Are You Feeling Like a Failure?

Failure. It’s not our favorite word. It’s not what we want to associate with ourselves, our careers, our families, or our lives. Failure feels like a disease that we strive to avoid and just want to stay away.

Last week, my schedule was jam-packed. There was something every single day. I love to be busy, and, if I’m honest, it felt nice to have so many things planned again. Last week, however, didn’t go the way I wanted. My health and body did not cooperate. One by one, I missed being able to attend what sat on my calendar or was forced to cancel it altogether. No big deal, right? It was for my heart. With each passing day, as I could not do what felt so important to me, failure and defeat built a wall in my spirit. I was not only letting others down, in my mind, but I was disheartened over how I felt about myself.

God has been convicting me about the way I define success. He’s been walking through the garden of my heart and plucking out the weeds. This past week, he bent over and found the dandelion of works—again. I am actually somewhat a fan of dandelions. They create beautiful, little flowers. My children often gather them up and bring them to me in a wilted bouquet. When we find a white covered seed head, we carefully pluck it and blow them gently away with a “wish.” Yet, while the dandelion has use—you can even eat the leaves—it is not good to have a yard full. They will completely take over and dominate. One has to be intentional when removing this determined, resilient plant. It will grow anywhere it can take root. Once there, you have to completely get rid of the root to ensure the weed does not return.

Working for the Lord also has its place. Yet, if we are not careful, we can begin to define who we are, ministry, church, and life by what we do. When we cannot perform, then, the wave of failure will take us under. If you’ve ever been caught off guard or misjudged the size of an ocean wave, you know how painful it can be to be dragged across a rough, sandy sea floor. Failure hurts, but what if our pain is unnecessary?

God is not looking at you and I to see how much we have accomplished today. There is no checklist in heaven that says to the stay at home mom: “Got dressed, cleaned, and had dinner for her husband. Check. I love her more today.” The heavens do not declare to the woman seeking to advance her career: “Worked over time, killed the big presentation, still went to her kid’s soccer game. Check. Extra points today.” You and I create the system of what we determine as success for ourselves in our own minds.

Do you know what heaven is focused on? God. His glory. His mission. His plan. We are successful when we choose to exalt God in our own hearts becoming fully yielded to Him in every way. No, we will never be one hundred percent there until we are in heaven forever, but Christ came to be the victory our hearts need. When we seek to work to feel enough, valued, or loved or because it feels good to our flesh, we devalue the rest, peace, and worth the Lord wants to give. We confuse what failure and success mean. Our hearts are what the Lord desires—not sacrifices. I don’t win Him over with how I martyr myself running, working, and serving in my life or in my ministry. Neither do you. His heart is already for us. We are already fully loved—completely.

Are you feeling like a failure? As though all your effort only results in brokenness and disappointment? Today, ask the Lord to show you how you can rest in who He is and how much He loves you right where you are. Allow God to change the way you are thinking and take hold of the truth that He defines you and what your life should look like. Whatever your plans for the day or the week, know that the Lord is ordering your steps. His desire is to lead and mold you more into His image so that others may see Him too. You are loved. Let being in His presence be the new “success” you seek.

“For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” Psalm 51:16-17

“The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.”
Proverbs 16:9

“My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” Psalm 73:26

“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”
Philippians 1:6

A Second Touch

Another day. Another doctor. I was sitting, partially leaned over on my hip, in the leather chair directly across from his desk. Pain washed over my body in waves and bent me in two at the waist. I was terrified. I wanted desperately for him to find something wrong with me, and longed for him to find nothing at the same time. His office was filled with an abundance of green plants, and a gorgeous bird chirped sweetly behind me in its metal cage. There was so much life inside his office. As he entered the room and placed himself behind the dark, wooden desk I had been eyeing, I knew. He hadn’t found anything either. Tears began to stream down my face as the emotion of the unknown, relief and another wave of pain engulfed me. “You don’t have cancer. I am…” He began. I half listened as he made notes and discussed other options for me to pursue, but my mind was busy with the thought of what was next. Would this never end? I left his personal tropical jungle thankful and broken hearted. 

