I am stunned as I read Trial and Triumph: Stories from Church History by Richard M. Hannula about how many of the greatest Christians in history shunned their ascension to power. They chose the lowest place although God chose to escalate them to positions of influence in Christian history.
Bishop of Milan 339-397
Ambrose, originally Roman governor of Milan, chastised the religioso of Milan for their arguments over who was to be the new bishop. He was so convicting that they unanimously elected Ambrose their bishop.
The people insisted. Ambrose hid in his house and wrote the Roman Emperor asking him to command the church to elect someone else. Finally, realizing this was God’s will, Ambrose was baptized and then ordained as bishop eight days later.
He went on to model himself after the advice Jesus gave to the rich young ruler (Mark 10:17-22 ). He sold his lands and riches and gave it all to the poor. He confronted even the Emperor Theodosius himself who said Ambrose was the only man who ‘ever told him the truth.‘ The emperor died in Ambrose’ arms.
Pope Gregory I
This hook nosed, bald monk named Gregory was responsible for caring of the poorest in Rome. When he heard of the “Anglos” and saw them in the slave market — he set off for England to win them to Christ. The Romans, learning of his departure, stood along the road that Pope Benedict took to church and yelled “You have destroyed Rome, you have sent Gregory away!” The Pope promptly sent his fastest horsemen after Gregory. When Pope Benedict died from plague in 589, the church and people unanimously elected Gregory to be the next pope.
Gregory refused. He wrote to the Emperor asking Him not to accept his election. Gregory planned to run away. The people came and got him and forcibly carried him to St. Peter’s Church and he was consecrated on September 3, 590. Gregory wrote to a friend:
Later, after he realized it was God’s will he said he “recovered a more cheerful frame of mind.” Gregory took the title, “servant of the servants of God.”
When Anselm became convicted to become a monk as a teenage boy, he was under the tutelage of a brilliant Monk named Lanfranc in the Abbey of Bec in Normandy. When he considered where to serve he considered staying at Bec:
Anslem soon became convicted of his sinful pride and he wrote:
Anslem stayed at Bec. In 1093 he went to Canterbury to start a monastery and school. When he arrived, the people hailed him as Archbishop of Canterbury and Anselm ran away. The king didn’t want him to be Archbishop because Anslem rebuked King William Rufus about his abuse of the church, including allowing people to buy their way into the clergy. Later, the King decided to appoint Anslem as Bishop of Canterbury. Although he eventually served, Anslem said:
One of the greatest leaders in the Bible except Jesus was Moses. Moses argued with God because he felt too old, to inadequate, uncharismatic, and unwilling to change careers (again).
11 So the LORD said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes the mute, the deaf, the seeing, or the blind? Have not I, the LORD? 12 Now therefore, go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall say.”
13 But he said, “O my Lord, please send by the hand of whomever else You may send.”
Moses, like these other men, acquiesced to the very will of God and became one of the greatest leaders the world has ever known.
The greatest servant in history. The One who could have had it all: money, power, wealth. Yet he chose the life of a carpenter, Teacher, and death of a criminal. Such love I cannot fathom. Such love has won my very soul.
The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified His Servant Jesus, whom you delivered up and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let Him go.
Church history is rife with people who assumed the position of clergy for power and gain. Even now in this country there are preachers who seem more eager to win others to their political way of thinking than to introduce them to Jesus Christ. There are preachers more eager to preach the merits of their latest book than of the saving power of the blood of Christ. There are those who like to tickle the ears of their members with promises of success and wealth and healing as a result of faith in Jesus Christ. Some pastors no longer read Scripture so they can spend more time sharing their own words. Some pastors keep coming up with better and better titles in order to escalate their position of superiority.
This is not about becoming famous, or rich, or powerful. That is not why we follow Christ.
Following Christ is the greatest joy of my entire life. The happiest experience. The most glowing days are those when I am immersed in His presence. He is otherworldly! He is majestic! He is mighty!
I shall not follow Him because he is Santa Clause! I shall follow Him because He is my Saviour and King! He deserves it! I deserve nothing. I will seek His heart and not His hand.
I am content to be a wife, mother, teacher, singer, and writer because that is what God has called me to do. And if for some reason I can encourage and strengthen other Christians along the way — then let God have the glory. And should His hand choose to bless me then that is His will and His business! He can deliver me — but if not — I shall still follow Him!
(The men mentioned are great men in Christian history. Like all men (and women) they were not perfect. Some theology was flawed. Some mistakes injudgment were made. They, however sincerely followed Christ as best we know. They sound like me!)
I pray for God to bring a great servant leader of men to my home church, First Baptist of Camilla, Georgia. We are currently searching and praying for a pastor. Our church is growing and we’ve baptized more since our pastor left us last November than we did in the prior year. Our church is a wonderful place and working hard and pulling together. We need someone to work along side us! I am praying for God to send us a godly man with a godly family. Please pray for us. If you know of someone who should put in their resume at our church, just have them e-mail me and I’ll pass it along.
Dear Lord, please guide us to be servants. Let us choose the lowest place. Let us not seek to exalt ourselves but only to exalt Jesus Christ who has saved us and redeemed us. Thank you for great examples in your word and in church history that show us the humility of great servants of God. Let me be such a person as I submit myself to your perfect will. Please bless First Baptist Church of Camilla, Georgia and send us a man who is in your perfect will. Send us a man and a family who are servants of God who will love us even though we fail so very often. Let us love them and may we cleave together in Christian service for many years to come! I love you my Jesus and thank you for the many blessings of today. In Jesus name. Amen.