The Dispensable Man
There is no surer sign of being a control freak than wanting to control
things postmortem. I qualify. Though some of my anxiety is directed at the
prospect of dying slow and ugly, most of it is aimed at what will happen
after I’m gone.
What will happen to my family? What will happen to my congregation and
all the other people I love? What will happen to the song worship of the
church? In short, surely without indispensable me, all of the above will fall
There’s a sense in which the above concerns are godly. We are supposed to
love people and care about their welfare. We are supposed to be devoted to
the things of God.
However, there’s also a sense in which they are not. They reveal that on
some level, I have made the Lord’s work about me instead of Him. He’s
indispensable. I’m not.
Mordecai’s warning to Esther in Esther 4:13-14 beautifully illustrates this
principle. He informs her that if her courage fails, and she refuses to
approach the king on behalf of the Jews, deliverance will arise from
someplace else, but she and her family will perish. God’s people were going
to be saved no matter what. The only question was whether Esther would
be involved in their salvation.
This seems counter-intuitive to us. Who could be as well placed to rescue
the Jews from a Persian noble as the queen of Persia? However, even if
Esther may have been Plan A, God’s Plans B, C, D, and so on would have
been equally effective in accomplishing His will. Haman was not going to
frustrate His eternal purpose, even if He had to squash him with an anvil
I am not essential to any of God’s purposes either, especially if He allows
my early exit. There are works that He has given me to do, and I have
striven to perform them faithfully. However, the work will go on without
me, and His desires will be accomplished 20 years from now, as they were
2500 years ago.
This realization is important for two reasons, one negative, one positive.
The first is that self-centered anxiety opens the door for fear. If I try to
control the future from the present, Satan will use my fear to corrupt and
taint everything I do. When we live by fear instead of faith and love, the
usual result is that we bring about the thing we’re afraid of.
The second is even more important. God remains in control, so the good I
want to do will be done without me. I won’t be able anymore to lead my
children to God, but others will be. I won’t be preaching any more sermons
for Jackson Heights, but other men of God will take the pulpit and carry
forward the work. I won’t write any more hymns, but other brothers and
sisters will give the church what it needs to worship. I find this thought
Ultimately, my decisions are the same as Esther’s. They aren’t about others.
They’re about me. They will answer the lonely question of whether I will
live with faith and courage or fall to fear and failure. If the former, I need
only set my hand to the work before me, as long as I am able. God will take
care of the rest.
Matthew W. Bassford
Brother Bassford, most recently of Spring, Texas, fell asleep in the Lord on
this past Wednesday, October 25, after a devastation struggle with ALS.
He was 45 years old.