I saw twelve doctors with varying specialties that year with no diagnosis. No one seemed to be able to pinpoint why I was in debilitating pain in my mid-thirties. My life felt as though someone had blindfolded me and given me a hand full of darts. I chucked one after the other blindly in the air. Wherever it landed, I dragged my body down the medical path it indicated I should try now. I was exhausted. 

I begged God for someone to discover the source of my pain. I begged Him to heal me. But neither came. Despite the medications and surgeries, the pain remained. My faith was like a ship battered at sea. I had never been in a place in my life where I felt the Lord was silent. It was crushing. I knew God. I knew Him to be abundantly faithful. He had led our family to Africa on short term missions and to move across multiple states following His will in education and my husband’s call to the pastorate. The God I knew intimately had carried us through international adoption. But here in this physical isolation, I couldn’t find Him. I couldn’t hear Him. I lay day after day in my bed. But where was Jesus? 

In Mark 8:22-26, we find a completely unique passage of Scripture. Many commentators of the Word label it the two stage miracle. It reads, “They came to Bethsaida. They brought a blind man to him and begged him to touch him. He took the blind man by the hand and brought him out of the village. Spitting on his eyes and laying his hands on him, he asked him, ‘Do you see anything?’ He looked up and said, ‘I see people—they look like trees walking.’ Again Jesus placed his hands on the man’s eyes. The man looked intently and his sight was restored and he saw everything clearly. Then he sent him home, saying, ‘Don’t even go into the village.’” There is no other place in God’s Word where Jesus touches someone a second time. The record of His various signs and miracles stand on Him simply speaking, touching or willing something to happen. God never has to try again. The other Gospel writers omit this story, but here we find it among Mark’s account. 

It is no mistake. Everything Jesus allows or does in the physical is a reflection of the spiritual. He is no haphazard God who has failed. Instead, the healing of this blind man shows us that it is okay if healing comes in stages. In fact, it is sometimes required. At first, the blind man sees a little. The people appear as trees. Maybe this is how he imagined trees to look, or perhaps he went blind later in life and remembered the sight of trees. The point is that he saw in part. Not fully. Like a veil draped about his eyes. He was able to make out shapes, but there was no clarity. No detail. When Jesus touches him again, his sight is full. It is complete. He is made whole physically and spiritually as Jesus lays His hands on him again. He needed a second touch. 

I too had seen in part. All that God had done up to this point in my life was spectacular, but God was about to teach me what it meant to crave the full picture. My desperation was an opportunity to see clearly. I needed a second touch. Through the pain and wondering, through the months of agonizing, and the days of simply existing, Jesus was unveiling my eyes to His glory. He has taught me compassion for people who suffer. I see them more intently now. He has shown me what it means to trust Him when I receive no answer, when I have no plan, and do not know the way or outcome. He has given me the ability to relate to the seniors in our congregation as I walk a similar health journey and see them at the same doctor’s appointments. They care for me and I for them in new and fresh ways forged on the anvil of broken bodies and yearning spirits. He has proven Himself faithful when He doesn’t do what I want, and He has birthed inside me a greater hunger for the Kingdom to come. He has reveled Himself to me. In stages. 

Are you eager for the touch of Jesus’ healing hands? Do you long for Him to open your eyes to more of who He is? Despite what the circumstances around you may be saying, the miracle is coming. You may find, however, that it lies inside you. Christ may not heal you, fix your marriage, bring back your child, or restore your bank account. He may. Only He knows. But He will absolutely come in to the hurt with you and pour out His presence on your life. If you are willing, He will touch you again and restore your sight—placing your focus on Him, His will, and His way. 

In Luke 24, a couple of disciples, these men who had lived with and devoted themselves to the Savior, are walking and discussing the resurrection recently revealed to a group of servant hearted women including Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James. They found the account of the women “an idle tale” (Luke 24:11)—simply too hard to believe. But as they are walking, Jesus joins them. They do not recognize Him, however. After all, their faith isn’t sure He is alive again. As they stroll, Christ teaches them anew about the need for His death and the promise of His resurrection. Once more, He proclaims to them the Scriptures and prophesies about Himself. They invite the Lord, unknowingly, into their home, and as He breaks the bread, blesses it, and pass it out, we read these words: “And their eyes were opened, and they recognized Him.” (Luke 24:31a) Even people who have walked with Jesus, lived with Jesus, and loved Jesus for a long time, need their eyes opened to see Him wholly. We need Him to rend the veil in front of our faces as He tore the separating curtain in the temple. We need to be reminded to seek Him and dwell in His presence. His spirit is what causes us to remember all He has done, why He came, and what He wants to do. 

