The Dispensable Man

by Matthew W. Bassford

There is no surer sign of being a control freak than wanting to control things postmortem. I qualify. Though some of my anxiety is directed at the prospect of dying slow and ugly, most of it is aimed at what will happen after I’m gone.

What will happen to my family? What will happen to my congregation and all the other people I love? What will happen to the song worship of the church? In short, surely without indispensable me, all of the above will fall apart!

There’s a sense in which the above concerns are godly. We are supposed to love people and care about their welfare. We are supposed to be devoted to the things of God.

However, there’s also a sense in which they are not. They reveal that on some level, I have made the Lord’s work about me instead of Him. He’s indispensable. I’m not.

Mordecai’s warning to Esther in Esther 4:13-14 beautifully illustrates this principle. He informs her that if her courage fails and she refuses to approach the king on behalf of the Jews, deliverance will arise from someplace else, but she and her family will perish. God’s people were going to be saved no matter what. The only question was whether Esther would be involved in their salvation.

This seems counter-intuitive to us. Who could be as well placed to rescue the Jews from a Persian noble as the queen of Persia? However, even if Esther may have been Plan A, God’s Plans B, C, D, and so on would have been equally effective in accomplishing His will. Haman was not going to frustrate His eternal purpose, even if He had to squash him with an anvil from heaven!

I am not essential to any of God’s purposes either, especially if He allows my early exit. There are works that He has given me to do, and I have striven to perform them faithfully. However, the work will go on without me, and His desires will be accomplished 20 years from now as they were 2500 years ago.

This realization is important for two reasons, one negative, one positive. The first is that self-centered anxiety opens the door for fear. If I try to control the future from the present, Satan will use my fear to corrupt and taint everything I do. When we live by fear instead of faith and love, the usual result is that we bring about the thing we’re afraid of.

The second is even more important. God remains in control, so the good I want to do will be done without me. I won’t be able anymore to lead my children to God, but others will be. I won’t be preaching any more sermons for Jackson Heights, but other men of God will take the pulpit and carry forward the work. I won’t write any more hymns, but other brothers and sisters will give the church what it needs to worship. I find this thought deeply reassuring!

Ultimately, my decisions are the same as Esther’s. They aren’t about others. They’re about me. They will answer the lonely question of whether I will live with faith and courage or fall to fear and failure. If the former, I need only set my hand to the work before me as long as I am able. God will take care of the rest.

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