Finishing strong in ministry (4)

Titus 1:5 NKJV

The fourth issue you find among pastors who quit the ministry is this: They teach others how to build strong families without necessarily knowing how to build one themselves. Or they’re not willing to pay the price to do it and eventually it becomes a problem. The greatest sermon you’ll ever preach is at home! Pastors’ wives can slip into despair and depression because they feel like the ministry robs them of all their husband’s time and attention. Their neglected children get tired of hearing, “I’m doing this for the Lord,” so they rebel against God and the church, and act out in ways that embarrass the parent who has no time for them. Your wife and children should always be able to reach you. If the church takes up seven days out of your week, it’s not the church’s fault – it’s yours! You need to start making changes! And if you think this is a phenomenon of living in the 21st century, think again. Read the stories of leaders like David and Samuel, and you discover it’s possible to succeed on the job, yet fail miserably on the home front. Too many preachers value the approval of their peers more than the love and respect of their families. Bear in mind that you won’t always be the pastor, but you will always be the husband of your wife and the father of your children. So be there when they need you – and they’ll be there when you need them.

Soul food: 2 Chr 29-31; John 12:37-50; Ps 102:18-28; Prov 27:13-16

Giving is its own reward

2 Corinthians 12:15 NLT

The apostle Paul wrote, “I don’t want what you have – I want you…I will gladly spend myself and all I have for you, even though it seems that the more I love you, the less you love me” (vv. 14-15 NLT). Paul found his greatest fulfillment in giving, not receiving. For him, giving was its own reward. For him, being successful meant making others successful. For him, being joyful meant bringing joy to others. That’s because he didn’t look to people for his reward, but to God: “Remember that the Lord will reward each one of us for the good we do” (Ephesians 6:8 NLT). The hardest thing for most of us to do is to fight our natural tendency to put ourselves first. That’s why it’s important to continually examine your motives and make sure you’re not sliding backwards into selfishness. If you want to check your motives, follow the example set by Benjamin Franklin. Every day he asked himself two questions. When he got up in the morning he would ask, “What good am I going to do today?” And before he went to bed he would ask, “What good have I done today?” If you can answer those questions with selflessness and integrity, you can keep yourself on track. Seeing those in need, and giving to meet that need, keeps your priorities and your perspective right. It increases the quality of life for both the giver and the receiver. The truth is, there is no life as empty as the self-centered life, and there is no life as centered as the self-empty life.

Soul food: 2 Chr 12-15; John 11:28-37; Ps 50; Prov 26:27-28

Friends “in the woods”

1 Samuel 23:16 NKJV

The first African American to play major league baseball was Jackie Robinson. While trying to break through baseball’s color barrier, he faced insults and abuse in just about every stadium. One day at his home stadium in Brooklyn, he made an error and the fans immediately turned on him. While they jeered, Robinson just stood there at second base, humiliated. At that point shortstop Pee Wee Reese ran over, stood beside him, put his arm around him, and together they faced the crowd. Within seconds the fans grew quiet. Years later when Robinson was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame, he said, “Reese’s arm around my shoulder that day saved my career.” Jesus knew Peter would “strike out” and deny Him, yet He extended grace to Peter even before it happened. Here’s what He told him: “When you have come back to me, help the others” (Luke 22:32 CEV). When God restores you, you’ll want to reach out to others with His love. It will be as natural to you as breathing. You’ll live by the Scripture: “Strengthen those who have tired hands, and encourage those who have weak knees. Say to those with fearful hearts, ‘Be strong…for your God…is coming to save you'” (Isaiah 35:3-4 NLT). In Scripture “Jonathan…went to David in the woods and strengthened his hand.” When you feel lost “in the woods” you need a Jonathan. That’s when you prove the truth of the old adage: “In prosperity our friends know us, but in adversity we know our friends.” They’re the people we turn to in times of trouble. So if you think you’ll ever need such a friend, be one!

Soul food: 2 Sam 7:18-11:27; John 2:1-11; Ps 110; Prov 23:6-9

Show God’s heart

Isaiah 1:17 NIV

Throughout the Bible, we see God’s heart for justice. We see His heart for the vulnerable and defenceless. We see His comfort for the forgotten and hurting. And we see His love for rescuing those who can’t save themselves. The greatest example of this is in Jesus’ death. His sacrifice was to rescue us from our sin, to connect us with Him, and to give ultimate victory over the enemy. But God is also very clear that we need to be showing justice, mercy, and love to those who are forgotten and oppressed in society. In Isaiah we are told to ‘learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed.’ In Micah it says: ‘What does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God’ (6:8 NIV). And in James 1, it says: ‘Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world’ (v.27 NIV). We need to be showing God’s heart to others through our care for those that people would rather exclude, to those who are forgotten, and to those who are being oppressed. It means we need to stand up for those who are unable to stand up for themselves. We need to choose to show God’s love to those who others avoid and forget. We need to pursue justice, and make a stand when we see injustice occurring. Sometimes we let fear get in the way of standing up for others, but we know that by working for justice we are bringing God’s kingdom here to earth. And that’s worth stepping out of our comfort zones for.

2 Cor 1-4; Matt 25:1-13; Ps 78:56-64; Prov 20:25


Psalm 40:2 NIV

All of us, at some point in our lives, will be praying for breakthrough. We will need cycles to be broken, unhelpful behaviours and thoughts uprooted and changed, and help moving on from things that have been said and done to us. Sometimes that breakthrough can come through talking to others and seeking professional help. Other times, it’s only God who can bring about that breakthrough we need. In Psalm 40, David begins by telling us how God brought breakthrough in his life. He speaks of God turning to him, hearing his cry, and lifting him up out of the circumstances he was in. But right at the beginning, he says: ‘I waited patiently for the LORD’ (v.1 NIV). Sometimes our breakthrough doesn’t come when we want it to. Maybe we have been praying for breakthrough for a long time, and we are tempted to give up. These words from David remind us that sometimes we have to wait patiently for God to bring about change, it doesn’t mean that He doesn’t hear us or doesn’t care. He just has His own timing and His own ways (take a look at Isaiah 55:8-9), and we won’t always understand them. When God lifted David, He placed him on a rock, which David said gave him ‘a firm place to stand’. When God brings breakthrough in our lives, He puts us back on a firm foundation – Him. We have to stand on the truth we find in the Bible. Finally, David says: ‘Many will see and fear the LORD and put their trust in him’ (v.3 NIV). Our breakthrough brings glory to God. It shows others what He can do, and how we can be transformed. When we share our story, it can bring hope to others who are waiting for their own breakthrough.

Ezek 27:25-30:26; Matt 23:1-12; Ps 112; Prov 20:1-4