Today, don’t feel ashamed if you also find you need your eyes opened. No matter how long you’ve loved Jesus, a second touch will allow you to see Him more clearly than before. A miracle in stages isn’t less remarkable. God is ready and reaching out His hand to your face even now. 

Be a Rubber Band

If there was one single space of time that shaped my life, besides salvation, I would say it was the mission trips I took as a teenager. There were three, but the details have melded together in my mind so that they are simply, The Mission Trips. I have experienced many of God’s miraculous works, but it was these influential times that shaped the rest of who I would be for Christ. 

I attended a small, country church, and our youth group did two events a year. That’s difficult for those of us in ministry who have led or are currently leading youth departments to even think about. One was a fun outing to an amusement/water park. The second was a mission trip to Panama City Beach, Florida. I know. You’re thinking, “Who wouldn’t choose the beach as a life changing favorite?” And while the lure of the ocean, friends, and even young love was there, once I was on the scene, God had His way with my heart and life.

I could write and write about all God revealed to me in those summer weeks, but serving in ministry during a pandemic has me thinking about one specific element over and over. Be a rubber band. 

It was one of the first nights, if not the very first, that nearly three hundred youth and, as Scripture would describe it, some adults gathered in the hotel where we were staying. It was a large room that could convert into whatever conferences needed, and tonight, it was a church. There was a simple metal stage in one corner, and the Director of Missions for our association stood on the stage. He and an incredible group of men were the ones who dared to dream that loading vans full of adolescents and driving them across multiple state lines could be a God sized, amazing idea. 

Packages of rubber bands began to flow around the room as he spoke. We were instructed to take one rubber band for ourselves and place it on our wrists. I’m sure this previous mentor of ours said many Spirit-filled things that night as he taught, but THE thing that stood out was a simple phrase, “Be flexible.” If you want to quit this week, tug on your rubber band. If you don’t like the job site you are assigned, let God stretch you. If you get hot, tired, and feel like you’re going to pass out, drink water and find your site leader. I don’t know if he said any of those previous things, but something similar surely came out. I know after having helped lead many summer mission trips myself. 

I sometimes wonder if he even understood fully the great truth he was heaping out upon us from that creaky, metal hotel stage. When I had the pleasure of finding my feet on the great continent of Africa, I whispered to myself, “Be a rubber band.” In year after year of ministry that has been sweet and a little sour, I have commanded myself, “Be flexible.” After almost twenty years, I still picture that hotel room with the faces of our mentors, spiritual giants in our eyes, and I remind myself to serve Christ without expectations, without parameters, without limits.

No, in honesty, I do not always worship Jesus in this way. When a rubber band is not stretched, it returns to its’ original size. So I have learned what I was told. When I discover I need to be more available, when I find out I must surrender my will, when I choose to see that God is able, I grab the, now imaginary, rubber band on my wrist and pull it. And I say, “Be adaptable.” 

This season of ministering during pandemic is hard. No one knows the way and the guidelines change like the ocean’s tide. I find I do not have good footing at times to lead those depending on me. Despite the prayer, research, and wisdom sought, I am learning afresh to be a rubber band during this season too; to allow God to use me without knowing what’s ahead or even what’s in front of my face. I find that as I let Him extend my soul the effect is rippling. The growth He is creating in me goes out into my personal life. It sinks down into the areas of my own heart that I am wrestling with. And I smile. Because that’s how Jesus works. 

If you find yourself grappling with our current times, within the walls of your own home, or inside the chambers of your heart, may I suggest grabbing a rubber band? Every time you meet a situation you don’t like or one that is too big for you, reach down and pull that circle on your wrist. Whisper to your floundering soul, “Be flexible.” I dare say, years from now, you will find it has everlasting results.  

How Do We Stay?

