Hanging Tough When You’d Like to Hang it Up

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When Jesus tells us to “seek first the kingdom of God,” the very word seek implies a strong-minded pursuit (see Matthew 6:33). J. B. Phillips paraphrases the idea with “set your heart on.”

The Amplified Bible says, “Aim at and strive after.”

The Greek text of Matthew’s gospel states a continual command: “Keep on continually seeking.” The dominating thought is determination, which I define as “deciding to hang tough, regardless.”

All of this urges us to keep in mind the difference between natural sight and supernatural vision.

Are You Dreaming?

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We dare not miss an important dimension to hanging tough. It is the thing that keeps you going. I call it a dream. I don’t mean those things we experience at night while we’re asleep.

No, by dream, I mean a God-given idea, plan, agenda, or goal that leads to God-honoring results.

Most pastors I know don’t dream enough. If someone were to ask you,

What are your dreams for this year? What are your hopes . . . your agenda? What are you trusting God for?

Could you give a specific answer? I don’t have in mind just ministry objectives or goals, although there’s everything right with those. But what about the kind of dreaming that results in character building, the kind that cultivates God’s righteousness and God’s rule in your life?

Waiting and Listening in the White Spaces

Waiting and Listening
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During times of waiting on God, there is a “white space.” That’s when nothing seems to be happening—at least nothing visible. You could easily tell yourself at the time, “I’m waiting in vain. Nothing’s going to change.”

That’s precisely what the Adversary wants you to think: “Waiting on God is a waste.”

Don’t you believe it!

When the Enemy’s message slips into your mind, you need to kick it out. Reject it. Call it the lie that it is. As Paul wrote,

We are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5).

See how practical that is? Every thought.

During those times when doubt and discouragement creep into our waiting periods, the Lord provides us with strong counsel to remember. 

When You’re Feeling Intimidated in Ministry

When You’re Feeling Intimidated
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Many years ago, I went through a dreadful experience with a person who decided to make me his enemy. I still don’t know why he had it in for me. It remains a mystery. Nevertheless, it occurred.

This individual decided to make my life miserable.

  • He watched my every move.
  • He questioned my decisions.
  • He cast doubts on my ministry.
  • This person applied pressure, sometimes to the point where I thought I would scream.

I don’t know how much he said to others about his opinion of me; I never asked. But he said enough to me and was bullying and intimidating enough that I became frightened, especially when I realized he carried a gun!

Eventually, on one occasion, he even threatened me with it.

Is God Almost Sovereign in Your Ministry?

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Just before Moses died, he spoke these words to God. Read them carefully:

‘May the LORD, the God of the spirits of all flesh, appoint a man over the congregation, who will go out and come in before them, and who will lead them out and bring them in, so that the congregation of the LORD will not be like sheep which have no shepherd.’ So the LORD said to Moses, ‘Take Joshua the son of Nun, a man in whom is the Spirit, and lay your hand on him; and have him stand before Eleazar the priest and before all the congregation, and commission him in their sight.’ (Numbers 27:16–19)


I don’t know your circumstances today. I cannot be certain how God intends to use this episode from the life of Moses in your own life.

But I do know what it’s like to be a shepherd . . . and so I can imagine some possible scenarios.

The Church: A Safe Place to Hurt

The Church
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Everybody hurts. But not everybody lives such honest and vulnerable lives that they admit the pain. Why? Because, most often, there isn’t a safe place to do so. The church should be that place (second only to the home). Regrettably, it isn’t.

I heard of a research study where psychologists discovered the top three places where average people “fake it.”

  1. We tend to put on airs when we visit the lobby of a fancy hotel.
  2. We typically fake our true feelings alongside the salesperson at a new-car showroom.
  3. Can you guess the third place we wear a mask? That’s right. In church!

Tragically, in church where authenticity should be modeled, we’ll paint on the phony smiles, slap backs, and shake hands, all the while masking what’s inside our hearts.

In reality . . . we’re hurting.

Make the Time for Solitude

Alone with God
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We pastors love being with people . . . but not all the time. Let’s be honest: people (especially talkative people) can be draining.

In times of solitude with God, however, the only person who needs anything is you.

  • You bring your needs to God’s inexhaustible supply.
  • There He sifts the essentials of life from the chaff.
  • There He trains your mind on what’s important.
  • The result? You’re left with a healthy perspective of who you are and what He’s called you to do.

The gospel of Mark tells us:

In the early morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, and went away to a secluded place, and was praying there. (Mark 1:35)

Why so early? Was Jesus a morning person? Not necessarily. Early morning was probably the only time He could be alone. He arose early even though the previous day had been non-stop.

Even as a busy man, Jesus found a way to balance the demands on His time with His need for solitude with the Father.

That requires creativity.

You Need 3 Individuals in Your Life

You Need 3 Individuals in Your Life
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A church as God intends it is not a gathering of people who sit back and listen to one person preach. Instead, one life touches the life of another, who then touches the lives of people in his or her sphere of influence—those whom the originator would never have known.

To make it even more exciting, those recipients, in turn, touch the lives of others also. That is a contagious ministry.

The medical profession models the idea of multiplication very well.

Is Your Church a Place of Mentoring?

Is Your Church a Place of Mentoring
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Jesus gave the church its marching orders in practical terms. You’re familiar with His words:

Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. (Matthew 28:19–20)

Here, in Jesus’s Great Commission to His followers, we find no greater challenge . . . and no more comforting promise. This is what Jesus meant when He told them, “As the Father has sent Me, I also send you” (John 20:21).

But you probably have never considered the Great Commission as part of what makes a church contagious.

When Prayer Doesn’t Seem to Fix Worry

When Prayer Doesn't Seem to Fix Worry
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If prayer is the cure for worry, you might be tempted to think that your prayer was ineffective. Maybe you feel that you somehow failed because your anxiety returned—perhaps as soon as you said, “Amen.”

Happens to me from time to time. I take my persistent anxiety as a signal that I need more time before the Father, reviewing all the details of my situation, telling Him how much it plagues me, and sometimes even admitting that I’m afraid He won’t handle it soon enough.

Having a deep, persistent concern for a problem is not the same as worry. Not at all!

  • Worry is choosing to fret and churn instead of turning it completely over to God.
  • Worry is wrestling with anxiety on your own rather than releasing it to the Father.

Big difference.

Most people whom I consider to be men and women of prayer go before God because their hearts are heavy. They tell me that nothing but continual conversation with Him brings them relief.

So, if you tend to worry a lot, here’s a solution.