Last week I wrote about hard times in ministry. I received more email about totally ridiculous stuff that goes on in ministry, much of it unfair, and it’s horrible and hurtful and my heart goes out to you. A also received several inboxes saying that this series is not just applicable to the ministry but to all women, and I do agree.
But I specifically wrote to my fellow ministry wives because ministry wives often suffer alone and there are certain types of temptations that, although not “uncommon to man”, are often very commonly found lurking in the hearts of good, ministry-minded folks.
And in order to lead from a position of grace, we need to be aware of the pitfalls that are common in ministry.For instance, because you are a leader, the desire to be respected can morph into a campaign to dominate, demand to be consulted, or to get your own way. Or perhaps, since you end up making many of the decisions about church matters, humility takes a back seat and you no longer consider the needs, sensitivities, or quirks of other congregants, taking the my way or the highway approach, when care and consideration would have been the prudent, others-minded way. And there are too many other temptations associated with ministry to even list.
Ministry wives, life is “unfair” and ministry life is often messy and wisdom would dictate that we keep ourselves in check. We are 100% responsible for our own actions and nobody elses. I suggest that we really *believe* that sin is harmful and that we are blind to our own sin, and we want to avoid it, we need to step back, take heed, lest we fall and “go our own way” becoming a law unto ourselves. Especially in the context of trials. Our hearts are deceitful and desperately wicked. Do we believe this or do we believe that we’re a in a higher class of sinners than the people we serve?
On top of blindness to our own sin, we are often given opportunities or preference that other congregants might not receive, simply because we married a ministry guy. Of course, there is nothing wrong with this. God does assign us our portion and lot.
The trouble comes when we accept opportunities that we are not in any spiritual condition to perform or when we expect preferential treatment and get bent out of shape when overlooked.(pride)
Example: I’ve been offered speaking opportunities or other ministry related opportunities over the years simply because I am married to Peter and because of the blog and there are times when I’ve had just plain said “NO.”
Why? Well, sometimes it’s due to seasons of life or schedules, but other times its because I know the condition of my own heart. I know that life has been busy and I should be learning not teaching. I know that I have been unholy and stubborn and I need to learn submission to God before I step out again. Sometimes I forgo writing here because I need to obey more so that my words have meaning when I speak. Anyone can get up and speak, right? But if your life is not matching up, ladies, what’s the point? Anyone can open their home to strangers and serve, but if you’ve been mistreating your own kids and husband, where’s the authenticity and uprightness in that?
This ministry life is not a show or our stage. If you want to impact your home/church/sphere, let the words you speak and claim to love match your actions. That’s the best contribution/legacy/testimony we can give to our families, children, and church.
During trials, the Lord is concerned about my heart and this should my highest concern as well.
“Search me, Oh God” and inspect my heart, and don’t let me dare run ahead of you in speech, ministry.
Let’s face it, if you’ve been in ministry you know that all people are sinful, like the pastor who views pornography and brushes it under the carpet then gets up and preaches, or the ministry wife who makes jabs about one member and then is quick to get up and praise the Lord out of the other side of her mouth. Sin abounds in all of us and the church is not exempt.
Because sin can so easily go undetected, it’s helpful to ask, “If I were not the pastors’/evangelists’/youth pastors’/missionarys’ wife, would I be asked to do this ministry based on my godly reputation, humble interactions, faithful service, consistent testimony? If not, say no.
If you were not a leadership wife…if you were a lay person in the church…would people–
- ask you for wise counsel based on your knowledge and application of God’s Word in your own life?
- confide their troubles and assume that you wouldn’t gossip?
- say that you know how to control your tongue and are consistent to use it to bless bless and not curse? Am I gushing fresh water one day and brackish the next? (James 3:10-12)
- say my life is described as “moderate”–my appetites under control. AKA… I can say no to myself. Or do I swing the pendulum with my words,moods, weight, hobbies, spending, time, etc…Is moderation a defining quality or do I swing from one extreme or the other?
These are questions we should ask ourselves because others may not ask or enforce them upon us. Most people assume that you’ve got it all together and that makes it even more dangerous.
We know from God’s Word that true wisdom is seen by living out the gospel humbly, without mean-spirited ambition, boasting, or lashing out with the tongue. Passions and desires under the Lordship of Christ.
That’s why TRIALS are so invaluable to our lives. In my experience, it’s during trials when my guard is down that I can see the true nature of my heart. I get a glimpse of what’s ruling underneath and what motives are moving me to action.
How do you respond when someone says no to you or tells you to wait? How do you respond when confronted with your own sin? Are you still able to answer to/submit to other people or do you believe yourself above that? These are the MINISTRY MOMENTS when God is trying to draw you closer to Himself. He’s asking you to throw off your pride, stop demanding your rights, and humbly follow Him.
God uses UNFAIR ministry, ladies, for our good and His glory.
He allows that woman to give you the cold shoulder to test your humility. He allows that callous remark to see whether you’ll love that unlovely one or no. He wants us to obey His Word through it all of the hurt and unfairness.
Or we can respond by running ahead doing what we think will give us momentary satisfaction and, ultimately, happiness, or by running our mouth, causing a “wildfire” of trouble.
Let’s remember Sarah, Abraham’s wife, when we are tempted to run ahead of God and take matters into our own hands. Although Sarah had faith in God, we see that she doubted God’s ability to keep His promise to give her a son in her old age. That one thing she wanted so badly…and she allowed discouragement to linger and unhappiness to blossom until she took matters into her own hands.
That’s why we CAN’T look at our circumstances. To focus on our trials is to look away from our Faithful God.
Looking to our circumstances too long breeds doubt, despair, discouragement, depression, cynicism, and a sour spirit. Have you ever blurted something and realized how SOUR it was!? I have!
When we look to the Lord, and remember that HE IS OUR PRIZE AND GOAL, we experience the joyful anticipation of His PROMISES.
Scripture is full of examples of people in serious trials who reacted in a godly manner and God’s answers are always the same:
“Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh. Is anything too hard for Me?” Jeremiah 32:27 and
“Has the Lord’s arm been shortened?” (Numbers 11:23)
“Is anything too hard for the Lord?” (Gen. 18:14)
“O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Matt. 14:31)
Sarai took matters into her own hands and ran ahead of God because she ultimately doubted God and despised His timing.
We all know the disastrous result of that decision and can all take a lesson from her disobedience:
- Whenever we take control of our circumstance in a way that is outside of the bounds of scripture, we are headed for trouble.
- When we attempt to get what we want using sinful means, we’re showing that we are no longer hoping in God.
- When we try to escape our problems, we’re saying that God put us here mistakenly and that we must master our own fate.
God’s timing and ways are good. “His way is perfect.”
When God is ready to act, He will.
Your job is to watch your attitude and heart.
Are you living out the gospel in joyful anticipation of what the Savior will do?
Are you trusting and obeying God’s word, staying inside the bounds of Scripture?
Do you see your gifts in life as coming from God or do you demand them for yourself, living life as though God’s short changed you somehow.
Ministry friends, this is the life of faith. Let’s not copy the “take it into your own hands” method of Sara. Let’s leave it in God’s capable hands.
“Through faith also Sara herself received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged him faithful who had promised.” Heb. 11:11
When life’s not fair and ministry is hard, let’s choose to trust and obey!