“I love Jesus, but I can’t attend church. I like you and your husband. I just can’t go.” I’ve heard this confession, or the many variations of it, countless times over the seventeen years my husband and I have been in full-time ministry. Can I be honest? I have also felt these words personally and even said my own version on dark days. Unfortunately, church hurt is a very real byproduct of chasing after the Lord. We bump into one another along the way because the church is made up of actual people, and we sin. 

How do we stay the course when our hearts are broken? The temptation to worship God in our own living room or in our own way is magnetic when the hurt has been multiplied over time and different locations. We come to the stark reality that the perfect church simply doesn’t exist. Is it even worth going? Worth trying? Won’t it be the same story with different faces? Surely, this is not how God intended for His people to act. 

You are right. Church people should not live like the world, but they do sometimes. If we sincerely evaluate our own hearts, we will find we do too. After all, aren’t we church people? The question is not whether hypocrites are in the body of Christ as they most certainly are, and we each contribute our failures. The real issue is how we stay the course despite how we feel.

God over people. We must choose to worship and focus on Jesus. I understand that it is easier said than done at times, but it is the depth of our personal relationship with the Lord that will get us through the pain. Galatians 1:10 says,For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.” We must remember that we are striving to please the Savior and not those we attend church with. Our heart has to focus on Christ alone. We will never measure up to anyone else’s standards, and, unfortunately, there are unkind people in God’s house. Thus, there will be times when our experience in the body falls short. This is our opportunity to extend grace and mercy with abandon as it has been heaped on us by the Lord. No person should ever be able to hinder our desire to run to the Father and sit in His presence in His house. Maybe for a time, but not forever. Worshipping in community is how God meant our faith to be lived out. Therefore, we must fight the spiritual war to stay connected to the body and to God Himself. 

God over ourselves. Yes, this is the heart of the issue isn’t it? The raw emotion of the experience propels us into flight or fight. We must defend, protect our hearts, our families, our lives. We stand poised to strike when the fiery darts find a landing zone in our flesh, or we simply pick up our ball and go home. We go down the street. We stop trying new churches. We slowly sink down into the couch of our living room that has only offered sweet release and comfort. Friends, we have to shepherd our hearts. We cannot trust them to do what is right and best for our spiritual health. Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” In times of trial when Satan rushes in as the enemy to kill and destroy relationships, peace and holy communion, we must choose to dress in our armor and do battle with the real enemy. “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12) When others harm us, we choose to make the hard, mature choice to ask God to search our hearts and pluck out sin. We go before Him in repentance whether accusations are valid or fictional because we know that any grain of truth tucked inside the package of a lie deserves to be brought to the righteous judge who is able to know our hearts fully and can be trusted to put them back together in a more beautiful way. So we continue to enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise (Psalm 100:4) knowing that a person is not our foe, believing that the bride Jesus died for is worthy despite our sin and the sin of others because Christ called her so, and trusting with all our hearts that the God who promised to work all things out for His glory and our good (Romans 8:28) is not a liar (Titus 1:2). We crucify our flesh. We love sacrificially and unconditionally. This is where forgiveness is birthed. 

We serve a God of restoration. He is the ultimate provider of resurrection. When you follow a God who wakes the dead, church hurt can never have the final word. There is victory when we allow our hearts to chose God over people, and ultimately, to choose God over ourselves. The person, or people, who have slain our spirits are only sinners too. So we pray for them as Christ did for those who killed Him, “Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34) And with a clear continence and pure heart, we proclaim in the midst of our undoing: “Vengeance is the Lords.” (Romans 12:19) We must leave the judgment to the only Holy One. We go to church, anyway. 

Does the World Need Another Woman Teaching the Bible?

If the thing that sets your soul on fire as a woman is teaching the Scripture, you are sure to run into those who hold the opinion that there are enough female writers and speakers on the earth already. The message of the critic implies that helping people understand God’s Word, how to live it, and, in turn, impart it to others is not a worthy calling for our gender, or that the limited spots available for women in this field have been filled. Those who stand in opposition to a woman properly handling the sacred text often presuppose that she must want to be famous, waters down the Word, or desires to preach. They mistakenly overlook, or ignore entirely, the one who seeks to honor Christ through the gender roles He created while simultaneously pouring into others as the Word has filled her.

