Hi. My name is Ryan. I am a pastor. According to statistics I am a sad breed. Pastors are the most depressed, lonely, burnt out, over worked, underpaid, fat, and unhealthy people on the planet. Our families are a mess. Our finances are a mess. It is hard to have friends. Our work is unseen and is seen as unnecessary to some. Most pastors will only last 5 years in the ministry before getting another job.
Does it have to be this way?
As I sit here and write down a “To-Do-List” for the next couple of months I get overwhelmed at best. I see a never-ending list of people to meet, prayers to be made, and the darkness of the human heart (mine included). My job is a never-ending endeavor. Only God can make sense of it all. And yet, I get up everyday, dust myself off, look to Jesus in prayer, and go at it again.
Why? Is something wrong with me? What would cause a person to want to work in such an environment?
Most jobs have a built in mechanism that I long for – visible results. This is why I love mowing the lawn (most days). It is the only thing in my life where I see immediate results. When you are working in the spiritual realm of ministry the results may never be seen this side of heaven. People are people. Sin is real. Jesus is better and has overcome. But, we still plod along knowing that the results are not left up to us. The fruit, the healing, the life is not mine to wield. God gives the growth. God gives the life. God gives the salvation.
Most of my worry, anxiety, stress, and pain come when I forget that God is sovereign, gracious, and good. Pastors that burn out (or any person for that matter), ship wreck their faith, and destroy their marriages, somewhere along the line forgot who is ultimately in control. The holy-Trinity of “me, myself, and I” was never meant to sit on the throne of the universe.
Pastors are simply to be “stewards of the faith” as Paul tells us. A steward is a manager, an overseer, someone who takes what is not his or hers in the first place and uses it for God’s glory. Trying not to get in the way of God’s purposes and trying not to make a mess of everything.
Scott Thomas in his book Gospel Coach tells us that pastors and leaders who crash is because they have a performance idol. In other words, pastors and leaders can’t lead from a place that tells them their ultimate value, worth, significance is based on what they accomplish or do not accomplish. I wish this only applied to pastors but every vocation will be tempted to find significance in their performance. Performance is seductive because it often is immediate, seen, and involves the praise of others.
The good news of the gospel is that Jesus has performed on our behalf and does not need our help. Our identity and significance is not rooted in what we do for God- but rather who we are in Christ. We are sons and daughters of the King. We are adopted into a new family. We are forgiven. We have hope. We have life. All of this is a gift from God himself.
The more we understand our true identity in Christ we can now boldly serve him through our work. We can take criticism because Jesus was criticized on our behalf. We can work hard because we don’t need to earn God’s approval because it was given to us in Christ. We can love people in our churches, our neighborhoods, and our families because we know that even if they don’t respond to us we are fully loved by God. We can look at all the pain, sin, and brokenness of the world and not lose hope. When can get up and fight another day.
Because we know how the story ends. It is not our story. We are extras in the story. Our role is a flash for 4 seconds and its gone. Jesus wins. All the wrongs will be made right. And it has nothing to do with how well you perform today. Rest in Jesus. Rest in his care. Rest in his love. Then go and serve boldly for the honor of Jesus- knowing he has performed for us. Whatever your vocation might be know that the “To-Do-List” is long and will never be done. But rather look to the one who said: “It is finished”.
Are you resting in Jesus? Why is this hard to actually live out day to day?