I have been in church my whole life.
I’ve seen the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. No matter where you come from or what church you go to: no church is perfect. Because we – human beings – are flawed. We make mistakes. And as Christ followers you need to know this because when you start to put all your hope and faith in a person, you will most likely become hurt and offended at some point in the journey. As a result, you'll leave the church broken and bitter. You’ll start to say things like, “I’ve seen it time and time again and I just can’t do it anymore. I’m tired of being disappointed. I’m just gonna focus on me and my relationship with God…”
But can I tell you that that is what the enemy would want more than anything
– for you to believe the lie that “I’m just not cut out for this” and you don’t need the church. But you are here on purpose and for a purpose. God has called you and chosen you. You have to stay in the fight. You might be asking, “How can I keep myself from ever getting to that place?” Because I’m gonna tell you – as Christians and as leaders we all have to face this at some point in our lives. But the question is: Are you going to give in? Here are three key things that I have found to keep me from wavering in my walk and in my ministry.
1. Delight Yourself in the Lord.
“Delight yourself in the Lord, And He shall give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37:4 (ESV)
I actually have this verse hanging in my kitchen, and I swear I have read this probably a hundred times. But one day it just clicked in my mind. This is a first-then promise. First: Delight yourself in the Lord. Then: He will give you the desires of your heart. Sometimes we chase the desire more than we delight in the One who gives us the desire. And when we delight more in our gifts, ministry, or even our calling, then we wind up becoming burnt out, resentful, or feeling used by those we are working with or under. We have to delight in God first and above all else. Because ultimately it doesn’t matter what we do vocationally or ministerially if everything we are doing is honoring and pleasing to our Heavenly Father. He is the only One we are doing this for! My delight is in Him! In the pure joy of knowing Him.
When was the last time you laughed with God?
Like you’re having a conversation with Him, and you are truly enjoying His company? Or have you ever just sang to Jesus, by yourself, with no music on? Just singing a song to Him because you love Him? When I am by myself in my house or in my car, I like to sing whatever song comes to my mind and spirit and sing that back to God. Those have been some of the most profound moments in my relationship with God because I am not only glorifying Him for who He is, but I am reminding myself who He is. That is what it looks like to delight yourself in the Lord. When everything else fades away, what is your relationship with God founded on?
2. Have Integrity
The definition of integrity is: “the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness.” Another definition says: “the state of being whole and undivided.” To me, that just means being consistent.
Are you the same person at church as you are at work? At school? At home? With your family? With unbelievers? Do you always do the right thing even when no one is watching? Or do you have that one sin issue that no one really knows about, but it’s okay because it doesn’t affect my ministry or the people around me? Before you disqualify yourself from reading this section, pride is probably the #1 sin issue in us as leaders and mature followers of Christ. It doesn’t have to be a porn addiction to be devastating to your life. Don’t give the enemy any foothold.
“Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but whoever takes crooked paths will be found out.” Proverbs 10:9 (NIV)
Even when you think no one knows and no one is watching – God knows. And God sees. Whatever is hidden will be brought to the light. The amplified version of 1 Peter 2:12 says: “Keep your behavior excellent among the [unsaved] Gentiles [conduct yourself honorably, with graciousness and integrity], so that for whatever reason they may slander you as evildoers, yet by observing your good deeds they may [instead come to] glorify God in the day of visitation [when He looks upon them with mercy].” This passage proves that not only God sees you, but others do too! Live above reproach because at the end of the day, the way you choose to live a life that honors God can lead to someone’s eternal salvation!
If I could boil this down to one statement, I would say that the integrity of your life either proves or disproves the Holy Spirit’s influence in your life.
Because ultimately, what is the difference between a Christian and a non-Christian if I have no integrity? I only do good things to get what I want? No! I work as if I am working unto the Lord. I live my life for an audience of One. And this also shows if you have the fear of the Lord. Because if you have the fear of the Lord, you wouldn't even think about going against His instructions and commands. Your reverence of Him shows your love and honor for Him. At the end of my life, I am going to be accountable for everything I did and did not do. And I want to hear my Father say, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Come and enter into the joy of your Lord!’”
3. Love the Church
“No one hates his own body but feeds and cares for it, just as Christ cares for the church. And we are members of his body. As the Scriptures say, ‘A man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one [Genesis 2:24].’ This is a great mystery, but it is an illustration of the way Christ and the church are one.” Ephesians 5:29-32 (NLT)
I know this might seem kinda off-topic, but just go with me here for a second. If I have a super strong personal relationship with God – I delight in Him and I have integrity of heart – but I am not in love with His bride, then I am not really loving all of who Christ is. Think about it – when you get married, the two become one – one flesh. So if the church and Jesus are one, then how can I say I love Jesus if I don’t love the Church? It’s contradictory. It doesn’t add up.
I have known quite a few people who love the Lord but are not plugged into a local church. And it’s so sad because I see those people live broken and bitter lives because they don’t forgive and they don’t get freedom from their past hurts, habits, and hangups. They blame the “church” but can’t seem to realize that their so-called "problem" is also part of the solution to their pain.
And don’t hear what I’m not saying – the “church” is not an institution. It’s Christ. We as humans can and many have messed this up, and that’s why so many people have turned away from Christ – because they are hurt by an institution, not by Jesus himself. We have to get this right, friends. Because Christ lives in us, we are the bride of Christ! All of us together as the church! We can’t let disappointments, failures, unmet expectations, or unkept promises by man keep us from loving His Church. We are the problem, but we are also the solution! If we leave, then we are perpetuating the cycle of “church hurt” which means people who are lost are not going to find Jesus and know Him as their Lord and Savior.
Friends, let’s be the solution so people can find the answer – and His name is Jesus.
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