Christopher Ash’s Zeal Without Burnout is a small, helpful book that is finish-able in one train journey from home to work (~ 1 hour). In it, Ash gives us 7 keys to serving God and His people without crashing along the way.
The key I will need to reflect on the most is the 7th: Rejoice in grace, not gifts. As prideful humans, we forget that God’s mercy is the basis of all we are, have, and will be, and instead find our purpose and meaning in what we do on our own (or so we think) strength and ability. To this Jesus says, “do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” (Lk 10:20)
Here J. C. Ryle, as quoted by Ash, is piercing:
Men forget that gifts without grace save no one’s soul, and are characteristic of Satan himself. Grace, on the contrary, is an everlasting inheritance, and, lowly and despised as its possessor may be, will land him safe in glory.
Without such marks (that is, of grace) a man may have abundance of gifts and turn out no better than a follower of Judas Iscariot, the false apostle, and go at last to hell. With such marks, a man may be like Lazarus, poor and despised upon earth, and have no gifts at all. But his name is written in heaven, and Christ shall own him as one of his people at the last day.
I am really guilty of this — finding my joy in ministry through my gifts and successes, which, stripped bare, is just another form of works-salvation.
Perhaps this is why I love the last two verses of The Sands of Time are Sinking so much. Constantly I need to be reminded that ‘I stand upon His merit, I know no other stand’, and that ‘the Lamb is all the glory in Immanuel’s land’.