One of the most encouraging things about a new year is the word new. It means “unfamiliar . . . made or become fresh . . . different from one of the same category that has existed previously,” says Webster.
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Simply put, it’s a place to begin anew.
Starting over requires knowing where you are. Honestly admitting your present condition. Facing the music.
Remember Jonah? Somewhere down the line, he got his inner directions cross-wired. He wound up, of all places, on a ship in the Mediterranean Sea bound for a place named Tarshish. That was due west.
But God had told him to preach to Nineveh. That was due east.
Jonah never got to Tarshish, as you remember. Through a traumatic chain of events, Jonah was forced to get his head together in the digestive tract of a gigantic fish.
Isolation . . . Loneliness . . . Solitude. Though surrounded by scores of people, pastors know these feelings all too well. Our position as shepherds, separated from the flock in many ways, can cause us to become closed off to much of the world.
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Living a private life in secrecy or inaccessibility leaves room for self-betrayal and, ultimately, to what I call an accountability breakdown.
To prevent that breakdown, we need the vulnerability that connecting with others provides. Recognizing our need for others means that we stay aware of any tendency to compromise. We also understand that we are not immune to a fall. We must be willing to open up and connect.
So how do we maintain genuine accountability as pastors?
You may be facing what could be an unsolvable problem. You alone know what it is. If so, let me encourage you this week. Often the situations with no human answers form the basis upon which God does some of His best work—even in the lives of His messengers.
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This is illustrated beautifully in the life of Job.
I know, I know . . . we’ve all preached on Job. Personally, as pastors, we tend to flip the page when his name comes up. We’re too familiar with his story.
The account of his misery has become common and—may I say it?—boring. I mean, what else does this sad, suffering saint have to teach us?