A Joyful Heart in Ministry

A common struggle for those in ministry is to trust in self-effort for results instead of remembering that ONLY God moves minds and hearts and builds movements of people for His glory.  With self-reliance often comes a focus on tasks instead of people, and numbers instead of changed lives. We have noticed recently that several of our students seemed to be struggling with this task mentality, and they have therefore been feeling weary very quickly, and just wanting to pull away from ministry.  Jeremiah and I don’t like to put pressure on people, but we do want to help students to figure out the root behind their struggles. Often removing what feels like the outward cause is not what fixes the problem, particularly when there is a deeper heart issue in play.

I often focus in my discipleship on applying the gospel to every part of our lives, remembering that our maturity and growth come from the Lord, and that his grace and mercy are new every morning. Especially when I am working with student leaders, I like to remind them that what qualifies them to do the work of ministry is a heart that fully seeks the Lord. That is more important than skills, which only truly bring God glory when our hearts are also towards Him. (I Chron 28:9-10)

If we start on the path of seeking God first and foremost, I believe our humility, sense of peace and joy, and our hunger for God will keep growing and growing as we mature spiritually.  I am thankful for my journey so far, and for how God stirred up in me a desire to know Him more. He continues to show me that I am happiest when I am seeking to know Him more and walking in honesty and humility before Him. A verse I love is Philippians 1:6, which says “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.” What good news that God is still not done with me, and has more good in store.

My belief that a heart issue involved in our struggles stems from my own story. As I have spent time thinking about how to encourage our students, I have reflected on my own story in college.  There was a dramatic shift that happened in my ministry life between my Junior and Senior years; it was a key point where I realized that God’s grace was not just for that moment of trusting in Him for salvation, but for my daily life—and I was able to receive God’s grace in my process of spiritual growth, not trying to be perfect, but pointing others to Christ through acknowledging my weakness and dependence upon Him. It was amazingly freeing and changed my guilt to joy and hope.

Before the change, I consistently felt like I was not doing enough and that I must be disappointing God and others. I felt burned out on ministry because it felt like it was something I was “supposed” to do. People quickly annoyed me, and I wished I could just do my studies and not have to think about it. I hit a place of burn out each quarter, and just didn’t feel a sense of the deeper “joy” in my life that I was pretty sure followers of Christ were supposed to have independent of circumstances.

I knew something was wrong, but I didn’t know how to get out of my cycle of frustration and guilt. But it was through some good friends—who pointed out that I needed to stop being so defensive about everything and acknowledge my need for God and his grace and strength—that the Holy Spirit finally penetrated my heart with the truth. It is somewhat ironic that acknowledging my brokenness is what allowed me to see the wholeness I already have in Christ. It was acknowledging my self-focus that allowed me to shift my eyes to the one who truly knows me. It was acknowledging my inability to make things right on my own that brought me true peace and hope.

Image

First and foremost, I had to see my selfishness and pride as sin. I had to acknowledge that I could not keep a right standing before God with my effort and work, which result in guilt and frustration. Instead, I have to continue to rely on Christ for my sufficiency and life.  I find wholeness when I look to Christ for that, and point others to Him as well, because then I stop trying to prove that I am not still broken.  Instead, I am free to be a broken person, alongside other broken people, clinging to the one who has made me right with God in Christ and who will make me whole in every way in the future, by his mercy and to His glory.

After this shift that God worked in my heart, I was able to approach ministry and life differently. I remember consciously deciding to see people as more important than my tasks and accomplishments, and I was willing to sacrifice my time and energy, even if it meant losing some sleep and alone time. I began to love the small group of women that I led Senior year, and I was no longer drained by all the brokenness in the girls because I knew it was God who could change them, not me. I felt compassion for them because I knew I was not any different, but for God’s work in my life.  It was like all the things I already knew finally penetrated my heart. The Holy Spirit moved in me—I cannot take credit. And that taste of God’s grace and truth in my own life sparked a hunger to know Him even more deeply.

Image

My undergraduate career was just the start of that journey. God has continued to show me his love and grace in abundance. And I have definitely seen that my spiritual leadership is much more effective when I don’t try to look like I have it all together, but openly share my weaknesses and point to the One who has made me whole in Christ.  Ten years of Marriage and nearly 8 years of being a mother have also continued to point out my sin tendencies and my continuing need for God’s grace as I journey with Him.

Image

Image

I am so thankful. I pray that I will continue to seek and serve God “with a whole heart and with a willing mind” (2 Chron 28:9), and find my joy and satisfaction only there.

Advertisements

Thoughts on Revival

[This was simply a good time for me to think about revival, about renewal, about what God would have me do to see more of Him in my life, in my church, in my ministry, in my family, in my community. I want to have more passion in my life and the lives of the people around me. So excuse my ramblings and research and hopefully you may be blessed]

     What is revival? Would we want it to come? How come it doesn’t come? What would it be like for revival to happen in my own life, in the life of my church, in the life of my community?

     There have been several things recently that have led me to think again about this topic i have neglected for the past few years.

     First, there have been difficult things in ministry. There have been ways in which I have seen my own laziness, my own sloth, my own lack of passion. I have been easily thrown off, distracted from pursuing God and His Kingdom passionately.

     Second, I have recently listened to talk about revival by Tim Keller, who has experienced twice in his life what would be called revival—once while a student at Bucknell University, and once in ministry in Manhattan, NY. It got me thinking about my own experience as a student at Cal Poly, SLO, and how I got to experience revival in amazing ways (You can listen to the talk here). I also remember talking a lot about revival, praying for nationwide revival, seeing revival around us and wanting that to spread.

