It is a very natural process for a pastor to evaluate where he is in ministry. It is not a doubting of God, his will, his love, mercy or grace, but more a pondering and examination as to our place in that will. The past few months have been this process for me and it hasn't always been comfortable.
This past weekend was the crisis point for me, where I laid it all before the Lord and asked for a revealing of the truth. I wanted to know if I was the man for this task or if there was something else I was suppose to be doing. It is a very vulnerable moment where you hope that God doesn't leave you hanging for too long. I was facing two problems.
The first problem was that things have not been very successful. I have faced a lot of failures in the last seven years but I am a great believer in the "if you obey me I will bless the work of your hands" promise. Was I not obeying? And which of my many acts of disobedience had I not dealt with God?
The second problem was that there were no open doors. There is only one time that the Lord had me move out of one ministry without having something else prepared for me. That one time was when he brought me into a time of great rest and study. But I knew at the time that this is what he was doing and there was no discomfort in it. So, here I am evaluating, knowing that there were no open doors which meant I was to stay put, but my failures made me uncomfortable and I wanted to move away from them.
Sunday morning I spoke to my wife and told her that I was going to speak to our apostle. We prayed together before I set off to prepare for our worship gathering. My wife began to pray without ceasing for us and the ministry.
That morning I put out a few things before the Lord and was very specific in my desperation to have confirmation. I told him I really needed someone to speak into my life. I needed confirmation from someone who knew nothing of my self-examination and desperate struggle. I needed to hear from the Spirit so I could re-gain my confidence in my place in God's will.
As worship started that day I knew there was something different but specific to me. Quickly the Spirit began to work on me. As the enemy brought accusation of my failures the Spirit dealt with each as presented. There was pure honesty as the Spirit showed how and why I failed. In each case it was because I willingly gave up territory, did not press on, did not stand my ground, did not stand in faith. The Lord had not failed me but I had failed the Lord. The honesty of the Spirit was brutal as he did not pull any punches, but along with each incident remembered was the assurance of forgiveness. It was like he said, "Forgiven. Now forget it".
Then he simply stated, "Now what?" I was confused. That was my question to him and he was asking me? I understood though, in that moment of honesty: What decision was I going to make? Stand the ground that was given to me and be victorious in the Lord or quit like I had done in the past and lose more territory? But it was not only in the quitting, it was also the inches I would allow the enemy to gain on me. The little here and the little there. I had to draw a line and say to the enemy, "You shall not pass". The Lord had defined the ground he had given me and I was not to give up a single inch.
I knew in that moment that I had been faith out of one side of my mouth but confessing the wisdom of this world out of the other. My decisions could not be based on what others valued but must be based in faith in the Lord's values and promises. In that moment I knew my decision, which would be tested in the next few minutes.
The Word was preached by our Apostle
He spoke directly into my life, just as I had requested. But instead of thanking the Lord my first thought was that my loving wife, out of great concern for me, had told our apostle what I was facing. She had nullified my prayer, or so I thought. I was not pleased. Regardless, it was a powerful word that broke walls and brought encouragement with the challenge not to give up but to go the distance. It was about discipline and training from the Lord through the trials we face. It was exactly what my heart needed to receive and which confirmed what the Spirit had done for me in worship. I had to stand my ground in blind faith in every aspect of my life.
After the meeting and prayers of affirmation that had been prayed over me; after anointed moments of praying over members of the church, I told my wife she had ruined my request of the Lord. She was totally confused. I told her of my prayer and my suspicion of what she had done in love. She smiled as she assured me that she had not told anyone of my struggle or of our conversation. To my shame I had chosen to believe that my wife had interfered instead of trusting that the Lord had actually responded; and wow did he respond.
So at the end of the day my problems were resolved. My failures were my own, failures of faith, but they had been dealt with. Now I must forget them so they do not interfere with the present nor the future. The second problem was also resolved. There were no open doors because I am exactly where Jesus wants me to be, only I need to be more. Wait, that didn't sound right. I need to be empowered through faith to be more of what he has called me to be. Words of life were spoken into me by the Spirit as the Spirit called the seeds planted in me to come forward. No losing ground; in fact, an increase to my spiritual territory.
I share this with you for one reason: we all face moments of doubts and indecision. The one thing you should not do is rely on the wisdom of man's ways. We know the mind of God because we have the Spirit. Rely on the Spirit who speaks to us with God's Word. Ask. Seek. Knock. It is amazing how the Lord responds to those who honestly seek him. Nothing in my situation has changed but I have been changed in my situation. The line has been drawn and I have stated to the enemy, "You shall not pass". And he shall not, in Jesus' authority.