Scripture: “Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money, saying, “Give me this power also, so that anyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.”
But Peter said to him, “May your silver perish with you because you though you could obtain the gift of God with money! You have neither part nor lot in this matter for your heart is not right before God. Repent, therefore, of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that, if possible, the intent of your heart may be forgiven you. For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and the bond of iniquity.”
And Simon answered, “Pray for me to the Lord, that nothing of what you have said may come upon me.” Acts 8:18-24
Observation: Here is a description of a short cut desired to fantasticate ministry. “I want to serve the Lord in a big way; nothing less than huge ministry will do.” Yeah, that’s the ticket…
Analysis: Do I think Simon can be assigned “good intent?” After all, he just wants to “serve the Lord”, right?
Maybe not. Ok, not maybe; really, he doesn’t. But why?
One of the things that I have been addressing the man in the mirror is this issue of asking others to do the hard work of prayer for me. It kind of looks like Simon asks to take a shortcut to becoming “something.” It is succumbing to a transaction mentality in the church community.
“Oooo, that’s cool. I want to be able to lay hands on folks. Can you give me that power? I got a pocket full of folding money to exchange.” Another far-off example: “Oooo, that is a shiny badge. Can I buy one?” The examples are obvious, right?
But Simon isn’t getting it. He is like a mule; Peter is banging on his noggin with a 2×4 and Simon is thinking “but you didn’t say, no…”
Simon: “Can I buy the Power?” Peter: “Are you nuts?”
Simon: “No, I am not nuts, can I buy the Power?” Peter: “Your heart isn’t right before God.”
Simon: “You can’t tell that, can I buy the Power?” Peter: “Repent of this wickedness that God may forgive this bitterness and release you from this bond of iniquity.”
Simon: “Then, that’s not a no, right? Tell you what, pray for me, ok? I’ll come back later…”
Simon doesn’t want to go through the surrender and hard work of being discipled, he wants others to give him a shortcut: first, buying ministry. Second, “you pray, I am too busy.”
There is a chasm of difference between: “Pray with me” and “pray for me.” Which one will Jesus hear clearly? Like Simon, I can get messed up with enthusiasm for “ministry” that is based upon making a name for myself. I struggle with ambition, wanting it to be holy ambition and wondering if I am actually being a “Simon.”
Prayer: Father, this isn’t the first time you have heard me pray about this. Make the fear of God be the main influence, committed to work in faithful secret, and convinced that you will provide as the church requires. In me, ambition is a form of discontent. Help me to channel godly ambition and serve the person you have provided me to shepherd for the rest of my life. AMEN