The woman in Christian leadership who lives according to the Biblical model is not fiction. You can have a serious teacher of Scripture who is female and also living her complimentarian role as outlined in God’s Word (Genesis 1-2; Ephesians 5; 1 Peter 3) with the Savior as the example of what it means to be humble, submissive, sacrificial and loving. In the Lord’s eyes, women are not less than or greater than men. They are uniquely designed different, but created equal. Christian culture is making strides in this arena, but there are certainly days ahead.

Yes, the world needs more women teaching the Bible. God can accomplish His mission without men or women, but He invites us into His work to reach the world that does not know Him. There can never be enough individuals taking on the Great Commission. In fact, the world needs you. The Lord places each of us where He determines to so that we might reach those around us. You have His story inside you, the unique testimony He has given you, and you are meant to shout it. Every believer should be devouring the Word and discipling others. We are all His ambassadors. Fulfilling the call He has placed on your life and the purpose He has given it is more about others than you. For the lost to be saved, we have to speak and live out the Gospel. The Lord intends for us to do so right where we are with love and grace.

The church needs more women who teach too. While all those who follow Christ are called to pass on what they know through their relationships with others, not every believer is specifically placed in a position of teaching. If God calls you to this role, know that the women of the church you serve need to see you living out your faith. Humanity needs mirrors. We long to see ourselves in others to be inspired, to be encouraged, and to know we are not alone. While God uses men in the lives of women, it is our unique task as female Bible teachers to connect to the women we lead in a way Christ designed us distinctly to do. Despite what those sceptic of the motivation of women teaching Scripture would have us believe, there are still not enough women rightly dividing the Word of truth. There are not enough mirrors.

The call to be faithful goes out to each of us as women who follow Jesus and teach His truth. The Lord is honored in diversity and the story He has built inside your life is sacred and worthy of sharing for His glory. If the Holy Spirit has given you the gift of teaching, don’t keep it inside. Share it with the women God surrounds you with. Fulfill your calling as a follower of Christ, and, if He asks, as a teacher.

“I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Ephesians 4:1-3

Why a Name Change?

Yesterday, I retired “The Ramblings of a Young Pastor’s Wife” as the title of my blog and the Facebook page where I share what God speaks to me. It was odd to say goodbye to over nine years of history, but it was time to move forward with the calling God has been placing on me for months.

I began blogging at the age of twenty-seven in our second pastorate. It has always provided a way for me to walk through what God is doing in my life and to encourage others along the way. If I’m honest, though, the title “Ramblings” gave me a sense of defense against criticism that would surely come my way. The title was God given, but it also provided a buffer of protection for my heart that allowed me to guard and distance myself at times. I didn’t want to be seen or evaluated too harshly.

I’ve known for months that Jesus was telling me to take the ministry He has given me under my own name. It’s always felt so icky for some reason to think of doing so. I never want to come off as prideful or self absorbed. I often care too much of the opinions of others and spend a great deal of time analyzing all things and in introspection. I want to bring God glory at the end of the day and not myself.

But my wrestling has ceased, at least with, finally and simply, just using my name for the blog and ministry He has given me. It may sound strange, but it is a way in which I have surrendered to His will. So I pray you will keep joining me as I write and share here and on the Facebook page. There are more plans He’s placed in my heart and mind. I’ll share them as He allows. For now, thanks for sticking with me. I am grateful for each of you.

Be blessed.

It Seems Appropriate

I remember seeing “The Passion of the Christ” in theatres when it came out years ago. No movie had evoked so much emotion inside of me before. During the crucifixion scene, my hands shot up over my mouth to conceal a guttural scream. As I was overcome by what was only a glimpse of the reality our Savior endured, I wanted to shout, “No!” Yet, at that exact moment, I also knew that it had to have been so. The reality of loving Christ and not wanting Him to suffer collided into needing Him to die on my behalf. It was a sombering reality.

This Good Friday, it seems appropriate that I would have to once again wrestle with this truth. It is odd to approach Holy Week “alone” through the necessity of social distancing, but it has also allowed me to grasp at a new connection to the Scripture. What must the disciples have felt in their day? The world they knew was turned upside down. They were scattered, afraid, even hiding away. There was denial and sin mixed into the dark atmosphere of the time. They were given a promise of Christ’s return, but they had not seen it yet. There they must have sat in deep pain with endless questions and no real course of action or direction for what was next.

