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It is a great thing to dream great dreams. A small vision of God and His kingdom will birth a small vision of the future. Jesus, who has already overcome the world, promised His followers that they would do greater things even than He (John 14:12). John Knox was not content merely to minister to those stray sheep who might wander into his fold. Instead his heart cried out, “Give me Scotland, or I die!” That is a big dream indeed.
Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount, warned us against worrying about the petty things of this world, the very things that tend to hold our attention— what we will eat, what we will wear. We are inveterate worriers and insatiable spenders, which together mean that we tend to fret over funds. Jesus calls us, however, not to worry over such things. Our Father in heaven knows what we need, and He provides for us. What we ought to be focused on is the kingdom of God, and His righteousness.
Scotland is, of course, a commonwealth in the kingdom of God. Knox’s desire that her citizens would be brought into that kingdom, that they would be dressed in the righteousness of the King is good and proper, even exemplary. “Give me Scotland or I die!” was not a cry Knox should have been ashamed of. As we dream big, however, we would do well to understand the nature of the kingdom and how it is brought forth. We would be wise to learn to discern the difference between the brightness of our King’s glory and the brightness of the spotlight. There is a very thin line, one I suspect we all are tempted to dance along, between wanting to do great things for the kingdom and wanting to be great in the kingdom.
When we read of the legacy of men like Knox, the influence first of the Reformation on Scotland and from there the influence of Scotland on the rest of the world, it is all too easy to get stars in our eyes. What if, we wonder, God would be pleased to use me the way He used Knox? What if I were able to do great things for the kingdom, the kind of great things that will have believers in five hundred years commemorating my life, cataloging my accomplishments, carving my bust in marble? We may not be worrying about what we will eat and what we will drink, but we end up worrying as the disciples did, wondering what will be my place, my stature, my rank in His kingdom?
In the kingdom we are called to seek, however, the great things are the small things. Grand national reformations and great sweeping revivals are astonishing gifts from our heavenly Father. But the Son told us the kingdom is like unto a mustard seed. He told us that if we would be first, we must needs be last. Are we not susceptible to the temptation to miss on the little things while pursuing the big? How many missionary kids’ souls have been neglected on the altar of a grand vision? How many pastors’ children have come in second to their father’s ambition, masked as “kingdomseeking”? And how many of these passionate parents wish they could go back and devote themselves to that which is seen by the world—and by the worldly in the church—as small and insignificant?
When Knox set about establishing the Kirk in Scotland, the first man that he ordained to gospel ministry was Robert Campbell Sproul, my direct ancestor. Scotland and Knox are to me not distant tributaries in the stream of church history. The history of the Scottish Reformation is my family’s history. As such, I resonate with the heart cry of Knox—”Give me Scotland or I die!” I like to believe that had I been there, I would have stood ready to march with Knox into the fray, ready later to join the Scottish Worthies who refused to bend the knee to prelacy (episcopal governance) from the Church of England, and were rewarded with martyrdom. But as I look at my own life and God’s call on it, I find myself with a very different heart cry. No one will study my legacy as they do Knox. But if they did, my prayer is that it will be said of me not that I said, “Give me America, or I die!” but that I prayed, “Take my children, or I die!”
The Robert Campbell Sproul that matters most to me is not my ancestor, but my descendant, my son. And with him, Darby, Shannon, Delaney, Erin Claire, Maili, Reilly, and Donovan. My great hope is that my Father in heaven would be pleased to use me not only to raise these children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, but that He would use me to raise them to raise their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. My prayer is that my covenant children would by His grace keep covenant to their children, their children’s children, and as many as are afar off.
I want to do great things for the kingdom. Those great things, however, are loving, training, and teaching the greatest things in the kingdom—His children whom He has put under my care. For of such is the kingdom of God.