We live in a culture of self-promotion. Navigating it can be very tricky, both for us and for those nearby who are looking to us for an example.
Promoting ourselves is tricky because if we have something to sell or something to say, as Michael Hyatt puts it, we need a platform to stand on so we will be heard. A friend of mine decided to quit her job and start selling her homemade sourdough bread. Not only did she have to learn how to bake better bread, she had to figure out how to sell it. Otherwise she would soon be up to her ears not just in bread dough, but in stale, unsold loaves.
Marketing herself, and her artisan bread, was a necessity. She had to make space in a crowded local marketplace for her product. An artistic friend designed her logo and business cards. A tech savvy friend helped her open an Instagram account and build a website. When everything was in place, she launched.
It worked. Her business is growing. Her name is becoming known. But with her budding success comes a budding temptation, to place her happiness there—in her success.
We face this temptation, too. We want to make a name for ourselves. We want to be known as successful mothers or artisan bakers or writers or business women or ministry leaders. And sooner or later, our children will face the same temptation themselves.
This isn’t just an identity problem, it’s a glory problem.
How Do You Fix a Glory Problem?
A glory problem? That sounds serious. If we hear ourselves (or our children) exulting in our latest accomplishment, we rightly become alarmed. We move quickly to shut down the glory party with lines like these:
- Don’t forget to give glory to God. He’s the one who helped you do it!
- What are you boasting in? We’re only supposed to boast in the cross of Christ!
- Watch out for pride. Remember “pride goes before destruction…”
All of these are true statements. We are not to rob God of glory by attributing our success solely to our own efforts. We are called to boast in the cross of Christ above all things. And pride is certainly our chief enemy, tripping us just when we think we are wonderful.
But these truths don’t nail the problem I’m talking about. In fact, Jesus didn’t mention a single one of these truths when he moved to shut down the glory party of some of his followers.
Shutting Down Their Victory Party
The incident is recorded in Luke 10, when Jesus appoints 72 “others” and sends them out two by two to prepare the way for his own preaching tour. They have specific instructions: what to take and what to say and how long to stay. Jesus also warned them, “behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves.”
I identify with these pairs of disciples. They’re not the 12, the future apostles; they are the second string, 72 out of the hundreds of unnamed followers who had begun to tag along with Jesus. I imagine them wide-eyed and fearful about what would happen in the days ahead. I assume they are each wondering how they happened to be picked for such a dangerous mission. I picture them parting ways as they split up to go to their various towns, anxiety rising as their numbers decreased.
The next time we hear about them they are racing back like kids coming home from camp. I can see them jumping all over the place with joy, each pair with a different story to tell. “You won’t believe it!” “It worked!” “I actually healed someone!” Luke records this from his eye witness research, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!”
Jesus confirms their report; they weren’t exaggerating. “I saw Satan fall like lightning form heaven.” The power they had experienced was real. He had given it to them.
“Nevertheless.” He stops them with these words. “Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven” (Luke 10:20).
A Better Joy in a Better Glory
Jesus wasn’t rebuking them for being excited, he wanted to root their joy in a more permanent source.
Jesus didn’t promise them—or us—success every time. Their last ministry trip was amazing, but the next one might be fraught with trouble. Our last writing project or business venture might turn out well, but the next might flounder.
If our joy rests on our success, we’re in for a roller coaster ride. If our name depends on the number of our fans or followers, our glory won’t last. Only Jesus offers his children sustained joy in this unfading glory:
If you are in Christ, God knows your name. It’s written in his Book in permanent ink. You’re in. You’re known. Forever.
Now, throw back your head and shout for joy so that your children come running to see what happened!
About the Author:
Rondi Lauterbach has been a friend and encourager to women in their life’s callings. She is wife to PCA Pastor Mark Lauterbach, mother, grandmother, and fierce competitor at board games. Her first book, Hungry: Learning to Feed Your Soul With Christ now comes with a video teaching series.