John Newton once said, “Self likes to do great things; but grace teaches us to do little things with a great spirit – that is, for the Lord’s sake.” Christian ministry should be about the Lord and the Lord alone. But self seeps in like a cold draft, dethroning the Lord in our heart. It quickly becomes about us.
But it’s not about us. It’s about the Lord.
The phrase, “it’s not about me,” is such a simple statement, but it has significantly affected my ministry. I am a selfish person. I think a lot about what others think of me. I wonder if people respect my leadership. I worry that I’m failing others because of weaknesses I can’t overcome. It holds me back. Perhaps my greatest sin in leadership thus far has been withheld love leading to withheld ministry in the name of fear.
But it’s not about me, and that’s made all the difference.
There are times so awkward or painful or frightening that I have no words. In those times I repeat to myself, “it’s not about me.” That phrase reorients me. The sooner I can recognize my inward turn the sooner I can make the God-directed U-turn I need to be an active minister of the gospel.
I like to do great things, but I’m also afraid of doing nothing. In my pride, I like to see the effects of my ministry. In my pride, I also fear the worthlessness of my ministry. But given to the Lord I can hand over the reins and stop caring about my ministry at all. And I can get into the ministry of the Lord because it’s about him, not me.
The Lord may grant me the privilege of doing great things for him, but they won’t come at the expense of doing little things with a great spirit.
I was once at an event that was far more uncomfortable for me than I wished. The hosts had no idea, nor did they care about the issues I wrestled with all afternoon. They were facing something far greater. I was facing awkwardness. We were all there to support and pray for our friends. We gathered in a circle and began to pray. I cannot recall the first three prayers because my self inflated to such a size that it eclipsed any view of Christ I could have had. And then, after hearing two others pray that I knew felt the same awkwardness, the ball was popped. “It’s not about me” came flooding into my mind, and my mouth opened in prayer to God on behalf of my friends.
In ten thousand years, when all of us gathered in that circle are with the Lord in glory, no one will remember the awkwardness of that moment, but we may all remember (or be reminded of) the sweet incense of prayer rising to the God who can heal and save.
That prayer was a little thing, and I did not have a great heart, but I opened my mouth for the Lord’s sake. And like the Grinch, my heart grew that day. I realized the kingdom of Self had collided with the kingdom of God and the battle was not in Self's favor.
If we are to do anything great in this life for the Lord, we must come to a place where we recognize there is no greatness in us. Greatness belongs to God, and he grants us the privilege of being used by him. It’s not about me, and it’s not about you, it’s about the Lord. Whatever God has called you to do at a particular moment pause and reflect long enough to kick self out of the driver’s seat and let the glory of the Lord be the battle cry of the moment. You will do great things, but only after doing a bunch of small, insignificant, Saturday-afternoon-awkward-prayer-things.