Jack Miller was a pastor of a small church and a professor at a seminary. When he was in his early 40s he became frustrated with ministry. Neither the church members nor the seminary students were changing in the way that they should, and he didn’t know how to help them. He resigned from both positions and spent the next weeks feeling very depressed.
Gradually, Miller began to realize that he had been serving for the wrong purpose: personal glory and approval, rather than God’s glory. He also realized that he had been trying to minister out of his own strength. That’s why he had seen so few tangible results. He had been relying on the wrong person to do ministry: himself.
After studying the promises of God on his sabbatical, he understood more clearly that the work of Christ was too big for him to accomplish in his own strength. As he reflected on his own ministry, he came to understand that it was his pride and self-reliance that kept him from having a significant part of this great work of Christ.
As he studied the fulfillment of God’s promises in the gospel, he noticed that he had missed the most important qualification for entrance into the kingdom of God – being poor in spirit. He saw that doing Christ’s work in Christ’s way meant giving up all dependence on himself, acknowledging how poor in spirit he was, and then relying exclusively on Jesus and the gift of His Spirit.
Humility, repentance, constant faith, and prayer became themes of his life.
This section of one of his letters illustrates the change in his life:
I guess my prevailing thought is that God’s work begins when ours comes to its end. Sometimes His presence is not felt with power through our methods however useful they may be, especially when we are confident we have the right approach and insights. God has a way of wanting to be God and refusing to get too involved where we have our own wisdom and strength. Then when we run out of wisdom and strength, He is suddenly present, a lesson I find myself relearning practically every day that I am in my right mind…
I think He wants our confidence to be exclusively in Him, and when we lose our self-confidence then He moves in to show what He can do. Perhaps self-dependence – and forgetting the strength to be found in Christ-dependence – is always our biggest blind spot. There is also the presumption and pride that go with self-reliance. So let’s not lost our trust in God and the power of His gospel and the spirit of praise which goes with its proclamation.