Whose Kingdom is This Anyway?
- Vaneetha Rendall Risner danceintherain.com
- 2017 16 Feb
I have always been far too preoccupied with my own glory.
I don’t like saying that because it sounds terrible. And embarrassing. And deeply sinful.
God does not share his glory with anyone else and our lives need to be preoccupied with his glory and not our own.
As a child in the hospital, I remember watching TV for hours on end. The ward was dull and boring and the four walls of the hospital were all I knew. But TV took me to a world where people lead exciting glamorous lives, lives that I longed to emulate.
Much of my time was spent fantasizing over what my life would look like. Once I left the hospital, I imagined that one day people would marvel over my beauty. And brilliance. And bravery.
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I don’t fantasize about those things anymore, mostly because I’m a realist. I still have same struggles, though they are more discrete and hidden.
I now wrestle with wanting to be “successful” in the Christian world, which is still ultimately about my glory. And of course, I always want to look humble. It’s insidious and frightening, which makes it all the more terrifying to write it on this screen for others to read and know.
But thankfully, God knows this preoccupation with my glory is poison to my soul and he reminds me that I need to run from it.
My latest awareness of this sin started when I was reading the Bible and was drawn to Luke 14:7-11. In this passage, Jesus says “But when you are invited, go and sit in the lowest place… For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
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I wrote in my journal, “Do not sit down in a place of honor. Take the lowest place. Let others praise you and not your own lips.”
I even wrote “take the low seat” on the prayer card that I pray daily for myself. I am asking God to bring this about in my life.
I don’t like the low seat. I want to take a place of honor. And if other people don’t know my accomplishments, I’d like to make sure they do. And so I would prefer to casually drop into conversation some of my achievements, ensuring that I don’t sound like I’m boasting.
There are so many rationales today for doing that, especially for writers. We’re establishing a platform. We want to get the word out for others so we can serve them. We need to find the people who will resonate with our message. To help them.
While that is very true, there is a dark and ugly side to self-promotion too. We want people to praise us. We want to further our kingdoms. Of course, that’s because God can use us more, right?
Do I think it’s wrong for people to promote themselves? No, not at all. For some people, that’s what God is calling them to do because they need to reach people with the message God has entrusted them with. But for me, God keeps telling me to take the low seat.
As I mentioned earlier, this desire for my own glory has been a lifelong battle for me and it didn’t begin when I started writing publicly. When I came to Christ at age 16, one of the first Scriptures I underlined in my Bible was John 12:43 speaking of the Pharisees, “For they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God.”
I knew then that my loving the praise of others was a deeply rooted problem, though I had no idea how deep its roots actually were.
And as other sin came to the forefront in my life, I slowly forgot the deadliness of wanting man’s praise and pursuing it. It was an easy sin to rationalize and disguise.
So now, decades later, I’m grateful the Lord is reminding me afresh that I need to keep bringing this sin to him. Or it will kill me. Because the praise of man is fickle at best and toxic at worst. God’s praise is the only thing that matters.
I need to live for God’s glory and not my own.
I was recently convicted as I read the “Resolves” of Frederick W Robertson, a preacher in England in the mid 1800’s. I appreciated his insight into his own heart, which gave me greater insight into mine.
After reading Robertson’s resolves, I have been asking myself: Am I content to be insignificant or am I striving to make a name for myself? Do I turn conversations back to myself so that I can shine? Am I a subtle trumpeter of my own accomplishments? Do I think about myself too often? Am I willing to be overlooked? How am I building my own castles?
As I honestly answer each question, I am embarrassed at how preoccupied I am with myself and my glory. How I don’t like obscurity. I like people to know who I am, what I do and what I’ve done. Which is precisely why the Lord keeps reminding me to take the low seat. To not promote myself. To let God use me however he will.
God often does his deepest work in obscurity. When no one sees but God. And eventually his “Well done good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your master” will bring more delight than man’s praise ever could.
To God alone be the glory.
This article originally appeared on the blog Dance in the Rain. Used with permission.
Vaneetha Rendall Risner is passionate about helping others find hope and joy in the midst of suffering. Her story includes contracting polio as a child, losing an infant son unexpectedly, developing post-polio syndrome, and going through an unwanted divorce, all of which have forced her to deal with issues of loss. She and her husband, Joel, live in North Carolina and have four daughters between them. She is the author of the book, The Scars That Have Shaped Me: How God Meets Us in Suffering and is a regular contributor to Desiring God. She blogs at Dance in the Rain although she doesn’t like rain and has no sense of rhythm.
Image courtesy: Unsplash.com
Publication date: February 16, 2017