I didn’t realize the toll it would take on my life to get out of step with Christ. By out of step I mean to lose stride and rhythm with Christ. Where I lost focus on the work of the Lord and my Conversations and requests for direction were less and less. I might take a few steps, and then I’d grow weary and sit down for a while. When I’d try to serve Him, I’d fail miserably, serving half hearted most of the time. It didn’t happen over night, it was a process of years, which, if we know anything about life at all, that’s how one falls out of things. You just gradually stop participating until you don’t realize it, but what was once an important piece of your life, isn’t even on the radar anymore.
That’s where I’ve been spiritually. I cannot cast blame on anyone, because I should have known better. I’ve walked this same path for 26 years. And perhaps that’s the problem, the path got too familiar and there was no longer any surprises along the way.
So this Sunday, I attended a different church, not a new church, it’s been around for a hundred years or so, but new to me. I sat in a new Sunday School Class, a new worship service, a new parking lot. I won’t say that it was uncomfortable, because I knew the people, but their methods of Sunday Schools class and worship were not what I was accustomed to. I was excited for the new adventure, but like a child on their first day at a new school, I had trepidations that I wouldn’t fit in. There’d be no room at the cool kids table. They’d think I was weird, or talk about me. Those two things probably happened, because it’s a small town, and I am pretty weird, and there would be questions as to why I wasn’t in my same spot that I’ve been in for 26 years. And that’s okay, because people are curious. And I figured if anyone cared enough to listen to today’s pod cast, they’d have the opportunity to find out. And then they can share with the others.
But that’s not the point of this podcast, the point is to talk about understanding the toll your spiritual life takes on your secular life. Unless you’re full time ministry you generally have two walks. They should coincide, but in this world they often don’t. For many of the years since my salvation, I considered my secular jobs as a sideline to the ministry. God had placed me in those positions to show others the light of Christ. When I began the Ridgeview News, I struggled with how that would connect with the ministry. I by no means would deny my faith, but I also wanted to report the news from the truth perspective (which is certainly biblical) but I wanted to keep my spiritual opinions out of it. When I just couldn’t manage that, I’d call it an editorial or opinion piece and let them know from the onset that I was speaking from a Christian perspective.
But then I started struggling spiritually. I wasn’t happy with myself, I wasn’t happy with the people I ministered with, and that was also reflective in how I conducted myself in the world. Where I once had great joy discussing my walk with Christ, I now had nothing to say. At home I would spin into a pit of depression, when I was out with people I would cover it up with pleasantries and idle conversation. I no longer had a desire to do anything creative and anytime I did, I would critique until it usually ended up in the trash. I began going through the steps of being a publisher and failing miserably at the only opportunity I had to make money. I did what was necessary, but nothing more.
And then it happened. I left my ministry of 26 years, (which hadn’t really been a ministry of mine for a few years). For a few months prior to leaving, I was in and out of services for various reasons, mostly just not wanting to deal with the pain. It’s painful to leave a ministry you’ve been in for as long as I was. I was comfortable there for years. I was at the cool kids table and people cared what I had to say. And then they didn’t. And over time I realized that I was unproductive in that place and needed to go. And so I did.
Now, this is where I realized the toll my spiritual walk had taken on my life. It wasn’t that there was a great revelation discovered at the new church I was attending. What there was, was an old revelation rediscovered inside me. I walked into a different ministry that did things differently and I wasn’t responsible for any of it. I was going to have to find a place I could serve and the Lord and a new Pastor, who first made sure I was making a prayerful decision in coming to his church. And he said the magic words that stirred my heart and soul. He said, “come and heal, and come and serve.”
The reason I had gotten out of step with Christ was because I was wounded in the battle and I was walking around with pain. All of us likely know how difficult it is when a part of your body is physically broken. It makes the function of day to day activities terrible. It’s no different when your spiritual body is broken. Because of the pain I was in, I was unable to focus.
A bible character I relate to often is Peter. Peter lost focus so many times. Such as the time that Jesus bid him to come and walk on the water, and he did it! And then he didn’t and he began to sink and cried out in fear.
That Sinking Feeling
Matthew 14:25-31 KJV
And in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea.  And when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, It is a spirit; and they cried out for fear.  But straightway Jesus spake unto them, saying, Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid.  And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water.  And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus.  But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me.  And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?
That sinking feeling. Do you remember the times you felt it in your heart that even though you knew you were doing your best, you still felt overwhelmed like you were about to drown. That feeling generally happens when you thought you could do something, but it just didn’t work out the way you intended.
