Tuesday, January 10, 2012

From the Pen of Newton: The Idol of Usefulness

My usefulness was the last idol I was willing to give up; But now I thank the Lord, I can part with that also, and am content to be anything or nothing, so that His wise and holy will may be done! 

-Cotton Mather

The above quote by Cotton Mather was one that John Newton had read in his mid-30’s.  At the age of seventy-five Newton shares the quote with John Ryland, Jr. and notes that he has been reflecting on this quote for the last 40 years.  Newton is now an elderly man that is beginning to lose his health (mainly his sight) and thereby his “usefulness” to the kingdom.  This Newton says is a trial that actually seems to require more grace than being active in ministry. 

Methinks if one ounce of grace, so to speak, may carry us on in active life, it may require a pound, to maintain a cheerful resigned spirit, when the Lord appoints us to sit still and be quiet.  For in active life there is something pleasing to Mr. Self; he loves to see many eyes upon him, and to be followed by a crowd when he preaches.  But he does not like to be shut up and in a manner forgotten. 

What Newton is saying is that our level of contentment in the Lord and satisfaction in Christ alone is often displayed not in moments of activity but in moments where it seems like we have very little usefulness.  Do I rejoice when others are serving God and their usefulness is quite prominent?  Or do I wish that I was the one being “mightily used by God”?  Will I be content when I am seventy-five and others are beginning to take my place? 

It appears that “usefulness” may indeed be an idol that does not go down easily.  What are the ways in your own life that usefulness has become and idol?  What are ways that your “usefulness” has replaced the righteousness of Christ as the measuring stick of your right standing with God? 

May our hearts cry be to see His kingdom advance by whatever means He chooses to use…

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