     Third, I learned about a young woman involved with Cru in Chico, CA who died on Nov 1 after being struck by a car while she was on her bicycle. She was 20 years old, and apparently a devoted follower and servant of Jesus. It has made me think much about the brevity of life and the necessity for vigor and life in regards to God.

     I want to spend some time thinking about this for myself, and hopefully to inspire others to pray again, pray more, or perhaps pray for the first time ever for revival in our own lives, in the lives of those around us and in the world.

 

What is revival?

     I like Tim Keller’s description that revival is simply the acceleration of the Holy Spirit’s normal work in salvation and sanctification. I think many are afraid of revival because they are afraid of people going a bit crazy and perhaps the ‘signs’ of revival being uncomfortable in a charismatic way.  Instead, I think about what the Holy Spirit does in normative times and want to see those with greater frequency and depth. 

     He makes people born again (John 3:3-8, Gal 4:29, 1 Cor 2:1-5, 1 Thess 1:4-5, Titus 3:4-5). He convicts us of sin (John 16:8-11). He teaches us the truth of the Gospel in our inner-most beings (John 14:17, 16:13-14, 1 Cor 1:18, 2:11-14). He helps us feel the closeness of God as a Father and access to Him (Gal 4:6, Rom 8:15-16, Eph 2:18). He helps us to pray (Rom 8:26-27, Eph 6:18, Rev 1:10). He helps us put to death the deeds of the body, to mortify our flesh, to stop sinning (Deut 30:6, Jer 31:33, Eze 11:19-20, 36:26-27, Ps 51:10, Rom 2:29, 8:13, Col 3:5). He causes us to become more like Jesus (1 Cor 3:17). He gives us power in evangelism and preaching (Acts 1:8, 4:33, Luke 24:49, 1 Thess 1:5, Luke 4:14, 12:11-12, Isa 61:1-4). He causes us to see the Bible as the Word of God and not the words of men (1 Thess 1:2:13). He causes us to prophesy, dream dreams, and see visions (Joel 2:28-29, Acts 2:17-21, 21:9, Luke 2:36). He enables our service to God (1 Pet 4:10-11). He gives us freedom in this life (1 Cor 3:17, Gal 5:1, 13). He gives us spiritual gifts (Rom 12:6-8, 1 Cor 12:1-11, Eph 4:7-13). He baptizes us into Christ, identifying us with Him (1 Cor 12:13, Rom 6:3-11). He makes us to experience all the goodness and blessing and fullness of Christ (John 7:37-39, Isa 55:1-2, 44:3, Matt 5:6, Rev 21:6). He gives us singleness and unity of heart and purpose (Jer 24:7, 32:39-40, Philip 1:27, Eph 4:1-6). He sends out missionaries to foreign fields and appoints servants in domestic fields (Acts 13:1-2, 8:29, 20:28). He does many more things than those…

     I think about these things, and want them more and more in my life. I want to be more fervent in spirit (Rom 12:11), which is also translated ‘fervent in The Spirit’). I want to have zeal for the Lord, be zealous for good works (Titus 2:14). I want to have a heart that is fully alive, wanting Jesus more than anything else, and knowing that my only satisfaction in life comes from Him alone (Psalm 16).  I want that to be welling up from within me, not something I have to put on like a mask. I want some of the passion that I had when I was in college (but without the constant angst of an unformed identity and unsettled soul).

     Revival is to make alive again, or to make alive more fully. It’s Christians who begin to live like the Bible says is the normal and good way to live. It isn’t because we’re forced to, but because we want to. It’s truly living out 1 John 5:3 – “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.” It’s to WANT to serve God, serve other people because of the great love that God is putting into our own hearts. It’s deeply understanding the Gospel and letting that have it’s full fruit (James 1:4).  I want these to be true of my life.

     So why doesn’t that naturally occur? Why doesn’t revival come into my own life and the lives of the people around me? Why must I live a life of a semi-awake existence, where I know and believe God, but struggle and strive? Why does it feel like so much work to live for God?  I long for another time in my life of an inward passion so much so that the thought of giving more time, money, emotion and life to God sounds like the absolutely best idea I could have.

     “Draw near to God, and I will draw near to you.’ A recent post by John Piper on this verse from James 4:8 gives me a bit of the answer. The verse continues to say, ‘cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded (not single minded, my addition). Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.’  It reminds me of 2 Chronicles 7:13-14, which says, ‘When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people, if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.’

     The principle behind both of these verses (though one was given under the Mosaic Covenant) is that God will bless those who are penitent and humble in heart. Indeed, ‘The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.’ (Psalm 51:17).  This leads me to ask myself, am I broken in spirit? or prideful? I know that ‘God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’ (James 4:6, 1 Pet 5:5).

     My conclusion is that I need to humble myself. I need self-examination. I need to see my own sin for truly what it is. I need the Word of God to do it’s work in that revelation of my true nature and God’s true nature. (Heb 4:12, 2 Tim 3:16-17, Jer 23:29, Eph 6:17, Rev 1:16, 2:12, 1 Cor 14:24-25, Isa 40). I need to cleanse myself (2 Tim 2:20-21, Prov 25:4) by the Spirit (Rom 8:13) and ask God to bless me (Joel 2:12-14) and ask that God would bring the blessing of His Spirit to myself and to all those around me (Isaiah 35).

 

Will you join me, and seek revival in our land?