Very few of us enter the ministry with a desire to be famous. But the heart is deceitful, and it’s easy for our hearts to become proud.

I thought of this recently as I preached from Mark 3:13-19 . Jesus calls twelve disciples; seven of the twelve make their only appearance in Mark’s gospel in this passage. What a bummer. Jesus chooses you out of the crowds to be one of his twelve. You enter the stage and exit just as quickly. No fuss, no great stories, no fame. Fame and applause is not what following Jesus is about.

I wonder: am I content with being called and unknown? Am I willing to serve in obscurity but be known by Jesus?

I hope so, because the rewards are great. “And he appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach and have authority to cast out demons” (Mark 3:14-15 ). On the positive side: spending time with Jesus and ministering as he did. On the negative side: no worldly fame. Is there even a question? Who wouldn’t jump at a privilege like that?

This is our calling today: to follow Jesus, spend time with him, and serve with no eye to human acclaim or recognition. We may or may not enjoy success, at least the way we measure it. But servants don’t need to be successful. They just need to be servants. It’s enough to have the pleasure of being with Jesus and learning ministry from him.

I know a lot of pastors who want to do great things for God. They want to plant not one church, but a hundred. They don’t want to pastor a small congregation; they want to lead a large one.

I admire the desire to give God our best. I worry about our insistence on doing great things for God. The question I ask myself more often is this: Am I willing to do small things for God? Is it enough for me to serve him for his sake even if he’s the only one who notices?

I wish I could answer this question honestly. I’d be pretending if I told you that my motives are pure. But over the years, God has put me in situations in which the only reason to serve is for his sake. I no longer see these situations as negatives; I actually see them as one of God’s many mercies to me.

“Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God,” said William Carey. Okay. I know what he meant, and I don’t disagree. The question for my impure heart is this: am I willing to attempt small things for God? Am I willing to take my place as no more than a servant, and be willing to serve simply because he is worthy?

God help us to keep asking ourselves this question. God help us with being one of those who preach, suffer, and die forgotten. God make us people who are willing to take the lower place simply for the privilege of serving Jesus.