4 Posts from April 2012

To Serve and to Give

We pastors are God’s true servants when we are like the Lord Jesus, who came not “to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).

To serve and to give . . . that’s the ticket.

Pride wants strokes—lots of them. It loves to get the credit, to be mentioned, to receive glory, to have people ooh and ahh. Ideally, your flock and your elders will be thoughtful people who give you the credit you deserve, but, regrettably, that will not always occur. And your pride will need to be held in check.

At those tough times when you do the work and someone else gets the strokes, or when nobody notices or even seems to care, remember your role: to serve and to give.

True love flowing from authentic servants does not keep a record of who did what, and it does not look to others to give the credit. In other words, real servants stay conscious of the blindness pride can create.

—Chuck

Feeling Used and Unappreciated

When I think of someone who may have felt used and unappreciated, Gehazi comes to mind. He was the servant who worked alongside the high-profile, greatly respected prophet, Elisha.

After the Shunammite’s son suddenly died, Elisha dispatched Gehazi to the bedside of the mother’s son. We can be sure Gehazi’s heart was beating fast. He must have anticipated an exciting response, as God would surely raise the lad from death. He would be involved in a miracle! But nothing happened. Not a thing changed.

Suddenly, Elisha burst on the scene, and phenomenal results occurred. A miracle transpired. The child was raised!

Try to identify with Gehazi. As you do so, you’ll feel some of the very human feelings the man must have felt. Serve others long enough and you’ll periodically dip into this valley. Gehazi had done exactly what he was told to do. Yet he had witnessed no change, no miracle. In came Elisha who suddenly did it all. And guess who was given the assignment to tell the mother? Gehazi!

And if that isn’t sufficient, a famine struck the area, and our friend Gehazi was told to whip up a pot of stew. Inadvertently, poisonous plants were dropped into the crockpot, and everybody cried out! But Elisha showed up and fixed the problem—again.

Gehazi had done the work . . . but Elisha got all the credit. I mean, the servant couldn’t even make stew! How frustrated can a guy get?

So it is with serving in God’s work today. It is easy to feel used and unappreciated.

Do I write to you who serve behind the scenes in ministry? You do your work faithfully and diligently, yet the glory goes to another. Your efforts make someone else successful. Or perhaps as a senior pastor you do much more than preach—but nobody notices most of those other things. How easy to feel disappointed, even resentful! Let me urge you to take heart! Our God who rewards in secret will never overlook your commitment.

For God is not unjust so as to forget your work and the love which you have shown toward His name, in having ministered and in still ministering to the saints. (Hebrews 6:10)

A great verse for those of you who feel used and unappreciated. In fact, I suggest that you do what I have done: commit it to memory. You will find yourself repeating those words over and over again.

—Chuck

Some Common Misconceptions, Part 2

Last week, I reminded us pastors that we have no special powers in ourselves. That’s a major misconception. Our adequacy comes from God . . . and God alone.

Another misconception is that those in the ministry don’t struggle with everyday problems. To set that straight, let’s consider 2 Corinthians 4:8–9:

We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed. (2 Corinthians 4:8–9)

Afflicted. Perplexed. Persecuted. Struck down. These terms reflect the struggles common to all of us in ministry. Under stress, confused, pursued, rejected—Paul (and every servant of God since his day) understands what it means to endure the constant blast of problems in those and other categories. In fact, it is in the crucible that the servant learns to release his or her way for God’s way. Servants do indeed struggle with daily difficulties . . . and we pastors are no exception.

A final misconception goes like this: Christian leaders are protected against subtle dangers. To correct this error, we need to read verses 10–11:

[We are] always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. (2 Corinthians 4:10–11)

How true! Those of us who serve God and others “carry about in the body” signs of death—dangers and perils that are undeniable. Subtle and silent, these dangers lurk in the most unexpected places, pleading for satisfaction. The true servant is vulnerable. When the servant stumbles into these traps, it isn’t long before he or she is completely ensnared. And have you noticed? It seldom happens fast or boldly. Usually, it comes on the scene in another garb entirely, appearing to be anything but dangerous.

So let’s not be misled, fellow servants of God, no matter how useful, godly, unselfish, and admirable you think you are. We are every bit as human and subject to the perils of life as any other person on earth.

—Chuck

Some Common Misconceptions, Part 1

Does it surprise you that being a pastor is perilous? I doubt it. You live with the reality of it each day.

But to some who are not in the ministry, serving others sounds as safe and harmless as a poached egg on a plate. What could possibly be perilous about it? Plenty.

As we examine Paul’s words in the fourth chapter of 2 Corinthians, I’d like to suggest several familiar misconceptions regarding serving God. Read the familiar words in verses four through seven carefully:

The god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bond-servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness,” is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves. (2 Corinthians 4:4–7)

Sounds like servants comprise an elite body of people, doesn’t it? They possess a treasure. The “surpassing greatness” of God’s power pours out of their lives. But when you look closely, you detect that all of that is of God, not themselves. We pastors know this for a fact, don’t we?

This introduces us to a misconception: pastors have special powers in themselves. How very easy it is for our flocks to look at us through rose-colored glasses! It’s almost as if we possess a mystical, divine unction or some angelic “mantle” that causes us to ooze with supernatural, heaven-sent power. But this is wrong! Look at an earlier verse:

Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God. (2 Corinthians 3:5)

We have no special powers in ourselves. Next week, I’ll offer a couple more misconceptions.

But for now, mark it well: we pastors are 100% human, filled with all the weaknesses and potential for failure that characterize every other human being. In light of that, be careful!

Chuck