I wrote the following on a late night flight to Peru recently. It expresses something ugly in my heart and a battle I deal with on a regular basis. I have by no means gotten victory in my spiritual life. Let me know what you think!
I don’t know when it started. Well, it was always there, laying hidden in the deep recesses of my soul. It often crept out, but I keep it at bay and beaten down most of the time. But this time it has attacked with a vengeance. I know the truth. I have taught it hundreds if not thousands of times
I am currently on a plane to Peru. I will visit a place that we have loved for so long–a place where God allowed my family to serve for 18 years. Yet there is not the excitement and joy that there should be in my heart. I will enjoy it when I get there, but to be honest most of the joy in my life has gone.
I used to enjoy every day. I enjoyed the Lord and the thought that He was using me. I enjoyed preaching and teaching people who had never heard. I enjoyed it all.
I am not sure if I enjoyed life all that much though. It was always different for me. I had to work. I had this flawed view of God that skewed the way I viewed myself and all that God allowed me to do and see done.
I have had lots of ups and downs over the years. It is just that the downs seem to have taken over. The joy left when the selfishness came in. I believe that I was selfish all along because, to be honest, insecurity is a sign of pride and selfishness. I have been insecure most of my life.
I remember in college walking into a room and hearing people were laughing and joking. I would always think that they were laughing at me. I would try to see if maybe I was dressed strangely or if my fly was open or what!
The thing that I loved so much about Betty and getting married to her was that she loved me any way I was. That thrilled me. I felt secure with her. I felt like she believed in me and loved me no matter what. That gave me a freedom that I can’t describe.
After we were married God allowed me to work in the perfect church for me. They were kind of country but not! They loved me and accepted me though I am sure that I made so many mistakes. I loved ministry there.
I really didn’t know much about what was expected of me, and the pastor there didn’t know what I was supposed to do either. He certainly wasn’t hard to please. He gave me freedom to spread my wings and fly in the ministry. God blessed greatly. People came to study the Bible, serve God, get saved, and everything. God was really blessing.
I didn’t really know it. I just knew that I was having a good time. I loved it. I taught Sunday School, Training Union, Monday night Bible study, and Wednesday night Bible Study. I loved it. I didn’t know about much soul winning or church visitation. I did some, just because I wanted to! I loved it. I wanted to know my Bible. I wanted to teach it.
I loved my little family. God gave us a son. He was like a dream come true. I didn’t really suffer from much selfishness then. I am not saying it wasn’t there, but it didn’t seem to take over. I grew and grew in the Lord and in His service.
A friend taught me how to witness. I literally didn’t know how to and had never done so. This friend was the boldest person for Christ I had ever met and he is to this day. I wanted to be like him so much.
Later I had the privilege of working with him on his staff in another church. Those were the days, my friend. That is all I can say. I loved every bit of it. Don’t think that there weren’t problems or heartaches; there were. But it was different. The problems weren’t so selfishly based.
I then decided that God was dealing with me about moving and becoming a lead pastor. I am not sure if that is where the problem started, but it would certainly follow me and grow stronger and stronger.
I remember that as I started my first church in America I was set on being a success. I wanted to be mentioned in my denominational paper. I wanted to be recognized as someone that was really getting it done for the Lord Jesus. I was getting the self thing going.
I needed recognition. I needed people to tell me how good I was doing. When the church didn’t grow like it should I would fast and pray. I would beg God. I would try to figure out why He wasn’t pleased with me. I knew one thing for sure–that if I were a man of God He would work miracles in my life. I knew that He would cause my ministry to grow. He would allow me to see lives changed. He would make my church large and prosperous.
I developed a big sin problem of never being satisfied. No matter what God did for me I wanted more. Gratitude was slowly sneaking out the crevices of my heart. Now don’t get me wrong. I would always say thank you. I talked gratitude but I didn’t walk it so well.
Still the selfishness was held at bay pretty well–most of the time. However I was very worried about how I looked to people. Did other pastors respect me? Did they think I was doing a good job? Did they believe that God had His hand on me?
