The Spiritual Health Domino
Any leader will understand from experience, if you are not healthy, your leadership domino effect will not go very far. A few dominoes will fall, and make an impact, but they will stop soon after. One reason I believe multiplying fruit is lacking from so many spiritual leaders is because so many leaders are unhealthy. If you can't take care of yourself, then how are you going to help others? If you can't keep your own cows in the fence, what business do you have looking for your neighbor's cows?
Some years ago, I found myself in a conundrum. I found myself being voted in as the full-time Student Pastor at an amazing SBC church after serving 1 year as the Interim. After much prayer, I sensed this to be God's will, and the overwhelming church vote concluded the congregation did as well. What I didn't know is that only a few minutes after the vote was announced, the Senior Pastor and the Education Pastor would read off their resignation letters and their plans to plant a new church elsewhere. I was in a word, devastated. Half of the ministerial staff had just resigned on the same day I was voted in. The Worship Pastor asked me, "Did you know about this?" I replied, "No, did you?" He did not. We were surrounded by God's people in a state of mourning, needing leadership. I was 21 years old with no seminary training or theological education. I had a few church internships under my belt, been involved in collegiate campus ministry, and had some mission experience, but I was in no way prepared for what lie ahead. I had to learn how to do everything a Pastor has to do, almost immediately. Learn to swim or die trying. To say I was thrown to the wolves would be unfair because so many in the church truly stepped up during that time. We had an incredible Transitional Pastor, who eventually came and poured his life into mine and taught me to focus, to plan ahead, to be healthy so I could help others. Still, the burden of ministry was crushing. My well began to dry up. Something was wrong. I was in an amazing church and we began to see much fruit, yet I found myself more unhappy by the day. It wasn't because I was not spending time daily in the Word. There wasn't a lack of desire or passion for ministry. There weren't any sinful strongholds in my life, although I faced the battle of the flesh day after day. Something was wrong, and I couldn't place my finger on it. There weren't a lot of people my age in the city who loved Jesus. Maybe it was loneliness. Depression set in. No one told me to take more days off. No one told me to drive 3 hours to go see my family. I was told I could take 2 Sundays off per year. One would be at Christmas, the other during the summer. No one told me to go watch my little brother's athletic game. No one told me to take care of me. I came from a workaholic family. We were taught you do whatever it takes to accomplish the job. No matter how late you have to work or how hard the work gets, you get it done. No matter what. No excuses. The problem is this mindset cannot wholly translate to ministry in the same way as in the secular world. Ministry is never done. The amount of "need", the amount of "things" that need to be accomplished is never finished. The depression was growing deeper. I didn't know why. All the while I was being continually pat on the back, "Your are doing a great job! We are so glad you are here." They were sincere. I was humbled just to be a small part of the amazing things which were happening in our church. I will forever be indebted to this local church that raised me up, paid for my seminary education, and sent me out to make disciples. Still searching for an answer to my depression, I found myself helping out with orientation for summer missionaries getting ready to go to the nations via Nehemiah Teams. I was a former Nehemiah Teamer and was thrilled to help lead the team-building part of their training. One day, a local Alabama Pastor by the name of Roger Graham said, "Are you doing ok?" I said, "No, and I don't know why." He sat down with me for about an hour, and began to impart wisdom. I listened in amazement at what he had to say. Upon returning back home, I found my journal and wept b/c the words Roger shared were almost completely identical to the words the Lord gave me in my journal years earlier as I prepared to come home after a summer in the Philippines. Those words are below in the MY JOB/GOD'S JOB illustration.
To become spiritually healthy, a Christian must realize their job is very different than God's job.
1-Be obedient. Matthew 22:37-39
-Love God and love people. Do what your supposed to do.
2-Walk in the Spirit. Galatians 5:25
3-Walk in humility. Galatians 5:26
Our job really isn't as complicated as we like to make it out to be. Jesus said, "Look at the birds!" After sharing how He cares for them by providing their food, He looked into the eyes of the disciples. "How much more important are you to me, than they?" Scientist estimate there are between 200 billion and 400 billion birds on the Earth. This amounts to roughly 40-60 birds per person on the Earth. If the Lord can care for hundreds of billions of birds, He can take care of you. If He can feed the fish underneath the ice, he can take care of the chaos underneath your surface.
1-the world, global ecosystems, the Sun, the other planets in our Solar System, the Milky Way Galaxy, and other far off galaxies :-)
2-ministry opportunities -Abide in Christ, let Him lead you and you will never have to decide anything on your own. Follow Him.
3-college and career choices
5-school- if your doing Your Job responsibility #1, you will study and work hard unto the Lord and for His glory. After that, leave it to the Lord.
6-authority figures in your life. Respect them. God put them there for a purpose.
7-friends- Your responsibility is to love them, befriend them, point them to Christ. After that, you cannot make decisions for them. They are responsible to the Lord and He can handle them. He loves them as much as you.
8-family-Do not worry about what you cannot control. Once again, if your doing your job, you are respecting them, loving them, and praying for them.
10-money/resources- He owns the bank. "God work, done in God's way will never lack His supply!" -J. Hudson Taylor
Our God is not the God of confusion, but the God of clarity. He wants you to know His will. The secret of the Christian life is resting crucified and letting Him do the work. Letting Christ live His life through you is the goal. It will take an entirely different article to discuss all the joys and wonder of the Christ life or the Crucified Life. In Biblical Christianity, which includes the Holy Spirit as part of the Godhead, Christians aren't expected to do anything on their own. Surrender and watch the Lord work through you! This is a great mystery and can only be understood by the illumination of the Spirit.
These truths set me free! It's easy to forget these lessons but liberating when we remember what God has called us to do and what God has not called us to do. We don't have to be the savior of the world! We already have One of those. His name is Jesus Christ. He has massive shoulders. He can handle His J-O-B. We need to make sure we take care of the job He has given us. If I could do it over again during that season of depression, I would have asked for more Sundays to go see my family. If I could do it over again, I would not have tried to be the Spiritual hero for so many people. After seasons of pouring out, I would have spent more time getting filled. I saw great need in the lives of many families and tried to do all that I could. It drove me to depression. I was putting things upon my shoulders in an unhealthy way. I still have the scars from trying to do more than God expected of me. I am thankful the church was so gracious.
What I lacked was faith and common sense to rest. I failed to believe the Lord was supremely in control. I saw so much pain in the lives of so many people in the community and I took that pain deep into my own heart. I learned this valuable lesson. You will be unhealthy and spiral out of control, if you take up every knee-jerk opportunity to do good, without placing all these things at the feet of Christ, asking Him which ones to pick up. We don't have time to do everything, but we have time to do the main things. One of my mentors likes to say, "God always gives us enough time, in every day, to do his will for that day." We must pace ourselves. You will spiral when guilt is driving the decision making process because of a failure in your life or a heartache you are going through. You are complete and worthy b/c of what Christ already has done at the cross, not from any good work you can do. Don't let the sin of comparison rob your joy! Guilt is from the enemy, not from the Lord. For freedom Christ has set us free. So friend, get clean before the Lord. Trust Him. Be satisfied in Him. Surrender. Get filled with His Spirit. You have a job to do. More importantly, the Lord of all creation has a job to do through you. Stay healthy my friend! Stay spiritually healthy so your domino effect will go far and wide, farther than you could ever dream or imagine.