by Tom Kraeuter

Frequently at conferences or even church services, preachers/speakers encourage their listeners to do something big for God. “Make your life count” is an oft-repeated phrase. The person speaking is making an attempt to help persuade the hearers to accomplish something while here on earth that goes beyond just breathing and eating.

I’ll be the first to admit that this is a noble goal. However, I want to offer a word of caution.

This morning I was listening to a message by John Piper, and he mentioned the impact that his dad had on his life. As I listened, a thought occurred to me. I don’t know if John’s dad ever had a goal of doing something big for God. I do know that relatively few people have ever met, or even heard of, John Piper’s father. But he so impacted his son that John is in ministry today, at least in part, because of his father’s influence. John Piper’s writings and teachings have made a difference in the lives of hundreds of thousands — more likely, millions — of lives, believers and non-believers alike. Was it because his dad set out to do something great for God? I can’t say for certain. But I can say with great clarity that the influence John’s father had on John was because the dad was sold out to Christ.

In the final analysis, whether the impact we have in this life is great or small (from a worldly perspective — and that’s very different from heaven’s perspective) is of little consequence. What matters is if we are seeking to follow the Lord wholeheartedly.

I have met pastors who shepherd small flocks in rural areas. Often they are discouraged and even feel like failures because they don’t have a mega-church. Guess what. God didn’t necessarily call them to pastor a mega-church. He called them to be faithful right where He placed them.

In his book, A Passion for Faithfulness, J.I. Packer said this:

The passion for success constantly becomes a spiritual problem — really a lapse into idolatry — in the lives of God’s servants today. To want to succeed in things that matter is of course natural, and not wrong in itself, but to feel that one must at all costs be able to project oneself to others as a success is an almost demonized state of mind, from which deliverance is needed.

The world’s idea that everyone, from childhood up, should be able to succeed at all times in measurable ways, and that it is a great disgrace not to, hangs over the Christian community like a pall of acrid smoke…

The way of health and humility is for us to admit to ourselves that in the final analysis we do not and cannot know the measure of our success as God sees it. Wisdom says: leave the success ratings to God, and live your Christianity as a religion of faithfulness rather than an idolatry of achievement.

Please understand that I am not trying to discourage anyone from doing something “great” for God. But that great thing may be something as simple as influencing a few key people — friends, family, etc. — to walk more closely with the Lord.

The truth is that God doesn’t need us to do great things. He has done and will continue to do great things without our aid. What He won’t do, though, is to work fully — and daily — in and through an individual life without the permission and cooperation of that person.

More than wanting to accomplish some great and noble goal for God, I would encourage you to focus on simply following the Lord daily. Seek Him. Pray. Read and study His Word. Those are things that will ultimately make a difference and, perhaps, put you into a position — if God so intends — that would allow you to be involved in some great thing here and now.

What I’m talking about is a difference in focus. Focus less on profoundly impacting the world and more on simply following the Lord daily.

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