“You do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.” James 4:14
Consistently I come face to face with a guttural inclination to build my own kingdom. I suppose that is the way of our human experience. Labor well, make a name for yourself, influence, cash out and retire. Even in the church I can attempt to build a ministry based on my personality and try to so align structures and personnel around me as the center creating and prolonging my influence, establishing my legacy.
It really is pastoral insecurity. I lose the trust I once had in Christ to build his church and I expend myself in proving my worth and ability. A firm remedy for this way of living and leading is found in the words of James. Speaking to the one that would make great declarations of going to this place or that and profiting, James says, “what is your life? For you are a mist that vanishes… you are mere vapor.” Mist is temporary and forgettable. Vapor blows away with time, and not that much time. This is a reminder that I will, and should be, forgotten and that is a good thing if I am thinking right.
You see, for all of us, to be forgotten is either a fear or a freedom.
If all I am living for, whether I know it or not, is my own legacy then the idea of being forgotten is terrible for me. I fear it. All the sweat, ingenuity and excellence I pour out is for not if it was for me. I know men that this fear is greatly effecting, even crippling in ministry. Every new action or innovation is at the heart level an attempt to validate themselves and prove they have the magic touch. And I get it. This is me on too many days. But ministry or life out of fear is ridiculous and in opposition to biblical calls to not fear. There is a better way.
When I recognize that the legacy I am laboring toward is a gospel legacy, the proclamation of Jesus and his grace through generations, I am freed from insecurity and fear and invest time and energy with joy and passion. I actually love with the enthusiasm that Paul writes about in Romans 12 and leave people not with my own vapor but the One that remains forever, Jesus. I give up the things I think only I can manage. I share the pulpit and teaching opportunities. I allow others to use their gifts. I highlight others rather than myself. And I rest well trusting that Christ really will build his church with the collection of broken people he has called to it. To be forgotten is freeing as I live as my truest self, the redeemed sinner that doesn’t have all the answers.
So today, whether you are pastor or not, and especially if you are a pastor, let the reality of your soon-to-be-forgotten status free you to share grace and the goodness of Christ released from the burden of fear and legacy for your own sake. And when the time comes, vanish, you are going to eventually. The way of freedom is more of an adventure anyway so get in on it!