Today, as I awoke to an overcast sky, it felt appropriate that I too was disconnected. I have been searching for direction and what to do in a time of cultural darkness. No one I know has endured a global pandemic, and it seems we are all simply doing the best we can within our many limits. It is this unsettled, desperation that connects me to the Good Friday of thousands of years ago. It is this waiting without knowing that has awakened a hunger for His return somewhere deep inside of me.

This will be an Easter like no other as we do not gather physically, but the example of how to walk through unprecedented days has already been laid before us. We have seen what denying Jesus in times like these looks like, and we have also seen how those who fail get back up and rejoin each other to pray for God to move. His Word may not give us “5 Easy Steps to Living in a Pandemic,” but it has modeled for us how to be His children and have His Spirit in days of crisis.

This Good Friday, my soul may want to retreat, but you and I have an advantage the disciples did not. In our great weakness, we know the hope of His resurrection, and we wait with eager anticipation for His second coming. Faith is all any of us have in times like these, but if our faith is strong in Him, we can discover it is all we need.

May I encourage you not to cover up the ache inside of you today with Netflix, a sugary treat, or any physical escape? Instead, take the worry, the anxiety, the exhaustion, and exasperation to the one who has gone with many mere humans like us before. Today is about how God reached down to save the world when no one could see how it was going to work out or end. As we also question and even waiver at times in our own day of wondering, know that He is still coming. He is still saving. Even when we cannot see.

It is a Good Friday, indeed.

1 Peter 4 (NIRV)

Christ suffered in his body. So get ready as a soldier does. Prepare yourselves to think in the same way Christ did. Do it because those who have suffered in their bodies are finished with sin. 

As a result, they don’t live the rest of their lives on earth controlled by evil human longings. Instead, they live to do what God wants. 

You have spent enough time in the past doing what ungodly people choose to do. You lived a wild life. You longed for evil things. You got drunk. You went to wild parties. You worshiped statues of gods. The Lord hates that. 

Ungodly people think that it’s strange when you no longer join them in what they do. They want you to rush into the same flood of wasteful living. So they say bad things about you. 

But they will have to explain their actions to God. He is ready to judge the living and the dead. 

That’s why the good news was preached even to people who are now dead. Human judges said they were guilty as far as their bodies were concerned. But God set their spirits free to live as he wanted them to. 

The end of all things is near. So keep a clear mind. Control yourselves. Then you can pray. 

Most of all, love one another deeply. Love erases many sins by forgiving them. 

Welcome others into your homes without complaining. 

God’s gifts of grace come in many forms. Each of you has received a gift in order to serve others. You should use it faithfully. 

If you speak, you should do it like one speaking God’s very words. If you serve, you should do it with the strength God provides. Then in all things God will be praised through Jesus Christ. Give him the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.

Dear friends, don’t be surprised by the painful suffering you are going through. Don’t feel as if something strange were happening to you. 

Be joyful that you are taking part in Christ’s sufferings. Then you will be filled with joy when Christ returns in glory. 

Suppose people make fun of you because you believe in Christ. Then you are blessed, because God’s Spirit rests on you. He is the Spirit of glory. 

Suppose you suffer. Then it shouldn’t be because you are a murderer or a thief. It shouldn’t be because you do evil things. It shouldn’t be because you poke your nose into other people’s business. 

But suppose you suffer for being a Christian. Then don’t be ashamed. Instead, praise God because you are known by that name. 

It is time for people to be judged. It will begin with the family of God. And since it begins with us, what will happen to people who don’t obey God’s good news? 

Scripture says, “Suppose it is hard for godly people to be saved. Then what will happen to ungodly people and sinners?” (Proverbs 11:31) 

Some people will suffer because God has planned it that way. They should commit themselves to their faithful Creator. And they should continue to do good.

