“For He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust.” (Psalm 103:14)
So, pastor, you have been feeling inadequate for the work given you by the Lord? You feel unable to measure up to the expectations of the Lord’s people toward you? You wonder what the Lord was thinking when He called you into such a strategic ministry?
Good. Welcome to the human race.
You were not chosen by HIm and called into this sacred work because you were good enough, smart enough, mature enough, or godly enough.
You are not patient enough, focused enough, or sufficiently spiritual.
It’s not about you.
Unless you can get that through your skull and imbedded in your soul, you will be forever frustrated in this work.
As a pastor, you often feel you are the last person on earth who should be standing in church on Sunday telling people about God. That impulse, incidentally, is not a message from the devil sent to undermine your effectiveness; it’s your own conscience telling the truth about you.
It’s a reminder to put your trust in Him, not in your abilities. (II Corinthians 3:5 and 4:5 fit here.)
You preach on prayer and are convicted by your own words. You are such a poor pray-er. Your words are inadequate, your faith is so weak, and your discipline in praying regularly is shameful.
In Romans 8:26, Paul said he did not know how to pray as he should. So, it’s no stretch to believe you and I don’t either. Get used to the idea. In this life, we will never measure up in any of the disciplines to which we attain.
Sometimes you have lingering questions about God, doubts about His Word, and you struggle with issues of faith.
You are human, you are a sinner even though redeemed, you see through a glass darkly, you understand imperfectly, and you walk by faith not by sight.
I love that verse in Psalm 103 (“He knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust”). God is under no illusion about you and me, friend. He knew He was getting no bargain when He redeemed us. When we sin or doubt or even fall, we are the only ones surprised.
In Exodus 20, in the same chapter where the Lord gives us the Ten Commandments–His standard of righteousness for His people Israel–He also provides for an altar (20:24-26). That is as eloquent a statement as we will ever find that the wonderful God of Grace knows we will not be able to keep His commandments. In the same moment He reveals those Ten Words, He provides a way back into His fellowship when we fail to live up to them. How wonderful is that!
His grace really is so amazing.
Get rid of the perfectionism, servant of the Lord. It is no friend of anyone who would live for Christ in this fallen world and serve Him among a fallen sinful humanity.
Pastor, you are not perfect now, and haven’t become so since the Lord has been at work in your life. “We have not arrived,” the apostle said. Well, what he actually said was, “Not that I have already obtained it, or have already become perfect…. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet….” Philippians 3:12-13. Is that good enough for you?
I love what Moses said to the Lord: “Please, Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither recently nor in time past, nor since Thou hast spoken to Thy servant.” (Exodus 4:10)
I identify with that, thank you, Moses. He tells the Lord: “Not only have I never been good with words, I have not suddenly become a gifted orator since You’ve been speaking to me either.”
By this time, minister of God, you feel you should be long past certain temptations, right? Their lingering, persisting presence accuses you frequently. Is that about right? You are feeling so unworthy, correct?
Pastor, you are unworthy. Get used to the idea.
Welcome to the human race.
The people you serve are flawed, too. Even the godliest and best of your church leaders, those wonderful elderly saints of whom you sometimes say you wish you had a churchful like them, even they get it wrong sometimes.
If you want to set yourself up for a major disappointment in life, go to a new church expecting everyone to be godly and mature. You will have a comedown in a hurry.
Nearly as bad is expecting all the leadership to be spiritual and Christlike. Many are, thankfully, otherwise you would be out of there in a day. But in almost every church you will find a few leaders who do not give evidence of knowing Christ, believing the Bible, or valuing eternal things. Once in a while, you will be forced to work alongside them as they are chairing a strategic committee. You will want to tear your hair out and beat your head against the wall, and you will wonder what else you could do to support your family.
Ease up. It’s not the end of the world. It’s just a temporary aberration.
Think of it as a test to see if you really are as patient and spiritually disciplined as you had been thinking. Consider it a little exercise to drive you closer to the Lord in prayer.
You are flawed, but you are well acquainted with your own imperfections.
Your family is pretty normal and you knew that.
But do not forget that your church members are a lot like the world they live in every day, and so are your leaders.
If you do not cut yourself some slack, ease up on the demands you are putting on your wife and children, and allow your church members to be as human as everyone else, you are going to be miserable, my friend.
It’s all about the grace of God.
You need no reminder that without His continual outpouring of grace, you would be in big trouble. You also know that about your family.
But it’s just as true for the members of your church, including the leadership. None are there because they deserve to be. None were put in such key positions because they have conquered the flesh, understand all scripture, and have attained role-model status for the rest of the members. They are everyone at various stages of spiritual development.
Just like you.
So, let us pray for each other and encourage each other, and drop the perfectionism we want to apply to one another.
“But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called ‘Today,’ lest any one of you be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” (Hebrews 3:13)
Nothing here should be considered a ticket to laziness or a free pass to sin. Let us devote ourselves to the Savior every day of our lives, stay in His word, and live as servants of His people. “Present your bodies as living sacrifices,” as one writer put it. Amen.)