Mar 19, 2007

being mindful of mind games

So it's been over 12 hours since I finished my message and I find myself with this nagging question mark about what I shared.

"Did I share what I was supposed to?"

"How did my presentation help or hinder the truth?"

"Was the overall service truly a healthy time for people to engage with God?"

"Did I give my 100% for the glory of God?"
And so on... you catch the drift. It may partly be because I've had little sleep this weekend and often find it hard to gauge if I was on track with where our people are at. Or it may be something more... a supernatural issue related to the ongoing war a very real satan is attempting to wage against an even more real God.

Here's the tension...

  • Because I love God I desire to put out the perfect message every week and hope the final product pleases Him.

  • Because God loves me I recognize I will put out an imperfect message every week and He will be pleased simply by my faithfulness.
It's odd what can play with your sense of self when you are in ministry. The average pastor probably has experienced some issue with this, especially when you consider that every message presented every week involves something sacred being shared through a very flawed person. If he/she is a creative personality on top of it you can really have a good recipe for potential disaster - both to that individual as well as anyone he/she leads - if not kept in check. It's odd, but often the way a leader sees himself will create ripples all throughout the entire organization that no one may become aware of until it's too late.

In many ways ministry can really become the very thing that the enemy uses to take you out... and I get the sense he's quite good at it.

Jesus said it this way:

"The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly." (John 10:10)

Here's how I see this breaking down in my life these days...

  • The enemy steals, kills, and destroys:

    These days I don't find myself directly experiencing any direct attacks from the enemy (that I'm aware of, at least). In fact, what I do find is that if there is any "stealing, killing, and destroying" going on it's in how some people can try to be your buddy by telling how much you're not like the "last guy." From day one I've not allowed this to happen in a conversation without quickly saying, "You should know that he and I are friends." That usually cuts it out, and when it's more than that I'll say, "It sounds like you have some unresolved issues with him... I'm going to challenge you to take those to him."

    Sounds good, right? Here's the kill, though... every time I hear those conversations and respond as I just said, there is a little, small, tiny, eensy-weensy part of me that says, "I think this person likes me better than they liked him... that feels nice."

    You know where that ends up, right? Pretty soon I'm looking for strokes from the people for my worth instead of God... and once I give them power over my self-esteem through affirmation then it's only a matter of time before I tick someone off and they use that good power to take me out... by stealing, killing, and destroying that sense of God-breathed worth.

    Do you see this in your life? Have you given a boss unhealthy power over you by craving his/her encouragement? Do your kids speak into your sense of self-worth when they hug you or when they pull back and tell you they don't want to be around you? How about if you see a certain set of numbers on a piece of paper that seems to be better this week than last week? Is there a voice in your past that you allow to keep visiting your mind in the present?

    When their voices matter more than God's we have allowed the enemy of our lives to steal a space in our life, kill any sense of true worth, and incrementally destroy our perception of life and God.

  • Jesus Christ gives life, and even more life than we realize:

    A fully-alive life begins when we begin an authentic relationship with the Lord, made possible through the willing death on a cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This relationship needs to deepen, though, through daily trust in Him like a child might trust a parent... dying to our own agenda for life in order to experience what we have have yet to learn from our Father. As a result we'll not only experience heaven when our bodies die but will catch glimpses of it in all its authentic beauty as the Kingdom of God is revealed through our lives.

    I think this is the aspect of Christianity we often forget to talk about as we settle into a way of life that has the appearance of faith while lacking in its power. The question we need to ask is if we are pursuing spiritual happiness or spiritual fullness - the former depends on Christian habits whereas the latter depends on Christ. It's the classic issue of tradition and religion versus relationship and movement.

    One way I've tried to be PROACTIVE about it is to look for and engage in at least one thing the Lord is doing to restore the people and world all around us. It's absolutely absurd from our perspective, but He actually invites us to join Him in all of this. The Bible teaches that loving and serving people of all backgrounds in the name of Jesus isn’t an option for a Christ-follower — it’s the natural consequence of a relationship with him and evidence of our faith. Not only do we take part in the mission of healing a broken world but grow deeper spiritually as we see one life at a time changed forever through our imperfect lives.

Which brings me back to where I started.

My life is imperfect, and I shouldn't expect to always get it right. Sometimes even my best attempt at faithfulness will get smeared because I'm a clumsy oaf handling the most delicate container of truth in a world full of banana peels. While that can seem intimidating, I must press on and keep walking forward... there are people in the world who I would rather see alive through my feeble attempts to join Jesus in ministering to them than dead because I decided to wait until "my sermon" was "just right." Sometimes when you walk you fall... but you fall forward as the Father catches you and helps you back up.

An abundant life may be anything but simple, but it’s the only kind worth living.

The kingdom cannot afford to lose one leader... and that includes you. Yes, YOU - YOU are the light of the world along with me. Don't hide behind your own shortcomings or let the enemy have his way in your mind... make the adjustments and tough calls even if it means disappointing a few.

Do what you need to do to protect the flame of faith in your heart and allow the Lord to fan it hotter than its ever been.

You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:14-16)


Cindy said...

Hi Tony...what a terrific blog you have! Thanks so much for visiting mine.

Dj said...

This was the first thing I read today, and it was exactly what I needed to read. Thank you.

bjk said...

You said this perfectly...exactly what and how I needed to hear it....and gave me HOPE.....

Brian said...

Good stuff, Tony, as usual.

Tony Myles said...

Thanks, guys... on the journey with you.

Anonymous said...

"My life is imperfect, and I shouldn't expect to always get it right. Sometimes even my best attempt at faithfulness will get smeared because I'm a clumsy oaf handling the most delicate container of truth in a world full of banana peels."


Doug Jones said...

the vocation of sharing spiritual truth infront of others in the "western world" of celebrity, big stages and bright lights - imperils the spiritual life of the one who shares the message... (we can quickly convey more or less about ourselves than is really true).

I am glad to hear you have a schedule (6 on 1 off) that allows you a little breathing room. But man it can be a frightful thing and it can be so easy for us to define ourselves by our performance.

It is a beautiful thing that Jesus reminded the disciples after they returned from their itinerant ministry to not rejoice in seeing Satan fall from the sky like a shooting star... but to rejoice that they were Children of their Father in Heaven. We are God's Child and in that we find identity and worth... not in our performance as a minister. Anyway. Just a few thoughts that went through my mind as I read your insightful and well-written post.

Robert said...

WOW!!!! Tony thank you i echo all the previous comments, you were able to put sooooooooooo much in such a short concise post!!! Putting Gods approval above and beyond strokes from people, even close friends and family All you included in this post needs to be taken in and chewed upon so it permeates us all the way great stuff man!!!

Tony Myles said...

Thanks, guys... I'm really seeing this play out in several relationships, too.