May 27, 2024


Devotion for the week...

We have a book written by Mark Hall, the lead singer and songwriter for Casting Crowns and youth pastor. It's called The Well, and in it he talks about all the different places people go to fill up, thinking those things are wells that can satisfy, when really they're just holes. In the chapter about what he calls 'the hole of approval', Hall writes, "The approval of others is like a commodity to me. I have to take great pains to make sure I don't trade in it. My biggest struggle comes not with Casting Crowns and music but with ministry. I fight to make sure I base the direction of our ministry on God's Word and the leading of his Spirit rather than on someone else's likes or dislikes." I remember being surprised when I first read that. I would have thought a struggle against seeking approval from others would be amplified by being part of a successful band, more so than leading a youth ministry.

I hadn't thought about that book in years, but it came to mind again recently when I read 2 Corinthians 5:12, which says, "Are we commending ourselves to you again? No, we are giving you a reason to be proud of us, so you can answer those who brag about having a spectacular ministry rather than having a sincere heart." People were criticizing Paul, trying to portray him as working for his own good and his own status, so Paul was reminding the Corinthians of his sincerity when he was with them, not to puff himself up in their view, but so they could have some ammunition to defend him (and their belief because of his time with them). 

The spectacular ministry part really stood out to me. I often don't think about it, but the apostles and teachers of the day would have been celebrities at the time. People would have judged them by the appearances of success - how many people followed them, how many showed up to hear them talk, how many professed to be believers after hearing them? 

We can't know if Paul's ministry was considered spectacular at the time, but Paul says here it doesn't matter. It's not the appearance of success that we should care about in a ministry, but rather the sincerity of the person leading it. It makes me think about when God told Samuel, "Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart" (1 Samuel 16:7). Samuel was looking to anoint the future king, and thought physical appearance would be the determining factor, but God was more interested in the character of the king-to-be.
The appearance of success in our work for God doesn't matter any more than our physical appearance |
By pointing to the importance of a sincere heart, Paul reminds us all that the appearance of success in our work for God doesn't matter any more than our physical appearance. Whether or not we work in a formal ministry setting, we all work for God in some way, and He doesn't look at success the same as we do. We look at how many people showed up for the program, or how many people read the things we write, or how many of the people we invited to church came, or how many people have believed after we talked to them about God. We want to see spectacular results. God wants to see us following Him with sincere hearts, reaching out to others with the desire to see them following Him, too, rather than with the desire to boost whatever we're measuring as the marker of our success.

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