You Are On God’s Side

Several weeks ago, I was driving through one of our state’s national forests on the way to a meeting. My husband and I like to joke that it is where cell signal goes to die. It’s just one of those long stretches of road that forces you to stop and listen to the voice of God as all other distractions cease, and you bask in His handiwork as it passes by your window. Sometimes, I cannot even get a radio signal as I make my way through the tunnel of trees. On this particular day, however, I found a Christian station that came through my car speakers loud and clear. It was an excerpt from a pastor’s sermon. He wasn’t a famous orator, and I did not recognize his voice. Though, as he spoke, I was immediately connected to his message. “Not everyone wants you to succeed,” he said. The summary of the few lines he shared was that not all people are for you. Some, in fact, intend your harm and hope you fail. Then the program cut out, and I could not get the signal back.

Jesus meant for those few short sentences to come through the airwaves into my heart and mind. The reality is heavy. It is true that not everyone wants to see you succeed. When we are pursuing, laboring, and pressing toward the calling God has placed on us, we want those around us to cheer us on. Honestly, our spirit’s can desperately need it. When the voices fall flat, or worse, are in opposition, we can shrink back to the familiar places of defeat and inadequacy. This is a tool the enemy has perfected to keep God’s messengers silent. Yet, the truth of Scripture drowns out the noise of self-doubt and the criticism or complacency of others. Remember, when people oppose you, you are on God’s side.

David was not a stranger to having enemies. On many occasions Saul sought his death. The king had taken David in after his victory over Goliath, his son loved David like a brother, and he had the perfect opportunity to teach David all he knew. Instead, jealousy and envy had their way in Saul’s heart. He craved the approval of the people above all. Thus, when the crowd cheered for David, he could not stand it. Saul tries to murder him with a spear (1 Samuel 18:10-11, 19:10), sought his demise through battles (1 Samuel 18:25), ordered Jonathan and his servants to kill him (19:1), sent agents and, ultimately, went himself to do so (19: 11, 15, 20-22, 23:8, 15). It is a dark pursuit laid out in the Word.

Can you imagine the pain of knowing someone wanted your death? Someone you cared deeply for was not invested in you or connecting with you, but instead worked to remove you from their life.  The battle scene of broken relationships is one we can each relate to with ease. Yet, we see that God is faithful to us and to David.

Saul is unsuccessful in stopping the will of the Lord. David was meant to be the king of Israel. He had the opportunity to take Saul’s life, but spared him (1 Samuel 24).  Even this does not keep Saul from fighting against God’s promise. He pursued David’s destruction until the day he took his own life in battle (1 Samuel 25-31). It seems strange for King Saul, appointed by the Lord, to be swallowed up in evil, but it certainly happens. And David still becomes king according to God’s will. All Saul’s efforts to annihilate David resulted in his own destruction instead.

It is heart wrenching when someone seeks to harm us, but if we are being obedient to the Lord, we must remember that we are on His side. He always wins. He protects. He guides. When you realize you have an enemy, make sure you do not fight back in your own power. David never harmed Saul even when he had the opportunity. His first response was to honor the Lord. God prevailed.

Pray for your enemies. “But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 5:44-45

Thank You, Quiet Army

It is often the loud voice that causes us to pause and take notice. Their volume demands that we address their concern or query. With resounding opposition, they make their criticism known. There is a saying, “One bullfrog can sound like a whole pond.” I am, admittedly, not partial to negative “bullfrogs” who wish to be heard and perceived as many when they are, in fact, few.

I have come to admire, instead, the quiet soul who seeks the Lord with humility. This does not mean the person is or must be physically quiet or withdrawn, but they can go “unseen” as they desire no public forum or praise. These are the ones who stop me in the hall to pray, slip money into my hand with a “Use this for whatever is needed in the Children’s Ministry,” and message me to say how something that was taught touched their life. They are quick to repent and slow to speak. They do not seek affirmation. They go about serving Christ behind the scenes. You only know they are there if you are too. Otherwise, you might subconsciously take advantage of the mown grass you see at church, the chair you casually slide into, or the clean smell of a restroom on Sunday morning. They are unsung heroes of the faith.

I am grateful for these who embody Matthew 6:1-4: “’Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. Thus when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.’” It is their confidential sacrifice that both teaches and spurs me on. No matter the circumstance, if you watch, they are the ones taking food to the needy, buying Christmas or those who cannot, or simply preparing a meal for the sick. They won’t tell you. You’ll merely run into them at Wal-Mart and get a sneak peek at their private mission from Christ.

