Yesterday morning as I drove to work I was listening to an interview with a super famous megachurch pastor. He talked about his journey from obscurity to super-Jesus-fame. I’ve heard similar stories from other megachurch leaders. He was a struggling church planter barely making ends meet. His congregation was around 100 people. Then something amazing happened – in this particular case he was given the opportunity to speak on a national stage – and things started blowing up. Before the pastor knew it his congregation was 6,000 plus people. This story is the Christian version of the legend of the two guys in their garage with the big idea that becomes a huge monster success like Microsoft.
Listening to this type of story is very dangerous for me. As the leader talks my ego rears its head and whispers in my ear, “That could be you. You could also have awesome super-Jesus-fame.” I start to imagine the stuff I’m doing blowing up huge. I picture myself speaking in front of thousands, flying around the country to share my awesome inspirational story, and hanging out with other people with super-Jesus-fame. My ego speaks over and over, “It could be you. If you would just… If you just tried… If you would simply…” Thankfully, at some point in my delusions of grandeur a passage of scripture always invades my mind.
There is this scene at the end of the Gospel of John where Peter and Jesus were walking on the beach together. It was after Jesus’ death and resurrection. After Peter denied Him three times. In this incredible intimate moment when Jesus and Peter seem to be walking alone, Jesus asked him three times, “Do you love me?” When Peter replied “Yes”, Jesus told him, “Then feed my sheep.” It is an amazing scene of reconciliation – 3 denials, 3 statements of restoration.
Then Peter looked over his shoulder, saw another one of the disciples, and said to Jesus, “What about that guy?” Jesus’ response was, “If I want him to remain alive until I return,what is that to you? You must follow me.”
“Don’t compare. Focus on following me.” The words ring over and over in my head quelling the wave of my ambition.
“Don’t compare. Love those around you.” And the voice of my ego becomes only a remnant.
Then the Holy Spirit will start to push out the delusions of self-grandeur and replace them with another story…the story just before Jesus and Peter’s walk.
Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Tiberias. It happened this way: Simon Peter, Thomas (called Didymus), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. “I’m going out to fish,” Simon Peter told them, and they said, “We’ll go with you.” So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus. He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?” “No,” they answered. He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish. Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, “It is the Lord,” he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water. The other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish, for they were not far from shore, about a hundred yards. When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread. Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you have just caught.” Simon Peter climbed aboard and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” None of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish.
And the Holy Spirit whispers in my ear, “This is the story you should pursue.”
Can you imagine what it was like to sit on the beach and have breakfast with Jesus? To laugh together? To process your day with him over a fire? To look him in the eye and see him smile back? I bet sitting with Him felt like home.
Then I realize, I can only pursue one or the other – my fame or intimacy with Jesus. Other people might be able to have both, but my ego is to big. My pride is to strong. I can only have one.
I will take breakfast on the beach every time.
Lord, let me never forget that for you to increase I must decrease.