When you’re alone with the Word of God, you probably have less peace than you’re willing to publicly admit.
You’re fine at church, attending conferences or spending time with churchgoers. But when you’re studying God’s Word by yourself, a sick feeling creeps into your stomach. How can you reconcile Jesus’ teachings with what you see in the Church?
Start with yourself
Most of us know we can’t say with the apostle Paul, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1, TNIV). Rather than pursuing the Spirit-filled example we could be, we hide behind churchy statements like, “I’m just a man” or, “I’m not perfect, just forgiven.” That will satisfy most, but you know deep down that you’re not “just” a man or woman. You’re a temple of the Holy Spirit, and the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you.
It’s like buying a race car and only using it to drive to the market at 30 mph. Not only would you be wasting horsepower, but the guy who built the car would go crazy if he knew what you were doing. Similarly, I wonder how our Creator feels seeing His Spirit-filled temples living so normally. Were you created to sit in an office, have meetings and answer emails all day? You know there’s more to what God has called you to. It’s time to take a step of faith.
Pray for the supernatural
Honestly, a nonbeliever can accomplish a lot of what you’re doing. Pray that God would lead you into tasks that can only be done by the power of the Spirit. Pray for results that can’t be explained humanly. Ask Him to do what only He can do through you. Pray in faith (James 1:6) and stop looking at the men of Scripture as unattainable superheroes. “Elijah was a human being, even as we are” (James 5:17).
Pursue unexplainable holiness
We don’t need leaders who put themselves on a pedestal and pretend they don’t struggle. Nor do we need leaders who say, “I struggle with sin just like you.” The Church is dying for leaders who admit failure but supernaturally “put to death the misdeeds of the flesh” (Romans 8:13). They’re looking for “an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity” (1 Timothy 4:12). Don’t hide behind phrases like, “We all sin.” Use the tremendous power you’ve been given to live a holy life.
We live in a time when Christian leaders are encouraged to be lazy. I’m constantly told to “take more family time.” In our zeal to protect the family, we may have idolized it. While there are still exceptions and pastors who work too much and ignore family, the pendulum has swung the other way. Now we have students graduating from Bible college and seminary expecting “the going rate” and more “family time.” Many of you know you ought to work more diligently and with greater excellence. Don’t give in to the whining you hear. There’s tremendous peace when we work as fervently as we ought (1 Thessalonians 2:9).
Don’t be afraid to give extravagantly to those in need. While Christian leaders complain about their salaries, be one who is “content” regardless of a financial situation (Philippians 4:11-12).
Love the needy as much as yourself. See them as Christ, and joyfully give. Let’s face it: It’s pretty hard to starve to death in America. Don’t be like many other American churchgoers who are more concerned about their standard of living than anyone else’s. Set the example in loving the less fortunate.
Seek His approval
Some of us are bold while standing in front of a crowd yet act like cowards when talking to individuals. We have enough socially awkward religious leaders who have no idea how to have conversations and develop friendships with nonbelievers—the world needs a new generation of leaders who can “become like the Jews to win the Jews” (1 Corinthians 9:20).
Maybe your challenge is a lack of boldness when you’re in front of the church. I go through phases when I have an unhealthy desire for crowds, so I’ll often think about God’s presence in the room as I teach. This reminds me to seek His approval rather than others’. It’s amazing how bold we can be when we’re aware of God’s presence. It reminds me of Stephen who, “full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God” (Acts 7:55). Seeing Jesus gave him courage to stand peacefully as he was stoned to death. We are prone to do amazing things when we acknowledge His presence.
May peace motivate you
My desire is to direct you toward peace. I encourage you to take a leap of faith so you can experience it again. We waste time on things that don’t make sense in light of Scripture and eternity—many of you know it’s time for a change. I pray you have the faith to jump.
This article originally appeared in Issue 03 of Neue Quarterly.