That’s what happens with so many of us in our spiritual walk and in our daily lives. We start out walking good, but if we get our focus off Jesus, and we begin to walk alone, we start to sink. Losing focus happens when outside sources attack us. For Peter it was the waves. He noticed them after he got out of the boat. What if he had been prepared for the waves. What if he knew that his feet were going to feel a little wobbly and the waves might actually throw him off balance. But he didn’t think of that, he just thought He and Jesus were going to walk on the water. Peter was also alone on the water… that’s kind of where I was at in the ministry. I wasn’t working with people in the ministry, everyone I had worked with were gone, I was just out there flailing by myself. Being alone is not where you wan to be in life, and especially in the ministry. You’ve got to have a support around you so that when you feel like you’re sinking someone will grab your hand and pull you out of the water.
That Feeling of Denial
Peter and I have a second thing in common, Not appreciating reality.
Matthew 16:21-23 KJV
From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day.  Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee.  But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.
I’d have been as stupid as Peter was. I too would have told the Lord, don’t be ridiculous, You’re not going to die. You’re Jesus! I would not have liked that plan. But it was God’s plan and Jesus did have to die.
I want everything in life to be roses and sunshine. But deed, that’s just not how life is. So when life in the ministry began to get difficult, my solution was to ignore it. Let’s just pretend that everything is fine. By the time I realized it wasn’t fine, I was falling apart. I had not only lost focus, I had lost purpose. When Jesus came to earth, born of a virgin, He had a few years of enjoying much of life. He had a family, friends, and a wonderful work in the ministry. But the purpose of His life on earth was to prepare for the cross. My purpose is to take that truth and tell others. To lead them to the saving grace of Jesus Christ, or, if they’re saved, to encourage them in their walk. It’s hard to be the encourager when you’re discouraged.
By not facing the reality that I was not in a good place in my ministry, and that God was maybe giving me some news I didn’t want to hear, my purpose was lost. If not lost, for certain it was off track or out of step.
That Feeling of Failure
I’ve said it before, (stealing it from someone else) I’m not going to cuss, but if someone would write them down, I’d point to them. Well, if truth be told, I might of well have said them because they’ve ran through my mind lately. I would get so frustrated with both my spiritual life and that of the world that I didn’t say any bad words out loud, but I assure you they went through my mind. Can you imagine how Peter felt, when cursed having denied Christ for the third time, and hearing the rooster crow, how much of a failure he felt he was. That’s how we all feel when we mess up, or life doesn’t go as planned.
Matthew 26:69-75 KJV
Now Peter sat without in the palace: and a damsel came unto him, saying, Thou also wast with Jesus of Galilee.  But he denied before them all, saying, I know not what thou sayest.  And when he was gone out into the porch, another maid saw him, and said unto them that were there, This fellow was also with Jesus of Nazareth.  And again he denied with an oath, I do not know the man.  And after a while came unto him they that stood by, and said to Peter, Surely thou also art one of them; for thy speech bewrayeth thee.  Then began he to curse and to swear, saying, I know not the man. And immediately the cock crew.  And Peter remembered the word of Jesus, which said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. And he went out, and wept bitterly.
I hate not being productive. Whether it’s my fault or just the way life happens, I need to see some proof in the pudding for encouragement to go on. It’s like when a team is losing the game and you’re on the sideline. Even if you’re not the best player, you need to do something to help. That’s how I had been feeling in the ministry. I felt as if the game was going on around me and I was sidelined.
I’m also one of those people that needs to be in the thick of it.
Peter had been side by side with Jesus in the ministry. But now, to be by His side would have meant being killed. His other friends in the ministry were no where to be found either. Except John, you know, Jesus’ favorite one. So he’s sidelined. He’s frustrated and panicked and he’s not thinking clearly. Jesus told him that he’d deny him but he never believed it was true.
If you would have asked me a few years ago, if I could foresee myself falling away from the ministry I would have told you no, not ever! But there I was.
That feeling of Excitement
- It’s my first week in a different ministry. I’m coming out of the ministry slump that I was in. My mind is going places it hasn’t been in a while. Reading and studying the word of God with direction, thinking about ways to grow my ministry in and out of the church. Finding a place to serve and wondering what doors God might open. This happened when I stepped out of a place where I had grown stagnant from lack of use. This is a warning to every Pastor out there. If you’ve got good people, willing to work, don’t let them set idle. One of two things will happen, they’ll either become like every other dead weight Christian in the church that sits in the pew on Sunday and listens without reaction, or God will react by moving them out of your congregation and into one where they’ll be used. If they’re a Christian worth a grain of salt, they’ll not just drop out of church, that’s a warning to those who feel uncompelled to do anything in their church. Don’t use that as an excuse to fall out on God. Because He deserves way more. And so do you.