"I ain't going to be no useless man."
No one ever said that blues singers were great on grammar. But regardless, Glenn Kaiser's plea echos my own heart in so many ways. "Oh Lord, don't let me be no useless man." It speaks to one of my greatest fears...that my life would be a waste, that my ministry would be without profit for the kingdom, that my race would be run in vain.
As Paul writes to the Galatians, he speaks of the "fear" he had in going up to Jerusalem to meet with the "men of influence" there. He wasn't afraid of their "approval" or lack of it. He was concerned about the fruitfulness of his ministry, that his gospel was not being preached in vain. He didn't want to be no useless man.
We have a lot of motivators in life. Some are motivated by money and success. Some are motivated by power and influence. Some are motivated by guilt. I'm motivated by fear. I know that sounds bad. Especially when my last post was about destroying the "dark guest" of anxiety in my life. But it's not that kind of fear. At least, I don't think it is. It's a fear of being useless.
I look out at the folks I minister to on a regular basis, and I consider their lives, and I consider their service to the king, and I consider the maturity of their faith (or the lack of any of that) and I think, "Is what I'm saying making a difference? Is anyone listening? Are they growing? Or am I a useless man?"
I know I'm far from perfect. I reflected on goals and weaknesses and such a couple posts back in thinking about our ten years in this place. Maybe I'm still just being overly reflective. But I don't want to be useless for the kingdom. I don't want to just take up space in ministry. I want my life to count for something in kingdom terms. Maybe that's pride. It probably is, at least in part. And I probably need to repent for that. But I still don't want to be no useless man!
I know I just posted one prayer from the Valley of Vision. But another has been helpful to me as I think about this issue. It's called "A Minister's Strength."
When I am discouraged in my ministry
and full of doubts of my self,
fasten me upon the rock of thy eternal election,
then my hands will not hang down,
and I shall have hope for myself and others.
Thou dost know thy people by name,
and wilt at the appointed season
lead them out of a natural to a gracious state
by thy effectual calling.
This is the ground of my salvation,
the object of my desire,
the motive of my ministry.
Keep me from high thoughts of myself
or my work,
for I am nothing but sin and weakness;
in me no good dwells,
and my best works are but sin.
Humble me to the dust before thee.
Root and tear out the poisonous weed
and show me my utter nothingness;
Keep me sensible of my sinnership;
Sink me deeper into penitence and self-abhorrence;
Break the Dagon of pride in pieces
before the ark of thy presence;
Demolish the Babel of self-opinion,
and scatter it to the wind;
Level to the ground my Jericho walls
of a rebel heart;
Then grace, grace, will be my experience and cry.
I am a poor, feeble creature when faith
is not in exercise,
like an eagle with pinioned wings;
Grant me to rest on thy power and faithfulness,
and to know that there are two things
worth living for:
to further thy cause in the world,
and to do good to the souls and bodies of men;
This is my ministry, my life, my prayer, my end.
Grant me grace that I shall not fail.
Grant me grace that I shall not fail. Oh Lord, don't let me be no useless man! Kaiser continues: "Give me the heart of a servant. Help me to do what I can. Care for the weak and the lonely. Not be no useless man." Amen, and amen.
Now, for any fans of plain old good music, here's the Glenn Kaiser Band with our theme song for the day.