the emptiness of mere earthly/worldly success and glory

Better a poor but wise youth than an old but foolish king who no longer knows how to heed a warning. The youth may have come from prison to the kingship, or he may have been born in poverty within his kingdom. I saw that all who lived and walked under the sun followed the youth, the king’s successor. There was no end to all the people who were before them. But those who came later were not pleased with the successor. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.

Ecclesiastes 4:13-16

I hear of famous people who die and wonder what kind of legacy they left other than their name in the headlines for this or that reason. And it’s the nature of things to be concerned only about what is happening now.

For something to matter in the present, it should have important ramifications for the future. I think in American history of two great figures among others, probably the two that most come to mind: Abraham Lincoln and George Washington. What they did during their times set important precedent for future generations, for the nation itself. Every person sends out ripples for good or not, or sometimes sadly enough for no good at all, and maybe even evil. One good question to ask could be what one is remembered for. It’s good to have the full picture, warts and all. And in that picture, there’s hopefully some redeeming features which override what inevitable weaknesses there are.

Eternity is not isolated, or like some escape. The present is meant to impact the future (and actually, the future/eternity, the present). If we’re simply set on the present with no thought of the future, then we’re on a bad course. We may even want to be remembered for something great, preferably just good. That can have meaning not only for the present, but beyond, even an eternal impact. Possible for everyone by the redemption in and through Jesus.

 

 

no need for praise

Whatever God calls us to do we simply need to do and keep doing it regardless of what the effect seems to be. And certainly including whether or not any one expresses appreciation for what we have done.

There is the need for those in the church to both recognize and affirm the gifting one does have, no doubt. And it is an encouragement to know if someone is helped by what we do, or more accurately what God does through us. So there is that balance.

But the last thing we should be looking for or expecting is praise from people. In fact when God is at work the most there may be the least possibility of that. God’s working does not always bring comfort with it. Oftentimes quite the opposite to be sure.

In the end we want to be praised by the Lord as those who were good and faithful servants, doing his will, using what gifts he had given us. We realize that anything short of that is high and dry, indeed empty.

It is freedom to let go of the desire to receive any praise from anyone, in my case for teaching or preaching well, or whatever. We want to do well and be a blessing in the Lord to others. But the focus should never be on the servant but on the one that is served. Any good is all from God who alone deserves all praise.

May the Lord continue to free us from being moved either by praise or criticism from people, as long as we are faithful in Jesus by the Spirit to God’s calling to us.

the self-emptying of Christ

Paul tells us in Philippians 2 that Christ emptied himself, or as the New International Version renders it, “made himself nothing”, taking on the nature of a servant. Christ became human, became what we are, so that from the saying of old, we may be what he is, or be like him.

And that’s the crux of the matter in the Philippians passage. Yes, Philippians 2:5-11 is a great Christological passage and poem, most likely a hymn of the early church.  But one must read it in context, seeing that the first four verses of this chapter, what precedes it most certainly shows that Christ in his incarnation and obedience to the point even of death on a cross, is to be our pattern for living. We in Jesus are to humble ourselves in that way. With reference to our relationships with each other.

I tend not to think, right or wrong. that the deadly sin of pride and perhaps a form of pride, vain-glory are troubling and sticking points with me. However when pride (and/or vain-glory) rears its ugly head, then I am aghast because I hate it, and there seems to be nothing I can do about it. In fact that is the very reason God may let me struggle with it for a season, so I can catch a small glimpse of just how ugly it is, and just how helpless I am to do anything about it myself.

But God will do that work, the work to help us humble ourselves, even as Christ did. And this happens, according to the Philippians passage, in relationships. We are to do this, indeed become this within the context of our relationships with others in Jesus. This will take time, it is indeed something we are to do, but something we can’t do apart from God’s ongoing work of grace. We  are told immediately after this to work out our salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who is at work in us so that we will choose to do his good will. And as we see further in that passage, as we follow God’s directives, we are in that way to be a light to the world, in and through Jesus.

Of course only Jesus was completely humble. We want to grow into more and more of that humility together in Jesus for the world.