I know, this is a hard one to answer.
Most ministers would say “Why yes I am a Great Christian!” And then, upon request for the reason for their enthusiastic reply they might say “Because I’m a pastor!” or “I am a Christian author!” or “I have 30,000 Twitter followers” or “Because I have an agent!”
Now hear me out. I’m not saying having those things is wrong.
I AM a minister and an author. But I don’t have a huge following. And I have never sold a ton of books. And I am not on the NY Times bestseller list.
So I must not be a GREAT CHRISTIAN. Right?
I know, you thought two different things just now. You are thinking on the one hand, “Jeff! Of course you do not need those things to be a Great Christian!”
But then also, you weren’t very impressed when I admitted that I have never been on the NY Times bestseller list, and I have never sold a ton of books.
And this thought came to your mind, “Hmm. If God were with Jeff, wouldn’t he be more successful?”
I was actually told by a Christian author with a bigger ministry and bigger following than me, “Jeff I think you minister out of rejection. You feel rejected because you haven’t sold a lot of books and you don’t have a lot of followers.” I know. I laughed. I laugh even more today. Because that brother was giving me a double message. And he was giving it to me with an obvious but carefully (or not so carefully) disguised “dig” but I had to tell him, “I don’t minister out of rejection, I do my best. If what I do isn’t as successful as others (him) well that’s up to God.”
But what I didn’t tell that brother was this: “Well I am so glad you judged my heart and know my heart motives. Just because I do not have a lot of followers or as big a ministry as you has nothing whatsoever to do with my level of obedience, sacrifice, character, integrity, or future reward.”
UPDATE: This brother has since come to me in Christian love and forgiveness and asked me to forgive him. And also to explain what he meant. And yes, I totally forgive him. And I asked him to forgive me for you know – putting this out there publicly. It was a very small thing I really believe and even then it didn’t sting for more than a few minutes.
But honestly I was surprised at his desire to make sure we were good between us. Wow. Now I have to admit that I have moved this man of God from my “not very kind person” list to my “totally cool and humble” list.
I cannot tell you how rare that is.
AMAZING. You are. And I am so glad to know there is someone so willing to be like Jesus and come asking forgiveness. This clearly shows whatever he did mean by his comment, it was not coming from a place of pride or arrogance. And if it was, well we all have the flesh and we all battle our own stuff.
Yeah, I do have those lists. But they are only there to have boundaries. What we must do is not allow those boundaries to become walls. Boundaries help us minister out there to people and be able to love even if they treat us horribly in return.
But walls keep God from breaking through to us. I don’t believe I have walls. But in times like these I always want to make sure.
And what I will tell you now is this – I don’t feel rejected by God for what I have done or not done. I do however, feel rejected by people today with the pharisee modus operandi at work.
The irony was – sure, how could I not feel rejected by this brother for saying this to me?
“Oh, poor Jeff!” you might be thinking.
But wait – now don’t feel bad for me.
Don’t you get it?
Didn’t Jesus say “Blessed are you when men persecute, mock or say evil about you?” Well he said more than that in Matthew 5:1 -12″ So if I am blessed when people tear me down, and judge my heart wrongly, or misinterpret my motives because of their own arrogance, why would I want your pity?
I don’t want pity. I don’t want anything from you. Jesus said I am THE BLESSED ONE! I am the lucky one! Right?
Maybe God wants something from you.
Maybe God wants you to begin to rejoice when you suffer in similar fashion.
Today the church thinks big ministries, and huge followings, and tons of sales equals “Greatness” from a spiritual point of view.
If so, I am sad to say, the Lord Jesus himself would not be categorized as successful / spiritual today. You see his following dwindled. Oh, yes he rose again. Yes 500 watched him ascend into heaven. But let’s admit the fact that by sheer numbers, he was gaining 10,000 plus crowds (if you include women and children) in his first year, but losing many followers as time went along. Uh, at the Cross, only 1 of the disciples remained, and a few women. That’s pretty dismal. That Jesus must have realized he was “ministering out of rejection” at that time, right? LOL
I was talking to a DC TALK fan recently. A millennial as a matter of fact! And they were saying how much they loved Jesus Freak. The thing is, DC TALK also wrote a book about “Jesus Freaks” that was a modern-day version of “Foxes Book of Martyrs.”
When you read about these “Great Christians” the last thing that comes to mind is “I wonder if they had a big following?” or “I wonder if they spoke eloquently” or “I wonder if they sold a lot of books and CD’s?” No, you would never associate these things with those people who died horrible deaths for the Name of Christ.
In fact, the only thing that stands out in one’s mind after reading various testimonies of people of all ethnic backgrounds, races, ages, one thing IS THE SAME – they all were great at dying.
I’m sorry for how blunt that might feel.
If we were watching from heaven, I personally think even now there is a coliseum in heaven that is millions full – all at the edge of their seat, cheering you and I on!
If you could hear the cheers through the great roar of that multitude, I think you would hear the following: “Keep loving Jesus with everything Jeff! Keep being humble and honest, Jeff! Die Jeff! Die!”
When they say “Die” they are not meaning physical death, you see. Whether you or I become an actual martyr, well that is probably something preordained that no one can choose. It chooses them.
Before you feel at ease, I need to caution you, you are not out of the woods yet.
“You mean, you mean I do need to die, Jeff?”
“Jesus said we needed to die EVERY DAY!”
Luke 9:23 – read it. Jesus not only calls you and I to die daily – but he also calls you to pick up your cross.
What that really means is – we don’t choose the unique experiences that kill our ego, our pride, our earthly reputation, and our idols. But we DO CHOOSE the Cross that brings them to bear. And we do choose how we respond to the things that are brought to us by the Spirit to help us “die daily.”
And dying, we think, is stepping backward.
However, reading these martyrs stories, no one seems to care about popularity, size of platform, ministry following or any of those things that THE PHARISEES used to judge themselves and others.
It hurts when close friends betray you and stab you in the back and dismiss you for 30 pieces of silver.
Do not feel bad if this has happened to you. The one you should feel bad for is the betrayer, the idol worshipper who idolizes their own ministry above other brothers and sisters. Yes they think they are a “Great Christian” by the carnal standards of the world.
They are the ones who are only great in this world. And this world is passing away. They have no future reward to be happy about. They only have judgment to look forward to.
But if you are a “Great Christian” you can truly count it ALL JOY! (James 1:2)