Against my wife’s advice, I signed up for our church’s softball team this year. I played baseball and some other sports in high school and even played some church softball in the past without embarrassing myself too badly. What I didn’t realize until I looked it up recently was that the last time I picked up a glove was nine years ago! In that time, there appears to be a greater distance between my brain knowing what I need my body to do and my body being able to carry out those orders. One of the ways this manifests itself is in my running. I was joking with some spectators at the last game that I run like Fred Flintstone – my feet start moving wildly before I ever start actually moving forward.
Do you ever feel that way when you are serving in the church? Lots of activity, working hard, wearing yourself out, but never getting anywhere? Trust me, I’ve been there and I still fall into that trap from time to time. What God has taught me through the years is that this situation is actually caused when I get in the way of God’s work! An illustration that Major Ian Thomas uses in his great book, The Saving Life of Christ, is to imagine if you had a pair of hands that constantly tried to prove to you how busy they were or if your fingers told you every morning what their plan was for the day and then showed you their enthusiasm by engaging in wildly uncontrolled activity? Those hands and fingers wouldn’t be of much use to you and in fact, they would hinder you from accomplishing what you actually wanted to do.
So often that’s exactly what we do with God. We make our plans, and serve like crazy, and eventually get burned out because although we think we are helping him out, we are actually getting in His way. We have the best intentions, but many times our activity is done to try to impress others, earn God’s favor, or both. For many years I served in music ministry and several other ministries out of those motives without realizing it.
I thought I was a invaluable member of God’s team and He was so proud of me. I had these great big plans for what I was going to accomplish in His name. I both chuckle and cringe when I think back to that person who on the outside was doing so much, but on the inside was getting more resentful and burned out because he was doing everything in his own power and for the wrong reasons. Fortunately, God stepped in and stopped me in my tracks by removing me from just about all ministry activity for a while. For about two years, I was sitting in the congregation instead of leading and God was teaching me that His work was going to be accomplished whether I was part of it or not. He reminded me that He didn’t need me, but I needed Him above everything else including my service and all my plans to do great works for Him.
Now I understand the privilege of just making myself available to Him and joining in the work He is calling me to do rather than running around trying to do a lot of good things for the wrong reasons. It is amazing how much more fun I have playing and singing when I see it as a ministry that God is allowing me to participate in rather than an activity I am compelled to do out of obligation. I thank God that He taught me this lesson in a pretty gentle way.
As I mentioned above, I didn’t even realize that I was doing things out of the wrong perspective and I know I’m not the only one. So in my next post, I’ll give you three indicators that will show you when you are getting in God’s way instead of letting Him use you.