The Challenge of Seeming Failure
Devotional Thought/Discussion point of the day”
10 In my life in union with the Lord it is a great joy to me that after so long a time you once more had the chance of showing that you care for me. I don’t mean that you had stopped caring for me—you just had no chance to show it. 11 And I am not saying this because I feel neglected, for I have learned to be satisfied with what I have. 12 I know what it is to be in need and what it is to have more than enough. I have learned this secret, so that anywhere, at any time, I am content, whether I am full or hungry, whether I have too much or too little. 13 I have the strength to face all conditions by the power that Christ gives me. Philippians 4:10-13 (TEV)
One of the conversations during my trip on the mission field, was about the harsh reality of ministry, how the dreams of how it would be can come crashing down, when we face the daily grind on the field. When the results we long for, do not come to fruition right away, or even after a year or two. For young people in ministry, this can be a hard lesson. It doesn’t always get easier either, and far too often I have known the feeling – could I be more productive for God’s kingdom in another place? Could I do things differently? It’s easy to get caught up in visible results – and loose hope. This is most certainly true when it seems we have to teach the same lesson, repeatedly, year after year, month after month, heck – sometimes in the same Bible Study or counseling appointment.
Despite what Paul is saying – it is hard to be content with life at times – and that means it is also hard to be content with life in the ministry at times. This is true for pastors, and it is true for those one the foreign mission field, and I suspect it is for all of us.
After all, don’t they know the treasure we have? Why don’t people respond like on the day of Pentecost? Isn’t that the way it is supposed to happen, with hordes of pagans coming forward to be baptized, to be cleanse of their sins, to win the battle over the anxiety and fear caused by sin, satan and death’s bondage over them?
As I “re-enter civilization” (though I found China far more civilized than the USA) I wonder about my own ministry. Why can a church in China respond in months and be 500 plus people, while mine hovers in the 50’s? Is it that my people don’t treasure and trust in God’s love enough? (and if they don’t – does that mean I am a failure as a pastor?) Is there something wrong with what we are doing? Could there be a place where I am more productive, is there a pastor that would be more productive here? All those questions run through our heads, and I witnessed that in China, among those serving God there as well. It is easy to get disillusioned, disheartened, it is easy to let our minds run wild with questions….
Those questions occasionally need to be asked. But not in the darkness of night, not in the times when we are alone, when Satan can even more draw our attention from God’s presence. We do need to consider what we are doing, how we do it. But that shouldn’t be such that we feel condemned – but focused, energized, our vision clarified, our hope in God renewed….and ourselves content with the place and situation where God has put us.
That is the purpose of self-evaluation, it why we do it in the light of day, in the presence of God, with strong advisers who are willing to invest themselves in helping us. We especially focus, not on our work, but on the mercy of God – on the very thing we treasure, for the reason we started to serve others, either as a lifetime, fulltime vocation, or just as part of our regular day. We have to look to Him at these times… for there the shadows and doubts are dismissed by His glory, and we see things as they are.
Once again, I find some.. help focusing at the end of my devotions…in the words of someone familiar with both the successes and seeming failures of ministry.
“You must be careful: don’t let your professional success or failure—which will certainly come—make you forget, even for a moment, what the true aim of your work is: the glory of God!” (1)
Now, let’s get back to working at our Father’s side. Depending on His power, His mercy, His love…..
Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 2576-2577). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Posted on January 30, 2013, in Devotions and tagged bible study, Christ, dark night of the soul, glory of God, God, God's Work, Lord, Pentecost, St Jozemaria Escriva. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.