I hate platitudes or trite sayings…and I especially hate it when they hit home…
For years now, I’ve been preaching about the necessity for us, as Christians, to look at the big picture. By that, I mean that we should not be as apt to look out for our interests primarily and we shouldn’t tend towards self-serving motives…and then this week, a strong reality hit me: I’ve been preaching this mentality…and I’ve been teaching it…and, until yesterday…I would have told you I had been modeling it…but that wasn’t the case.
In the ministry we deal with all kinds of issues. These range from the personal struggles people have to the difficulties of church administration. Sometimes, these two worlds collide and then we must decide how we are going to react. I had been dealing with something like this…and I was doing everything I could to keep things in this particular situation the way I thought they should be. I want to make sure and emphasize the “I” in that statement. When I was dealing with it, I don’t think I stopped for a single second to consider what God was doing…what He knew the best plan was…and, in truth, I can’t say that I really cared. What I cared about was preserving my interests…and in so doing…the reality of what I had been preaching in comparison to what I had been living thundered in my soul.
That was quite a humbling moment. I don’t like it when the Spirit of God quotes me to me. I don’t like it when He points out my hypocrisy…when He tells me that if I really believe in what I’ve been saying then it would be modeled in my actions. Those moments make me hang my head for a moment…and then eat my least favorite kind of pie: humble.
The longer I live the life of a minister, the more I see the depth of my personal hypocrisy. One of the things that people say they don’t like about church is that there are so many hypocrites involved. Well…I can’t argue with that. I’m the number one example. It’s amazing how much we miss the truth of our own words and the central lessons of our own teachings. I don’t know if other pastors struggle with this. I truly don’t. I only know that when I look back over the last decade of ministry…honestly…so many things I’ve done have been from such a self-serving position…all the while totally convincing myself and others of something else.
I said I don’t like it when God points these things out. I guess I should qualify or explain that a little more. I don’t like it because it hurts and it also puts me in a position of having to make a decision. I have to decide whether to actually follow, honor, and trust Him and allow for Him to look after us, or to trust in my own abilities to hold things together. Ultimately this isn’t much of a choice because every time I’ve tried to do my own thing…it’s never worked…but has indeed always backfired in some way.
I truly do want to practice what I preach…however it’s not usually easy…because it’s not something that directly benefits the self-centered, egotistical man that I am. It’s so very counter-intuitive…but when I do surrender to it…it is so satisfying…so liberating…so peaceful.
Ultimately, I guess I really do like those moments. They may be humbling…but they are also very productive moments of growth. If we, as believers, are going to constantly quote trite adages, such as “It’s not about us, it’s about HIM,” then we must practice what we preach…live what we teach…and model that very thing. If we truly believe that all that we do and all that we are should be focused on the glory of a risen Savior, then we should stop prioritizing our personal preferences and our personal interests. Jesus’ eyes were always on the end-game. His vision for what was best went far beyond the boundaries of His personal comfort…and so should ours.
If I am to love people the way He’s called me to do so…and lead them (as well as I can) in the shadow of His footsteps, then it’s got to begin with coming to the end of myself…and allowing for the fact that He knows what He’s doing. I’ve got to either trust in that…or lay it all down.
Thank you, Lord, for those humbling moments…because you wouldn’t correct us if you didn’t love us.
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