Doing Too Much . . . Smiling Too Little

Smiling Man
(Image from Pixabay)

The Christian worker is a strange breed. He or she often wants it to look as if the work is terribly hard. In fact, the more difficult and strained the look, the better.

Christian workers are notorious for what I call the “tired blood” look, better known as the outdated “missionary image.” Or, better stated, the exhausted, overburdened “religious image.”

They usually carry an old, worn-out Bible and walk with a slump, listing to port. They seldom smile—sort of a “please pity me” image. Makes me want to gag!

Feeling Overlooked

MAN
(Image from Pixabay)

As pastors, it is satisfying to know that we can make a lasting contribution and assist others in their need. Being in the swirl of activity, resourceful and responsive, we tend to think it’ll never end.

But it does. Sometimes ever so slowly through a chain of events or sometimes abruptly without warning, we find ourselves sidelined and no longer in demand.

A tiny blood clot in the brain can seize our usefulness and leave us in its devastating grip. Another factor is age . . . merely growing older can move us away from today’s main thoroughfares.

By being passed over for a promotion or by being benched because a stronger associate joins the team, we start feeling overlooked. It hurts.

Can You Name Five?

Laughing
(Image from Unsplash)

Time once was when our homes and offices buzzed with loud laughter. As family members and coworkers, we interacted with each other in houses and hallways . . .

  • By the water cooler
  • In the kitchen
  • At the fireplace
  • Sitting on front porches
  • In a plaza.

Ideas were shared, and gestures were freely expressed. Feelings of affirmation were punctuated through smiles and handshakes. Hugs, frequent touches, and arms around each other’s shoulders were commonplace.

No longer.

Take Time for Your Spouse

Take time for your spouse
(Image from Unsplash)

God gives a pastor a spouse for life, knowing full well that it will take time to cultivate that relationship. Unfortunately, we live in a day in which people think if our activity is not at the church, it lacks devotion to Jesus.

As pastors, we can fall for that lie if we don’t continually guard against it. Just the opposite is true.

When we give our time to our spouse, we are demonstrating devotion to Christ. I don’t think we’re missing out on anything God has for us to do at the church.

One of my cherished mentors, Dr. Howard Hendricks, once made a tremendous statement:

Meet Me in the Library

lonely
(Image from Unsplash)

On a lonely Greyhound bus in January of 1958, a young Marine slumped in his seat with his head down. His heart ached for the wife he’d left behind and feared for the place he was headed.

In his hands. he held Elisabeth Elliot’s book, Through Gates of Splendor. As he turned the pages, his life was turned around forever . . .

That was me.

I had no idea what God had in store for me when I boarded that bus. It turned out to be one of my life’s defining moments, and it came to me through a book.

God used Elisabeth Elliot’s volume to rearrange my attitude, my thinking . . . my entire future.

It’s About Character

Character
(Image from Pixabay)

Our culture is overly impressed with the externals. You must look good on TV to win the political race. It’s the image you need to polish. Spin it just right.

But we all know—and all have seen—that a leader without character is a tragedy getting ready to happen.

As pastors, we know about the importance of character, of course. But knowing it isn’t our assignment. Your congregation requires your character. Your role is filled because character is present, or it decreases if it is absent.

It’s the same with me. The church where I serve as senior pastor has a respect for me and appreciates my efforts (all my weaknesses not withstanding).

But this respect hangs on the fact that I’m committed to modeling character, and I’m not going to let it slip away in the stuff of leadership.

I remember the day my dad drove home and the front windshield of our car was broken. He had blood running down his face and I thought, He’s been mugged!

Hearing God in the Silence

Silence
(Image from Pixabay)

When you pray, do you ever feel like you’re standing at the bottom of a long stairway looking up. The light is off, and even though you knock and call out for a response, nothing happens.

You are not alone. Many a soul struggles at this very moment with divine silence. You likely know the story by heart. A calamity comes.

We cry out and expect relief, but instead of answers, we hear nothing.

A mate who has been there for years suddenly walks out. The one who is left alone to face what seems to be endless responsibilities turns to God for His intervention—for His comforting reassurance—only to be met with silence. That awful silence!

Remember Your Marching Orders

Soldier
(Image from Pixabay)

Christians have a lot more in common with soldiers than we might think. Soldiers don’t serve to protect themselves but to guard the interests of their homeland.

There is simply no room for ego or grandstanding among soldiers during the heat of battle. What matters is obeying the leader’s commands. I can’t help but think of Paul’s words to his young protégé, Timothy:

Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier. (2 Timothy 2:3–4 NASB)

Of course, there’s also an intangible longing that keeps a soldier going: the desire to go home. The soldier isn’t just a military man or woman . . . but a . . . 

Pastoral Discouragement

Discouragement
(Image from Unsplash)

While reading Psalm 5, I see that David is just plain discouraged. He prays to the Lord, “pay attention to my groaning” (Psalm 5:1 NLT). Unless I miss my guess, he sang these lyrics while hearing dissonance in his mind.

So many pastors I meet play out their entire lives in the dissonance of discouragement. There is the grinding dismay that follows unachieved goals or failed relationships.

Some are discouraged over their marriages which began with such promise but now seem weak, borderline hopeless.

Lingering ill-health can discourage and demoralize its victims, especially when the pain won’t go away. And who can’t identify with those ministers who gave it their best shot yet took it on the chin from a few self-appointed critics?

Sing New Songs . . . with Old Truths

Amazing Grace
(Image from FreeImages)

Without wanting to be misunderstood, let me say unashamedly that I love the grand old hymns. Throughout my Christian life, I have treasured their historic statements of the church’s faith, having committed many of them to memory.

They have been my dearest companions in dark hours of loneliness and discouragement and my greatest encouragers in times of celebration and adoration.

And while I’m the first to admit that while there’s nothing holy about a hymnal per se, hymns remain an important part of our Christian heritage. Why?