“It requires no faith to complain.” That’s a powerful, convicting truth I heard a month or so ago and God gave me one to accompany it recently: It requires no faith to have self-pity. How many times do I end up focusing on the things that aren’t the way I thought they would be, or personal shortcomings, or others’ perceived expectations or opinions?
(spoiler alert: very real sharing ahead)
I confess that there are times when I want to leave pastoral ministry. It’s difficult to not compare our ministry with others. Leading a church community is a big responsibility, and though we don’t have to do things to please God, if things don’t seem to be growing or doing well, we feel like we’re failing Him. It’s difficult not to take it personally when people stop coming to church. You wonder what we have done, or what should we change, or what is it that we didn’t do that we should have?
I confess that at times when I see other pastors posting about the number of baptisms they had or how great the growth is where they lead I feel jealous. Then I feel ashamed that I’m not just celebrating the fact that people are getting saved. I’m so thankful people are getting saved! It just feels like someone poking a bruise, spotlighting the fact that we aren’t seeing the same thing happen in our church, at least not right now, which leads me back to the defeating sense of “we’re not doing this right.”
God is pointing out to me that discouragement comes when my thoughts and focus become about me, about my ability, strength, wisdom, know-how or lack thereof. That inward focus is not helpful, to say the least.
It’s not helpful because I can’t lock my gaze on Christ when I’m looking at myself. I can’t build my life on myself. I can’t stand on the faithfulness, the grace, the strength of myself. I can’t direct myself, or cause myself to grow. I need Jesus! I need Him. I need to keep watching for Him, looking at Him, surrendering to Him, following Him, listening to Him, reading about Him and what He said, living by those words of life.
My soul fidgets and squirms in uneasiness when I’m focusing on myself. There is no peace found in me without Jesus.
I forget the sovereign magnitude of His strength, the precious, priceless gift of His grace, the humble servant heart of my King, the unchanging, everlasting, limitless, true and pure goodness of my God.
Who leads me? Who brings about change in the human heart? Mimi? No way. Who draws people close to God, convicts them of sin, brings them to their knees in repentance, then causes them to stand in grace and new life? Only Jesus, only Holy Spirit, only God.
Who knows the answer to “what should we do?” Who will grow a church family, do miracles in the hearts of its people, bring life change? Who is able to reveal spiritual disease, conquer death and breathe life? Jesus.
Like Ezekiel answered when God asked him if chalky, dry bones strewn across a vast desert could live again, I look to Him and say: “Only You know, God.” (from Ezekiel 47:3)
I recently asked God to teach me how to die to myself, since “myself” doesn’t seem to want to die, and this truth is key (applying it has to be a daily, even moment by moment process): I become less and less and Jesus becomes more and more. I focus on Him, not me. I keep seeking Him, praising Him, trusting Him, turning back to Him, obeying Him and giving Him all the attention. Jesus. Jesus first. Jesus alone.
My heart echoes the disciple, Peter, when Jesus asked if he would be leaving along with other disillusioned followers. Peter replied, “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words that give eternal life. We believe, and we know you are the Holy One of God.” (John 6:68-69) NLT
No where to go but to Jesus. No one to look to but Him. Jesus.