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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

from heaven!

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

deeply reassuring!

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.