School of Practical Ministry
Trials & Personal Identity
"Our well being must come from God,
not our ministry.
When you put a large effort into a ministry it’s easy to begin to assume ownership of it.
What does “owning our ministry mean?”
It’s your “baby.” You’ve given years, finances, time and tears, and now there are people here that don’t seem to recognize all that you have done. They want to change things. People may no longer consider what you’re doing to be necessary. If you can’t walk away without a fight, without hard feelings, and without blessing those who are taking over then it’s a sign that your ministry has become about you more than about others.
Signs that your ministry has become more about you than others?
*Finding personal identity and well being from our ministry instead of from God is a prescription for heartache.
*Calling down fire
*Which of us is greater?
“Surrender the anointing back to Me every day.” It took a long time to understand that whatever gifts God had given me were still His, not mine. The moment I take control of what is God’s ministry, at that moment I open the door for a successful attack of the devil upon my life and those I minister to. I may be gifted, committed and fruitful. But one day it will all start to fall apart and I will fail. Slowly, imperceptibly I have made the ministry my god, and now I sit wondering why God allowed the injustices, the gossip, the criticisms to ruin what I have built...what I have built.
What does it mean when the ministry is my god?
Remember that worship defines what we:
*give allegiance to
*find identity in
*shapes our destiny and direction
*becomes what we represent
*defines our source of well being.
One of the crushing failures that people experience comes from not knowing why trials like this come.
What did Jesus say about pruning?
The crash and burn has come because the ministry is often the biggest god in the ministry. These are usually the life defining times for us personally and “professionally.” Unless we learn to recognize why God has allowed the past trials in our lives we won’t make it past this point.
What happens when we don’t see God in our ministry trials?
*We’ll blame others for our situation.
*We’ll rehearse how badly we have been treated.
*We’ll get people to sympathize with us.
*We’ll make a come back a few years later.
But if we haven’t learned what God is trying to teach us about us, we’ll eventually crash and burn again with one major difference. We’ll never minister again. We won’t be able to stand the hurt. We need to learn that God allows things for a reason.
The lesson is this. Don’t waste your trials on your pride. Perhaps there have been a lot of injustices, but
*God allowed it.
*He didn’t spare you from the pain because you needed it.
*You needed to learn how to face your own insecurities, for insecure people are the most damaging to the church if they don’t grow up. Know this. If you are working with insecure people, sooner or later it is going to blow up in your face. It’s one thing to minister to them - they are or were all of us at one time. But be careful, for insecure people in ministry will cause considerable damage before the sun sets on their lives.
What is insecurity biblically?
Everyone has their insecurities. We never arrive at a place where we don’t desperately need Jesus to sustain, comfort, strengthen and keep us. But truly insecure people who have never allowed trials to push them into a supernatural identity don’t know how to recover from pain without causing problems.
*They don’t know how to embrace the cross,
*make sense out of how they are responding in their hurt, anger or fear, and
*they don’t know how to find their well being in Jesus when the storm rolls in.
*They do know how to accuse other people.
*They do know how to lose emotional control. And
*they do know how to gather other people to their defense.
What is manipulation and control? I.e. Jezebel, King Saul
Insecurity is at the heart of manipulation and control. The same people who can be easily manipulated are the same people who in other situations can become manipulators.
What are some of the things people do to get their way?
They can use guilt, acting like a martyr, anger, or human potential to get their way. This is among the reasons why God allows trials to come into our lives. He wants us to learn effective warfare just like He taught next generation Israel in Judges.
Jesus set the example for preparation for ministry in the wilderness. The temptations of Satan were aimed at His identity. “If you are the Son of God...” Trials will prove out the same things in us. Life’s challenges will always confront us in the ministry. “If you are really supposed to be doing this then why isn’t this happening, why did he say that, why aren’t you more fruitful. If you are really called then this should be happening.” Challenges in ministry strike at the heart of who we are. We have put our time, ability, money, effort, and heartache into accomplishing something. All of these things represent a part of who we are. That is where Satan will entice us to get our identity from what we are doing instead of from who Jesus has made us by grace.
