i was recently, and very unexpectedly, given the opportunity to serve someone i have long respected and through whom i have been greatly blessed. i am honoured and grateful to be able to come alongside him and minister to someone who has ministered to me. Today i asked him for prayer requests and he gave me a short list, and i was grateful for that, too. Then, because my mother-heart leapt up in a fairly predictable fashion, i indulged in a little exhortation.
The upshot is that i am now thinking about the ceaselessness of our need for Christ, even well after we have initially accepted salvation, even years into our sanctification. We never stop needing Him. We are insufficient to carry out the ministry He gives us, but He welcomes us into co-laboring with Him—it is a mercy and a grace that He gives us ministries we can’t handle. He wants to do ministry with us, like a father with His child. He is most glorified (and most proud of us) when we acknowledge and rejoice in our dependence on Him.
My initial thoughts about this were wrapped up in Christ’s sufficiency in us. We’re not sufficient in ourselves, but as we lean on Christ He works in our hearts a winsome gentleness and trustworthiness. i see this modeled in this particular person. i respect him not because i think he is perfect—i know he is not. He is appropriately, but unflinchingly, honest about that, and it is one of the many gifts i have been given through him. His own understanding of his weakness drives him to dependence on Christ. So the idea that someone who rests in Christ is, through Christ, trustworthy makes very solid sense to me. Reliance on Christ makes for a very different kind of leader than the type who will use and eat the sheep. Trustworthiness in a leader is not about brilliance and capability and ego. It’s about grace. A dependent leader is a gracious, humble, servant-hearted leader. And i said something like that, although very much abbreviated.
After i sent that email i continued off and on to think about this. i am thinking of how this works in my own life. i am privy to the tangled mess that is my heart. Those whom i am given to love don’t know the depth of that mess. They can trust me partly because they see Christ in me, and partly because they are ignorant of the areas i’ve kept from Him or the times i rush in without Him. The more i acknowledge my weakness and need and lean on Christ’s strength, the more He’s free to unravel my tangles, but my need for Him remains ceaseless. Therefore, i cannot necessarily trust my own heart, even if those around me do. My filters and devices are a little too good. i can fake dependence. And, sadly, i cannot always tell that i am doing so. i must rely on Christ. This minister whom i love and respect is right to ask for prayer for his own heart. It’s true that we trust him and he’s demonstrated trustworthiness, yet he’s right to not settle back but to continually acknowledge his continual need. Meanwhile, i must remember to pray for him and for myself, and i must remember that he, like i, can only be trusted so far. We’re both in process. There’s only one shepherd who is completely trustworthy; that is Christ.
Summary: Don’t trust your own heart. Trust Jesus’ heart. Lean on Him and listen to the Holy Spirit. Surround yourself with people who will tell you the truth when you’re faking that dependence, and when they do so, listen. You are now the righteousness of Christ, even as He became sin for you. It may be a process to learn to live it, but it’s already true. The one who lives in you has conquered death; He can change your heart. He began that work in you, and He’ll see it through. Do not dwell on your depravity, neither rely on your own righteousness, but rather rest in Him.
Give me another day or two (month or two, year or two, decade or two) and i will probably understand all this a little bit better, if i am paying attention and listening well.
Note: i am writing this to those who have already placed their trust in Jesus as G-d and Messiah. If you have not yet done so, i would encourage you to find a local pastor and have a face-to-face conversation about how your heavenly Father loves you and what Jesus’ death and resurrection can mean for you. He can (and is glad to) work His righteousness in you as well, if you will surrender and rest in Him.