would have just kept our mouth shut. There have been lessons that it took me over twenty years to understand; things that I thought I knew at the time became so much clearer after I looked back at how they fit with the rest of the story. For example, looking back at my life I can now see that my career path was not meant to bring the reward of more ambition. It was meant to prepare me so that I might share what I learned along the way when the opportunities to serve presented themselves. For a long time, I ignored those opportunities and went on about my business like God had nothing to do with any of it. Only after years of experiencing setbacks and learning things about myself and others am I equipped to do at least some of what God has put me here to do. And I don’t even know yet what all that will entail. But I’m more ready now than I was then and that’s the point.
Back to the name-dropping portion of the conversation; I started feeling uncomfortable in my conversation with my father because it started to sound less like I was glorifying God with testimony and more like I was bragging about how much He must love and trust me because He is interrupting my sleep to talk to me. That wasn’t my intention, but that’s how it started to sound and I didn’t like it. What I had been trying to say was getting all mixed up with my emotions over having something to say. As often happens in today’s media, the true message was getting lost in the marketing of the message and so, it began to be more about the messenger than about where it all came from in the first place.
So, my testimony for today is this: Everything in my life has been deeply affected by my love for God and Jesus Christ. Where there once was nothing but anger and despair, there is now an abundance of peace and contentment that I once thought couldn’t exist in my life. I can’t accurately capture the depth of my love for Him in my own words and the extent to which I am grateful for the many, many chances He has given me in this life to do what I should do. No matter how bad I have been, He has always forgiven me. The words to the song, All for Love by Hillsong United say it all:
Oh how many times have I broken Your heart
But still You forgive
If only I ask
And how many times have You heard me pray
Draw near to me
Everything I need is You
My beginning, my forever
Everything I need is You
There is nothing wrong with being enthusiastic and telling people that you know Jesus and that He is doing a great work within you. You just need to be careful that your enthusiasm for Him doesn’t come across as being pleased with yourself. When we cross the line into putting the celebrity of self above the glory of God, then we need to re-examine why we are talking about Him at all. If it’s just to draw more attention to us, then we need to leave Him out of it. He doesn’t need spin doctors or spotlight hogs. He needs believers, faithful and gracious believers whose light will shine from within. So if God has given you a gift and you want everyone to know what He has done, go tell it on the mountain. Just be sure that you’re not up there selling tickets to your own show.
“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
~Matthew 5:14-16 (New International Version, ©2010)~