Unless we learn to find our life in Him outside of anything we can accomplish we will eventually fail, or make others miserable in our attempts. We are a new creation by grace apart from works. That must extend into what we are doing for God. At the end of the disciples’ three years with Jesus they experienced their biggest failure. As Jesus said, they would flee and deny Him. But Jesus told them that He had prayed that their faith would not fail, and after they were converted again they should go and strengthen others.
How are faith and God’s glory linked together?
As was said of the disciples, Satan has desired to have you that he may sift you like wheat. But faith is the key. In all of the challenges of ministry our faith will be on the line. It is the way that God is glorified in us instead of us being glorified in us. Glory is about the identity of God, but it’s easy to make ministry about our identity. So God will allow challenges to come into our lives that can only be resolved by faith. If we don’t learn to trust Him and let Him work it out, we will fail and blame ourselves or others. It is absolutely crucial to learn to trust God to work out the things that seem absolutely impossible.
Usually those impossibilities involve how other people are acting. Insecure people will always pull upon you to be different, do things differently, or just go away. If you don’t know who you are you will succumb and let them manipulate you. You will cave in and wind up attempting to be their source of well being. But you can’t be their god and you can’t fix everything. Somewhere God has to be allowed to show up and glorify himself. And the harsh reality is that some people will never make it.
Jesus said that some seed will fall by the wayside. Some will sprout quickly but then be lost when the cares of this world or the trials of life come along. If we take it personally and think we have failed here then we will also give away our ability to minister to those who will respond. Some people need plenty of space. They may need to go through a time of breaking. But if we demand of ourselves that others should be or do what we think then our ministry will flounder.
A sound sense of identity in Christ will keep us from demanding that others be different or responsive to us.
*It will also keep us from wrongly judging others.
*It will also help us when people standing on the sidelines blame us for someone else’s fall.
As a pastor I’ve seen people who want to blame me because someone else is having a hard time. “You should have been more encouraging. You shouldn’t have confronted them. You should be more loving. You should teach people this or that. You shouldn’t expect this of them.” This is the reason I don’t try to take seriously people who speak into my life about how to be a pastor. They haven’t been there, and I don’t have to get my identity from what others think about my performance. Nor should you.
If you have a good sense of who you are in Christ, and if you are doing what you are doing from love, then you can receive input from people without letting it affect your identity. Though it is seldom healthy to allow others to tell you how to do your job, it is vital to be able to let people tell you how you have affected them. When you are secure in who you are then you will have more inner strength to hear someone say, “This is how I was affected by what you said.” Instead of having a melt down, you can hear and respond in love.
It’s taken me a fairly long time to become secure enough in who I am as a pastor so that I no longer allow people to abuse my emotions...to a point anyway. None of us will ever arrive at the place where we are so strong that no carnal words will ever affect us. But when you know your source, and when you know the principles involved, you can use them to recover from a hit instead of quitting. It’s not reasonable to expect that we should be so strong that we’ll sail through life without any more heartaches. But how said it is when people do not learn how to gain their well being from God instead of from their ministries. It’s sad because many powerful gifts will never again be used because of pain, and because of blame.
The issues of success or failure in ministry come down to the issues of pride and humility. The other side of that coin is human potential or faith. The biblical confessions of a righteous man comprise a list of scriptures that outline just what the Lord will do for those who believe. These and other passages of scripture are our lifeline when the enemy attacks. What I have found is that when your peace of mind is threatened by conflicts and trials that Satan magnifies the situation far beyond where it really is. Hindsight has shown all of us that God has brought us through, and He will finish what He has started. The whole truth be told - if we would simply believe all things work together for the good, then we wouldn’t really need anything else in this lesson!