During those days God did some really great things in my life. He proved Himself beyond a shadow of a doubt. He proved His faithfulness. He answered prayer. He did great things in me, my family, and my ministry. He always has. There is no doubt about that.
Then I went to Peru. God continued to pour it out on me. He was so good to me. But I guess I was growing to expect it. I would like to tell you that I handled things like a real servant of God but I didn’t. Oh, I didn’t sin per se! I just wasn’t grateful. I wanted more.
After twenty years on the mission field God allowed me to come back to the States and start the church where I currently serve. Again, God did great things. BUT, it not as much as I expected. I wanted to be recognized. I always want to be recognized. There I said it. I want people to know how well I am doing. I want to feel good about myself.
Things churned along well. God sent people. He saved people. I continued growing in Him. Most of the time I kept that nasty old selfish stuff down even when it tried to lift its ugly head in my life.
But I must admit to you that as time passed I began losing the war. I began wondering if people loved me. I began to get my feelings hurt. I am confessing the deepest darkest secrets of my heart. It is the truth, and it hurts to think you might be reading this but you might need it, too.
I am not writing this to help you as much as to help me. As I write and think about things I get perspective. I can hear my friends now saying that I am being to hard on myself but I don’t think I am. I need to kill this enemy. I need to put him down and keep him down.
I suppose it all started with me getting some recognition. As people heard about me some liked me and were excited about the ministry that God had given me. But you know what happens. If some like it, others don’t. It wasn’t long till I was getting criticized. Some of the criticisms were true but many were not.
People said that I was condemning them or thinking poorly of them. I really wasn’t. I had built my life and ministry around helping others. It meant giving and giving with no thought of getting in return. I always had a soft spot for those who were less fortunate. I wanted to help the underdog.
I believed that if I were going to make a difference I needed to do so by loving and giving everything and never hoping for anything in return. I think, maybe, I did that to a great degree for a while.
Now, I must come to the great confession. I have shrunk back into myself. I have become extremely selfish. I still talk the talk and even walk the walk but not from my heart.
Some of those I loved didn’t love back. They said hurtful, ugly things. Others believed them. I couldn’t believe it. I was always trying to encourage them, but they seemed to take and take and never give back, at least not to me.
I got tired. Tired of giving. Tired of not being appreciated. Tired of never measuring up. My friends that I helped loved others that never helped them directly. They accused me of not loving them. They felt like I should have done more for them. They told others who told me.
I realize now that I have been in a down, down, down, deep spiral to spiritual death. For the first time I was wanting to rebel. Go do something for me. Forget others. Forget God. Forget the consequences. Everybody else gets “me time!” Why can’t I have some?!?
The desire to work, to do the ministry that I am called to do has become a drudgery. I have gotten lazy. It is the hardest time of my life. Today was the first time in my life I understood how older men can do such stupid stuff. How they can throw away their lives, their wives, and their ministries and just do stupid stuff. I can tell you how. They do what I have done. They get selfis
I am not writing to get your sympathy but to really get it right. As I am writing this I am wondering just how many of you might feel like I do but are just too dignified to ever say so. It seems to me that most of us reach this breaking point, and one of two things happens. Some go off the deep end and do some stupid sin that will horribly embarrass them and their family. Others just kind of quit. They go through the motions. They do what they are supposed to do but have really lost the heart for it. So we ride our ministries into the ground. We never train anyone to take over. We never pass on what we learned because we are no longer excited about it.
We think of how when we did pass it on they didn’t appreciate it. They used us. Then they walked away and acted like we weren’t anything special if they hadn’t tried to steal our ministry. I doubt you know what I am talking about, but if you do then I hope my confession and how I am working through this might help you and be a blessing to you.
Back in college a guy who I haven’t heard from or about in over 40 years said to me, “If they bite your hand when you stretch it out to help them you will be tempted to never help again.” He warned us not to fall into that trap. I don’t think that I have fallen all the way into that trap but I am only holding on by my finger nails.
Never good enough is how I feel. Never appreciated when I should feel appreciated. Living in the past in my heart and mind when I did feel that love and appreciation.
