Have you ever listened to a sermon and thought, man, that is one of the coolest things I’ve ever heard? I hope you have. (Maybe it was one you gave!)
Well, for me, I don’t think I’ll ever forget when I heard this talk.
The Power of a Personal Illustration
I was new in a church, desperately hoping for a talk that would fill me up and inspire me. It started out well with the cool idea that as we faithfully pursue Jesus, we do grow in those things we all long for: peace, strength, courage…the things that are wonderfully associated with living life to the full.
As the talk unfolded I gradually found myself wondering, well, how has this worked out in the pastor’s life? Will he actually mention how he is different because of following Jesus? I mean, that is a real question, right? I’m guessing many, if not most who listen to sermons are wondering how following Jesus will actually change their lives.
I was so delighted (even in awe) of how he did just what I was thinking toward the end of the talk. He told a story about how much more peace he has now when a crisis text comes in on his cell phone. He shared about what he used to be like (how his heart rate would skyrocket as he read the text), but how of late, by the grace of God and through his growth in the Lord, he now stays calm, (predominantly!), and is in a much more trusting and grounded place as he responds to the situation. It was so encouraging to hear about his transformation, and I found myself respecting him more and more through hearing about his story.
Why do I share this story?
First, I would really love for you to experience things like that more and more, where your life is getting richer and more vibrant because of your growing relationship with God. Why do I want that? Because you matter. You matter. You are significant. Because, the truth is, your soul is as valuable as any other soul.
It Makes Your Real Ministry More Powerful
And, second, I long for you to be able to tell those kinds of stories, in one on one conversations, in small groups, and yes, up front, if you happen to be a pastor (ideally your congregation has room for stories like it. If not, frankly you are gonna need Jesus even more!) When you can authentically tell stories like that, in a humble way, it is simply powerful. For those who are thirsty, hearing those kinds of stories is a huge gift. I love reviewing the stories our pastor tells with our kids, because it helps the wonderful power of the gospel come to life in ways that are so real and compelling.
Well you might be saying, that’s really nice of you Nick, to have such kind wishes for me. And I would say, well, you are so kind. 🙂
But this is about way more than my opinion. Thankfully.
I strongly believe that my wishes for you reflect (much more importantly) what God wishes for you to enjoy. (You may have gotten this impression as well from an earlier blog I wrote.) But why do I believe God longs for those things just for you?
The Beauty of Biblical Logic
Please indulge me for a minute in a logical exercise. (Logic does have its place you know!) We know that God longs for all of us to grow in things like experiencing greater internal freedom (as in, where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom), enjoying deeper and healthier relationships (as in, strong marriages, and close, rich friendships, in light of how He wants us to be one as They are one), and for us to be a part of a growing Body, because, well, to be a disciple of Jesus has to include that we are growing in Him, right? So, because He longs for those things all of His children, and since you are for sure one of His favorite kids, He has to want that for you. 🙂
Again, He he deeply wants those things for you. Seriously. Please take that in.
You and Rocky
So, why is that so hard to keep in front of yourself? I think one of the big reasons that Pastors and Christian leaders struggle with this is because serving and giving become so intimately connected with their identity and role that is so easy to lose track of what God wants for you. Secondly, the demands of ministry can be so great, and the expectations of yourself, and from others are so high (implicitly or explicitly) that thinking of caring for your own soul can seem like it is indulgent. (Which of course is a lie.)
So, frankly you are in a fight for the health of your soul. And, the odds are not in your favor. (You have more in common with Rocky perhaps than you know!) So that means the health of your soul is something that you have to tenaciously pursue, in season and out of season, with what one author would call, constant vigilance. 🙂
Lastly, the Undeniable Power of your Modeling
Peter Senge, in his powerful book “The Fifth Discipline” talks about how modeling is the most powerful form of influence. Think about how true that is. When someone is truly walking the walk, they have much greater credibility, as in the example from the pastor above. When actions however, fall short of the words, unfortunately, actions are what we focus on. As Emerson wisely said in that vein, (quoted in “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”, p. 22) “What you are shouts so loudly in my ears I cannot hear what you say.”
So, in light of that, besides God valuing you and your soul because he cares for you inherently, it would also make complete sense that God would actually long for His leaders to be true exemplars, to be the ones that are the most acquainted with the wonder of things like fullness and joy in Him. You becoming the most alive, most full, most real person you can be in Him, has to be pretty close to the top of his wish list, if not more likely at the top!
As it has often been said, if something was easy, everybody would be doing it. Become a truly mature leader is perhaps one of the hardest things in the world to do. Yet, it is doable.
I encourage you to reflect on and pray about what you need to incorporate into your schedule to grow your soul. Is it greater clarity about what you need? Is it better structure to incorporate what you need? Is it accountability? Or all the above?!?
I’ll be praying for those who are drawn to the call and challenge to develop a healthier soul.
God bless you!
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