Well, after my wet noodle revelation (see my last post), God revealed something else that resonated all too well with my heart of hearts. It’s a temptation that every pastor faces in ministry, and one that every follower of Christ faces in their walk with God:
The temptation to trust in the wrong things.
As a pastor, it’s far too easy to trust in budgets, technology, administrative systems, and past successes. My problem of late has been depending on the gifts God has given me instead of looking to him—not just to energize and bless those gifts, but to go far beyond them, to find their flawed and fraying edges and keep flowing where only he can tread.
I’ve trusted in my preaching gift. God has been nurturing it, maturing it, and blessing it. I’ve been learning to maximize it, hone it, and practice it. But my gift isn’t where the fruit comes from.
I’ve trusted in my pastoral staff—Harold and Tom—two God-lovin’ guys that are his gift to our church (and bring amazing giftedness to the ministry table). But neither they nor I can produce the kind of life and power required to bring a genuine revival.
I’ve trusted in some of our emerging worship teams, unleashing enough spunk to blow a fresh hole in the old wineskins and prepare us for new stuff straight from God’s heart… but they aren’t the Source either.
The problem is, trust is a subtle (or sometimes glaring) form of worship. Worship is first and foremost about what, or whom, we look to. “I lift my eyes up to the mountains? Where does my help come from?” (Psalm 121:1)
We gotta have hot, gifted preaching. We gotta have fired up, focused staff. We gotta have cutting edge, full-bodied worship. We gotta…
“My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.” (:2).
Oh. Right. Snap.
The gifts are supposed to point to the Giver.
The gifts are from his heart to ours, yes—but in the grand scheme of things they’re no more powerful or effective than the Fisher Price bubble-mower your kid uses as he walks beside you and pretends to cut the grass while you do all the work.
My kids used to do that. They’d help for oh, fourteen seconds. Then stop to wipe their brow as if they’d worked an eight hour day. And lose interest. “I think I’m done, daddy.”
And I’d say, “Good job. Thanks for your help,” knowing I’d really done all the work. Which is how God feels with our best service efforts, I know it. We’re never any more significant than the kid who gave up his sack lunch with two loaves and a handful of fish in it.
Yes, he used our lunch. That was OUR lunch. But the miracle was God’s. Always, only, ever God’s.
Yes, we handed out the food. Yes, we cleaned it up. Yes, we counted the basketfuls after the fourteen minute, eight hour day.
But the miracle was God’s.
Imagine, the week following, obsessing about “making it happen again.” Fretting over the quality of the baskets. Whether the lawn had been mowed where people were going to be sitting. Whether there were exactly two loaves and just the right kind of fish. And were the loaves baked exactly the right amount of time, at the right temperature? Are the crusts the way Jesus likes them? Are we on schedule? Should we practice handing the baskets out, maybe draw up a little map and diagram how we’ll do this, isle by isle?
And my hand slips up. Guilty.
Maybe you’re trusting your husband to meet your needs. Your children to reflect well on you. Your church to make you feel whole. Your daily devotions to earn you God’s favour. Your job to give you security. Your prayers to keep you safe.