So I have in many ways lost my joy. I don’t think I even enjoy my wife and family like I should because of my selfishness. I used to get up excited. I had some where to go. I had something to do. They needed me. They wanted to see me. I wanted to see them.
So now, what am I going to do. I need to get my joy back. I need to get the desire to work back. I need to want to dive into the Bible every day for my personal growth as well as for preaching. I need to start enjoying each day. I need my smile back. I need to quit feeling the pressure and quit comparing myself. I need to quit thinking about how many people probably think that I am not making it. So here is what I am going to do.
First, I have got to get my heart and mind focused on what is truth. I am never going to be all that big and important to anyone else but I am important to God. He loved me, died in my place, and has been satisfied with me every day of my life. That has always been hard for me to accept. I used to think that God wasn’t very happy with me. I used to think He wanted me to produce.
I can preach this truth to anyone and everyone else but preaching it to myself and living it out are two different things. So I need to meditate on this great truth for a bit. He loves me. He thinks only great thoughts about me. He has separated all of my failures, faults, and sins from me and put them in the sea of forgetfulness.
He knows all about me and still loves me. He knows where I live, what I think, where I go, what I do and has still promised me that nothing could separate me from His love. I want to focus on Him and His promises.
I want to begin to work at being grateful. I want to remember that I do not deserve anything from anyone. The fact is that my problem isn’t with the way anyone treats me but with the way I think about it all. When is the last time I considered all these people and all that they do and have done for me? When is the last time I worked at being grateful?
I remember as a boy having a visiting preacher tell us that He wanted us to spend a long time praying and ask for nothing. He told us to give thanks for at least 30 minutes. He told us not to ask but to think of all that God has done for us. I remember walking through the woods and pastures praying out loud doing just that. I remember how hard it was to do so. I ran out of things to say thank you for, not because I didn’t have enough to be thankful for but because I was so selfish that I always thought about what else I wanted God to do for me.
I need to get out among people more and help them. That is the problem with being alone, holding up in your house, room, or corner. The more you are alone the more you think about you. It takes the wind right out of your sails. It causes you to fall into the trap of self more and more.
Then you get irritable with your wife, your family, friends. You start licking your wounds. When you are busy you do not have time to do that.
In Peru God had given us a large piece of land for the Bible college. It was invaded by squatters, meaning that they just came in and took over. They started building houses, putting up fences right on our land. Every day the leader would stand on a pile of building material and cry out that the blood of the fat gringo was going to run on that mountain. I never got scared. It was exciting. We were building as fast as we could. We told him to stay where he was, not try to steal more land, and we wouldn’t bother him.
A few weeks later he and about 150 other people tore down our fences and crossed over into the only land we were still holding on to. They tore down our construction. They filled the air with rocks. Before the day was over I would need 12 stitches in the top of my head. 9 of us would go to the hospital with injuries. In all of that I never got discouraged. I was happy. That night in my house I was as free as a bird as I called the States and told different people what had happened.
I think the thing is that I was out and among people. Hiding out never solves the problem. Pulling away from those that can encourage you is not the answer. We need each other. We need the assembly; we need the church!
I need to find more ways to do more things for other people. I am sure you have heard it, too. When I was a boy they told me that you spell JOY, “Jesus first, Others second, and Yourself last.” I think I lived that for a long time. I experimented. I wanted to see God do things, and He always did. Then I started pulling away.
I got hurt. I started thinking about me. I started wanting to hear thank you. I wanted to be admired and appreciated. There you have it. I was wanting what I should have been giving to God and not trying to get for me.
Who is putting the pressure on me? To be honest, I don’t think anyone is but me. Who is comparing me negatively? I don’t think anyone is but me.
It is me, oh Lord, standing in the need of prayer. Not my brother, not my sister, but it is me, oh Lord, standing in the need of prayer.
I have no one to blame but me. I am selfish. I am lazy. I got tired one day and just decided I could sit and pout for a while. Then I got comfortable doing so. I love to nurse my negative thoughts of pity. I love to think of how hard I have it and how unfair it is.
Please remember that none of this is being written about you. You didn’t do it to me. I did it. It isn’t you that I am talking about in some weird psychological way. It is me. I am confessing my sin. I am taking steps to get my life back on track. I am going to dream again. I am going to believe that great things still lie ahead.
