So many times ministers are warned not to seek glory for themselves, or the beloved in the church are reminded not to idolise men or women of God, only to come unstuck when Christians with good intentions take their eyes off Jesus and His finished work on the cross and begin to focus on the efforts and achievements of man or self.
In 1 Corinthians 1:13-23, Paul warned about the dangers of glorifying men rather than Christ who died for us on the cross. He warned of the division this causes in the flock, also adding‘For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.’
In other words, God commanded Paul not to seek or receive glory from men, in fact, God had commanded him not to even speak eloquent words of wisdom, but God-glorifying words that would bring the focus not on Paul’s skill of speaking but to the message of Christ and Him crucified (1 Corinthians 2:2). God gets the glory!
Whether we are a minister or being ministered to, we must remember that honouring man for his service to God is not a bad thing, but there is a fine line here where it can easily cross into areas of pride, and the dangers of this needs to be realised. The Bible warns that ‘Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall’ Proverbs 16:18. Paul was addressing the initial and subtle deception of an anti-christ spirit that would come into the church and either oppose or replace true worship of our Lord and Saviour, focusing on men and their efforts, talents and skillful articulation instead.
Psalm 118:8 It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in man.
Today, ministers are often praised and Jesus is shoved in some back cupboard as if it is not His ministry at all. Ministry is even seen as a business, as if there is competition – factions. In this modern era, ministers’ egos and pride can set in so easily when we check our facebook and social media accounts for the latest raving reviews; scoffing at those who oppose us and loving those who love us. How far have we fallen when we believe our own media – good or bad? How far will we fall if we continue in this manner, leaving our intentions unchecked?
In a world of instant gratification and self obsession, we need to constantly keep our eyes upon Jesus and point to the One who deserves all the glory. We must remember to love our enemies, bless them that curse us, do good to them that hate us and pray for them which despitefully use us and persecute us. If we are to remain effective in ministry, His ministry, then we need to discern when pride is sneaking in our heart and either leading us to indulge in accolades or pour out our affections upon those who have impacted our life. We need to cast our thoughts back to the beginning, where Adam and Eve were tempted into being like God and attempted to share in His glory. God will not share His glory with anyone (Isaiah 42:8). How easily we can do this without realising, and if the enemy can tempt us in this way, we become ineffective in ministry if it persists.
Our freedom is found in Christ, not Paul, Apollos or our favourite preacher. May the Lord lead us to worship Him in spirit and truth.
As John the Baptist said, ‘He must increase, but I must decrease.’
— By Judah Ayling