It is the spiritually meek who reveal to me what it means to pour over Scripture without believing I already know it. Then they patiently show me how to submit to its truth even when I do not like it. One is hard pressed to find these diamonds in the rough, but they are there silently screaming through their lives for us to wake up and live for Jesus.

Thank you, quiet army, for hearing the “still small voice” of God (1 Kings 19:12) and “whispering” it on to the world around you. I long to be like you.

Four Free Gifts to Give Your Pastor

I will never know what it is like to be a pastor, but I have walked beside one for seventeen years. Pastors are not perfect, but if they are truly called by God to serve His church, their heart’s desire is to see the Spirit move among the congregation they shepherd. The man of God who stands in the pulpit before you during the week is a real person and so are his family. They commit to the challenging task of leading the sheep because Jesus told them to, and they long to please their Father. As October nears its’ end and Pastor Appreciation Month comes to a close, I want to share what I have found to be four free, invaluable gifts you can give your pastor this month and all year long.

GROW. It really is the most vital thing you can do as a Christian. Have you made seeking a deep relationship with Christ the defining point of your life? Can you look back and see where you were compared to where God has brought you? People coming to Christ through salvation and growing in their walk with Him is the lifeblood of your pastor. It sustains him on the darkest days. He needs to see the mission of the Gospel taking root in you and changing you from the inside out. No, it is not about him, or even about you, but being an active member of your church where you attend, participate, serve, and, most importantly, grow will be one of the greatest gifts you can ever give your pastor. It is his purpose fulfilled.

ENCOURAGE. Everyone needs to be refreshed from time to time. The way you treat your pastor, his family, and the church can spur him on in the Gospel ministry or slay his spirit. You will not always agree with him, but choose to be someone who seeks to understand his heart and the vision God has given him. Go to him to discuss your concerns first and not to others. Strive to reconcile any broken relationship with him or others in the church. Decide to be someone who doesn’t listen to gossip. On Facebook, in your Sunday School class, and walking the church halls, let your words be ones that uplift your pastor and the bride of Christ. Set an example for other believers that being different doesn’t mean disunity. When you see your pastor growing in Christ, let him know. When you are thankful for something he does, tell him. Look for the good, and lift it up. You may never know the power that the note, card, or text of encouragement you send him has.

BE A FRIEND. The resounding echo of people in ministry is that it is incredibly lonely and isolating. The intense pressure to be perfect for your pastor is overwhelming even if he knows it is not required by the Lord or attainable. He is always questioning and analyzing the motives of those around him. Trust is a sacred thing that has likely been fractured repeatedly in the course of his ministry. Your pastor needs godly men to ask him to fish, hunt, go to breakfast, or whatever he or they enjoy simply to hang out together and know one another more. This isn’t the opportunity to accomplish your personal agenda for the church or share how you disagree with a sermon. Save those conversations for the office. Let this be a time of bonding as people who are brothers in Christ. The pastor’s wife needs godly women to walk with her as well. The investment you make in being your pastor’s friend will be a treasure to him that allows him the safe space to be himself without any other obligations or demands.

PRAY. Of all the things you can do for your pastor, there is nothing more vital than prayer. Spiritual warfare is incredibly real for the family called to live out the Gospel beside you in the church family you call home. Nothing, absolutely nothing, can be accomplished without the power of the Holy Spirit. Your pastor desperately needs you to intercede for him on a regular, consistent basis. Pray for him to rest in knowing that the results of ministry are not up to him. Pray for him to be comfortable with the person God uniquely created and designed him to be. Pray that he would always be convicted of his sin and promptly repent. Pray that the truth of God’s Word would be alive and real in his everyday life. Pray for his mental, physical, and emotional health. Pray that he would have an unquenchable thirst for Scripture and prayer. Pray for his marriage. Pray for his children. Pray for the church. Pray for yourself. Pray and never stop.

Let this month be a reminder that your pastor needs Jesus and a faith community just like you. Be a part of what Christ is doing for yourself, your church, your pastor, your community, and, ultimately, the glory of God.

Be blessed.