Have you ever seen someone else do something or achieve something and you looked on with envy wondering how you could make it happen for yourself?
If we are honest, we’d probably all admit we’ve had those thoughts before. With writing and speaking, it’s so easy to look on with envy when others have great success instead of rejoice. Why were they asked to speak at such a big conference and not me? Why did they get a book deal so quickly when I’ve been working so long?
We all want the prize – the mirror ball trophy – the golden cup – the seat next to Jesus. It’s a struggle that’s been going on for years upon years.
Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him. “Teacher,” they said, “we want you to do for us whatever we ask.”
“What do you want me to do for you?” he asked.
They replied, “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.”
“You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said. Mark 10:35-38 NIV
In case you haven’t noticed, my last post was October 30 and even that was a repost of something I had written long ago. I’ve been struggling with that. Asking God why He hadn’t inspired me. Usually, the only time I’m uninspired is when I’m not spending time in His Word. But I’ve been there. I’ve spent morning after morning reading His Word and pouring out my heart in prayer.
I’ve been super busy, but still I’ve found time to do all my freelance writing. But nothing here on my site. I’ve worried God about this. “Lord, I’m going to lose my readers and followers.” He was silent.
“God, look at her! She is launching another new book!” Silence still.
“God, please let me write! Lord, am I still supposed to write? Send some encouragement.” The day I uttered that prayer, I received an email congratulating me for one of my stories making it into another Chicken Soup for the Soul book. (Chicken Soup for the Soul: Thanks to my Mom Coming out March 2015)
I cried, knowing God sent encouragement but still my website remained unchanged. No new words to share. I praised Him anyway.
I started incorporating some serious praise in my daily time with God. I listened to worship songs on YouTube singing along and lifting my hands here at the kitchen table. I poured through the words of the Bible and found myself weeping over the miracles of Christ, His death and resurrection and the stoning of Stephen.
But today, I started my day reading THIS post by Jon Acuff on the difference between inspiration and comparison. Then in my quiet time I read the story of Simon the sorcerer. It’s in Act 8 if you want to read it.
Simon heard the gospel from Philip and was saved. Then he saw Peter and John lay their hands on believers and watched them receive the Holy Spirit. It was powerful! And since Simon, who was a sorcerer or magician by trade, like to put on a good show he envisioned the awesomeness of having that type of power.
When Simon saw that the Spirit was given at the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money and said, “Give me also this ability so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.” Acts 8:18-19 NIV
Peter rebuked Simon telling him:
“May your money be destroyed with you for thinking God’s gift can be bought! You can have no part in this, for your heart is not right with God.” (v.20)
It would be so easy to gloss over this story and think, “Ha! I would never do that. I have never offered to slip our pastor a $20 to let me give the invitation. That’s crazy!”
What kind of pushing and manipulating have I done with God? God, I’ve baked goodies for the widow down the street. Can you hook me up with a speaking engagement? Or Lord, I just donated all of our old stuff to a homeless ministry. Think you could send that book proposal this way now?
Because isn’t that the way the world works? You do this to get that.
But y’all. That’s NOT it. God’s kingdom doesn’t work that way. It’s the opposite of this world. Jesus told James and John just that after they asked for special seating.
Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:42-45
And just in case I may have attempted to gloss over Simon’s story in Acts 8, the Lord plopped Philip and the Eunuch’s story right after it.
You see, the reason Peter and John came to Samaria (where Simon the sorcerer lived) in the first place was because they heard people were accepting God’s message there. Guess who was the one preaching it? Philip.
Philip had a great ministry going in Samaria. The Bible tells us many men and women were being baptized. But in the middle of this great ministry God asked Philip to “Go south down the desert road that runs from Jerusalem to Gaza.” (Acts 8:26) God sent Peter and John to take over in Samaria while he sent Philip elsewhere. It would have been so easy to say, “Hey! This is my ministry! I’m not leaving!”
But Philip didn’t, and we know by reading the rest of the story he was allowed to participate in the conversion of an Ethiopian Eunuch. God had a plan for him there. But Philip would have missed out on it if his heart wasn’t in the right place. Philip wasn’t focused on Philip. Philip was focused on God. And God’s message for the world.
And friends, that’s what God has been reminding me. It’s not about me. It’s not about speaking engagements, book deals, number of followers or how often I write on my website.
It’s all about Him.
The comparison thing? It takes the focus off of God and puts it on us. The trying to “buy” the Holy Spirit? It’s like trying to buy the spotlight. The holding onto ministry so tight you aren’t willing to let someone else take over? Again, the focus is on us.
I’m obviously a slow learner. But God has been teaching me the lesson of dying to self. My wants, my desires, my love for the spotlight all have to die. It’s a matter of heart. As I’ve read the Bible through, over and over again that’s the same theme I see.
It’s a heart issue. When we put God first, others next and ourselves last, we view the world the way He does. It’s hard to be judgmental when you are Christ focused.
So, I share my flaws with you because we are in this together. And just maybe there’s something in your life that you need to give to God. Maybe you struggle with the same things as me. It’s time we do some letting go. It’s not all about me. It’s about Him.
“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Matthew 6:33 NIV