4 Posts from May 2013

You Need Help

You’ve probably preached Exodus 18:17–27 at some point. I have too.

But today, it’s time we apply it.

It’s the account of a visit Jethro made to his son-in-law Moses. Old Jethro frowned as he watched Moses flash from one need to another, from one person to another. From early morning until late at night, Moses was neck-deep in conversations, decisions, and activities. (Sound like your week?)

Moses must have looked very impressive—eating on the run, moving fast, planning other appointments, meeting deadlines.

But Jethro wasn’t at all impressed. “What is this thing that you are doing for the people?” he asked (Exodus 18:14). Moses was somewhat defensive (most too-busy people are) as he attempted to justify his ridiculous schedule. Jethro didn’t buy the story.

Rather, he advised Moses against trying to do everything alone. He reproved him with strong words: “The thing that you are doing is not good. You will surely wear out” (18:17–18). The Hebrew term means “to become old, exhausted.” In three words, he told Moses to CALL FOR HELP.

The benefits of shifting and sharing the load? Read Jethro’s words for yourself: “It will be easier for you . . . you will be able to endure” (18:22–23). Isn’t that interesting? God wants our lifestyles to be easier than most of us realize.

For some reason, we pastors seem to think it’s better to have that tired-blood, overworked-underpaid, I’ve-really-got-it-rough look. You know, the martyr complex that conveys to the flock, “I’m working so hard for Jesus.”

Really?

The truth of the matter is quite the contrary. That hurried, harried appearance usually means, “I’m too stubborn to slow down,” or “I’m too insecure to say no,” or “I’m too proud to ask for help.”

But since when is a bleeding ulcer a sign of spirituality? Or no time off and a seventy-hour week a mark of efficiency? When will we learn that efficiency is enhanced not by what we accomplish but more often by what we relinquish?

The ministry getting (or gotten) you down? Feeling rotten? Too tired to pray . . . in too big a hurry? Ticked off at a lot of folks?

Let me suggest one of the few four-letter words God loves to hear us shout when we’re angry:

HELP.

—Chuck

Five Promises Every Pastor Should Make

Ours is a day of superficiality. That’s true . . . even for pastors.

If we can fake it, we’re often admired as being clever and creative, not criticized for being shallow and phony. Mediocrity can mark many of those in ministry just as overtly as it marks many of those who work for the government and are employed in the corporate world. I’ve also noticed that staying longer in the same place often perpetuates the problem. People tend to let seniority excuse the absence of excellence.

The ministry, unfortunately, is no exception. People trust us to be diligent, to stay spiritually sensitive; to do our homework; to think deeply; to remain fresh, innovative, and excited about our calling; and to be pure in motive.

But the painful truth is that we ministers can be lazy, indifferent, perfunctory, controlling, and mean-spirited. We are not above predictability or plagiarism, especially if we’ve not managed our time well. I know of few professions where envy can be more prominent and where pride can be more manipulative.

It’s easy to learn how to hide those ugly faces behind pious masks. The “flesh” of the clergy is no better than the “flesh” of the criminal. We’re all depraved. The difference is that we’re better at cover-up.

There are five promises I believe every pastor should make. I’ve worded them in first person, because they are promises I have made as well.

  1. I promise to maintain a heart for God. That means I will pray frequently and fervently. I will stay devoted to Christ and to my calling. I won’t talk about doing those things . . . I’ll simply do them.
  2. I promise to stay faithful to my family. My wife deserves my time, affection, and occasionally my undivided attention. Our children and grandchildren, the same. I won’t forget this fact, no matter what.
  3. I promise to keep doing original and hard work in my study. No hectic schedule will rob my congregation of a strong pulpit. The flock deserves the best of my efforts.
  4. I promise to remain accountable. Living the life of a religious Lone Ranger is not only unbiblical, it’s dangerous. If my flock needs to ask me a hard question, they needn’t hold back.
  5. I promise to be who I am. Just me. No amount of public exposure will turn my head. If I start acting sophisticated, I hope someone reminds me how disgusting it looks, how ridiculous shepherds appear when they start using a lot of polysyllabic words, trying to strut their stuff. I plan to keep laughing, hanging out with people who aren’t impressed with me, and remaining authentic.

If you haven’t already, I urge you to make these promises . . . today.

—Chuck Swindoll

Words I Needed to Hear

I’ll never forget the day a friend dropped by my study.

We spoke for a while, and just before he left, he had that look of unfinished business on his face. He couldn’t leave without looking at me squarely in the eyes and saying some hard things.

“I don’t know how I should say these things, Chuck. But I can’t just ignore them either. The fact is, I’m concerned.”

That stung a little. “Concerned about what?” I probed.

“You. I’m concerned that you might get so busy you’ll start cutting corners in your study of the Scriptures. I want to urge you: do not let that happen. We need you to continue doing original work, reading widely, thinking deeply . . . and speaking with the kind of depth and passion we have come to expect from you.”

His words were punctuated with emotion. By now he was really serious.

As he finally stood up to leave, I walked over to him and embraced him. I told him how much I appreciated his words of warning, the genuineness of his heart, the courage of his reproof. The man demonstrated that he cared—he truly cared—for my soul.

I reassured him that I never wanted to neglect the essentials in my life or my ministry. I invited him to come again, especially if he ever had reason to believe that I was yielding to the subtle temptation of shooting from the hip or coming to the pulpit without having spent sufficient time in preparation of heart and mind. God deserves my best, not the leftover scraps of a harum-scarum schedule.

After he left, I sat back down, swallowed hard, and sighed. Not only did he need to say those things, I needed to hear them. Believe me, I really did.

I believe every pastor needs to hear them often.

Maybe you need to hear them too?

—Chuck

What Serving God Must Be

Matthew 10:42

Over the years, a few folks have told me they were reluctant to look too deeply into serving Jesus Christ because of the risks that are involved.

Some were afraid God would expect them to become missionaries or preachers and do something really risky! If they said yes to God, they reasoned, they’d have to undertake some dirty, demanding tasks, and that kind of extreme servanthood would be more than they had bargained for.

Is that your attitude as a pastor? Is that what the biblical portrait of servanthood means?

Sometimes.

  • Some of us may very well be called to follow Him to the ends of the earth.
  • Many have done that. He may ask others of us to serve in some bold and difficult act of personal sacrifice here at home or abroad.

But it’s not always that way. In fact, I would say it is rarely that way.

Most of the time, the Lord makes somewhat smaller demands on us . . . but they still require unselfishness.

The greater reality is that every act of service, however big or small it may be, demonstrates our love for Christ and our obedience to Him. That’s the meaning of faithful servanthood. Jesus said, “Whoever in the name of a disciple gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water to drink, truly I say to you, he shall not lose his reward” (Matthew 10:42).

To cherish a little child, to care for an aging mother, to speak a gentle word to a hurting neighbor or a struggling friend . . . to carry an armload of groceries for that stranger down the street: these, too, are demonstrations of Christ’s love.

How valuable is genuine, selfless servanthood!

—Chuck