I am going to love even though I might be loved less. I am going to spend and be spent with no thought of anything in return. I am going to humble myself to God. I submit myself and accept that it is me. I have the problem. No one else has it and if they do, it doesn’t matter. I need to work on me.
I am going to be grateful. I am going to smile. I am going to enjoy every little thing that God allows me to do. I don’t deserve it. I shouldn’t expect any appreciation; instead, I should appreciate.
I am going to have to turn off some distractions. Facebook, Twitter, the TV, and all that take me away from people put me in this funk. I end up wondering why no one likes my post or my picture. I am going to have to get away from worrying about how many people open my blog or emails and just do the work because it should be done.
The truth is that I am and have been the problem. It is not my wife. She has been kind and loyal all of my life. She has loved me even when I wasn’t lovely or lovable. My children and grandchildren have done nothing to deserve my sour-puss face and attitude. I should be focused on them and not on me.
So I have lots of changes that I need to make. I am confessing my sin right now. I know that I am already forgiven but I need the admission, the recognition, and the accepting that I have been wrong. Too long I have laid the blame somewhere else. Too long I have thought the wrong thoughts.
I know that I am to THINK on the true, the just, the lovely, the good report, etc. I know but I don’t do it. I know that I am to ask God and then say thank you knowing that I will have the peace that passes all understanding. I know but I have not been practicing it.
So selfishness, pride, insecurity, hunger for praise–all of you I banish knowing that you have no real power over me. Sin has lost its power. I am a new creature. I just have not been thinking and acting like one.
It is time to be off to help someone else, to love them, to help them out of the pit I have been in so much recently. Time to move on from me to you.
I haven’t lived here long. It has never been my habit, but as I get older I can see how it is wanting to cling to me and make me the grouchy old man who whines and complains and never feels he got all he should have gotten. It has been my failure in the past for just brief moments at a time, mostly when I was tired. Recently, it seems to have come to stay. But not now, selfishness banished and conquered, a new man arises–the man God made me to be. I want to enjoy the moment. I want to smell the roses. I want to make others a success and quit worrying about me and mine.
God forgive me. I know that I have been living far below your expectations for me. I know that I have not been enjoying my privileges as your son. I know that you want me to love the life you gave me. I acknowledge that the thief came to steal, to kill, and to destroy, but you came to give me abundant life. I take it now. I accept what you have made for me.
Friend, as you have read this I want you to know that it really is my personal struggle. I didn’t write it for you. I got up to go to the bathroom on the plane. It is a 6.5 hour flight. I was thinking. I realized that I have been wrong. I realized that it is time for me to get right. I know that it is God dealing with me. He is convicting me of living below His standard for my life. He wants so much more for me, but I am an idiot. In being selfish I steal from me!
So if you are not happy at home would you consider if just a little bit of my story might be true for you? Would you think for a minute about how you hurt because you almost like to hurt. I can feel sorry for myself because that is something no one else wants to do. I can wallow in my self pity. I can enjoy being the martyr, but it doesn’t do me, or anyone else for that matter, any good.
Time to take the bull by the horns. Time to get hold of yourself and your life. Work on getting back on track, where God wants you. Quit being beat up and realize that you are victorious in Christ.
Find some of those verses in the Bible that let you know just how much God loves you and desires the best for you. Here are a few that you might consider. Meditate on them. That is what I am doing and going to continue doing. I believe it will help us both.
He loves you. I am sorry that I haven’t been a better example for you in the way I have dealt with this junk. The truth is that it isn’t a money thing; it is not something that can be fixed with people throwing a party for you. It is acknowledging who you are and getting in line with that.
You are more than a conquerer. You have the victory right now. So consider these verses with me:
Numbers 6:24 The Lord bless thee, and keep thee: 25 The Lord make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: 26 The Lord lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace.
Romans 8:31 What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? 32 He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freelygive us all things? 33 Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth. 34 Who is he that condemneth? It isChrist that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. 37 Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. 38 For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, 39 Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
II Corinthians 13:14 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all. Amen.