When my wife and I started in full time ministry we asked the music pastor’s wife that we were serving under at the time to tell us one piece of advice that she found was essential to “successfully doing” ministry. Her response seemed over-simplified and elementary at that time, but over the past eight years I can’t think of anything I would tell a fellow struggling pastor if they asked what is the one thing they could do to keep the delicate balance between family, ministry, and the rest of life…that is keep your eyes on Jesus.
I am reminded of two passages that exemplify that concept…one is my favorite life verse from Ecclesiastes 7:18 that says, “The man that fears the Lord avoids all extremes” and the other is the section of scripture in Matthew 14:22-36 where Jesus and Peter walk on water.
Solomon wrote Ecclesiastes after a life of pursuing everything under the sun and his final conclusion was that it is all worth-less. He knew what it was to experience every single pleasure in abundance, face trials and temptations on every side, deal with not just one woman, but a thousand (with many more children), make kingly decisions, and balance it all with his work for and relationship with the Lord. His life started out very promising and with the favor and blessings of God like no other man has ever had, but he quickly got caught up in this world and it’s pleasures and allowed those things to become more important than God. He was definitely a man of extremes and I think that’s why he sternly warns and reminds us that we should keep God on the throne of our hearts and maintain a very close watch on anything in our life that is getting extreme. Extremes can start out good…pouring ourselves into ministry, honing our crafts, loving our families…those are all worthy pursuits, but the danger comes when anything crowds out our relationship with the Father. We were designed for continual intimate fellowship with Him and when we start pursuing things in our time and ways, the balance will get off and everything will eventually come crumbling down.
The second passage has so many implications to my point, but I want to focus on just one thing that Jesus said to Peter when he began to sink. Jesus said, “You of little faith…why did you doubt?” Our relentless pursuits, fears, and anxieties (like the waves crashing around Peter) draw our attention and trust to everything but Jesus. Notice that Jesus doesn’t focus on the storm until he gets Peter’s attention and reminds him that it was His lack of trust that caused him to sink. If we want to walk on water we must keep our eyes on Jesus. I’m in a storm right now and keep getting reminders from God in a little book called “Jesus calling” that I just need to be still and refocus. God has got everything under control and knows the outcome…He wants me to release my desire to be the pilot…He wants me to know that He is working all things together for my good, that His promises are true, and that when I worship Him in these hard-to-focus moments, He will bring victory.
So I encourage you today to ask for greater faith to focus. God won’t calm your storm or bring things back into balance until you gaze whole-heartedly at Him. Gather some strong prayer warriors around you, sit down and get quiet before God, do some soul-searching about what your idols are and realign with God’s purposes for you, your family, and your ministry. A mentor of mine once told me to bring balance in life I should abandon annually (vacation), withdraw weekly (take a Sabbath), and divert daily (spend quality time with God). All of those things require being purposeful in how you use your time and what you focus on during those times. We all know it’s easier said than done, but I’m convinced the simpler we make it, the clearer things become.
Grace be with you,