I did it again. Once again, I fell into that old familiar trap, that way of thinking that is advocated, supported, and even promoted by the world in which we live. It is a philosophy of life that says more is always better. I know, I know, I should know better. After all, my life and my vocation revolve around constantly trying to remind people that: being is more important than doing; our identity is not earned but bestowed; silence and solitude and prayer are the most important things that can occupy our souls, and our agendas; the one thing is more important than the many things (Luke 10:41-42); and loving the Lord your God with all of your heart and soul and mind and strength, always comes before loving your neighbor as yourself (Mark 12:30)
But every now and then, I still fall into the trap. I start allowing my desire for affirmation and achievement and significance and impact to lure me away from simply living my life in and with God, and letting everything else take care of itself. It is a subtle shift, one that is hard to notice. Even one that I try to put a noble face on from time to time. After all, isn't this life about spreading his word and serving the poor and reaching the lost? Of course it is. But when those things become the end, rather than God, we have reduced Him merely to a means. Instead of being with God, just to be with him, we start being with him in order to get something else (even if that something else is seemingly a good thing). Try that with those you love the most in your life and tell me how it goes. No one wants to be used. We all want to be valued and loved for who we are, not what we can do. It is the same with God. God wants to be the end, not just a means to some other end, even if that end is ministry. Are we loving God for God's sake, or are we "loving" God for the sake of our ministries? C. S. Lewis put it so beautifully when he said: "He can't be used as a road. If you're approaching Him not as the goal, but as a road, not as the end but as a means, you're not really approaching Him at all."
I guess it all goes back to what we really believe. Do we believe that we are put here on this earth to do stuff for God? Or do we believe that we are put here, first and foremost, to enjoy God and to be enjoyed by him? John Piper once said that, "The chief end of man is to glorify God by enjoying him forever." Thus, our spiritual lives, and our spiritual disciplines, are not for the sole purpose of preparation for ministry, but to make space for us to enjoy God and be enjoyed by him. That is what transforms us. That is what gives fuel to our lives of ministry. It is so easy for me to get it all turned around. Is ministry my goal, or is God my goal? Something tells me that if God is not my true goal, my true end, then my life and my ministry will never be what he desires them to be.