The Only CureJuly 20, 2018
The story of my life has centered largely on plans for Christian ministry—ambitious plans that weave together a desire for several things: foreign missions, helping the poorest of the world’s poor, challenging Christians here in North America who are far too comfortable, complacent, and neglectful of Christ’s command to care for the poor and to make disciples of all nations, and connecting relatively wealthy believers in the Unites States with worthy ministries in developing countries. I want to help establish a network of churches that are known for combining rich, solid doctrine with robust, compassionate outreach to the poor.
But there’s a problem with those desires. As worthy as all those ideas may be, they are not adequate to serve as the center of my life. What happens when my plans are frustrated? What happens when something (or someone) becomes a perceived obstacle to fulfilling those desires? What happens when I see no possible way of achieving the goals I care so much about?
When goals of personal accomplishment become the main object that I pursue, and those goals are thwarted, my world falls apart. If something stands in the way of my pursuit, I lash out. When someone is not on board with my plans, I dismiss that person as unworthy of my attention or sacrifice. These are all symptoms of idolatry—of placing my hope for significance and self-fulfillment in the deeds I can achieve. Instead of genuinely helping others to see the glory of God revealed in His Son, I am consumed with boosting my own ego by my own sense of accomplishment.
Paul writes in Galatians 6:14, “But far be it from me to boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” For Paul, the attitudes and perspectives of “the world” which needed to be crucified were his boasting in his Jewish pedigree and works of law-righteousness. For others, it may be a commitment to one’s career, or even to one’s own family. And for some, like myself, it can be a preoccupation with Christian ministry—a quest to feel good about oneself through deeds of service rather than centering on what God has accomplished on the cross, treating those deeds as the foundation of our Christian life instead of the overflow of our grateful response to Christ’s work.
By what I believe was the Spirit’s gracious work of conviction, I experienced a fresh repentance in March of 2017. Part of that process of conviction and repentance involved the expression of my thoughts in a poem, which I have entitled, “The Only Cure.” Some of you have asked for a copy of that poem, so I am printing it now in hopes that it may be beneficial to others as it has been for me.
The Only Cure
How vain and proud my foolish heart
To think that I should make my mark
And play the mighty hero’s part
To save a world that knows not grace
By efforts bold to run the race
In strength and wisdom from below
That tarries not Your will to know.
The lofty dreams I long pursued,
The noble service offered You,
So quickly turned to worthless dust,
Betrayed by idol’s greedy lust
That seeks a throne not meant for me
And raises doubts when I can’t see
The beauty of Your sovereign plan
So wisely issued from Your hand.
Can this untrusting lump of clay
Possess the skill to stand and say,
“The Potter does not know what’s best,
And must surrender to my quest”?
O God, I know not how to start
To rid such idols from my heart!
What sword can sever, deep inside,
These tangled roots of lustful pride?
No word of self-resolve will do;
Such power only comes from You.
A cross! A tomb! No, nothing less
Can lead me on to holiness
And from my heart self-will erase
And put Your image in its place.
O Lord, this weak, divided heart
Needs grace for every broken part.
Teach me to count my gains as loss
And seek the glory of the cross.
The only cure for cursed pride
Is Jesus Christ the crucified!